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This week, I feature a rare entry in which my grandfather’s kids seize control of his calendar, and the joyous cries of children are heard throughout the land.
I could try to get all heavy and analytical on this one. But really: A high school graduation and a last day of school, on the same day? Even after 50 years, nothing says it better than “WOPEE.”
(My aunt’s variation on “Whoopee” owes more to teenage exuberance than Merriam-Webster. But that’s OK. No one’s grading.)
Whatever the graduation speakers of the Stamford High Class of ’61 said that day is completely lost on my dad now. He doesn’t remember much about his graduation, except that he escorted a “very nice and popular” girl into the ceremony at her request, and then ditched her afterwards to spend time with his girlfriend. (What little I know about how to impress women was not learned from my father. Thankfully, the University of Barry White has a liberal enrollment policy.)
One of my dad’s fellow graduates, Eleanor Roberts (later Eleanor Lewis), would later become chief counsel for International Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Another, Charles Strauss, became CEO of Unilever United States. As for my dad, thirty-odd years in management at Eastman Kodak was waiting … not that he knew that at the time, of course.
In the fall of 1961, my father headed off to college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. History does not record whether my aunt’s “WOPEE” was motivated by the last day of school, or by the giddy prospect of getting her older brother out of the house.
My own high school graduation came almost exactly 30 years after my dad’s, and I don’t remember what my speakers said either, except that one of them held up actor-director Kevin Costner — then making interminable films like “Dances with Wolves” — as an example of the sort of individualist thinker we should all aspire to be. Hopefully my dad’s class got better advice than mine did.
(Actually, I think it would be mildly interesting to read a sampling of high school graduation speeches from 1961, 1991 and today, just to see how they differ — or if they differ — in tone and approach. I don’t know how actively I’ll pursue that thought, though.)
After my graduation, most likely I hung out with my girlfriend, which was the same thing my dad had done 30 years before. Some things never change, I suppose.
Unlike my dad, I am planning to skip my 20th reunion this year in favor of some splendid isolation in the Finger Lakes. My dad, having attended his 20th and 40th, is going this year to his 50th. Maybe if I make it that far, I’ll think about going.
It’s school’s-out season once again as I write this. As they break for summer — and sometimes forever — high school students across America are posting messages of triumph and celebration in their yearbooks, on their Facebook pages and even on their cars.
Do any of them capture the moment quite like “WOPEE”? Doubt it.
Next week: School’s out, from a different perspective. If that don’t suit’cha, that’s a drag.