1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Graduation:  The ceremony of receiving a diploma or degree upon completion of a course of studies.
Dan Duff

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 or sleep. 

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.