Networking websites changing how class reunions get organized

Sunday, September 25, 2011
Members of the Cape Girardeau Central High School class of 1991 walk the halls during a tour of the Central Junior High School building as part of a reunion weekend on Saturday. The junior high building served as the high school building during their school days. (Kristin Eberts)

Imagine trying to track down 300 to 400 people, many of whom haven't seen or spoken to one another in 20 years, or 40 years. Then invite them all to a weekend full of events.

Those tasks were taken up by Cape Girardeau Central High School graduates like Joyce Barylski and Rebecca Ogborn Zytynski, among many others who have helped organize this year's reunions of the classes of 1971 and 1991.

Both reunions are taking place this weekend in various locations in Cape Girardeau. To organize the reunions, members of both classes say one tool was invaluable: Facebook.

"Thanks to that, we tracked down about 80 percent of our class," Zytynski said.

Although it still took around eight months to get in touch with so many people, she said, Facebook was a great success in finding them.

Zytynski ended up discovering one of her classmates lived seven miles away from her in the suburbs of Dallas.

"It was definitely a funny coincidence," she said. "I hadn't seen him since our 10-year reunion."

Members of the class of 1991 who took a tour Saturday of their old high school, which is now the junior high, said using Facebook also made preparing for the reunion a little easier.

"Facebook has changed reunions," said Nicole Sullivan of Denver. She said she has kept in touch with only a few people from her class since leaving Cape Girardeau shortly after graduation.

"I think there are more people coming now, because they feel like they have had a chance from being Facebook friends to know a lot more about their old friends. It makes it easier to start off conversations," she said.

Tonja Fox, who also graduated in 1991 and came in for the weekend from Ann Arbor, Mich., said: "Facebook has made the world a lot smaller."

The class of 1971 has its own page that was used frequently in the months leading up to the reunion, Barylski said. As the weekend approached, classmates were adding photos and chatting nightly in anticipation of the reunion, she said.

"It was a huge help. I really don't know what we would have done without it," Barylski said. "We Facebooked finding people until our fingers were weary."

Members of both classes attended Friday night's high school football game at the new Tiger Stadium. On Saturday, they separately toured the junior high and the newer high school on Silver Springs Road.

Not everyone attended every event so far, so in some instances, old friends were reconnecting for the first time.

"You look exactly the same," said class of 1991 member Jennifer Kopf to Sullivan as they saw each other during the tour. Kopf now lives in Birmingham, Ala.

Sullivan paused at the end of one of the hallways, looking over the row of lockers.

"I think this is my old locker," she told Kopf. "I remember it being right around here."

"Oh my gosh, how do you remember that?" Kopf asked.

Around 40 members of the class of 1991 toured the school, often stopping in front of their old classrooms and posing for pictures in groups of twos and threes. They recalled favorite teachers, when the school got an elevator and a dance in the gym with the theme of "The Little Mermaid." Many remarked on how the school smelled the same.

Reunion organizers timed the events so that alumni could attend a football game at Tiger Stadium and have outdoor family picnics in cooler weather. Normally reunion events are held in the summer, said Central High School librarian Julia Jorgensen, who has been helping class reunion organizers add their information to the high school's centennial website.

She said the fall reunions mesh well with events being held to commemorate the high school's centennial anniversary. However, she said she does not think that more alumni are attending due to the centennial.

"I wish that were the case, but we have historically enjoyed a good group of alumni that come home for reunions," she said. Having a new home stadium is the real draw, she said.

Organizers of the 1971 reunion were expecting around 160 alumni out of a class of about 400 to attend a dinner Saturday night at Plaza by Ray's, while around 125 out of 300 alumni of the 1991 class were expected at a Saturday night dinner at The Venue.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1900 Thilenius St., Cape Girardeau, MO

1000 S. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Members of the Class of 1971 of Central High School sat together at the football game with North County on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (Fred Lynch)

Map of pertinent addresses

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