They’re all in their 80s now. The youngest member of the informal group recently hit the Big Eight-Oh but is still active with a Montgomery-based newspaper. Just about everyone else goes at his own pace these days. They’re former athletes who competed in various sports at Lanier High School when my father was the head football coach and athletic director for five years in the middle of the previous century. They had begun meeting monthly while Pop was still alive. He had enjoyed getting together with his former young charges for food and fellowship at a Southern cooking buffet restaurant in Montgomery.

Pop crossed the way in 2015 at the age of 92, but the group has continued the lunchtime convergence on the second Tuesday of each month.Former athletes have come from as far away as Birmingham and Jacksonville (Alabama). Most of the discussion topics over baked chicken, barbecue and assorted vegetables are usually — and not surprisingly — about sports or politics.

I’m the only “younger generation” representative who regularly attends, and I didn’t start going to the lunches until after my father’s passing. I’m not trying to mooch any part of my father’s memory, but I appreciate the opportunity of being able to hang around with individuals he directly influenced in a positive way. It’s the type of legacy I wouldn’t mind having myself, but I wasn’t a coach.

One of my father’s former football players told me years ago Pop had continued to be a role model and mentor for his student-athletes for decades, right up until his passing. The fact most of them went on to respectable careers and ended up as members of traditional families validates that former player’s opinion.

So perhaps it’s fair to opine my father is still a positive influence on them over four years after he died.

And besides, at their age these guys usually have unique and wise perspectives about life, and I think it’s a good thing for a “kid” like me to pay attention to what they have to say one meal per month.

And it turns out dining with the octogenarian lunch bunch is one of two get-togethers that happen the same week each month. Forty-eight hours afterwards, I head to Montgomery again to meet with fellow members of the Lanier High School Class of 1968 (male and female) at an upscale pizza restaurant, which proffers excellent food and service. As I understand it, the son of one of the alumna is a co-owner.

We’d had our 50th anniversary class reunion in 2018, and if the monthly shindig was going on before then, I didn’t know about it; I was invited afterwards and have attended whenever possible. Most of us are relatively recently retired and are currently in the process of hitting the 70-years-old mark. From what I can determine, we’ve also had relatively decent working careers, and some of us are still active — another alumna told me she’d been recently been called to return to a job with a state agency. Suffice to say, however, the majority of us can go at our own pace these days, which includes persons who still own businesses but don’t have to put in 40 or more hours per week. It’s probably personally intriguing for each ’68 lunch-bunch participant to mull over to what extent — if any — other attendees have changed, both personality-wise and physically. Such

amateur analysis was in effect in spades at the 50th reunion, of course, and is most likely ongoing each second Thursday of the month.

And while that phenomenon is probably applicable to any former classmates of any school, these informal lunch encounters seem to have been a pleasant experience for all who’ve attended.

A few years ago, I covered a huge reunion for numerous classes of Tallassee High School that was held in a large tent temporarily erected on the grounds of city hall. While that was perceived as a one-of-a-kind event, one would hope other smaller and informal get-togethers like the ones I attend in Montgomery would be of interest to THS alumni. Such events may already be going on here, and the more folks that attend, the more upbeat and fun those get-togethers will be.