Some Traditional Things About Graduation That I Can Do Without
Edward Elgar, (you will know him momentarily), probably sat down with pen, music sheet and started plunking and pinging his piano in hopes to pound-out a tune that would not only secure his place in human history, but English history. Elgar is the author of "Pomp and Circumstance" undoubtedly Elgar's biggest and only claim to fame.
His song favors a theme song for famous talk show hosts. A song that sets them apart from the pack. And to the many soon-to-be graduates proceeding into their graduation ceremonies, both in high school and college, Elgar's song, "Pomp and Circumstance," hopefully sets the graduates away from the pack. It didn't me, but that is another disaster.
Elgar's tune haunts me even today.
I heard this durge, errr, I mean, "march," by Elgar in May, 1972, on a hellishly-hot Friday night at Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Ala., (Pop. 12,390 est.), inside the school's brand-new gym courtesy of then-Governor of Alabama, the elegant Lurleen B. Wallace.
Commencement exercises intimidated me so much that I could not talk. Sweat, hidden from view underneath my mortarboard (graduation cap), rolled down my neck like someone holding a green garden hose on me. The white shirt and blue slacks underneath my 87-pound graduation robe was soaked to the thread. No worries. I wasn't going to pull the robe off until an hour and a half later. I had that going for me. My favorite teacher in my senior year was the late Rubel Shotts who spoke his mind as effective as a Tommy Gun. "Heck, (not what he really said) I don't care if you seniors go naked under those robes. You will be outta here after graduation and my responsibility for you has ended."
I did think about his proposal that evening as I dressed for one of the most-serious nights of my teenage life. And it was all serious thanks to our class sponsor, Mrs. Gladys Jennings, a prima Donna from years ago. She was caught in a time-draft where everyone spoke with perfect grammar and loved to exhibit manners. That, I admire her for. But as a teacher, are you serious?
Let's march . . .
I remember it well.
This was my first and last time to graduate high school or any other institution. For that, I am sad sometimes and sometimes happy. I might be bi-polar. No, I am not making fun. I have never been checked for this menacing affliction. (After this hub is published, I might check-in to tak with my good friend, Carole Moore, a brilliant therapist at the Behavioral Medicine Clinic in Tupelo, Miss.)
Let me talk about a few unneeded things that so-called experts say you gotta have to make a graduation complete. I am not being brash, just honest.
The song, "Pomp and Circumstance" -- could be trashed for all I care. I wish we as a class had banded-together and asked for "Purple Haze," by Jimi Hendrix. We would have surely loved that beat and marched a bit swifter to the stage to get our "sheep skin." Okay. if Mrs. Jennings had balked and I am sure that she would, we could have chosen, "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida," by Iron Butterlfly. It's slower and those of my class who were sneaking "weed" would have dug it. (Notice the 70's reference).
The graduation robes -- which I stated weighed an estimated 87-pounds. They were so heavy, thick, and hot, I swear that I saw my buddy, Rex McCarley, (his real name), look as if he were about to faint. I knew Rex very well and he was never this pale.
Speeches by: The Valedictorian; Class Poet, Class Historian, Class Grumbler and Class Prophet -- took up and wasted a lot of my time as I sat there forced to listen to all of them go on and on about things that were so not funny that a delerius person would have went stone-faced. Maybe cut each speech down to 20-minutes. That's it. No one was listening. Not even our parents and friends in the bleachers and folding chairs.
Diploma presentation -- should have been the first order of business. That was what we were all there for anyway. Plus, we got to shake the hand of our principal, Joe L. Sargent, who was a true legend to me. He deserved our respect more than Mrs. Jennings from The Victorian Age.
"86ing" -- the air conditioning and fans just for that one night was one of the biggest debacles we had ever endured. It was 87 degrees inside. Summer was about to be in full-gear and there we were bound-down in super-heavy robes sweating away the pounds listening to people who did not care about our school that much for none of the speech-makers even dared to mention how our class was fragmented into visible cliques. Naaah, these speech-makers had enough on them--having to make a speech while looking at the copy of the speech on the podium. Kevin Nealon would have loved this.
What Our Class Sponsors Should Have Done to Make Our Graduation Easier
- Pass out cold water to keep us from dehydrating.
- Keep the school band at home. We did not want to hear a couple of numbers by writers we never knew.
- Let the graduation ceremony be held outside and later at night when it is cooler. Ahhh. I know why we were forced to sit in this P.O.W.-like atmosphere: Mrs. Jennings bedtime was at 8:30 p.m.
Let Mr. Sargent make his remarks, give us our diplomas, and let us fellowship for what would be the last time for some of my classmates.
- Have someone from the principal's office apologize to those in my class whom they falsely-accused of transgressions they allegedly commited during their time at my high school.
- But no one dared to "shake the applecart," with new ideas about graduation. It was all about Mrs. Jennings.
- All of this suffrage for someone who should have retired years ago.
Not fair then. Not fair now.