Back in 1985 it wasn’t the parents you had to worry about.
It was tradition in my town that graduations were held on the athletic field to enable as many family and friends to attend as wished to. We were very family-friendly and saw nothing wrong with this. After all, gymnasiums were hot, impersonal and overcrowded. The outdoor festivities added an entire dimension to this landmark moment that capped one’s life.
The June night was cool and the beach ball was being carried about as it was tossed between the graduates of Hamilton High School.
Yes! You read correctly – do not adjust your glasses! I said beach ball!
Soon wine bottles emerged. As I sat in with the band across the aisle, I could hardly believe my eyes. “They’re going to ruin it for everyone!” I thought as I tried to hide my blushing face. Many disruptions and outbursts by students followed along with my continued denial “this can’t be happening!”
Parental reaction was minimal as they avoided focusing attention on their graduating and now rule-breaking offspring. If I had to fathom a guess, I saw many embarrassed looks. Most avoided eye contact. The staff is to be commended for their efforts to get unforeseen mayhem under control.
Outdoor graduations were such a rare event twenty years ago as well as today, and now I see why. The teachers were angry, naturally and demanded the students put off their celebrations until after the ceremony.
Defiantly, the students refused the staff’s pleadings and continued their shenanigans. I was embarrassed that one of my relatives was a part of this. I was glad this was not my class and though graduation was two years off for me, I was less than impressed by this class’ lack of maturity. They had crossed a line.
After this premature celebration went on relentlessly, disrupting the ceremony at times, I was relieved to see they were moving it along quickly so this would end. I would finally get to perform the song I practiced so long and hard for the occasion “Pomp and Circumstance.” My heart sank when the song could not be heard over the mayhem and discord that followed the completion of the ceremony.
This graduation celebration made many of the local papers, including the larger ones. I felt as though the rest of the classes following this would be at the most, punished for the actions of their predecessors or at least, outdoor graduations would be canceled so the crowd could be controlled better.
I got my outdoor graduation, but they switched them to Sunday afternoons as a step to prevent this type of party atmosphere from emerging again. As far as I know, graduation is still held outside, without incident. Thanks to the staff of Hamilton for not holding the mistakes of one graduating class against all future classes!