This year will mark the 40th year since I received a DuBois Area High School diploma. Time, as they say, has flown in these past four decades.
Looking back to what it was like during that last year of school, before my classmates and I raced into the “real” world. Of course, we were young idealists with no real understanding of what life would have in store for us but I sometimes think that person still lurks somewhere inside this older version of me.
Of course there were a lot of differences between our senior year and the senior year recent graduates experienced. First of all, there were no cell phones. Gasp! Yes, that’s right, we had to talk to our friends “face to face.” Imagine, having to speak directly to someone and not figure out how to text a message using only 280 characters (up from the 140 limit).
If we wanted to talk to them via telephone it was the landline at home that was attached to the base with a cord. Homes had one phone not a base with several handheld receivers. So wherever the phone was located that is where you sat to talk to your BFF. That place for me was the kitchen and if it was prior to supper then there was no privacy as Mom was getting supper on the table and usually seeking my help to set the table or whatnot.
School itself was different as well. Yes, we still went to various classes for various subjects at the high school but there was no metal detectors, no threats of active shooters. Yes, there were bomb threats but not like today. Back then, the students didn’t really take such threats seriously because we had no frame of reference of anyone actually following through on such a threat. No, they were calls made with no more intent then to get out of a test or gym class for however long we were held outside. If their goal was to get school dismissed early, they failed miserably. We were never dismissed early because of these threats. Instead we would line up and exit the school in an orderly fashion and then stand around outside on school property until the school had been searched. We didn’t even hear about the school being on “lock down” because of such threats. Such terminology is all too familiar for today’s students.
Several weeks ago Dad and I were eating at Denny’s in Brookville and noticed several young people in evening attire. While Dad at first thought they must have been at a wedding, I knew it was the age-old tradition of going out for supper before heading to the prom. There were no giveaways in the parking lot that would have told anyone that students attending the local prom had stopped at this restaurant. Decades ago there might have been a limousine parked outside waiting for to take the teens to the dance or there may have been a vehicle or two that were decorated with paper flowers, attached with two-sided tape. All the girls would spend months carrying a large green garbage bag around school from class to class. Inside were boxes of tissue paper in their chosen colors. During study halls or breaks, and yes, at times during class, they would pull out an accordion-folded, center-stapled bundle and begin to separate the layers and fluff them to take the shape of a flower. While making them was time consuming, the truly hard part was getting them to stay on the car from the time you left the house until you arrived at the prom. I can still remember riding in the car and watching the flowers be ripped from the front hood by the wind as we drove along. And no, we were not going at lightning speed but even at 45 mph, the wind can find those flowers that were not attached as firmly. The pink, blue, green or yellow flowers would valiantly strive to hold on but continued pushed and pulled by the wind as it flowed over the car was enough to finally pull them off, one by one.
In a way as we ran headlong into the winds of life, we were pushed and pulled and some of us fell but we were taught to get back up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. While things are different today than they were those four decades ago, I think graduates today are more aware of the world and its dangers. How can they not be when those dangers have entered into their schools in the forms of shooters? Despite all of that, I still find myself wishing that they have a little of the “idealist” within each of them to strive for a world where we treat each other with respect and view the good qualities rather than focusing only on the negative. My second wish for graduating seniors is that while the world may tug and pull at them, even knock them down, that they continue to get back up and continue down the career paths they have chosen to the lives they envision for themselves.
They are our future and from what I’ve seen of the achievements of some of our local students, that future could very well be a bright and amazing one.
Congrats to all the graduating seniors!