Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Class of ‘76

Thirty five years ago this week, I graduated from high school.

Yikes! Is it really that long ago?

Yup. I am that old.

By most standards, we were a pretty average class. There were over 60 grade 12 students that year but I know there were a few that didn’t actually graduate. I’ve only stayed in touch with a handful of my classmates but I do occasionally here about some others through family members or other acquaintances. As far as I know, they are all still alive. Several classmates still live in the home town area. Not surprising really, given that it is a farming community. At least two of the girls married before the grad service (no they weren’t pregnant!) and quite a few married over the next year or two. There have been several divorces and remarriages.

There are a few farmers, some business owners, several teachers, nurses and at least one doctor that I know of from our class. Some are civil servants and some work in restaurants, offices or other businesses. Some were stay at home parents and quite a number of the class of ’76 are now grandparents!

I honestly don’t remember much about grad.

Grad day was hot though. I remember being glad that I had worn a sleeveless dress – even if it was floor length. There was no air conditioning in the gym or in the theatre. The grads, dates and parents went for a dinner in the gym, then went to the school theatre to pose for photographs while the gym was set up for the actual ceremony. I have a vague recollection of the school band providing some music during the ceremony, but that is about it. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you what the theme was, who did the key note address or who the valedictorian was - although I think it was one of the brainiacs!

After the formalities, the grads and dates all headed off to Winnipeg for a late night cruise on the River Rouge. That was the thing to do back in those days. The group I hung out with didn’t drink or dance but we went anyways. We were pretty much ignored most of the time but that wasn’t anything new either.

I think there was an after party at one of the students homes but my pals and I just headed back to another friends about 3AM or so. Oh, such exciting lives we led!

I dug out my old yearbook to see if I could remember anything else about grad or grade 12. What I found was a lot of old black and white photos – mostly unlabeled so, I really couldn’t identify most of them. Oh sure, there were the individual photos of all of us but many of the photos of students taking part in activities or in candid’s weren’t identified. Maybe it is better that way as I’m sure some of them would prefer not to be recognized.

Funny thing here, is that I’m not even purposely trying to be vague in recollections of people and experiences to protect privacy. I really don’t recall a lot of the things that happened back then. I wasn’t stoned and as far as I know, I still have most of my marbles. I wouldn’t know most of them to meet them on the street – and not just ‘cause I’m legally blind. I just don’t have a lot to remember about those days and the people I spent time with.

Since I was thinking back to my grad year, I thought I’d take a look back to see what life was like in our corner of the world in 1976.

We didn’t have computers or cell phones. In fact most of us still had rotary dial phones. If you lived outside of town, odds are you were on a party line. That meant that each customer had a specific ring that would signal the call was for them. It was rude to eavesdrop on other calls but lots did it anyway. Most cameras took either 35mm film rolls or a 110 cartridge. We either dropped off or mailed the films, then waited about a week or so to find out what our pics looked like! Microwaves were starting to become popular but were quite expensive. Lots of people still had the soon to be discontinued 8 tacks, although most were still using LP’s or switching to cassette to listen to recorded music.

Radio signals were pretty good in the small towns and the countryside although they did tend to get a bit fuzzy in late evening when the city stations turned down the power. It took a bit of patience and luck to get a clear signal with the antenna or positioning the radio in just the right way!

On the radio, we were listening to songs like: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen); “Silly Love Songs” (Wings); “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John and Kiki Dee); “Oh, What A Night” (The Four Seasons); “Welcome Back” (John Sebastian); “Let Your Love Flow" (The Bellamy Brothers); “’Til The Rivers All Run Dry” (Don Williams); “Drinkin’ My Baby Off My Mind” (Eddie Rabbitt); “What Goes On When The Sun Goes Down” (Ronnie Millsap); “I’ll Get Over You” (Crystal Gayle). Sadly, disco was getting more airplay.

Only a few high end TV’s had remote controls. Most people had either a large cabinet style colour TV or a small portable TV with about a 13” screen – often in black and white! A VCR was way too expensive for most. Cable wasn’t much of an option in town and unheard of in the rural areas. In southern Manitoba, we had 4 stations – CBC English and French; CKY (now CTV) and CKND (formerly KCND in the US and now known as Global). We had to adjust the picture with the rabbit ear antennas or have someone go up on the roof to adjust a larger antenna. Some of the TV shows that we watched included: “M*A*S*H”; “Columbo”; “Barney Miller”; “Happy Days”; “Laverne & Shirley”; “Hawaii Five-O”; and “The Rockford Files”.

We went to the movies to see: “All The President’s Men”; “Family Plot”; “The Omen”; “Bad News Bears”; “Mother, Jugs and Speed”; “Murder By Death”; “Silent Movie”; and “Taxi Driver”.

Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and Ed Schreyer was the Manitoba Premier. Gerald Ford was the president of the USA.

Wow, things have really changed a lot in thirty five years, haven’t they?

I know we all had our own dreams and expectations of what our post high school years would bring, but I doubt that any of us imagined just how much our world would change in those ensuing years.

Life has taken each of us on a unique journey. Hopefully, we have all matured a bit along the way. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have gained a few pounds. We’ve likely gotten a little (or a lot) greyer and picked up a few aches and pains along the way. We’ve learned to adapt to new technology and try to embrace the challenges that day to day living can bring.

I know our class has had at least a couple of reunions over the years but I have no idea if or when there will be another one. Even if there was, I highly doubt that I would attend – I’ve just never been a fan of big gatherings or reunions. I prefer to leave that part of my past to memories – few though they may be. If perchance any of my classmates and I should cross paths, I hope you will forgive me if I don’t recognize you.

So, to the “Class of ‘76” – congrats! We’ve all come a long way!


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