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Hail to the high schoolers

All across the United States this year, the high school classes of 1968 will be gathering together to celebrate a half-century since their graduations.

Particularly this fall, those who’ve managed to survive 50 years of adulthood will be meeting in hotels and restaurants and community centers to reminisce, to catch up on old friends, to recapture perhaps a few moments of what to some were the best years of their lives.

high school

The Legal Genealogist‘s own high school class is getting together this weekend in New Jersey. I wish them well, but had already accepted a speaking obligation out of state long before the invitation came in, so I won’t be there.

And besides, I still can’t begin to wrap my head around the idea that it’s been 50 years — and more in my case since I left school early to head off to college — since we were in high school.

Five decades. Fifty years. A half century.

It isn’t until you stop and take stock that you can even start to grasp what a time it’s been.

You think back to what we experienced just getting to high school. Do you remember crouching in the hallways of our elementary schools, tucking our heads between our knees in case the bomb dropped? I remember.

Do you remember class sizes? Thirty kids in third grade, 40 in fourth, 50 in fifth until the new elementary school finally opened? Double sessions in junior high? I remember.

And our school situation was easy compared to some. Do you remember watching black children in the south needing armed escorts just to go to good schools? I remember.

Do you remember a Russian leader pounding on a desk at the United Nations with his shoe? I remember.

Do you remember sitting glued to the television as the President of the United States explained to the country that he was ordering a naval blockade of Cuba because there were missiles pointed at us? I remember.

Do you remember the day when our teachers had to tell us that President had been shot down while riding through the streets of an American city? The days that followed … the shock … the mourning … the funeral? I remember.

And then came high school.

Do you remember the start of the war in Vietnam and the beginnings of the student protests against it? Birth defects due to thalidomide? Riots in the streets of some of our cities? The marches of the Civil Rights movement and the signing of the Civil Rights Act? The Voting Rights Act? More cities burning and more riots?

I remember those… and more.

I remember the Blackout of 1965. The Gemini space missions. The march from Selma to Montgomery. The Aberfan disaster in Wales. The debut of Star Trek. The Six Day War. Loving v. Virginia. The start of public broadcasting. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

All of these, and so much more… and we weren’t yet old enough to vote.

Some of us weren’t even old enough to drive.

And yet we survived. For five decades. Fifty years. A half century.

Some of us, at least. The list of those who won’t be at the reunion this weekend because of war and accident and illness is sobering.

For the rest of us, well, we can look back on five decades. Fifty years. A half century.

At marriages contracted and ended. Children and grandchildren born, and some lost. Degrees and careers begun and sidetracked and restarted and reimagined. Places lived in, places left behind. Dreams fulfilled, bucket lists still waiting to be achieved.

Five decades. Fifty years. A half century.

Of life.

Here’s to the Class of 1968.

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