Tag Archives: high school

Glimpses of yesteryear

Many of us become nostalgic from time to time, especially as we grow older or face uncertain periods of life. High school and even college may seem like a distant memory to many of us, but it can be interesting to flip through a yearbook or photo album and remember the person you once were.

I have no desire to return to those days, but when Ancestry.com sent an email saying it had made available more yearbooks in their collection, I was curious to see if I could find my mother’s yearbook. While I have all of my mother’s school photos because she painstakingly took good care of them, I don’t have her yearbooks.

Mom school

Unfortunately, there were no yearbooks available for her years, but there was one available for 1950, just before she would have been in high school. I flipped through the yearbook in its entirety, as it was a fascinating snapshot to a different place and time. I recognized the names of some of the teachers, as my mom had told me stories about them over the years. I got to see photos of the school building itself, and places inside the school, such as the cafeteria.

It was interesting to read about the different groups that were popular in school back then, such as Future Homemakers of America and Future Farmers of America. For many students of that time period, education would end with high school, as they would soon marry, have children and the husband would work while the wife cared for the family at home. How much the world would change in a 20-year span.

I wondered about some of those kids, the valedictorian and the ones picked most popular, most athletic and most courteous. What became of their lives? What became of their dreams and aspirations?

My mother’s life did not evolve in such a typical fashion. She left her hometown, became a working woman, then went into the Navy, and didn’t marry and have a child until her mid-thirties.

Mom never made it to a class reunion, but for the most part, I think she would have been proud of the woman she became and what she accomplished.

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Dad takes me to awards night

In high school I was ostracized by my classmates due to my own stupidity. As an only child, I was used to spending a lot of time alone so it didn’t bother me too much. I avoided all of the social activities that most high schoolers engage in, like dances and football games. I never told my parents about my social isolation at school, so they just assumed everything was fine. In my senior year of high school, there was a special awards program, where college scholarships and such were being handed out. I was “strongly encouraged” to attend by my academic advisor. I dreaded it with every fiber of my being. My mom found out about the presentation and wanted to go. Dad had to take the night off from his security guard job to take us to the event, which was being held in the auditorium of a local hotel. I felt trapped. Dad had gone out of his way to get the night off, now I would be forced to go.

As it turned out, Mom wasn’t feeling well that day. I can’t remember if it was menopause-related or just some kind of flu. Suddenly, I was the concerned and sympathetic teenage daughter, assuring Mom I would not be upset if she didn’t attend. She mercifully backed out of the event. I convinced Dad to just drop me off at the hotel. We were in the distant stage of our relationship and I’m guessing he was more than relieved not to have to sit through some boring school function. I’m not sure what he did during the event, as it was a couple of hours long, but I’m sure he went through plenty of cigarettes!

I remember feeling very alone and very awkward. Luckily, I was past that stage where Mom could force me to wear a dress, but I was still in dressier clothes and shoes than I was accustomed to. I remember standing in a corner, near a tall plant, trying to hide myself from everyone else. I remember staring out the window, which looked out upon the valet and front entrance. I watched my classmates arriving with their parents, some happy, some annoyed, some indifferent. I remember feeling very far removed from it all.

I don’t know why I didn’t consider ditching the event altogether. I guess I was a pretty honest kid, and if my mom found out I had not attended, she would be mad.

Finally, the ceremony began. I don’t remember the details, except being mortified at hearing my name called as a scholarship winner. It wasn’t any full-tuition thing, I think it was $500 or a $1000, but I was the only recipient. I focused on making it up the steps to the stage, and being polite to the administrator who handed me the certificate. I couldn’t wait to escape the stage and slink back to my seat.

Then it was over. This was before cellphones, so I guess I had told Dad to meet me at a certain time. I found him lingering outside, finishing up a cigarette. Normally, I hated being seen with my parents, just like most teenagers. But that night I was glad Dad was there. I told Dad about my scholarship and he was genuinely proud, saying how he had always wanted to continue his schooling but never had the opportunity. It was a nice father-daughter moment, one I didn’t appreciate at the time but now treasure as a loving memory.

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Dad driving me to school

The final place we moved to in Downey, Calif. was just down the street from the high school, so I had an easy walk. Before that, my dad would have to drive me.

He did not enjoy this task. Since he worked nights, he would have to get up early just to drive me in, and then go back to bed to get a bit more sleep. He was also not a morning person, which added to his displeasure.

The logo for Warren High School in Downey, Calif.

I was not happy about the arrangement either. High school was not a good experience for me, and I usually dreaded each day there. Having to hitch a ride in dad’s boat of a car just added to my adolescent anxiety. He always offered to drop me off right in front of the school, but I always made him park around the corner from the school because I was embarrassed of our car. I would glance around to make sure no one I knew was coming, and then dart out of the car quickly, not wanting to be associated with my dad or the car at that moment. I think I usually said thanks for the ride, but of course at that age, one doesn’t really appreciate the small sacrifices our parents make for us.

I still can picture those silent rides, with dad looking disheveled and unshaven, having just been rudely stirred from sleep to play chauffeur for his awkward, ungrateful teenage daughter. Looking back at it now, I wish I had taken advantage of those rare moments when we were alone together to talk to him, even if it had just been small talk. Alas, one cannot go back in time.

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