One of my granddaughters
just sent me a card announcing her completion of high school. Of course I am
expected to show my gratitude by lavishing gifts and enough money to tour
Europe and parts of Asia before she starts college in the fall.
I have received a lot of these cards from relatives and some people who have
been removed from my address book for years. No matter, I have counted my
meager funds and have found that if I send them each a modest gift, I will
be eating cat food until November. Then you have Christmas right after that
so as you can see, before January I’ll be taking hair ball medicine and
taking a bath without getting in water.
It is a joyous time for these kids who braved the onslaught of angles and
areas, photosynthesis, nouns and participles, battles, kings and kingdoms,
they finally get a piece of paper that says they have passed a giant
milestone in their life. They now can breath a sigh of relief even if it is
short lived and for a lot of them, the quest for knowledge will begin anew
this fall when they will be called on to make even more profound and deeper
decisions. Frat party or study, old girl friend or new girl friend, lecture
Graduations bring back a lot of memories for me. I have been in some and
attended a lot, but none has ever come close to the graduation ceremonies of
Alderson High School. It was just a lot of gatherings and dancing, eating
and being congratulated, put on display and smiling for hundreds of cameras
at the time, but now that I looked back, it was a time for ending one part
of my life, saying goodbye to the small town and heading off into an unknown
future. Somehow I now feel the reason for all the attention was the teachers
and town folk saying farewell. Over many years they had seen many young
people pass through Alderson on their way to life. Many would never return,
many would return only for the giant fourth of July celebration and many
would return to visit relatives. Only a very few stayed to live their lives
in their hometown.
The ceremonies lasted most of the month of May and started with May Day.
This day brought the whole school system of Alderson out for a day in the
sun. As far as I can remember, I don’t remember it ever being rained out. It
was always a beautiful day with the court of pine trees set as a backdrop at
the south end of the campus arrayed with chairs to hold the king and queen
of May Day and the graduating seniors of that year.
The graduates were all decked out in suits and ties for the boys and formal
gowns worn by all the girls. After the call to order by the principal, there
would be a local minister there to give a prayer (We could pray in school
then, thank God), the band would play “Pomp and Circumstance” and the parade
of beautiful seniors would begin and continue until at last the king and
queen made their way to their thrones.
Then the entertainment would begin. Every class from first grade through
eleventh would put on dances and song. The highlight of all the
entertainment was the may pole dance. If you have never seen this dance, you
have missed one of life’s little pleasures that stays in you memory forever.
The poll is about twenty feet high and has streamers arrayed at about two
foot intervals around the circumference of the pole. Kids dance around the
poll for a time and then pick up the streamers and interweave them by
dancing around the poll.
The prom was next. Well, what were you to do with those suits and gowns
until graduation week. The gym was decorated to the nth degree with the
class colors and prom theme. One of the only times when a “paid band” played
for the evening. The problem wasn’t with the slow music, but a lot of fabric
got in the way when the rock and roll started.
The Sunday before the formal graduation ceremonies was set aside for the
baccalaureate sermon. The sermon was given on a rotating basis to all the
churches in town. Mostly they spoke not of hell fire and damnation, but
rather of foresight and destination for the graduates. If the preacher was
not to your liking or your religion frowned on his brand of religion you
were excused without prejudice.
Graduation night was the big climax. There were speeches, speeches and more
speeches. The salutatory address, the valedictory speech, the principal, the
parole officer. Being a graduating senior was tough, but to set through
three hours of blah, blah, blahs should have been rewarded with more than a
piece of rolled up paper with two cents worth of ribbon around it.
A lot of years have come and gone since those days. A lot of life has
happened. Wars fought, marriages, children, grandchildren and some great
grandchildren. The old high school was turned into a junior high after the
county built a consolidated high school in the early sixties. When they saw
how successful the new high school had become, they decided to consolidate
the junior high as well. Now what used to be Alderson High is a community
center. But if you are lucky enough to stroll through that old building when
its empty, stop and listen closely. You will see and hear the voices of
those who passed through Alderson High. Few successes and failures can be
found here. Only the sounds and sights of teenagers in their formative
years. The laughter and tears of puberty trying to change in to adulthood.