Yes, it was fifty-seven years ago that I graduated from Hiram High School--June 6, 1962, in Hiram College's Hayden Auditorium, 8:00 p.m. (Just to show you how Times Have Changed: I'm now in bed by 8 p.m., reading, streaming--lights off by 8:30!)
The program from the day reminds me that we seniors from the school's chorus sang Randall Thompson's setting for Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a poem I would ask my students--for decades--to memorize. Anyway, I was in that chorus--and sang that day. (There are a bunch of recordings of it on YouTube--here's a link to one.)
The speaker was Dr. Burton Gorman, head of the secondary education department at Kent State. Little did I know on that 1962 day that I would later earn my master's and Ph.D. from KSU. The title of his speech was "See How Far." I don't remember a word of it.
Presenting our diplomas that day was Dr. Edward Rosser, who taught chemistry at Hiram College. He was president of the Hiram board of education--and his daughter, Marcia, was graduating that day and delivered one of the student addresses that day. (Marcia, do you still have the text?) He got to hand Marcia her diploma. And how thrilled must he have been to sit and listen to her sing her solo, "How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings"? Oh, what a glorious voice Marcia had.
The invocation and benediction came from Rev. Hunter Beckelhymer, minister of the Hiram Christian Church, which I attended dutifully (if not gleefully) each Sunday; he was also the leader of our Christian Youth Fellowship, which met early on Sunday evenings. And after the CYF dinner and meeting, we would swarm over to Hayden Hall to see the Sunday night movie the college delivered to the community each week. He was a wonderful, bright man, Rev. Beckelymer, and ended his career teaching at TCU.
The program lists forty graduates that day. (I'm there as "Daniel Osborn Dyer"--we all got the Full Meal Deal on the program.)
Not all of the students were from Hiram. Nearby Streetsboro HS had been having problems and had been forced to send, for the past four years. students around to various other county high schools. So about seventeen of those forty were from Streetsboro and had endured for four years long bus rides and a slow acceptance from us snooty Hiram kids. (What on earth did we have to be snooty about?)
But acceptance did come as those kids distinguished themselves academically, athletically, musically, dramatically--and all other kinds of ways.
The program ended with the recessional, played by the Hiram High Band. It doesn't say what we played--yes, "we." I was sitting among them demonstrating how not to play the cornet. I was bright enough to pretend to play the difficult parts and to let the kids who actually practiced make the music.
And then it was all over. And our lives went on. Until they didn't.
Quite a few of my classmates--including some very good friends--are gone now. Some are still alive, but I've not seen them--or heard a thing about them--in decades. They never go to the reunions.
Because Hiram High was a tiny school--and because it closed its doors forever in the spring of 1964 when the school consolidated with the nearby Crestwood Schools in Mantua--our reunions now are Come One, Come All. We meet late in July at a community center in Welshfield, five miles north of Hiram. I've attended almost all of them in recent decades. We have a pot luck (I usually take bread of some sort--scones in recent years), an update on all of the classes, and lots of conversation with people who, for the most part, we see but once a year--if that.
My class (see pic below) had only four members attending this year. The pic, I know, shows five, but the man with his arms on his wife (Ellen Hughes Dingus) was not a member of the class of 1962, but he is always there, supporting Ellen, who was, our freshman year, a class officer (don't remember which slot).
|L-R: Sharon Mullen Steiner, D. Dyer, Ellen Hughes Dingus (with husband,|
Don Dingus), Ron Etling
As always, it was fun to "catch up," to tell and hear stories we've told and heard countless times before, to wonder about missing classmates, to marvel that we, for yet another year, are still alive.
We are fortunate to have among our Hiram High grads some folks who are determined to keep this enterprise going--who are dedicated to keeping records (and emailing them to the rest of us)--who take pictures (and send them along)--who ... you know? Without them, Hiram High would have long ago vanished--just as the building itself has vanished, razed decades ago.
I left the reunion about an hour before it officially ended. I'd felt a surge of overwhelming loss, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could pretend I didn't feel it. I drove west on US 422, seeing familiar sites I've known since 1956 (when we moved to Hiram, where for ten years Dad would teach at Hiram College, Mom at James A. Garfield HS in nearby Garrettsville). My eyes were a little blurry and bleary--and teary.
By the time I pulled into our driveway, I was better. On the outside.