LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
Graduation had now thrust me into a whole new realm of life. What was I to do? School had structure and meaning with a goal to attain. Now the future was wide open. The hippy culture was coming into its own. It was the summer of Woodstock. The Beatles had evolved into the drug culture. Corvettes had taken on a new Stingray look. They were no longer the Sting Ray. One word instead of two. The muscle car era was in full swing and I was driving a ’60 Ford Falcon by now. Wow, what a rush. Most of my friends had hot cars and the best I had come up with was a six cylinder with a slush o’matic. That’s the term for a two-speed automatic transmission. My first car was the ’53 Chevy my dad bought me from Mitchell. I drove it till the brakes died and it and almost killed me. I knew the car would do all of 98 mph. Well, it could have probably hit a hundred if I didn’t have four more people in the car to help me document the top end on this beast. It was originally blue, but had never been painted since the day it was new, I would say. I am backing up a bit here. We got the car in ’66. The blue was now nearly white with a hint of blue. Paint didn’t hold up to well back then. To top it all off the seats were worn rather badly, so I went out and bought seat covers. They were bright red. Can you imagine? My taste for color coordinating back then was a bit lacking to say the least. I bought a couple of cans of black spray paint, popped the hub caps and trim rings off and painted the wheels black and then I shined up the trim rings and put them back on. It was my hot rod. It wasn’t complete without a STP sticker on the center of the back glass at the bottom. It put me right up there with King Richard. That’s Richard Petty for the non-NASCAR fans. Okay let’s ratchet back up to this after school era.
My graduation night was full. I went off to the high school auditorium to meet up with my classmates. We took pictures, talked of the last twelve years together and the excitement of what had been a different kind of last year at school. I will digress just a few days prior. Back then we had baccalaureate sermon the previous Sunday morning. I don’t think public schools have these anymore. We all went in cap and gowns and listened to a sermon on a new life in college or trade school or on into the job world. Okay, back to Friday night. We went through a sobering time as well as celebratory time to flip our tassels over on our mortar board and became graduates of high school. The excitement spilled over afterward when we all broke loose for a night of splitting off into our groups. The group of twenty some guys I knew went off to celebrate overnight. My mom and dad didn’t plan on me being home at all overnight. Actually I don’t remember much of what we did that night except to say I know I had fun and remember being on the road at two or three in the morning and how it’s memory of that moment was indelibly stamped on my mind. Things were going to change I thought. Really change. I had done my duty as a citizen at eighteen and registered for the draft and was classified as 1A. There was no honorable way of getting out of that. I wasn’t qualified for college at the time and the only other alternative was to go to Canada. I’d never been out of the state at that time, so I wasn’t real sure I wanted to do that even for that reason. So there I was. I was a weekend away from hitting the real world and a real job, since my dad had already seen to that. He had since moved on from Rae, Brown and Root to another construction outfit called Daniel Construction Company. They were building a pulp paper mill for Weyheuser.