Last Saturday, dozens of members of Staples High School’s Class of 1989 returned for their 30th reunion. Besides the usual activities — greeting old friends, dancing and (now legally) drinking — they enjoyed a tour of their former school.

Except it really wasn’t. More than a decade ago, the “old” one-story Staples High School was demolished. In its place rose a modern three-floor building. It’s bright, airy, handsome, and very different from the school the reuniongoers — now pushing 50 — attended.

Some remnants remain. The gym and fieldhouse have not changed at all. The auditorium is right where it was (though no longer a stand-alone building; it’s now integrated into the school, with a lobby featuring posters and photos of past Staples Players shows). In a nearby hallway, returnees saw the courtyard that, 30 years ago, was the main parking lot. They could make out the vestiges of the main office and the spot where a pay phone once stood.

The Class of 1989, many of whose children are now high school students themselves all over the country (one class member came from Costa Rica), marveled at the amenities that Stapleites today enjoy: a state-of-the-art TV and radio production facility; two professional-style culinary education kitchens; a versatile Black Box theater; a college-like library.

At the same time, those reuniongoers were oohing and aahing at the new Staples, another celebration also took place. More than a dozen members of the 1969 boys soccer team gathered in the cafeteria to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their state championship. It was the first of five straight for the Wreckers.

The event drew former athletes from as far as North Carolina and Michigan, plus spouses, former coaches and teachers, even the father of one (he just turned 90). Many looked like they could suit up today. The current soccer team, which turned out in force to say hello, is decidedly leaner.

They too saw a Staples vastly changed from the one they remembered. It was also different from the one the Class of 1989 attended. In 1969, the high school consisted of nine separate buildings, with open-air walkways in between. They were connected 10 years later.

But they recognized the soccer field. There’s terraced seating now and an electric scoreboard, but little else has changed. Half a century later, nothing beats a Saturday afternoon on The Hill.

The two groups of returnees — one from 50 years ago, the other from 30 — included a number of people who had not been back to Westport much since leaving high school, if at all. They went off to college, got jobs elsewhere, started families, made their own lives. Their parents moved away, so there was no reason to come “home.”

Except there is. There is something to be said about returning to the place that helped make you who you are. And high school is not the only formative experience. Some of the men and women who were in Westport last weekend grew up together from kindergarten on.

As accomplished in one area or another as they may now be, as settled as they may feel, they have no one in their lives today (besides siblings and parents) who remember them from their earliest years. The moments we share growing up — the fun, funny, awkward, horrible, exploratory, challenging, ridiculous, stupid, beautiful, wondrous times — make us who we are. And being able to see the people who were with us during those days and nights is a rare gift.

Staples is not the only thing that brought a couple of hundred people back to Westport last weekend, of course. As they returned to Westport from wherever, those former residents drove all around town.

At some point, nearly everyone found themselves at Compo Beach. So many memories are made there; it’s a magnet for anyone who ever lived here. It too has changed hardly at all: a new bathroom, walkway and playground mean far less than the sand, the shore and, off in the distance, Cockenoe.

Each returnee had a few special spots to see. One headed straight to Gold’s. Another wanted a slice from Westport Pizzeria (new location, same oven). Many searched for the home they grew up in. Some found the original, while others definitely did not.

Growing up in Westport, it’s natural to want to get out. Teenagers can’t wait to leave their boring suburb to see the “real world.” It’s as true in 2019 as it was in 1989 or 1969.

Yet something about this town and its high school draws everyone back, eventually. Today’s Staples students may not realize it now. But they sure will in 2049, and then again in 2069.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.