May—the traditional month for graduations! Here’s a photo of me during the weekend of my graduation from McMinn County High School. I loved wearing the rented white cap and gown. When did the trend change to black or navy blue for graduation? It was both a happy and sad time in my life.
I was happy to be finishing up as valedictorian of my class and to be one of the speakers at our graduation ceremony. I was sad that my beloved father had not lived to see me finish high school. I was excited to think about college and future dreams and plans. And I was sad that one dream had already been canceled. I had won a scholarship to Vanderbilt which seemed wonderful. Then reality hit my mother and she confessed to me she just wasn’t quite ready to send me away to college and live alone. We made a bargain. If I would go to Tennessee Wesleyan College and live at home one more year, I could go away to finish college anywhere I wanted. That year actually turned out to be a positive influence and one in which I learned a great deal about what college involved.
Aunt Della and Juanita came up from Atlanta for the weekend for graduation. My cousin Delbert Cate was graduating with me and also going to Wesleyan the next year. It was a lovely weekend! I had many high school friends and also teachers I loved—but didn’t have much of a social life with my classmates outside school. I remember quite a few of the boys in our class were already a bit drunk at graduation and they kept talking about wild parties to follow.
Somehow I knew Athens would not be my home for life. I longed to live in a city—and already had my eye on Nashville. Every Sunday I went to the news stand downtown to buy a copy of the Sunday Tennessean.
Johnson’s Home Furnishing in Athens gave a personalized china plate to each member of our graduating class. Mine is hanging beside my desk here in Nashville. A few years ago, I realized that my Crieve Hall house was built the very year I graduated from high school. The Long family owned it until I bought it from her in late 2002. It seems like a lovely connection.