• 72°

Reflections on my old high school days

The recent death of my classmate, Margareth Dowell, affectionately called “Mott,” caused me to reflect on my old high school days. Even though we graduated many years ago, I did not see her as an elderly person, I still saw her as my classmate from the old East Depot High School in LaGrange. We were actually in different classrooms, but there was a kindred spirit among all who attended the small high school.

As I listened to the various speakers give their individual testimonies related to their friendship with Mott, I was transported mentally to the days I attended school in LaGrange. Many of the friends I thought that I would have forever are either deceased or living in other states or cities. The strange thing about having friends in high school is that you cannot conceive that you will grow up and develop new relationships.

I considered my high school a very special place for a young person to receive a terrific education. During those years, however, the future did not look very bright or encouraging for a person interested in becoming a lawyer, doctor or president of the United States. Our options were actually limited to going on to college or securing a job requiring only manual labor.

This was during the 1960s. A period in which the entire country was in turmoil. A young Catholic, however, seeking to become president, stopped in LaGrange on his campaign trail, would ultimately become a major catalyst in changing the political and social environment in our country that would open doors for all Americans.

In high school, all of my close friends wanted to be a member of the band. None of my close friends entertained the idea of playing football. We all reckoned that since the cheerleaders and majorettes traveled on the band bus, on out of town games, it did not make sense to play football. I played the trumpet initially, but changed to the bass horn. The reason being, the band director was always thumping the heads of the trumpet players for misbehaving during practice.

Our teachers were strict, but fair. In retrospect, they provided us with the best education possible in a segregated school system. Using used books, Mrs. Cherise English, taught her students the importance of mastering the English language. In her classroom, we learned how to diagram sentences and such things as it is incorrect to say ‘irregardless,’ when ‘regardless’ is sufficient. I was a columnist for another paper some years ago, when the director of personnel for a major school district made this mistake during a board meeting. I corrected him in the paper. It was my last column.

In those used books, I traveled to places, vicariously, that were not restricted by laws and governments.

In talking with my classmates after the funeral, I learned that many had traveled to the places we only dreamed about in school.