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Monday, June 1, 2015

A Golden Walk for the Class of ‘65





Carolyn J. Rose       



 
Recently I received an invitation to return to Onteora Central High School in Boiceville, New York, and participate in the Golden Walk on graduation night.

My first reaction was, “Huh? 50 Years? That’s not right. I haven’t been out of high school for 50 years!”

But, yes, I have.

Fifty years ago this month I sweated with my classmates on a sunny slope in front of the school. The group photo shows us stuffed into gray chorus robes, caps on our heads, smiles on our faces. Some smiles seem serious, others goofy, others tinged with fear. 
We were, after all, going out into the wide world.


And, like now, it was a scary world. My high school years were marked by the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy’s assassination, the Berlin Wall, the publication of Silent Spring, civil rights marches and murders, the beginning of Nelson Mandela’s prison term, and growing concern about how deep we’d be sucked into the conflict in Vietnam.

I studied that graduation picture but, even with a magnifying glass, couldn’t make out which of the girls with brown hair was me. Caps shade our eyes, our images are tiny, and I have no memory of which row I was in, who I stood beside, and whether I left my glasses on.

I heard from a classmate I’ve been close to since we survived a second-grade teacher who, in our opinion, tortured more than taught us. She’s going, and hoping to persuade another long-time friend to come along.

For a day or so I was almost nostalgic enough to book a flight and join them for the walk and the festivities to follow. Then I put the idea aside. Not this year. Maybe next.

Before I deleted the invitation, I read it one more time and saw participants would meet at the loading dock before the ceremony. I’ve always thought of my high school as a utilitarian brick building. Functional. Not fancy. The loading dock was probably the most functional and least attractive area.

And yet, it seems right that those taking the Golden Walk will meet there. High school graduation was, after all, the event that moved us from the classroom and onto the loading dock for the lives we’d lead.