Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fifty Years Ago Today: The End!

I know: I've been inflating high school nostalgia to the popping point (think: balloon).  Three posts on a baccalaureate service from 1962.  Perhaps a bit much.  So I will end it all today with a final post about my high school commencement, which occurred on 6 June 1962, fifty years ago today.

You see our mighty Hiram High School Class of 1962 ("We are the Huskies, the mighty, mighty Huskies!"), all--what?--forty of us.  About half of us were from Hiram; the other half, from Streetsboro, who had shipped students various places around the county for the past few years.  They had joined us during our freshman year, and I think now what a tough time that was for them--away from their friends, long rides on the bus, a school full of strangers, some of whom (most?) were not all that friendly, at least not at first.

By the way, you can see me, age 17, in the upper left, my National Honor Society pin gleaming on my lapel.  I was shocked when they tapped me for membership--I'd not even considered it a possibility (for good reasons).  But once they did (my junior year) I fastened that pin on the lapel of my only suit and did not take it off until I graduated.  The pin, no longer gleaming, rests in a little box of other things I never look at on my dresser top.

Several of us have died.  Among them--Paul Misch, one of my good friends.  We were the two starting guards on the basketball team my senior year, both of us only about 5'8".  The local paper called us "watch-charm guards," but we didn't charm too many of our opponents (we lost a lot of games that year--a lot of games).  I didn't see much of Paul after we graduated.  He went into the Army, and I have a good memory of seeing him in the late 1960s in Washington, D. C. (he was a member of the Honor Guard by that time).  I was in town with our Aurora eighth graders.  And one night I met Paul at a local coffee shop, and we talked for a long time about Hiram and watch-charm guards and what life was doing to us.  I saw him at our fifth reunion, too.  But not much after that.  Maybe never.  He'd moved out west.  And then, a few years ago, I got the news from another friend that Paul was dying of cancer.  I got his email.  Sent something.  But he didn't answer.  I don't know if he couldn't--or didn't want to.  It doesn't matter.  He was a bright, talented, funny man.  And I remember he used to read Ayn Rand and tell me that, oh, The Fountainhead was the greatest book ever written by a human being.

The top two students in our class were Marcia Rosser and Sally Benedict;both were daughters of Hiram College professors.  There was a little town-v.-gown in our school--not awful.  But present.  Guys would grab you by the upper arm and cry: "Ooooo, your father's in the college!"  And then punch your shoulder. And one teacher we had--a history teacher--loved to rant about how college professors didn't have any "practical knowledge."  (My dad, a professor, grew up on a farm--had far too much practical knowledge, I thought, especially when he dragged me out of bed on Saturday mornings to do chores.)

I've remained in touch with Marcia for years; she's been teaching at a Montessori school in San Francisco for decades.  She sang "How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings" at our graduation--but I don't remember much about it (sorry, Marcia), but she had a wonderful voice and took all the leading roles in our high school operettas.  Sally was the best speller in the class--our representative in eighth grade, I think, to the Portage County Spelling Bee (don't remember how she did).  She had skipped seventh grade and joined us in eighth, and in every class she walked into she got an A (unlike you-know-who).  I have no idea where she is now, have never seen her at a reunion.  The last time I saw her (in the early 1970s?) was at the memorial service for her father in Bates Hall at Hiram College.

The Hiram High chorus (senior members only--I was in it) sang Randall Thompson's setting of Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken"; sometimes, at WRA, when I was introducing that poem (for students to memorize!), I would sing a few bars for the (unimpressed) class.  I can still sing the whole damn thing--just ask!

Hunter Beckelhymer, the minister at the Hiram Christian Church, took care of the religious aspects of the service.  He was a wonderful preacher and eventually went, I think, to TCU, where he continued his distinguished career.  He was also our CYF leader.  We met on Sunday evenings, rotating to a different kid's home each week (my mother was really annoyed when I volunteered our house one week--without telling her beforehand; we had Sloppy Joes).  We would have a "discussion" about something, then close with a circle, all of us holding hands, while he prayed.  I always tried to get next to my girlfriend for a little religious hand-holding.  Then it was the meal before most of us headed up to the college to see the Sunday night movie (Hollywood films!) at Hayden Auditorium.  Adult price, I think was $.75.  I saw Oklahoma! there and Peyton Place and even Dr. No.

I don't remember a thing about the address by Dr. Gorman from KSU--but the title ("See How Far") probably says it all.

The Hiram High band played the processional and recessional.  I was in the band, playing an undistinguished cornet (second, maybe third, chair--I deserved lower, never practiced), and I'm pretty sure we played "Pomp and Circumstance."  I would not want to hear a recording of it.

Later this summer we will have our "official" reunion, and I'm sure I'll post something about that, too (by then, maybe, you'll be ready for it?).

In the meantime, what has happened to us?  Several of my 1962 classmates are FB friends, but I don't see any of them regularly. I have learned at previous reunions that a number of them remain close with one another.  That's good.  Not a lot of us went to college.  It wasn't really necessary in 1962.  You could still get a good union job in Akron or Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Detroit--or anywhere, really--and have a good, secure life.  Or so it seemed.  McJobs were not ubiquitous then.  The first McDonald's in our area, I remember, was in Warren.  When I was in high school, our family drove over there one night, just to see.  Got a hamburger for 15 cents.  Tasted like salty cardboard.

On a chart from the National Center for Education Statistics, I see that in 1962, nationally, about 49% of high school grads went to college.  (Only about 44% of kids graduated from high school, though.)  I'd guess about half of us went on, too--about the national average.  I'm not really sure.  What I am sure of is that there was no shame in not going to college--no drastic financial loss that would ensue.  Not long afterward, of course, that would change.

I would not want to go back to high school, to be seventeen again.  I am smiling in that picture--looking off into the distance.  But what I most remember about high school was the terror that lay quite close to the surface, always.  I was afraid of bigger, tougher boys; I was afraid I wasn't bright enough to do well in college (I hadn't worked very hard in high school and had no real idea what my capabilities were); I was afraid I would never be the athlete I'd dreamed of being (I was right); I was afraid of being on my own; I was afraid no one would love me (I didn't give people a lot of reasons to, in 1962).  As the years drifted on, some of those fears faded; new ones emerged.  But I think it's part of our human lot, isn't it?  Being afraid?  Pretending we're not?  Hoping we are fooling all with our smile, our distant gaze, our gleaming pin on a lapel?

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