Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Class of 1990 Graduation and a final look.

I wore my new silk dress to church that morning and taught Sunday school. After a quick lunch I drove myself to town. The seniors all assembled in the home-ec room where we exchanged gifts and robed. St Thomas had the nicest graduation gown in the area. They were the school’s old choir robes that they had bought matching caps for. They looked sharp but you always hoped that it would still be a bit cool out since they were heavy.

Margo gave us milk crates and rolls of toilet paper. Jaci gave us each a gumball machine that did not require change. Kevin gave us caps with our names on them. I got a mug from Peggy and I gave them a card with the picture of the eight of us that was taken the night before our junior prom. I also gave them small plastic baskets and a bottle of bubbles.

The pastors in town had a rotation for doing the invocation and the benediction at graduation and that year my Dad was up in the order. Jaci’s dad as principal was also on stage. Margo’s dad was on the school board for many years and often served as president and would be on stage to hand out the diplomas but Margo’s Mom wanted him to sit by her and asked him not to serve in that roll our senior year. He surprised his daughter though by coming in from the side to hand her the diploma before returning to sit next to his wife. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite singing a song about staying friends forever when I didn’t have any plans to stay in touch with any of my classmates.

Peter’s Speech:

12 short years ago, on this very stage, 14 5&6 year olds graduated from kindergarten. From those 14 kids, half are gone and a new one had joined in.
That graduation received a write up in the school’s newspaper. In it Terry was asked his name.
“Terry” he said.
When asked “Terry who?” Terry said, “I haven’t learned that yet.”
Also in the article was a paragraph that said, “When the kids were asked what they thought of school they all agreed that they liked it. In fact, some kids liked it so much they wish they could come on Saturday and Sunday too.” Go figure.
As the years went by, our class had its share of stupid stunts, most people know about my ramming my head into telephone poles and doorways. I wasn’t the only one with these stunts. How many have heard about Jason, while in second grade, sharpening his crayon in the pencil sharpener. Terry was blamed by at least 10 eye witnesses, until Jason finally confesses. Now picture this: a cold winter’s day during recess in grade school, a metal pole, and Peggy’s tongue. Put them all together and you get a sticky situation.
A lot more of these stunts occurred but these ones stand out the most in my mind, so the rest of the class is off the hook.
Sometimes during the school day, we had some free time and were pretty bored. Some of the things we talked about were downright weird. For example, on more than one occasion Ruth’s thumbs came up as a topic of discussion. I think they look like toes and could be interchangeable. Jaci thinks they are a cross between a spaceman and a garbage can. Everyone else doesn’t know what to think of them.
Another topic is about the striking resemblance of Ruth and a 1937 graduate named Betty Ray. Just about everyone asked sees the resemblance except for Ruth.
A lot has happened since 1978, three presidents, the Dallas Cowboys won their last Super Bowl in 1978 and I was less than 4 feet tall.
But things do change, The Cowboys stink, I finally grew and Terry can write his full name.
We must always remember that when change comes, we must also make the necessary changes and adjustments or be left behind.

My Speech:

Today you see eight of us up here graduating and you are probably thinking, “That is a small class.” What you don’t know is that if every person who had ever been in the St. Thomas class of 1990, dating back to kindergarten, would still be in this class, there would not be 8 of us up here. There would be 24.
We hit our peak in the 4th grade when there were 16 of us. After that we lost a person or two every year until our freshman year when we reached the eight mark and have been there ever since.
When a class is small, education is very personal. But we’re heading into the big world where many of us may become just another number or statistic. So to give a taste of this I’ve decided to take a highly impersonal approach and do this speech by the numbers. Keep in mind as I go through this that 1 person equals 12.5% of the class.
This class had a 1:1 boy girl ratio. 100% of the boys claim Catholic as their religion and 100% of the girls claim Lutheran.
62.5% are the oldest child in their family and 37.5% are the youngest. The average family having 4.25 kids which is well above the current national average of 1.7
75% live in town and 25% in the country.
The class of 90 has its share of smarts with 62.5% being honor students, which may explain why 50% of the class is making speeches today. 75% took 4 full years of math and 50% took 4 years of science.
When it comes to talent there is no shortage, except maybe in band where no one had been a member since the 6th grade. But 50% are in chorus and 87.5% participated in the drama club at least one year. 100% of the class has earned a school letter and 75% have held a starting position on some varsity team.
This class is 100% literate and despite all the people it has lost, has a 0% dropout rate.
By the numbers we look pretty good and I pray that God will keep blessing us as we go our separate ways.

After we recessed out of the gym—at a more normal pace—we stood in the receiving line which was a bit strange for me. A few alums who I had never been social with when they were students felt compelled to give me hugs. All of Kevin’s relatives introduced themselves to me. Lucky for Peter, nobody made a point of examining my thumbs. Kim who graduated the year before was disgusted with me commenting, “Well, no tears here.” Freshmen Marty made a point of telling me that he liked my speech saying, “It was short and I could hear all of it.”

