Graduation brings pride, memories

Published 6:23 pm Thursday, June 3, 2021

By Sue Staton
On Saturday morning, under a cloudy and threatening look of rain, the members of the 2021 graduating class of George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester walked across a stage to receive their diplomas. They were greeted with a handshake and a smile by Mr. Paul Christy, the superintendent of schools. This would be Mr. Christy’s last graduation. I am sure this was a time of reflection for him as well as the graduates. The graduates’ teachers sat in rows watching as each one walked to receive their diplomas. They, like those in attendance, had their own memories of the graduate receiving the diploma.
Parents breathed a sigh of relief mixed with many emotions. This was their baby that was now a young lady or young man getting ready to face the future. Some were happy about this fact, while many still had the urge to continue holding on tight to their child. This day meant a whole gamut of change in the lives of those who attended.
Among the attendees were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and friends, watching as each one received their diploma. My husband and I have admired our grandson, Landon Cline, who had studied engineering for four years.
As I listened to the salutatorian and valedictorian speeches, I was totally impressed. They were amazing. I know their parents have to be so very proud of them. They both are probably blessed by being born intelligent, but I am well aware of how much hard work it must take to become a salutatorian or valedictorian. While I loved both speeches the valedictorian made me want a copy of hers.
Since my husband drove a school bus transporting people from the RD Campbell campus to the high school, I was unable to sit beside him but did sit by a Mr. Brown. He and his wife were watching their son graduate. I had taken a blanket to wrap up in if I needed it. My first conversation with him was about him wanting my blanket. I have to say I never enjoyed sitting next to a stranger as much in my life. He was a very humorous person and I love humor. We laughed and talked the whole time of the graduation ceremony. He laughed because I am so gullible and believe what people tell me as fact. One of his remarks after a graduate received his diploma with an uproar of yelling, he told me it was the first one in the family to ever graduate from high school. I remarked in awe and he laughed. He knew he had a good one next to him who would believe anything as fact. After I figured him out, I came back at him with remarks. I told him I was going to write about him. Sitting beside him made a long ceremony not seem as long.
With each graduation ceremony, I cannot help but think of my own high school graduation in 1966. To think that was 55 years ago seems unbelievable. Oh, how different our lives were then. A lot of kids graduating lived on farms and did not have homes with water in their homes or bathrooms.
We did not have cell phones or high-tech items. We had only one telephone line and everyone in the family could hear your conversation. There were as many as six people on the same party line as you and if they needed the phone your conversation was interrupted by the pickup of phones while you were talking.
The cost of a new house was $14,200.00. The average income was $6,900.00. Gas was just 32 cents a gallon. A new car cost $2,650.00. I will never forget getting my driver’s license in a brand new 1966 yellow, Chevrolet Impala. They were about as long as a bus. Parallel parking that car was a challenge. Yellow cars were the new thing then and big, long cars. I had plans of getting married that July as others in my class did.
New mothers were able to purchase a disposable diaper for the first time called Pampers in 1966. Most women still used the cloth diapers and left them to soak in a diaper pail with a little bit of bleach and detergent. Star Trek had its first episode. Dr. Zhivago and Thunderball were two popular movies. The Beetles were just becoming big in the USA, joined by the Monkees, the Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys and a few other groups.
Each time I watch a graduation ceremony I cannot help but think of each one’s future. I have to say a silent prayer for the graduating class. Whether they realize it now or not, they are a team in some way. They are the class of 2021, only they are in that elite group.
It would not be long after my class of 1966 graduation that three of our classmates were killed. Three were from the Vietnam War and one in a car wreck. Each time I go to my class reunions I thank God for letting me see another reunion. I am saddened to see the faces and names of the classmates that I walked the halls with at school who have passed on. The class of 2021 will have to experience grief in life the same as our class has.
In 1966 the Miranda warning became a law because of a rape case committed by a man with the last name of Miranda who claimed he was not given enough protection before interrogation.
One may not realize that some of the things the class of 2021 were aware of happened back in 1966 also. One of them is the murdering of innocent victims. In 1966 Charles Whitman killed 14 and injured 13 at the University of Texas. Though shootings were not prevalent like it seems to be now, it did happen back then.
Cassius Clay, who was later known as Muhammad Ali, became a conscientious objector and refused to go to the war. This did not go over well with those who were drafted and did their time in Vietnam Nam and other places doing their civic duty and serving.
There were protests then also, as the University of Berkeley protested because of the Vietnam War. Others actually burned their draft cards. This too was considered unAmerican. As much as things change there are still lots of similarities.
The class of 2021 had about 100 more graduates than we did in my 1966 class. Thank goodness they had a beautiful school. We also were like their class because we too graduated from a new school. The high school is now the Robert Campbell Junior High. Mr. Campbell was my beloved history teacher.
The class of 2021 went through a pandemic and we had no similarities there. We did hear in our sophomore class that President John F. Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas, Texas. We too had trauma as a nation with that.
I wish everyone the best of luck in life and hope they too, will get to see their 55th class reunion.

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