Friday, January 3, 2014

Long Ago and Far Away

PeeWee Herman as a high school senior.

Despite the picture of sloth around our house depicted in the last episode, we are getting some things done.  Since we're stuck indoors for the winter and have the time, it seems we should get going on cleaning areas out that have needed it for quite a while.  How we accumulated so much stuff in 22 years here, I don't know, but the only way to deal with the almost-hoarding problem is to bite off one piece at a time.  So, with my closet and bedroom storage cabinet done (a little of the stuff donated, but most out by the curb on Sunday night), we turn, with fear and trepidation, to the storage space under the stairs to the basement. 

It has been just too easy to cram the space full and forget about it.  Since wife and son have to agree to the disposition of all these things, they're currently spread out in the basement; just hope they don't stay that way until Spring.  Having cleared out all of my parents' house this summer pretty much solo, I could have it done in a day, but...  We're going to be pretty proud of ourselves when it is done.  Then on to the next target.

Only one surprising thing showed up in all this:  a rather pristine copy of my 1965 high school yearbook, a deadly serious black-and-white volume titled The Historian.  It has nothing written in it, strangely enough.  Of course I had to go through this ancient history, trying to match up names remembered with faces not remembered, with only a few exceptions.  I not only found out a lot I certainly didn't remember; there was a lot more I never knew about, like the breakfast at the Commonwealth Club after senior prom (and who the King and Queen were).  A little late to get on the list or buy a ticket by now, I suppose.

Douglas Freeman High School was only eleven years old when we graduated, but it seemed (and smelled) like it had been there for decades.  The Historian, despite its name, is not much of a record of events: the world outside is almost totally ignored.  The assassination of President Kennedy and the arrival of the Beatles, two events none of us will ever forget, are glaringly absent.  Pictures and statistics of the sad basketball team, however, rate a whole page.   Also shamefully ignored are those classmates who had already died:  one unlucky fellow was killed in Vietnam and one (I only remember his first name, Woodson) had committed suicide.  Why in the world weren't they mentioned?

Speaking of the missing, it appears that those who did not get a picture made (and there were a good many, including me) did not get listed at all.  Some friends I remember probably went to the Catholic schools and a few might have been transferred to the new J.R. Tucker High School, but if not included in the back of some group photo, many just disappeared like someone who had disagreed with some dictatorship.

I'm not in the literary magazine (despite winning a Scholastic Prize for my short but lovely contribution) or the Spanish National Honor Society group pictures.  I probably never heard about the photo appointments because I couldn't attend the meetings -- was required to go straight home after school to babysit the three younger brothers.  The evening meetings I missed because I didn't dare ask for a ride; my parents were upset and angry about all the driving around they had to do to take second and third brothers to all their activities and I couldn't bring myself to ask to be fit in somewhere.

I'd like to meet many of these people today and catch up.  Did they remain the same or hit their stride much later?  Many were from the elite and barring any psychological or other bumps in life, probably followed the course set by their class and family.  I did hear one son of a state senator became a lawyer and legislator himself.  Probably took up golf early in life, too.  Deedee, or Ruth Ellen, who was a hoot back then, is a retired judge in Florida.  I'll bet she had the respect of criminals and lawyers alike! What of the beauties, Connie, Sherry and Mary Lou?  John Old and John Godfrey, really good guys, probably would be great companions today also.  Bill Ragland and Bob Antonelli were the funniest guys around; Bob is not only still that but a great human being too (everyone in Richmond would agree).  Of Bob's bandmate in Morning Disaster, Joe Sheets, (also a sophomore like Bob), I almost hate to know that he's been gone for years now.  But never forgotten; his life is proof that the good often die young.

The yearbook is no portrait at all of this lively, smart and usually irrepressible crowd.   Well, some were egotists, suckups and conformists but it was a much more conservative era (where such personality traits are required for acceptance and success) than people think.  And no one should be judged too much for what they were like at eighteen.  But the people and events in the yearbook are flat and two-dimensional.  There's really  nothing personal, like Mike Boyes' dedicated love of science fiction or Tom's surprising collection of militaria and his dad's WWII letters and artifacts.  Maria R. was deaf and we had one black girl in the class.  Their stories would have been of enduring interest but both were missing.

I had gone through my dad's 1937 yearbook for the first time this summer, and in comparing the two, the old one is superior in every way.  The picture quality, writing, humor, human interest angles and use of then-current slang (everything was "swell") would earn the '37 product an A, and the '65 a D.  There are statements in the Freeman book like, "No Rebel (that is, DSF student) is ever alone."  What the devil does that mean?  The entry about my dad referred to his dealing defeat on the tennis court to all comers, his funny nicknames, and the fact the he was usually in pursuit of "a certain young lady."  Nailed his personality in a few words!

Memory Lane has a few landmines, doesn't it?


1 comment:

  1. If you were not in the yearbook, were you not in school? If you weren't in school you must have spent all your time babysitting. This is just wrong.