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McCanless: Graduation time prompts memories

I saw my first Hummingbird on the feeder in my front yard today, and we are beginning to get all kinds of ads in the mail for cruises and barbecue cookers. Guess that means summer is almost here.
The other day, I was thinking of all the graduates this year, who will be off to the beaches, off to work or off to the armed forces. Come September, a great many of them will be off to college. Makes me glad I’m not young anymore.
Remember how frightening it was to set off on your own, truly on your own for the first time in your life? Wow, canít believe we lived through it!
My high school graduation was a real turning point in my life, as Iím sure it is for most everyone. It was the first time I really felt grown up, and I can remember as if yesterday all the hoopla and great good times we had leading up to it. My high school in Atlanta held its graduation that year on May 25th, and leading up to it, we had the senior trip, a wonderful day at Ida Cason Calloway Gardens in Georgia. We had a senior luncheon, all the excitement of ordering our graduation attire, our flowers and invitations; it was Christmas and 4th of July all rolled up into one. Our rehearsals were scheduled to take place in the big municipal auditorium in downtown Atlanta, where all the graduation ceremonies were held.
The last week before the ceremony we finished our exams and thus began a round of wonderful fetes for us, beginning with the senior tea, leading on to the luncheon. Everything seemed as if it was going really well, until food poisoning struck ó with a vengeance! I can’t recall now the name of the place where the luncheon was held, but the memory of the food is still very vivid in my mind. We had a beautiful buffet table, literally groaning with food: roast beef, ham, an assortment of salads, vegetables, breads and all those creamy, gooey desserts at the end of the table, not to mention plenty of coffee and iced tea to drink. Oh, we loaded up, but being teenagers we would.
The next day was graduation rehearsal, and while I donít remember exactly who mentioned it first, but, word did get around that a lot of us were sick. As we rehearsed, we had to stand in line at the back of the huge auditorium and slowly walk in procession up to the risers on stage and stand there, practicing the song we chose to sing. It was ěYouíll Never Walk Alone,î and with each step we took, and each phrase we sang, lots of us were walking or running to the nearest public restroom. I mean, we were dropping like flies. Getting their heads together, our teachers and advisor surmised that we all had a touch of food poisoning, but I can assure them now, these many years later, that what I had was not a ětouchî; I was into full-blown misery, as were many of my classmates.
It got so bad one of the local Atlanta TV stations sent a cameraman and reporter to film the second rehearsal we had that very same night, when the malady was in full force and nearly the entire class was green and weak. Would they cancel or postpone our big day? It was discussed back and forth, and I think they even asked us what we wanted to do. Paragoric was handed out by the spoonful.
As luck would have it, they decided to send us home and hope and pray for the best. Graduation was the next night, and it was hoped we would all be well enough to go through by then.
The following evening, we all showed up in our finery. The girls were each given a bouquet of red roses to carry as we marched into the auditorium in our white dresses. Oh we were beautiful all right! I can remember to this day, Miss Dew, our assistant principal, standing at the entrance to the auditorium, with a spoon and a bottle of paragoric, dosing each us in turn as we entered the big arena. We made it through, sang our song, listened to the speeches, and were handed our diplomas. Ever so grateful to be finished with the ordeal, it was on to the dance, as by now, most of us were over the bug or had enough paragoric in us to hold the demons at bay.
What a night, and I sincerely hope none of our local grads had to endure anything of that nature.
It was the inimitable Bill Cosby who said, in an address to a graduating class, ěDonít go out there!î As tempted as we may be to impart the same message, I know they will, eagerly, as they rise to any challenge ahead of them and charge on towards the rest of their lives. Oh to be young again, and have the world by the tail!
By all means, do go out there students; just never forget us or where you came from. Have a good time, be safe, and God Speed!
Jan McCanless lives in Salisury.


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