Back In The Day- graduations

I had every intention of staying away from referencing the coronavirus in today’s column. This virus was referenced in each of my columns over the past eight weeks and I was determined to move on; to get my mind on some other subject.

Well, no such luck! The coronavirus remains with me and makes it hard to move on. More recently, however, my mind has been focused on news reports of the disappointments of 2020 high school and college graduates, because of the coronavirus. But it was former President Barack Obama’s commencement address to the graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), in particular, that caused me to seriously consider high school and college graduates future thoughts regarding the experiences they missed, back in their day as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Take a trip back to your senior high school experiences, even if this experience is from last year. Even if it was many years ago, you likely recall your senior prom as it was a memorable moment. Getting a date could have been easy or maybe a real challenge. If you had a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, there was little doubt who would accompany you to your prom. If you were not going steady, then obtaining a date could have been challenging.

No matter how the date was obtained or how long ago the prom was held, I have no doubt that you remember your date’s name. Your transportation to the prom is yet another memory.

Certainly, the location of the prom still stands out in your mind. Our West Philadelphia High School class of 1957 senior prom was held in the school’s gymnasium.

Some 63 years later, I still have friends that reflect on our prom in the gym and how they helped to decorate it. There is no comparison to the locations of proms in recent years with those such as ours, that were held in a school gym. The after-prom activities are still talked about when former classmates come together with old friends.

The memories are supported by those photographs taken shortly before the prom and at the prom that are buried away in scrapbooks. Just think, these are fond memories that will not be possible for the class of 2020 as this coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Today some proms are held by way of Zoom or other virtual, non-contact technology eliminating the fun experiences that many of us remember so fondly.

I do not know of too many school events that can rival a graduation ceremony. Most of us readily recall the day we graduated from high school or college. I bet that sending out invitations was a chore that is still remembered. You may have faced the difficult challenge of deciding who to invite due to limited space. The Academy of Music, a highly visible facility, in Center City was a likely site for some graduation ceremonies. My high school graduation was in the auditorium at West Philadelphia High School. I remember this event well as risers went up to the ceiling from the stage on a June night that was hot and sweaty. Air conditioning? There was none! Walking to our designated seats was special.

I cannot recall the speaker for the occasion, but I certainly remember the event. Receiving our diplomas was unique as the process was simulated by passing one diploma from graduate to graduate as opposed to walking to the podium to receive it as is typically the case today. I still have my class yearbook as well as my class photograph.

I can recall several close friends and me going from one place to another to celebrate after graduation exercises. In an online article from April 23, 2020, contributed by Mark Reineche, titled, Dealing With Disappointment During the Coronavirus Pandemic, he points out that being unable to participate in special events can make us feel sad, angry, frustrated and, most of all disappointed. He highlights that high school graduation is an incredibly significant event in the life of a teenager. It represents a marker of their accomplishments, as well as a step into their future as adults.

So I join Jessica Goodman who in an April 8, article, “Following Your Passion is BS and Other Advice for the Class of 2020” in expressing my condolences to the class of 2020 as their final semesters were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, eliminating the fun that many of us enjoyed during our senior years. I also join her as she further points out that clearly, a formal graduation ceremony, high school, and college, are at the top of the list of things that young people look forward to doing. We did not need Goodman to tell us this as the feelings of today’s graduates are stalk reminders of the way we live today. She also points out that completing school under today’s circumstances does not bode well for employment which has also been impacted by the coronavirus. For those of you that are graduating this year, hopefully you can put these events on hold until this coronavirus pandemic is under control.

Have faith that someday soon boys, girls, men and women along with their children will enjoy their graduation days in the manner many of us did, back in the day.

Kittrels can be reached at or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146

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