Jim Terry
June 17, 2011
The party's over....what next?
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By Jim Terry

I attended the fifty year reunion of my graduation from Dallas South Oak Cliff High School over the weekend. It was a two day event with a reception Friday night and a golf tournament Saturday, for those who hit the little white pill, and other activities.

Saturday morning some of us drove out to our old high school and toured the halls of our youth. Hasn't really changed much; the classrooms are different. Walking the hallways seems to be as close to the old times as anything except the old government grey lockers are now painted a shade of gold, one of the school's colors, and the assistant principal making his rounds has been replaced by security cameras. And there were plenty of them. Air conditioning has been installed since we were students. However, the same old cast iron steam radiators, freshly painted bright silver, keep the school warm in winter just as they did fifty years ago.

The large IBM wall clock in a glass and oak case still hangs in the office, although it is now silent. Beside it on the wall is a box, slightly larger than a cigar box, with digital numbers flashing the current time.

On the side of the old clock case hangs a metal bar about eight inches long, three quarters of an inch wide and about one eighth inch thick. We asked the principal what that was. He didn't know since the old clock had never run during his tenure.

The old clock was the original office clock, probably installed when the school opened in 1952. A note taped inside the glass case suggested this. The note contained several instructions:

    FIRE DRILL SIGNAL — 3 long bells- plus automatic fire alarm signal.

    Plus "CLANGING BELLS."

Thousands of kids marched out of and into that school and changed classes to the tune of that old clock.

But that wasn't the give-away to the clock's history. The next line on the note said:

    ATOMIC BOMB DRILL ("DUCK AND COVER") -Signal (5) FIVE long blasts on police whistles, on Public Address System, or from corridors.

I remember bomb drills in elementary school in the early 1950s. However, I don't recall having to duck and cover by 1958, the year I entered high school.

To emphasize the old school had not changed much in 50 years, the sign prominently fastened to the front of the building above the doors to the auditorium announcing to the public that this building was a bomb shelter is still there today.

As we toured the building, someone asked what memories were brought back. Another answered, "none, really." As for me, I have fond memories of those years which well up from time-to-time. Yet, I recalled no special memories as we walked those halls.

The afternoon was devoted to readings from an anthology of pieces written by some of our class alumni and published in a booklet. I never knew some of those kids were gifted in humor. Their pieces, however, mostly about days of youth in our part of town, were clever and funny and emotive. Other writings were of a serious nature, some autobiographical and some poetry.

My submission was a poem in which I named our generation the Mid-Century Kids. Why not? We have been called the war babies, the boomers, the rock and roll generation. I attempted to capsulize my generation's history- hit the high spots, the low spots, the suffering and the survival.

Class reunions are often harried and always hurried; everyone tries to see everyone. However, there is not enough time for quality visits, which is the problem with class reunions.

Of course, everyone in high school was not closely connected with everyone else. We all belonged to cliques of different interests. Although, back then, I made it a point to be as intimate with every female classmate as I could. Well, I tried.

It seems some of us have become closer over the years than we were in those days of puberty and pimples through seeing one another at the class reunions. And the internet has been an aid. It is much easier to peck out a message and hit a button than to get out the stationery, find a stamp, sit down and write our thoughts. And for those with whom I correspond, the typewritten message on the computer is much easier to read than my sinistral scratching.

The Saturday night dinner and dance started out with a bang. However, it seemed that by nine-thirty about half the crowd had gone up to their hotel rooms for the night. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, most of us would have stayed to dance until at least midnight. Age has finally begun to take its toll on my generation.

My wife and I live near the reunion hotel and did not rent a room there. We left the party around one o'clock Sunday morning after bidding adieu to the few hardy souls still yakking in the hospitality suite.

On the way home I began to recount those I had not told goodbye, for they had long ago fallen into dreamland. They left the party when my back was turned.

Sunday morning. Sunday morning. Sunday morning. I never used drugs, drank alcohol or smoked, therefore I don't know what withdrawal is like for those who turn from those vices. I have been told it can be severe. Sunday was a day of, I guess, mild withdrawal. I had an empty feeling.

We stayed in all day, forsook our day of worship, remained in our pajamas. The party's over, I kept thinking. It's over.

Through these many years our class has enjoyed a strong esprit de corps. Although many were friends before they got to high school, the common bond for us all-our high school alma mater and the times we shared together during those few years.

Monday morning. Monday morning. Less empty. Chores to do. Have to move the tv antenna today for better reception. It's going to be hot today. At least I'll be working in the shade, and a little breeze is blowing.

As I climb the ladder into the green shade above, that silent old clock still hanging on the wall of that old school begins to tick in my head. I hear the first morning bell, the shuffle of feet, the buzzing of gossip and greeting and the sudden silence as we enter the first period class. Ding, ding, dong, dong-the little chime by the office microphone tells us that daily announcement time and prayer time is at hand.

It's too hot out here now and the wind is picking up. I must get off this ladder and out of the heat. My outdoor chores are over for the day. I'll finish in the morning.

A few years ago, as we began to tally the score of those friends who had passed on, we decided to meet every five years instead of the traditional ten years. Since our forty-fifth year reunion, I have lost two very close friends from that class of 1961.

Let me think, who did I miss telling goodbye the other night? What we would not have considered a few years ago, we now have to accept as truth. Some of the goodbyes really meant, see you in five years. But, some were last goodbyes. For, not everyone will return to the next class reunion.

John Donne wrote, "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Meditation XVII.

Yes, the party's over. What next? I guess it depends on who is still with us.

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com

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