After the receiving line we went back into the home-ec room to collect our belongings. It was Margo who lifted up her head and did a quick count. “All eight of us are here. This may be the last time in ten years that we are all together.” I didn’t think much of the comment then. I was anxious to get home and so glad to be done with high school, but she was right… more than right. It was and is the last time the eight of us would be together. For one decade of my life those were my classmates and while I didn’t always like them or they me, we had that in common.

I got home. All told 47 people came for the open house. Peter showed up with Freshman Mark and gave me a gift of a piece of crystal stem ware. I kept my tassel in it (until I lost both in a house fire). A month after graduation Jason showed up at our door and gave me an alabaster box as a graduation gift. I don’t have a record of a gift from Terry but a vague recollection of a card with a two dollar bill.

Rebecca called me from Hong Kong and I had to stand behind the curtain in the dining room to block out enough noise to hear her. I described all the food on the table and she thanked me. We had fancy rolled sandwiches, cream puffs, a tort, fresh fruit, glorified rice and banana cake. Most of the cake mom had forgotten to get out of the freezer downstairs didn’t think of it until all the guests had left. I had fun talking to my cousin Colleen and we both enjoyed teasing Sarah and Bob. Mom and Dad gave me luggage and bedding for college and I got all sorts of practical going away to school gifts. Aunty Norma (also my God mother) sat beside me while I opened the cards and gifts. Colleen was on the other side recording my gifts so I could do the dreaded thank you notes. The gifts were all displayed on my bookcase that we set up in the living room for the occasion. When the day was over I was exhausted and very glad it was all over.

School ended but the yearbook meetings did not. There was one on Wednesday where we finished everything we could until the roll with our graduation pictures got developed. When they did I was the only editor who made it to the final meeting with Mrs. Kappel. In picking out a class graduation day picture, I chose based entirely on how good I looked in the picture. The picture of Mrs. Billings’ retirement open house ended up being included on the graduation page because the other pages were completed and it had to go somewhere. On the page with our class picture and individual portraits we needed some copy to fill the space in the two page spread. I avoided sentimental statements and carefully composed the following:

“Eight people clumped together not because of common goals, backgrounds, or interests but simply because they were born at a certain time and live in a certain place. For this they have grown and learned together.”

I didn’t make it for the ten year reunion. I hoped to go. But My Father-in-Law’s death in the spring of 2000 left me without vacation days and our landlords’ decision to rent to their granddaughter and not renew our lease meant I had to move and had no money for a trip.

I just realized that I’ve mentioned our class motto a few times, but never stated what it was. Well here it is:

“Life has many wonders in store for he who looks at every finish line as the start of the next race.”

With this blog I’m at the end of my class of 1990 recollections. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. Now on to the next thing for me: More frequent writings about Life, Libraries, Lutherans and Life with Latif.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Class of 1990 the last week of school


I had earned enough extra credit from yearbook that I had points to spare. I tried selling them to the highest bidder. Jaci and Peggy were both interested but Mrs. Kappel said no.

I started working on creating an inventory database for the science room.

Sarah was back from her weekend in Minot with Bob and his folks. She picked me up from school and told me stories on the way home about his folks' “yapping dog.”


Terry found an article about the class’s kindergarten graduation that he was going to give to somebody to use in their speech. He then looks at me and says, “You didn’t go to kindergarten here. That means you’re not really part of the class.”

At lunch Peter, Kevin, Peggy, Margo, Jaci, and I skipped the chili being served at school and headed out to find some lunch. First we were going to Jaci’s but then we changed our minds and headed for Kevin’s house. Halfway there Peggy’s dad picked us up and drove us. I think we had frozen pizza. After we ate, we walked back to school side by side spanning the witdth of Main Street.

In girls Phy-Ed we talked Mrs. Barker into letting us play mat ball. It’s a form of kickball that has a few odd twists. One, the ball is set, not rolled to the kicker. Two the bases are large tumbling mats that can hold multiple runners. You run 1st to 3rd base twice before heading home. The only time you have to run after you get to 1st is when the last kicker is up. You can only go through the kicking order once. It was a game none of us had played since the 6th grade and we had to go down to the 4th grade room to get the mats. It was a lot of fun and for the first and only time in my gym class life I caught a fly ball.

At home I finally finished my bookshelves.


I spent most of the day putting the science room’s inventory into an Apple Works Data Base for Miss Kassian. The junior honor students called “gray gowns,” though they didn’t wear gowns at graduation, but rather got gray ropes to wear, served as ushers at graduation. They got to pin flowers on parents of the graduates, hand out bulletins, and before graduation they had to put the senior class motto up on the gym wall next to the stage. Our class colors were green and silver so they had to cut out the letters and put tin foil cut outs behind them. Jr. Stephanie didn’t like our motto because it was too long. The juniors were working on the letters in the library and some of my class was supervising when Mrs. Barker came in and scolded us for sitting on the tables. She just noticed that I was one of them sitting on the tables when the bell rang. Wednesday it was official, my marks were good enough that I was exempt from my finals.


