I’m really a bit surprised. I’m surprised because I really didn’t know Carol or Shirley very well. They had become Facebook friends over the last few years. It’s been nearly 50 years since I was in the same room with both of them. So, how long do I need to wait before I get over this kind of departure.? Is there a point in time when this kind of goodbye won’t matter? Seriously I’ve only seen one of these people in the last 50 years at a CHS reunion, and one of them I haven’t seen at all. For the most part all we really had in common “to the colors high above us Gold and Blue.” And yet I am profoundly affected by the recent news of their departures from this plane of existence. I mean how in Heaven’s name can I miss them now when I haven’t missed them for decades But I do miss them now.
I feel like Center High School was my Goldilocks Journey. I’ve talked to people who have had many thoughts and memories regarding their High School experience. I’ve talked to people who have been obsessed with the high school journey, Similar to Al Bundy from Polk High. I know folks who hated their CHS journey. I’ve talked to people who studied really really hard, and I’ve talked to people who didn’t study a lick. I’ve talked to people who went to huge high schools and graduated with thousands of classmates. I talked to people who went to small schools and they attended School with a handful of mates. But Center High School (CHS) was the Goldilocks adventure for me. Not too big. not too small, it was just right. And as I get older it gets just “righter”. But my Band Of living classmates is shrinking in size. How terribly strange.
High School is a unique American Adventure. It is one that people of my age all experienced. Very few private schools in the 60s, Most kids went to a public high school. Therefor, High school is often common ground… So many of us just took the yellow bus. Looking back on my life, it is special because CHS provided a unique band of friends that I knew and explored life with, for nearly a decade. In some cases, I have High School friends who married their High School sweethearts, and remain together to this very day. It is in many ways uniquely American. And for children of the 60’s, for children who are the last of the Baby Boomers, I think High School can be even more special and more unique. But I can only compare it to my own experience. And because of that I hold my years at Center High School in Kansas City Missouri as some of the most precious years of my life.
One of the things that is part, a large part of the shared CHS experience during the 60s is GREAT music. Rock, pop, folk, Motown, soul, R&B. Music to sing to, and dance to, and cry to, and to make-out to, and live life to. I went to the first live music concert when I was in junior high I guess. I mean I saw the Beatles live in September 1964. I Saw The Who in the Shawnee Mission South gymnasium… and Iron Butterfly and the freaking Cowsills on back to back days at Municipal Auditorium in June of 1969. My friends and I treasured our vinyl and Turntables. We knew the WHB top 40 list.
And we “all” sang “Hey Jude” together at OUR assembly…
My musical favorite however, was Simon and Garfunkel. And Paul Simon could write words that were sheer poetry for me. His words touched my heart. I would play his records for hours..Paul Simon affected me profoundly. Simon & Garfunkel we’re best known for songs like the Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Water. They had some great music. And some great lyrics. I became the Boxer…
“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains”
But in the midst of all of the music, and all of the words one quiet little tune became my favorite. It still is my favorite.
Nothing and no other song and has ever touched me it continues to touch me like “Old Friends”. It’s amazing, I tear up even now as I talk about it. It is so much a part of who I am. And the depth of its meaning continues to grow every time I hear it or sing it or recite it There is a a picture of my dog gazing at a park bench. My dear friend Beth commissioned this picture for me, when my best dog friend left me in September, 2017. I posted this song in my blog once before…
My friend Tank, the Georgetown, Texas, Dog Park, 2010..
Old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends…… old friends how terribly strange to be 70. Those phrases have been a part of my heart since 1968. And now more than ever I am moved when I hear about the passing of my Center High School classmates.
When I was still at Center High School it truly was a song line that I listened to often. I don’t know why. How terribly strange to be 70. A few years back my classmates would do a Beatles reprise “When I’m 64.” And when I heard that song I was reminded that it was less than a decade until my life would be terribly strange. And I have to tell you my life is getting stranger.
How terribly strange to be 70. I had No idea what that line would mean… when I first heard this, I was only 17. I have a better understanding now.
And now, how terribly strange not to make it to 70.
Farewell to some very special Yellowjackets.
I hope I see many Gold and Blue lives at the Center Reunion, Fall, 1969. I would love to see some of my terribly strange friends…