Saturday, September 27, 2003

School reunion unites West Side



By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DELHI TOWNSHIP - West Siders are a breed unto themselves.

They line up lawn chairs on the sidewalk a day before the Harvest Home Parade starts, just to save a prime spot.

SCHOOL REUNION
Did you graduate from any of the west side Catholic grade schools in 1978? If so, plan on going to the 25-year reunion tonight. You can pay at the door.
What: 25-year Reunion Party
Where: Our Lady of Victory Convocation Center, 810 Neeb Road
Time: 8 p.m. until midnight
Attire: Casual
Cost: $25 per person; includes beer, wine, appetizers and music
They obsess over Elder football, they vote conservative and pray Catholic; they tell people where they live by naming the nearest Catholic parish.

Only in a place like this - where people know their neighbor, where generations of families keep their roots, where the first question upon meeting someone is which school or parish they attend - would grade-school reunions be a huge social event.

This evening, more than 300 alumni from nearly every West Side Catholic grade school will sip beer, wine or soft drinks at Our Lady of Victory Convocation Center in Delhi Township in celebration of their 25th anniversary of graduating eighth grade in 1978.

"It's just one of those things West Siders do," said Lori Rolfes, nee Armbruster, an Our Lady of Lourdes School graduate of 1978 and an organizer for this weekend's reunion. "The community we live in - the majority of people were raised in the West Side, still live in the West Side. That's unlike any other part of town. "

The banquet hall will be filled with vintage memorabilia from the grade schools - old sports jerseys, photographs and class pictures. West Siders, as well as former West Siders coming from Chicago, New Jersey, Louisville and Indiana, will relive old memories.

Julie Fries, nee Korte, of Delhi Township, went to Our Lady of Victory School and says grade school reunions are better than high school reunions.

"A lot of people don't want to go to their high school reunions, but they'll go to their grade school reunions," Fries said. "Our Lady of Victory has a special place in their hearts."

Her husband went to St. Catharine School.

"Everyone tends to stay here and live their lives here, and there's a lot of intermarrying between West Siders," Fries said. "Generation after generation just stays on the West Side. You go to the other side of town and it's not like that."

The way West Siders explain it, the bond between grade school classmates is stronger than high school. For one, students are often with the same classmates for eight years in Catholic schools. Another reason is that strong cliques hadn't really formed yet, and everyone was friends with everyone.

E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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