It has been coming for some time. I dread it as I am not fond of pomp and circumstance and all that goes with it. Mr. Meserve, our “big room” teacher has stressed to us that we must all act like ladies and gentlemen, which I find not at all to my liking.
For days we have practiced marching up and down the sidewalk in front of our Locke Mills Grammar School. John Chase is our class Marshall and he walks backwards leading us on our way, swinging a pole which hopefully will be replaced with something much more attractive. I believe it will be some sort of pole well covered with colored crepe paper with flying paper at each end. We are supposed to be stepping on the left foot when the baton goes down…or is that the right foot? Well, in the end, if all of us can step in unison, I guess it doesn’t matter.
We were told the girls must have white dresses and white shoes. When I asked, my mother replied that NO I could not wear white sneakers, but she would buy some white sandals which would make me look like a lady for one night out of the year. I told her I did not want anything on my feet that had a hole in the toe and if they couldn’t put a whole shoe together without leaving gaps, I didn’t want a pair. She then informed me that she worked hard for her money and was going to make sure that I wore whatever she chose. I know Ma works hard, so after that I just sighed and heaved my whole body up the stairs into my side of the attic to think over the whole matter.
I have only been to this school and I am not keen on leaving it, to tell the truth. I remember when we were really small and were taken on a “field trip”. We walked on the side of the road, with our teacher on the outside and someone’s mother there as well, to keep from getting hit by a car racing down Route 26. We walked all the way to Terrill’s store which was quite a distance , I can tell you. When we got there, though, we were each given a Dixie cup and when we pulled the cover off, there was a picture of a movie star. I wasn’t too impressed as I wanted to get to the ice cream with my wooden spoon. Mrs. McAllister had us all sit and eat our ice cream and probably to give our legs a rest before we headed back to the school. I remember how tired my legs felt as we got to the top of the hill where I could see the school house. That was quite a walk!!
I must have forgotten how tired my legs were because I decided one day to march in the Memorial Day Parade. Ma said, are you sure. Well, of course, I was sure. I took my place in the parade, held on to that little American Flag and almost died on my feet before we finally got to the cemetery. I swear we walked a hundred miles. It takes me a long time to learn, apparently. But now I am older and the march is only a few feet, but it is to be in front of all the village in the Town Hall.
We have the afternoon off from classes to decorate the Town Hall so that it will look pretty behind us as we sat in a half circle on stage. There aren’t too many of us and Kay is the only other girl. I am sure she will be wearing a white dress and white shoes as well.
The day has come. We all go to the Hall with the boys laughing, shouting, running and just glad to be out of school. John is there with the real version of the baton and we march while the piano pounds out the graduation march. Mr. Meserve has found someone to replace him at school and he paces back and forth, finger in his watch pocket, watch chain or whatever it is called, swinging as he paces. “Left foot on the down beat, left foot on the down beat” he keeps repeating. If I roll my eyes one more time they’ll roll down the aisle in front of all of us. This was the teacher who seated me with the sixth graders for talking earlier in the year, so perhaps I should just grin and bear it. I would think John would get dizzy walking backwards and run into one of those chairs all sitting in a row, but he seems to be under control.
Well, the night is here. I try not to think that our class will be divided; some will go to Gould Academy and some of us will go to Woodstock High School. Ma graduated in 1933, so it just stands to reason we will go to Woodstock. Fine with me. I don’t care where I go as long as there are some sports to play, but I don’t say that out loud.
We line up in a row and I peek around to see who is in the Hall. Good Lord, it looks like the whole town has turned out for this graduation. There is no one from the lower part of Greenwood this year. Some years there are students from Colista Morgan’s school and also the Tubbs District. I wonder how comfortable those hard wooden folding chairs must be. I will ask Gram tomorrow. I can see her on the aisle down near the front because I recognize her white hair up in a bun and a little hat perched on the side of her head. Ma is sitting with her. Dad doesn’t come to these things. I guess, by now, he is in bed reading a western paperback. I wish I were in my attic reading something..anything.
The music starts. John looks nervous. Mr. Meserve raises his hand to let John know when to come down and he whispers again “Left on the down beat”..good grief, we know this. I am getting nervous because I do not like sitting forever on that stage with everyone looking at me. Rex looks cool the way he always handles things like this. Carl and Verne Corkum are brothers and they look as though they can handle this…well here we go.
We sit. Each of us has a little part to get up and recite. Since we have rehearsed this so many times, it is like a bee buzzing in my ear. I get up, say my part as quickly as possible and get back in my chair, hoping I don’t fall on my face wearing these sandals. I am amazed I made it down the aisle without falling in someone’s lap.
It is OVER! Hurray. The piano player starts and we all rise, turn at the same time and exit the stage. There is a sea of smiling faces as we exit the hall much the same way as we came in..with John walking backwards, swinging the baton. There is only one difference…most of us are heaving a sigh of relief!
I am alone in the attic now, having taken off those dreaded uncomfortable sandals and the lovely white dress Ma bought. I am remembering all the fun I had at Locke Mills grammar school. The Valentine boxes, the Barter Days, the exchanging of names at Christmas and all the May baskets hung on me by my friends from the village. I have a feeling that my school days are going to change come fall and I am not sure if life will ever be the same again.
*I found the invitations pictured above in my Grammy Martin’s very old and almost crisp scrapbook. She saved all the graduation and play programs she attended.