Monday, June 06, 2005


(Run originally 12/16/03 on the old site)

Tom Pry

Got this a few day’s ago from Anita Hart Fuller:

Man, I've missed reading about our classmates keep on keeping on. I'm still waiting for Roland King to kick in with some athletic recollections. Tell him I'll start him off …

… and reminded me of a story that I used to top off a speech I made at our 20th Class Reunion (to this day, I think Jean Brown Ward is the ONLY person who believes that I totally winged that speech, and that’s because she held my hand while I wondered what in hell the “Response” speech to the “Welcome” speech should contain – right up to halfway through Robin Moore’s Welcome Speech, when my muse struck).

In 1953, we got a new football stadium, I suppose in celebration to us almost winning the State Football Championship the year before. (It still stands and it’s still in use). The following spring, as preparations were made for the graduation of the Class of ’54, everybody bit the bullet and realized that our poor old high school auditorium was not only UNairconditioned but, really, didn’t have enough seats to hold all the relatives who showed up for graduation.

Then, some bright soul realized we had a place with a LOT of seats, and pretty much unused during the springtime.

I.e., the Class of 54 was the first to hold its graduation ceremony in the football stadium.

Actually, it was a pretty good ceremony, especially for a first-time .. up to the point where some anonymous soul had decided to play on the possibilities afforded by All That Space. The result of this mental furball was the passing of the “Torch of Learning” from the Class of 54 to the Class of 55.

Whoever dreamed that up forgot (a) that there is ALWAYS a gap between Theory and Reality, and (b) there is a definite reason why dramatic groups ALWAYS hold a dress rehearsal before opening night.

Rehearsal there had been, yes, but not an EXACT rehearsal.

It was not too long before the overlooked item in the ceremony bit them in the butt.

But it started out well. The graduating class was lined up neatly on the field and, as the stadium lights went out, each member of the class pulled out a flashlight, holding it at chest level and shining it up to illuminate their faces. All except for Roland King, who lit up a torch and prepared to use his track experience to circle the track once, preparatory to handing off the torch to the succeeding class.

Problem was, nobody – especially Roland – had ever thought to actually try it with ALL the lights out. Roland says he was quite surprised to find out that, between the dim torchlight and his glasses, he was effectively blind. But he was a game lad, and took off with the torch.

Up in the stands, all we could see was the torch, heading south down the straightaway .. and it kept going, then took a funny hop, a slight dip, then came to a halt .. and fell. The sound of steel mesh rattling a moment later made us realize that Roland had tripped over the edge of the field, gone down in the drainage ditch, up, and then had run fullblast right into the fence, being knocked flat on his fanny.

There was a strangled snicker or two in the crowd as the torch picked itself up and stumbled its way back to the track, a lone light in the dark that slowly made its way to the second turn, took a hop .. stopped, picked its way back to the track ,,, tentatively down the back straightaway … took a hop … returned .. stopped dead at the 4th turn … turned slightly … and FINALLY delivered its rapidly waning light to the successor class, to a strangled chorus of sympathetic laughter .. and applause.

Roland says it was the longest run he ever made in his life.

Anita concludes:

One more recollection from that night: Old Miss Thornton wouldn't let us sing the Alma Mater, for some reason. Being the kind of kids we were then (obedient to authority) we really wanted to, but didn't because she said NO. In retrospect, what could she have done about it if we had gone ahead and sung it anyway? We'd already graduated!

We got back at her, though: at a class reunion in the '80's, we got permission from the police, who unlocked the gate of the football field, we all went out there and with lighted flashlights to our faces, sang the Alma Mater, collectively gave the finger to Miss Thornton, and therefore put closure to something that had not "set right" for all those years.


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