For the group of 15 men seated around the lunch table at Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club, the conversation quickly shoots from discussion of one’s upcoming vacation to recollections of another’s family antics and yet another’s deceased loved one.
The men are all alumni of the former Langley High School. The eldest members of the group graduated in 1944 while the youngest graduated from high school in 1955.
Each holds his own cache of rich memories of growing up on South Whidbey.
Don Goodfellow, who graduated in 1947, established the once-monthly reunion in 2003. Initially, it consisted of him and two others. At its largest count, the group consisted of about 30 members, though Goodfellow explained that some are snowbirds who only join in warmer months, and others have died. Just two weeks ago, the group bid farewell to Roger David Steele.
Although the crowd may change, the time and place have remained consistent: noon in the main hall of the club.
The club’s waitstaff appear to have memorized most of the men’s lunch orders, and engage in friendly banter as the dishes are served.
For the men, it is a good opportunity to revive old memories and chat about life.
Between bites of food, one member animatedly discussed his memory of trapping a raccoon with the help of another member’s brother. A second discussed his sister’s death from cancer, while a third member recalled his time spent serving in the military, and Goodfellow noted his plans for a trip to Amsterdam and Austria in June.
“If I’m still alive,” he joked.
The hearty laughs flow as plentifully as the empathetic nods and words of condolence, depending on the current topic of conversation.
Ben Breedlove, who graduated in 1952, recalled his family’s move to Whidbey Island from Olympia.
“The best thing I have ever heard about this place was when my mom…said ‘I have never seen such a big lake in my life,’ ” he said with a chuckle, reminiscing about his family’s first ocean sighting.
It was a different world, he said.
“We didn’t put shoes on in the winter until it got cold,” Breedlove said, recalling his days spent in a one-room schoolhouse in Olympia and later at the Mutiny Bay School.
“We have a good time because we’re all old people and we can tell a joke and tell the same one in the same week and we’ll all laugh,” Goodfellow said with a grin.
Goodfellow served as president of the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club in 1996, while his father was a charter member in its early days.
Goodfellow’s father had been a banker in Seattle who lost nearly everything during the Great Depression. In order to ease his mental anguish, he brought his family to Whidbey Island and used what money he had left to purchase a resort.
“They told him he’d better get out of town or he wouldn’t live,” Goodfellow said. “He lived until he was 86, so it must have worked.”
Though the men vary in their life stories, former professions and ages, their affinity with South Whidbey and sense of longtime camaraderie are shared in abundance.