The Graduate (39 years ago)

On June 22, 1972, thirty nine years ago this week, I graduated from Jonathan Dayton Regional High School in Springfield, New Jersey. Coincidentally, my nephew Harrison graduates from high school today in Westfield, New Jersey. 

My brother, who lives in Westfield nearby, ran into a woman who I went to high school with who told Mitch that while in high school she thought I had dreamy eyes. Flattered that someone remembered me at all, I had to take out my high school yearbook to virtually walk my high school halls. I quickly looked up the aforementioned woman to see if I remembered much about her but like my eyesight today, most of my memory of high school remains a blur. 

The High School Yearbook 
The Regionalogue was the name of our yearbook and it is filled with the typical trite photos and sickly sweet memories of youth. There are the lists like...we don’t have a Bud but we have a Miller. In fact, our class had two sets of Miller twins - Bonnie & Connie and Sharon & Holly. I wonder if that is a record? Some pages are filled with most likely to succeed, cutest couple and least likely to end up in jail. 

It has been more than a decade since I look through this book since I really didn’t love high school except for time spent with a few good friends and the opportunities it gave me to find the humor in most situations. I didn’t know it at the time, but high school was like a precursor to Seinfeld. Although we didn’t have someone named George, Kramer or even Elaine among our friends, we did find great pleasure in the mundane, the common and the simple absurdity of high school life. Regional (JDRHS) gave us plenty of opportunities to celebrate the joy of everyday. We laughed our way through high school.

James Farber- "The present day composer refuses to die" Homage to Edgar Varese
Like many people, I had my small clique of friends who didn’t quite fit into any obvious classifications. We certainly weren’t jocks but I did proudly play on the varsity baseball team. We were certainly a pretty smart group including a few of us in National Honors Society and some of my friends were real brains with near perfect SAT scores. There is no way we could be considered the cool kids as we had a pretty small circle of friends and weren’t particularly popular. We were semi-politically active and some of us were involved in some protests. I think we boycotted some classes so we could wear blue jeans to school- at the time we called them dungarees.

My good buddy L Roy (Lawrence Goldberg) is on this page
In hindsight, we didn't have a name for this rag-tag collection of buddies but it felt like family. And there was no leader of the pack as we all enjoyed the safety of the group.
Glancing at the photos in the yearbook makes me smile but I struggle to remember many of the names and faces. The class had several hundred kids and many teachers and school administrators who were our prison guards for four years. Well, it felt like prison at time with the overbearing rules and regulations. High school was stifling and some of teachers sucked the air out of our enthusiasm and spirit. 

Senor Hall - Can I help you boys?

I found tucked into my yearbook a permission slip that required signatures when I was absent. It reminded me of the infamous hall pass that we needed just to take a bio break. One of my favorite high school memories was walking in the hallway with Jamie and Senor Hall came up to us and said, “Can I help you boys?” Without hesitation, Jamie informed him that, “no, we were just looking.”

Excuse Me

Running through the pages of this book, I came upon a picture of Mr. Swedish who was the driver’s Ed/health teacher. With all due respect to this man, there probably wasn’t anyone less qualified to teach high school kids about driving and sex than this John Sweedish. But like a situation comedy, it provided us with buckets of laughs twice a week from 10:15 to 11:30 every week for an entire semester. 
I don’t think about high school much but every time I drive along Mountain Avenue to visit the home I grew up in where my mom still lives, I always glance at it like it was a hall of horrors. It was never a nurturing environment trying to bring the best out of kids- rather it felt like an institution to keep kids locked up for many years. My fond memories were on the outside not the inside. And what's up with putting a tennis court on the front lawn? 

The late 60’s and early 70’s were a pretty rebellious time. We revolted against having a prom for reasons that escape me. We protested against the war in Vietnam and President Nixon in general. But most of my friends were pretty apolitical and were really into their own forms of creative exploration. There was Jamie with audio engineering and learning jazz piano; Larry with his Super 8 camera; Rachel with her music and singing and me with my still photography. Our gang had many others like Howie, Leigh, Bonnie, Neal, Mark and Jon. My high school girlfriend Debbie also got pulled into our coterie although she was two grades younger. I guess we were the creative, artistic group who enjoyed laughing at life's special moments together. 

James Farber  marches into the auditorium
Without cell phones or the Internet we had to walk to each other’s house to hang out and stay connected. We couldn’t meet online- we met at Contes or Swingles or Scappy’s. Nobody texted anyone but we did stay in touch as we tried to figure out what we wanted out of life and to explore the paths to our future.

Ross Ackerman and the cockroach cry

Haircuts L Roy and Jon?

Of course Mom and Dad had a party in my honor to celebrate my graduation. And yes we saved those photos for Pop to put in my book. 

In this montage are photos of  my sister Diane and soon to be husband Jerry, They were married later that week on June 25, 1972.  Debbie Goldman's mom Barbara, Grandma Gertie (Jack's Mother), my mom Bea, Dorthy and Joe Gans, my dad Jack and Debbie's dad Sam Goldman.

Graduation Day June 22, 1972

Ceil Lippman, Dorothy Gans, Norma Schaeffer, Jeff, Diane and Mitch, Debbie Goldman, Elaine Fleishman, Debbie's sister Jane and Cindy Zahn. Also picture Jeff (the graduate) with Bea and Jack Slater.  
I attended one class reunion in 1982 in part because I was in Springfield visiting my folks and also out of sheer curiosity. What happened to all the others kids who attended the same school during that same period? We had a shared experience and I wanted to see what if anything it would awaken in me.

If memory serves me correctly, except Neal, none of my close friends attended and it was my last high school reunion I ever attended. And like high school it gave me little pleasure seeing people that I didn’t really know well a decade earlier. I will admit it was fun to see what ten years did to people but today I think that is why Facebook was invented.  

Nice burns. 

Thirty nine years have passed and in some ways, little has changed. A few of us remain connected albeit with the aid of the web. We still search for humor and happiness in the everyday events of our lives. Most importantly, we know that those bonds that we made are like connective tissue that bind us as friends with rich memories and loving support.

To the Jonathan Dayton Regional High School graduation class of 1972, I hope the last 39 years have been good to you. And to Harrison Slater, seize the moment!

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