It Can't Last Forever

(...or can it?)

 

By FREDDY LESSLY

Class of 1964

Denison High School

 

The year is 1964, it's March and over half the school year is gone. I am rapidly on my way to high school graduation. I'm strolling down the first floor hallway at Denison High School and the bell has just released us from fourth period. For me, it was Mr.Woodward's algebra class. It's the second time I've taken algebra and he and I have collectively agreed that my future doesn't lie in algebraic equations!

 

I pause briefly to yell at a friend working in the little Distributive Education (DE) store, the one that looks like a closet with a window for access from the hallway. I get paper and stuff there sometimes when I can't remember to stop by Triangle News, my usual school supplies source.

 

A cute cheerleader, dressed in the little short skirt and letter sweater uniform, labors with her books as she attempts to stuff them into her locker.  My tongue wags like a thirsty hound dog! - well - I'm a teenager!

 

 A girl I know runs out of Mrs. Gaddy's cosmetology class just as I get a whiff of that all too familiar smell of burning hair, I think!  She grabs me by the arm and tries to pull me into the classroom, saying she wants to peroxide my hair.  Mrs. Gaddy comes out and tells us to quiet down and she tells Mrs. Gaddy of her plan for me. We all have a big laugh.

 

My best friend pops up beside me and asks if I'm going to the bon fire that evening. "Of course I am" I reply, and proceed to make arrangements to pick him up so we can go as comrades. The tardy bell rings, stragglers scurry to class. All in the day of a senior in high school!

 

What I'm about to say now, I've only told a few people in my life - wait a minute - no, that's not right, I've never told anyone in my life! (Except a few friends at the January Lunch Bunch meeting in Denton.)

 

 

You see, I very seriously thought about staying in high school a few more years. Well, one more year at least! What I mean by that is, by failing a subject critical to graduating, I could continue this care free, fun filled high school student lifestyle another year or two. As I further recall a typical day below, you may begin to see why.

 

I got to my locker on the south end of the hall then started back up the hall, north. It was fifth period and since I was a DE student, I didn't have a class the last two class periods. Actually, I was supposed to be at my job but we always got one day a week off and this was my day.

 

I grabbed a couple of books from my locker, turned around, and started to my car. About that time, I began hearing a little voice in my head, quietly saying, “you don't have much longer here in high school, you'd better hang around all you can." That same little voice had spoken to me before, explaining what a great life I'd had going to high school, how carefree and delightful it has been and how it is all coming to an end.

 

It was a tormenting little voice, always there and always quick to point out the perils of life beyond high school. Suddenly I lost the desire to leave the building and I started to walk the halls. I walked north from the south end of the building. Slowly I strolled, looking into each classroom as I went by, seeing a friendly, familiar face in each room. A few hands waved above the heads, a teacher walked past me. She smiled a greeting - probably wondering what I was doing in the hall but was too polite to ask.

 

  Thoughts raced through my head, "this is it man!”, "next year you will be out in life!”. Out in life?? Yikes!!  While I didn't really know what life after high school held for me, I thought it was likely something exciting, but hey, this wasn't such a bad deal either! I had a nice soft bed at my parent’s house, all my stuff in my own bedroom, three squares a day, nice clothes, nice car. I'm trying to figure out why I would leave such a life!

 

You see, I worked after school and on weekends down at the friendly Safeway Store, it was a job that I loved! My two best guy friends also worked there and as you might expect, we had some great times working together. I made a pretty good weekly check for a high school kid and combined with the funds that my parents provided, all my needs were met and then some! Who, in his right mind, would want to leave a deal like this? 

 

While a student needed 18 credits to graduate, some simple math said  I was coming up on 18 quickly! “When I compile 18 credits, I'm out of here," I remember thinking! The only way that I could see prolonging this wonderful life and lifestyle, was to fail a subject or two.

 

"But I'm passing everything - okay, maybe just barely, but I am passing"! What could I do to get this machine stopped?  I know, I could embarrass myself and my family by failing something and that would require me coming back next year and living this life for one more glorious and fun filled year. I guess everyone would eventually get over it. "Ok, so I’ve gotta do something now, something quick!  I've got to have some failing grades so that I won't pass for the year.  It's now or never cause I'm about to come to the end of the line on this gravy train,” I remember thinking!

 

Distributive Education was two and a half credits and I couldn't possibly graduate without those credits! Hmmmmmmm! Slowly I walked out of the building to my car. A friend was making a drag strip out of the parking lot. What looked like a pint of oil poured out from underneath his ‘48 Ford every time he floored it! A flapping noise could be heard with every revolution of the retreaded tires as one of them was becoming unraveled. "Wanda Sue" in bright red lettering, adorned the back quarter panel. A little red heart appeared above her name. The exhaust smoke activated the asthma I thought I had outgrown.

 

Thoughts were racing through my head as I wrestled with a decision. I hopped in my car, fired it up and flipped on the radio. The disc jockey identified the station with the call letters, KLIF 1190. The familiar jingle tune accompanied the DJ as he announced the next song, "Downtown" by Petula Clark. Petula lured me downtown! Funny, I was headed there anyway. Driving up and down Main Street always clears the mind! "Perhaps I'll make a stop in at Dad and Lads, I'll check out the new summer shirts, maybe buy a couple and by then, it will be time to go home for supper, (My mother religiously had the evening meal on the table at 5 pm) and then I'll make my decision," I thought.  “New clothes and a full stomach, tonight I will decide to either pass or fail!".

 

I guess by now you're wondering if I stayed or if I graduated with my class. Well, if I was taught nothing else in my 12 years of education, at least I learned that a plan to fail is probably not a good plan.

 

 

Beginning this trek way back in 1952, my classmates and I always knew that we were the class of 1964 - the best forever more, but somehow in my mind I didn't think 1964 would ever actually get there!  I suspect other classmates probably felt the same way. When it did arrive, I was startled and suddenly found myself facing "life", real life - like make your own way "life"!

 

With final grades turned in, the list of those who were to graduate was distributed, and yes, my name appeared on the list.  As the evening of graduation approached, somehow I mustered up the courage to don that black robe and take my place beside classmate Margaret Reynolds, chosen as my partner as we were placed in pairs according to our height and march into the new Eisenhower Auditorium as the first graduating class to ever walk it's aisles with diplomas in hand.

 

 I will always remember that evening in May, and those big new doors, swinging wide, letting us through to begin the new episode in our lives!

 

 

 

(About the author: Freddy Lessly is the retired director of the local public transit system. He now sits at home on his computer and writes remembrances of yesteryear to entertain or aggravate his friends.)   

 

 

 

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