High School Years: 1955-1959, Conclusion
by Marry Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— The last few weeks of four years of public high school—what had seemed to pass in snail time—suddenly raced by. My senior year was drawing to a close like horses charging out of the chute. Graduation day arrived in June of 1959. At long last, the class of ’59 was ready to leave the nest and fly out into the world.
If we had thoughts of fear or trepidation as to the future, they were not apparent. We were glad to be moving on. We were not alone in such sentiment. Our teachers sitting in the first two rows of seats on graduation night looked . . . well, exhausted.
We marched proudly into the gym in our blue-and-white gowns to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Our music teacher, who had been with us teaching us songs since first grade, had the honors on the piano. I well remembered us as cherubs in elementary school enthusiastically singing “Whoopee Ti-Yi-Yo, Get along Little Doggies,” or the “Song of the Volga Boatmen,” so many years ago.
Our teachers, heroes every one of them, watched us receive our hard-won diplomas. Such names will never be forgotten: Schroeder, Hooper, Toby, Zeimkie, Watkins, Chadwick, Hunt, Sosteric, Gephardt, Braden, Grob, Armstrong, Hoffman, Ream and Kovanic. Not only had they taught us everything they knew in their special fields, but they had loved us, even when we were definitely unlovable.
One last summer remained for me in my old hometown. Mother, who also looked exhausted, gladly agreed to my staying in a dorm for waitstaff at the Linwood Hotel that summer as I returned to my summer job of waitress work to earn money for college. I can still hear the chimes ringing from the tabernacle as I walked across the street each morning to start the coffee in the dining room.
My days no longer started with a lecture from Father. Still, every evening as I finished work in the dining room to join friends for an evening of fun, I would see my parents at the snack shack getting an ice cream cone. It was their way of keeping an eye on their fledgling so soon to be heading south.
In September, not quite 18 years old, I boarded the airplane in Cleveland and headed for Lynchburg. Cocky, green as a field of Ohio corn, happy as a laughing gull soaring along the shore of Lake Erie, I was sure I was ready for whatever the world would deliver.
Yet, upon my arrival in Lynchburg was the shock of devastating news that a classmate had died suddenly of a brain tumor at age 18. I wept for the wrenching loss of this bright, beautiful girlfriend, the first of us to die. It was a terrible shock. Could it be that death would await all of us? And what was the point of life if we were all headed to such an end?
Adults sometimes forget how hard it is to grow up and face the struggles, sadness and grim realities of life. Leaving the juvenile world of fun and fancy and entering the adult world of responsibility is a painful transition. We can’t love and care enough for those from each new generation who have begun such journeys.
Whether my grey blob of developing brain ever achieved adulthood is still unknown. But I think today of loving parents, family, teachers, neighbors, friends and priests along the way who did all they could to help me make the transition. I thank them for all they did for me.
That “Greatest Generation” taught us everything they knew to pass on to the next generation. For me it was a combination of liberal and conservative values, one side of the coin so necessary for helping our fellow man, and the other side for survival, stability, health and well-being . . . values that have lasted a lifetime.
As I left Ohio on that Capital Airlines/Piedmont flight for Lynchburg in 1959, I recalled my junior year when I had first read William Butler Yeats and his famous poem, “The Second Coming.” Yeats had great insight for the 20th-century’s rise of communism and fascism and the ensuing murderous attacks by government on millions of people. The poet wrote . . . The falcon can no longer hear the falconer . . . things fall apart and the center cannot hold.
I thought of Ohio, my father, and his many lectures faithfully instilling information and values in me as we drove to school each morning. I remembered his telling me he was “pouring me into the mold.” I knew no matter what lay ahead for me in Virginia, the juvenile falcon that was flying off into the big world would still hear the commands of civilization . . . that things would not fall apart, and the center would hold.
Note from Mary Wakefield Buxton: Congratulations to the Class of 2016! One Woman’s Opinion will return in September.