Thinking Out Loud… Graduation Memories

In everyone’s life an occasion happens worthy of celebrating, it’s a time worth remembering; for some that special something is called graduation. Kutztown University recently ushered 1,300 students out into the world and who doesn’t know someone who is graduating from something (Pre-School-PHD)!? This season of diplomas and tasseled caps has sparked some wonderful reflections of my own high school graduation –Kutztown Area Senior High School Class of ’69. Between THAT time and 2014, well, it’s as though I have been in a time travel experiment. The time has gone by sooooo incredibly fast; someone should have warned me that a seatbelt was required for the journey!

To have survived the 60’s alone, deserves a diploma of some sort. 1969 saw our classmates, brothers and friends headed off to a land far far away called Vietnam. President Nixon was in office as 37th President and former President Eisenhower was dead at age 78.

The US spacecraft Eagle landed on the moon, thousands attended Woodstock Music Festival and the first human heart transplant was performed! The Saturday Evening Post was no more after 141 years! A few other random facts about the time: John Wayne won as Oscar that year for True Grit, the best picture was Midnight Cowboy and the minimum wage was $1.60 which I got when waitressing at the Quality Shoppe in Kutztown – my first job “off the farm.”

The music scene found us Leaving on a Jet Plane, listening to Crimson and Clover over and over and of course we allowed Aquarius to Let the Sunshine in!

Out of our graduating class of 150 students, I can’t say how many felt ‘prepared’ to enter the world at large. I know for me personally, I LOVED school. Yes, I did just write that! School for me was an escape, a safe place…a cocoon! Sometimes the bullies are at home and it was better to be in school. But, THAT is a subject for another day. Back in the day, some things weren’t allowed to be discussed. We have come a long way, but I digress.

We as individuals all needed to find our way after that June 5th graduation day. Some classmates went onto colleges & universities, others to trade & business schools. Some found themselves right at home in the tradition of farming or following in the footsteps of family in some other business. Some didn’t have a choice and ready or not found themselves in the military. Others got married as they say ‘right out of high school’ and began families.

When you graduate, there are always promises made verbally and in written form in the yearbook of “keeping in touch” and “RMA” [remember me always]. Those words all come under the category of good intentions!

As I write this, I have my yearbook open in front of me. I look hard at the faces of my classmates and wonder if their dreams did get fulfilled? Do they live in regret? Did life treat them well? Do THEY yearn for the good old days? Some unfortunately have already been escorted from this earth and will live forever in our memories. Would I recognize these ‘friends forever’ classmates if I passed them on the street? Thanks to Face Book the answer is yes for some of them. It has been fun to re-connect with friends who share the intimate knowledge of what it was like to grow up in the 60’s and graduate into an uncertain culture and the shakiest of times!

Our 45th class reunion will be held this fall. Some will show up and be open to reminiscing about all things high school. Sadly others will not come as may have regrets about life, how they have aged or what did or didn’t happen. As for me, I will be there celebrating lifelong acquaintances and friendships while watching the class clowns make us laugh yet again! Yes, good old Kutztown High School – a place that taught me more than just book learning. It taught me life can be both fun and cruel at the same time; that teachers do more than just teach and school spirit helps me feel like I fit in!

Ready or not, the world was waiting and after 12 years, the time had come… the end and the beginning. It was a bittersweet launch into the world beyond graduation, but we each are tasked to write our own story with the journey that is uniquely ours. I am ever so grateful for the companions along the way. I dedicate this column to the KAHS Class of ’69. See you at the reunion!

Connie Steffy Schaeffer is a resident of Kutztown and enjoys reading, writing, but not arithmetic.