Those 70ish girls…What’s the difference?

We went to the “Gathering” in Mesa. A gathering is like a reunion only different. I was trying to explain it to my husband, Kip, on the way home from the airport, but I gave up after this conversation…

Kip: So how many people attended?

Me: Probably around 50.

Kip: Wow! Who all came?

Me: Almost everyone who came retired in Mesa. You’ve never met these people.

Kip: I didn’t know that many of your relatives were still alive and wintered in Arizona.


My cousin Valerie Halla, my brother, Billy Francis, and our patriarch, Gus, and I all traveled to Mesa. Val flew from San Jose, CA, I flew from Dallas, and Bill, (who lives in LA), drove to Ontario, CA, to get Gus, and then drove on to Phoenix and picked Val and me up at the airport.

“The Gathering” is a very important event. Val…will you explain how it evolved from the  Jones County Picnic?

The Gathering Pt. 1

By Val Halla

You’re so right, Cuz. A Reunion is different from a gathering and an After Party is another story. Actually Kip is on the right track…sorta kinda… because many of our relatives have passed away plus friends.  That makes it even more special because even though our friends and family are gone, the Gathering still goes on.

My husband stayed home to work and care for our dog. His friend at work asked where I was and Ken said, “Valerie is at a Jones County Reunion in Arizona.”

“Wasn’t she just at a Jones County Reunion last summer?”

Ken said, “This is different but I am not sure how.”

I’m not really sure either. But it’s different. The one last summer was an All School Reunion. So how it evolved from the Jones County Picnic was I think because Bob Bowers started it and he lived in CA. I remember attending one in Long Beach. The snowbirds who left chilly South Dakota flocked together in CA and eventually found Mesa, AZ a better fit than over priced CA. Birds of a feather flock together so they formed a strong bond and kept the Picnic/Gathering going.  (It’s no longer called a Picnic because we are too old to sit on a blanket on the ground with the ants.)

Mary and I prepared for weeks before going to the Gathering. We were excited and it’s always fun being with Bill and Gus. Mary and I coordinated what we would wear and what accessories we would need. We also discussed makeup, paying close attention to our lipstick color. We had to have our hair done a certain way. We made a trip to Walmart (surprise) to buy a new curling iron and cheesecake to take to the gathering. Mary even took two showers and washed her hair twice. She wore spectacular earrings and a necklace with a crown charm. I wore the same thing I’d worn three years ago adding a different necklace and dangling crystal earrings this time. The boots were a major decision but we both wore them with long flowing skirts and black tops. She added a jeans jacket and I wore my old rust colored suede jacket.  After a few hours, we were ready even though still a bit unsure how we looked. Bill called to see if we were all set to go.

“When will you two gals be ready to go?”

Mary: “We need about five more minutes to do our makeup “

Bill: “That should take at least 20 more minutes.”

CONCLUSION TO PT 1:  Aunt Loretta’s wisdom…”It’s good enough for who it’s for.” That gave us the confidence to go. We looked good. We felt even better. We were ready. Mary drove the four of us to the clubhouse for the Gathering. That is, she drove us AFTER she found the right car. We only had to backtrack once because we forgot the Walmart cheesecake, which was a big hit.

This is Mary (MG) again. I see it taking several blogs to cover the Gathering. We still have dozens of other people’s stories to tell. Hopefully, we won’t have to change our outfits again.

Mary, Billy, Val, and Gus… Wednesday dinner before the Thursday Gathering.

3 thoughts on “Those 70ish girls…What’s the difference?

  1. Valerie Halla February 18, 2023 / 10:47 pm

    I love this picture at dinner with the beautiful floral arrangement and Native artwork in that recessed area behind us.


    • Mary Francis McNinch February 19, 2023 / 2:36 am

      I look fat but the picture is a keeper and a reminder of the really great time we had!


      • Valerie Halla February 19, 2023 / 12:47 pm

        You do not look fat. Your smile is radiant.


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