Cherishing the Memories

What a difference five years makes. When Nashville’s Hillsboro High School Class of 1972 held our reunion back in 2007, I’ll wager that few of us had a Facebook account.  Most didn’t even know what Facebook was.  Not so as we celebrated again last weekend, forty years to the day after we received our diplomas.

Invitations to this year’s party arrived via Facebook.  A group—“Let’s Stay Together”– was created.  Then the cyber chatter started.

Much of it was funny.  One of our classmates promised to wear to the reunion the very same baby blue tux, with matching cummerbund, that he’d worn to the senior prom.  Didn’t happen.  And not just because baby blue tuxes have gone out of style.  But he’s not the only member of the Class of ’72 who couldn’t fit into his or her prom clothes.  Including yours truly.

High school fashion stimulated lots of online reminiscing, especially among the
girls, who remembered going from the no-pants-allowed rule in ninth grade to “pantsuits” our junior year to the radical act of wearing blue jeans to school when we were seniors.

Months ago someone posted a photo of the entrance to Hillsboro High School, with the giant clock hanging on the white brick wall above the front doors, and asked this question:  “What’s the strangest thing that ever happened on these steps?”  The answers were amusing, until we came to one about a police lockdown in 1970.

That’s when the Facebook conversation turned to the topic of desegregation.

Several of my classmates recalled the four lonely black students who integrated our lily-white student body sophomore year.  Others remembered Mr. Paul Thompson, Hillsboro’s first African-American teacher.  When asked why he ate lunch in his classroom rather than the cafeteria or teachers’ lounge, he told his students “I am not of your race.”  Prompting several of them to carry their own lunches to his classroom for the rest of the school year so that he wouldn’t have to eat alone.

How could I have gone all these years without knowing that story?

There were the inevitable remembrances of the 1971 court-ordered busing that turned Metro Nashville schools upside down.  Including Hillsboro, which lost a sizeable portion of our student population to Pearl High School and received, not always graciously, a large number of their students.  We continue to anguish—four decades after the fact—over what we could have/should have done to make that transition less painful.

But most of what’s been shared on Facebook is not nearly so serious.  It’s been fun to learn where my classmates live.  What they do for a living.  Which books they read and movies they watch and music they listen to.  To see pictures of their children and grandchildren.

I wondered if all the photo sharing might dull the challenge of trying to figure out who was who when I arrived at the reunion.  The sound of laughter mingled with oldies rock-and-roll as I got off the elevator at the Hampton Inn at Green Hills and walked—a little nervously, I confess–into the glass-enclosed penthouse filled with hundreds of green and gold balloons.

And a bunch of old people.

Many of whom I would have known instantly, even if there were no such thing as Facebook. Or nametags.  As the sun went down and the moon came up and the conversation waxed more and more nostalgic, several of the members of the Class of ‘72 drifted onto the balcony.  From there, past the roof of Macy’s, which to us will forever be Castner-Knott, we could see in the distance the giant clock hanging on the white brick wall above the front doors of our alma mater.

Oh, happy memories, cherished forever.

(June 10, 2012)


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