I can’t remember anymore how the group of high-school friends we called the Crew coalesced, exactly. I’d known Scott since three-year-old Sunday school and Bill and Dave since fourth grade at least. Max and I knew of each other from junior high on, but we didn’t really get tight until high school. Our brothers, Steve and Dan, were tighter earlier, if I’m recalling correctly, and they became part of the group, too. Max and Kerry were neighbors. Paul and I shared a locker all through high school, although his mother had been my fifth-grade teacher before I ever met him. A different Steve was close to both Scott and Paul, although all of us had known of him for several years. I forget what Barry’s connection was—he began as Bill’s friend, I think. There were a few girls in the group, too—Sheri, who began as Paul’s friend, plus Anne and Debbie. (Although we accepted each of the girls as one of the guys, and as far as I know, none of us ever dated one another.) Other people came and went on the fringes of the group, but these people were the core of it. I hope I haven’t left anyone out.
Starting the year we were 17, various combinations of us spent the next 10 New Year’s Eves at Scott’s family cottage, on a lake 25 miles or so from our hometown. Some of the group would arrive at the lake mid-afternoon on New Year’s Eve, while other members and guests would trickle in at various times—on occasion, some not until the wee hours of January 1 after seeing the year in elsewhere. (Those who wanted to sleep a bit sometimes came into conflict with those who did not—Dave was famous for falling asleep at mid-evening and waking up later. He’d be refreshed and ready to raise hell just as everyone else was ready to turn in.) The next day, people would leave in the same trickling way they arrived—some first thing in the morning, some later in the day. One memorable year, most of us didn’t leave until after dark on New Year’s Day. I’m not sure anyone but Scott made it every year. I know I missed a couple. One year, during the New Year’s blizzard that seemed to strike annually in those years, I was on my way, but I stopped to help a guy who had slid into a snowbank. By the time we got him out, the road was impassable behind him and I had to turn around and go home.
A lot of things changed over the course of those 10 years—at least five of the original members got married, two came out as gay (including one of the guys who had gotten married), and one died. We all went to college, and several of us moved away from southern Wisconsin. In 1986, what had begun in 1977 with half-a-dozen guys, two cases of beer, and two bags of chips ended with six or eight couples and enough food and booze to service a cruise ship for three days. In later years, a couple of feeble attempts were made to recreate the event somewhere else, but it was never the same, and we’ve never tried it since. But we talk about it sometimes when we’re together now: “Wouldn’t it be great if . . . ?”
We drank a lot of beer. We talked smack, played cards, and used fireworks (and, on at least one occasion, firearms) irresponsibly. And we listened to a lot of radio countdowns. Coming tomorrow: Our annual look back at some yearend radio surveys.