From the moment they stepped into the foyer, Thorold residents past and present embraced and clutched hands, excited at the prospect of seeing each other again, some after a lapse of several decades. Friends laughed, cried and were heard reminiscing about everything from former Thorold High classmates to smoking in the school washrooms, back in the day.
Extra tables had to be added to accommodate the influx of guests who continued pouring into John-Michaels Banquet Centre for the nostalgic Thorold reunion held in Thorold South last Sunday.
After welcoming the crowd, organizer John Persia told them, “We are very overwhelmed with the response we got. It’s great. Nice to see people from Thorold from way back when, and some young people, too.”
Persia observed a moment of silence, “to think of our friends who are no longer with us,” then urged everyone to “Enjoy the friendship tonight.”
The reunion plan was hatched among a small gathering of friends in November, he told ThoroldNews.
"The idea started at Enzo's cottage during one of our monthly dinners back in November. We decided to host a pig roast and invite more people. We started asking all our friends through different avenues, Facebook, ThoroldNews, and it grew into this. The four of us (Persia, Enzo Iuliano, Ralph Colitti, and Eddie Kroetsch) really started organizing it in February."
Mayor Terry Ugulini addressed the crowd.
“We grew up in the best time of Thorold,” he stated, “and we have to keep that alive, and we want to make this an annual event.”
A crowd of about 260 people shared memories over a seven-course meal, followed by live music performed by Fat Rabbit, a popular Thorold classic rock band, which had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.
According to lead singer, keyboard player and songwriter Paul Muelli—one of the band’s original members—he was invited by Persia to play at Sunday’s reunion.
“I just thought this was a great idea,” Muelli told ThoroldNews, adding that the event provided an opportunity to catch up with “some people I haven’t seen for many years. Growing up in Thorold was pretty good. We were like in a little bubble, and we stayed friends forever.”
An accomplished writer as well as a self-taught musician, Muelli said he attended Thorold Secondary School and Denis Morris, then eventually moved away from the area.
He recalled being asked to play Bridge Over Troubled Waters at a TSS winter carnival in his early teens, but declined, since at the time, he said, “I really didn’t play. I was a singer.”
Years later, renowned Thorold guitarist Paul Lauzon “heard me practicing in my basement and he said, ‘You’ve got to get one’ (keyboard). Two weeks later, I was playing with Fat Rabbit at the Welland House, and it was baptism by fire. In those days, we could make a living playing clubs and parties.”
Introducing his fellow bandmates, “What we have here is the trio we’ve had for the last 15 years,” said Muelli, which is made up of drummer Ken Dick and bass player Ed Brown. “We play a lot of our own music. We like to play but we mostly keep to our studios. We all have studios in our houses.”
Dick said he met Muelli 25 years ago in Oakville, “and we’ve been playing around there and Niagara” ever since. Dick, who’s also tour manager for Devon Allman, called himself “an adopted Thorold resident,” and said the evening’s sound was provided by his son, Kevin Dick.