I went to school just long enough to practice our song for graduation. Sarah and I went to Grafton so I could shop for a gift for my LYF friend Linda. We also stopped at the school in Grafton and filled out forms to work for the Migrant School in the summer. I would be working in the 3 year old room. At home I finished making cards for all my classmates and Mrs. Hollis showed up so my mom could help her sew a quilt for a wedding. I finally got to working on my speech and went to bed about 2:00 am.


I got to school too late to practice our song for graduation. I went to the library and finished writing my speech and then went to the computer room to type it out. After that it was off to graduation practice.

Part of the object of graduation in St. Thomas, North Dakota is to make it last at least one hour. It’s a town event and people want to feel like they traveled to see something. With only 8 students this took some practice. We got to walk in two at a time but we had to walk very slowly. I was paired with Peggy since we would split up at the stage and come in at opposite sides, and we needed to be in alphabetical order once we were up on stage. As I noted in my journal: “If I walked any slower I’d be standing still.” We ran through our speeches. I was last and Mr. Dick made no corrections to my volume and speed. Even though he had imposed minimum lengths (A rule invention that I credit to my sister Sarah who was the sole honor student at her graduation and gave a speech of less than two minutes) he didn’t seem to mind that mine was a bit short of the five minute minimum. Another time consumer was that when we received our diplomas we had to walk the entire stage. The moving line started from the podium and we had to again practice walking slowly across the stage to the table with the deplomas. When Mr. Hanson called my name I corrected the pronunciation of my last name. He yelled at me. “You’re family has been here 10 years and nobody ever told me I was saying your name wrong?!” Rebecca later told me that she had tried several times to correct him when she was a freshman, but gave up after a while.

At home I wrapped my classmate’s gifts in Winnipeg Free Press comic pages from 1980—the year I moved to North Dakota. I don’t think anyone got the connection. Dad started bugging me about my warped book case side and felt I should make a hook to hold the shelf tight to the side. I finally told him, “If you want to make a hook, go ahead.” And he did.

That night mom drove me to Niagara to attend Linda’s graduation. We spent a little time at her open house before heading home.


I watched Loony Toons,.cleaned my room, trimmed the grass, watered the flowers, retyped my speech, and took a long walk. Aunty Norma and my cousin Colleen came and we all sat up and talked until past midnight. Mom was busy getting food ready for the open house after my graduation. She had borrowed these fancy coffee pots and I thought they looked stupid.


lhg edited and approved

Class of 1990 Week 36

From fourth grade until the junior high, I was on the school’s acro team: a tumbling team that would perform at half time at varsity basketball games. While I was no great tumbler, I was very flexible. In the sixth grade Mrs. Barker, the acro coach, challenged us all to learn to do the splits. She said that anyone who could do them before she could would get a can of pop. It was this challenge that motivated me to stretch like I’ve never done before and by the end of the season I had earned my pop. But Mrs. Barker never made good on her promise. I kept reminding her over the years. At times when warming up in Phy-Ed I would announce to her that I was thirsty as I casually slid into the splits. Monday was awards night. Peter got the constitution award. Kevin got the math award. Terry got all the most valuable player sports trophies. Jason got all the spirit trophies. I collected participation pins for drama, choir, library, yearbook, newspaper, a letter bar for being a student manager for volleyball, and then Mrs. Barker added an award that was not on the program and presented me with a six pack of coke-a-cola. When I got back to my seat Terry asked if he could have a can. I told him I would exchange one can for one of his trophies. He did not agree.

Tuesday Sarah drove me to school so she could have the car. After lunch we had our plays’ matinee for the school. I don’t think I mentioned it but that year we did two plays: The Lottery and Feathertop. I was not in The Lottery at all so I used the time to review my lines. We started the second play too soon so freshman Sarah who had parts in both plays was late getting on stage. Mostly it went well except for me forgetting a few lines and Peter breaking his sword. I stuck around after school and watched the video recording of our performance. I couldn’t leave anyway since I had to wait for Sarah to come and pick me up.

Wednesday a woman came to talk to the junior high and high school students about alcoholism. She talked for two hours. She kept asking the teachers if her time was up. We students would call for more, the teachers would shrug, and she would keep talking.

Thursday Physics class was fun. We took our projects down to the grade school. I did mine for the 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade rooms. It was so much fun. At that moment I was convinced that I wanted to do nothing else with my life besides teach kids.
That evening was the final performance of the plays. We finished it with all our props intact.
After the play there was a cast party at the Barkers. Freshmen Mark and Peter played the most bizarre game of horse using a Nerf hoop that was only 4.5 feet off the ground. I left when the guys started a Spanish swearing contest.

Friday I did my physics project for the 5th and the 1st grade. In Choir we sang “When love is kind.” After school there was a yearbook meeting and Jaci and I sang all sorts of songs as self appointed members of PAS (Positive attitude society) in an attempt to finish writing the copy for the music pages.

At home I finished staining & varnishing my book shelves. Saturday Mom and I went to Cavalier so I could buy graduation gifts for my classmates. Mom and Dad headed off to Winnipeg after church and I spent a rainy Sunday watching TV and writing Rebecca a letter.


lhg edited and approved