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Backward Glances: Graduation

If we tried to characterize each month of the year in just a few words June might include words such as “endings” and “beginnings”, “hope” and “optimism”.  June is after all, the month with life’s most significant events… graduations and marriages. I’ll restrict my thoughts to graduations — weddings are a whole different subject.

An earlier column spoke of my kinship with fellow grads from the George Elliott class of ’62. Our coffee mornings every few weeks are filled with chatter about life past and present, and lots of laughter. When visiting Creekside Theatre I’m still drawn to the “wall of fame” photo gallery, now stretching the entire hallway. The class photo of the Grads of 2008, our fiftieth graduating class, will soon join all the others. As with all who have preceded them, their big night will include speeches and fanfare and the joy of having completed a long journey. Some may pause to reflect on all their years together, knowing that soon they will all go their separate ways.

Today’s graduation ceremonies are in huge contrast to those earlier days at our Alma Mater… sheer numbers for example. The current class of one hundred and thirty plus is in strong contrast to my small group of nineteen. Soon our local newspapers will be filled with photos of grad night, featuring students arriving in limos, classic and exotic cars, and other offbeat transport, from horse-drawn carriages to front-end loaders. The young ladies will be wearing gowns that could grace the pages of fashion magazines, and their male escorts will likely be in tuxedos worthy of James Bond.

Our generation usually arrived in the family sedan. Our “After Grad” party was at Coral Beach, then uninhabited, and my date and I travelled in the back seat of David Geen’s mother’s Vauxhall Viva, definitely neither limo nor exotic. We were just happy to have wheels. I suspect that some of the dresses worn by the young ladies were created through the magic of mom’s sewing machine, or had been borrowed from an older sister. There was nary a tuxedo in sight. My grad night was also my parents’ Silver Wedding anniversary and I remember them dancing to the Anniversary Waltz. I’ve no idea what my dad wore that night as I had already spoken for his one blazer.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is youth’s optimism for the future. Bios for new grads usually speak of exciting and rewarding careers as successful entrepreneurs. Few speak of working in business or service industries, sectors to which most ultimately gravitate. It was no different in my day as I think back to our own dreams and aspirations, and where we thought we were going. Reality is often something quite different.

Increasingly, today’s students recognize the need for post graduate studies and the importance of learning specialized skills. The job market has never offered more opportunity for diverse and rewarding careers. If I had one wish for the Class of 2008 it would be that they recognize their potential.

The decisions that our new class of grads now face will substantially influence the course of their entire lives. Thank goodness it wasn’t so overwhelming for me forty-six years ago.  As memory serves, my total fixation was finding a job, any job, that would earn money for my first real car. I say real car, my ’37 Chev. bought from Frank Arnold for $30 when I was fourteen, which had been sold to pay my insurance on the family sedan.

Graduation class of 1962. George Elliot High School
Front row, L-R: Faye Stowe, Sherry Hayward, Eleanor Brixton, Laurie Arnold, Marlene Tetz, Graham Dickie, Margaret Berry, Cheryl Hitchman, Karen Norgaard. Back row, L-R: Toby Redecopp, Garry Wheeler, David McCoubrey, Milton Eby, Werner Forster, Richard Gibbons, Roland Hein, Harold Swanson, Alan Pothecary, Jim Moody.

Some of my fellow grads had somewhat loftier goals in life. Laurie Arnold and Faye Stowe off for nurses training, Eleanor Brixton, Margaret Berry, Dave McCoubrey and Graham Dickie university bound. I suspect that most, however, had rather fuzzy notions as to careers and the future. I hope that a far greater percentage of the Class of 2008 have goals and concrete career plans.

Source: Richard Gibbons. Director of Lake Country Museum.

Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.