Thursday, June 9, 2011

Last Week of School

Talk about traditions.

Every year the last week of school at Pilot Mountain presented its own unofficial traditions. Focus might have been on the official tradition, Eighth Grade Graduation, but for the rest of the school, the focus was on getting through that last week.

There were no teacher workdays in the early years, maybe one or two by the mid fifties. So all the downshifting, the book collection, report cards, cleaning desks, all those were accomplished by the children and the teachers together so that when the last bell rang, school was over for everyone.

Cleaning wasn't everything. There were also picnics when the entire school went outside on the ballfield or up the hill to the front lawn of the farmhouse behind the school. Several years the end of year picnic was at a fish pond in the middle of one of the teacher's cow pasture. Oh, the stories I caught about those picnics...stepping in cow pies and washing in the pond...splashing, falling in the water...falling in love, friends who became sweethearts that day and still are after fifty years of marriage.

There was one more tradition the last week of school. A little background: In the days before kindergarten, you'd think the first graders came "cold turkey" in the fall, just walking in the front door the first day of school. No. They came to school for a trial run. Big sisters, big brothers, cousins, neighbors, anyone who knew an upcoming first grader would bring him/her to school school one day that last week in an early version of mentoring, so to speak. The soon-to-be first grader would shadow the older child, sit in the desks, eat in the cafeteria, play on the playground...playing school inside and out.

That's how things worked at Pilot Mountain School, except for one more thing. The chant.

School's out, school's out,
Teacher wore the rules out.
No more pencils, no more books,
No more teacher's dirty looks.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eighth Grade Graduation Ceremonies

It's that time of year. Graduation.

I've received a few high school graduation announcements in the mail this week and I've cheered for those teens I've followed through the years. It's not been easy for any of them. They can testify to that. They've come through the fire and are ready to take on the world.

Graduation at Pilot Mountain School was almost as significant to the eighth graders then as it is to the seniors now. It was a rite of passage with a few adjustments. The students received a certificate of promotion instead of a diploma. There were no caps and gowns, but white dresses for the girls and white shirts and ties for the boys. Did I mention corsages for the girls? That, too, and  red boutonniers for the boys.

I have the inside info about one year's corsages, probably in the mid 1950's. After the graduation service that evening, a mother who had helped pin the corsages whispered an apology to one of the girls. She had pinned the corsage upside down and that fact concerned her during the whole ceremony, tugged at her sense of etiquette. She had a reason for the error, though. By the time she had arrived to help, several other mothers had already pinned a few corsages on the girls, upside down. In her true southern graciousness, rather than point out the error, she went along with the others and pinned the corsages to match.

Eighth grade class of 1961

Thanks to the Morganton News Herald for this photo from their "Looking Back..." feature.

The eighth graders in this picture were not from the year of the upside down flowers. Nor were they from the year one of the boys sneaked back to the school during the night before graduation and carved his initials with his girl friend's in the doors. A few years later, they were married. More than forty years later, they are still married.

These students are from the years when eighth grade graduation was all about completion and promise and innocence. World War II was over, Korea, too. Viet Nam loomed ahead, but not here, not that day. That day, all was well with the world. Look at their faces. You can tell.

So many graduation stories...

Catch of the Day,