April 20, 2022
Greetings from Eden Prairie, MN.
There is a heading on page 5 of the 1969 “Brier Patch” that reads, “It is a Spirit That Frees Us and Enables Us To Believe in the Future, To Live with Zest—The Free Spirit”. Truly this is a statement describing our alumni. The Free Spirit: free to learn, to accomplish, to compete, to get together, and to make friends. That is who we were then and who we are now.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the closing of Greenbrier Military School. A while back Bob Boles (’70) asked if I would write a little something about why one should come back to Lewisburg for a reunion. My original intent was to compare leaving GMS after 3 years to my retirement in 2014 from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM).
You know, it is really impossible to compare the two, GMS and MSUM. My 28 years teaching at MSUM pales against the short span of the 3 years spent in Lewisburg. While making strong connections at MSUM over those years, none will hold the bonds made years ago with you guys, the school and community. So why go back to this particular reunion, the 50th Anniversary of the closing of GMS? Here is why I keep going back.
Angelo Damante (’69) once wrote to me: “The years go by so fast, and we tend to forget so much, due to the fact that we are tending to our daily existence…”
In 1977, I made it back to Lewisburg while heading to Snowshoe on a ski trip. After that I attended a reunion probably around 1994 and then another, then maybe another, etc. Since 2004, I have been back at every reunion that I could attend. I have rekindled friendships and I have made new ones. I have connected with faculty members and cadets who actually remembered me, and some that stare thinking, “Mike Who?”.
Why this attachment after all these years, why attend this particular reunion? Let me be clear, this is NOT the last reunion. But 50 years ago GMS closed and I believe we have been doing organized reunions since the mid 80s. 50 years is a milestone year, 5 decades, 50 trips around the sun, ONE HALF OF A CENTURY! We are not getting younger, our ranks are diminishing each time a reunion rolls around and there are no new cadets to take our place.
Where are those guys in those yearbooks we had so much in common with? We are in such a small club anyway that it is a shame we have not stayed in closer contact. Where are you guys? What’s become of you? Share with us your trials and tribulations.
Think about the community bonding we went through. What our daily regiment meant to us: reveille, retreat and taps that ruled our day; eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with 300 of your closest friends; daily bathroom routines that our friends back home would never understand. Think of the close camaraderie amongst all of us no matter what our age, social strata or school rank. One would never have seen that outside the walls of an institution such as ours.
Knowing that each of us had different feelings and emotions regarding GMS back then, one thing is clear to me. When I reflect on my time at GMS, I think mainly of good friends and good times we had together. We received a dang strong education that led many of us to be valuable and creative members of this great country. I think back on GMS football with fall colors and smells that will never be matched anywhere else; cold walks to the basketball games and snows that coated our campus in a winter splendor. The rebirth of the hills each spring is something I miss even today and will always cherish. Yet, we all experienced some really tough times and major homesickness, being away from home, family and friends, maybe away from your girl. But we made it through. And, let us particularly not forget the girls from “GCW”. Friendships that have endured to today and whose presence helped us get through our years at GMS. Remember, they were in a similar boat.
GMS Alums such as Bob Boles (’70), Terry Byrnes (’68), Beaman Cummings (’63), John Byrnes (’65), Bill Deck (’64), Jim Dodway (’69), Jim Downer (’71), Frank Frashier (’69), Dan Pennington (‘69), Tony Sadler (’70), Sam Sardis (’70), Perry Woodside (’64), with faculty Herb Pearis (’56), Ellsworth Buck and Ed Rock have been instrumental to my returning time and again to Lewisburg each Fall. And many of these listed have taken an active role in the GMSAA organization, trying to keep our memory alive in some small but important way.
October will quickly be upon us. So come back to Lewisburg this fall and maybe find out what happened to your roommates and friends, see what GMS has evolved into, chat with some of the faculty members and coaches. Come and share some good food and stories. And OH YES, those stories get longer, bigger and better every year!”
Mike Ruth, GMS Class of ‘69