My granddaughter is graduating from the eighth grade and so of course I have to blog about my own eighth grade experience.
Eighth grade was a wonderful year for me because we had stayed in one place long enough for me to have real friends. My friend Elaine lived down the street and we spent a lot of time together. I had my first serious boyfriend in the eighth grade. A group of us went to the fair, movies, swimming, and parties.
Eighth grade was the last year I participated in sports with any real enthusiasm. I had been on the volleyball team the year before, but broke my arm. While recuperating I learned to keep score for boys’ basketball. In the eighth grade I got certificates for both softball and basketball scorekeeping.
I graduated from Teague Elementary school in Highway City, California. I still have my graduation program. I was valedictorian of my class of forty-three students. Like any girl, I saved my corsage from graduation, but not my speech! I do have a little hand-written note from my teacher that reads, “Mary, Valedictorian, a farewell address, 5 minutes.” Elaine was salutatorian. I also received an award for history and geography, and one for language arts. I have my diploma and the little ribbon that was tied to it.
Mr. Monteleone was our superintendent and principal. My teachers were Mrs. Odyth Pittman, Mr. Kenneth Kennedy (also the vice principal), Mr. James Higgins, Mr. John C. Andres, Mrs. Rahma Kennington, Mr. Manuel Navarrette, and Mr. Albert Parley. What I remember most was how professional most of them were. They wore suits or dresses and took their jobs very seriously. Mrs. Pittman was my favorite. She always encouraged me and wrote nice things on my report card. Mr. Kennedy arranged for me to go to my first “author’s brunch” and meet real writers. Mr. Higgins sparked my interest in the Civil War by making it so much more than dates and battles. Mrs. Kennington spent countless hours improving my grammar. Mr. Navarrette was so cute most girls didn’t care what he was teaching! Mr. Parley taught math, poor guy. And I don’t remember Mr. Andres at all.
I only have a couple of photos of graduation and typically I was behind the camera, not in front of it. I do have this photo taken a few weeks before graduation. Don’t know what was going on with that hair!! I got it cut very short the week after graduation and I remember how angry my parents were when I got home. (My aunt had taken me to get it cut.)
My graduation dress was white and came from the Dotty Dean store in Fresno. It was $25.99, on sale for $14.88. I still have the tag, the receipt, and my dried corsage.
Of course eighth grade wasn’t all about reading and writing and friends. It wasn’t all sweetness and innocence. We were very poor and I usually worked in the fields when I wasn’t in class. I was constantly arguing with my parents about boys or school or boys. It was also the year I witnessed my first serious gang fight. One of our neighbors ran over and killed his own child. One of my classmates was already drinking and causing the rest of us to worry. Several were smoking. My friend’s little sister died of SIDS. But those are topics for other days and other blogs.
Eighth grade is still a turning point for students. Next year my granddaughter will have to start thinking about her future and college and earning money and all those serious, grown-up things. She’s leaving childhood behind and beginning the next phase of the journey to adulthood. I know she’ll have trouble with her parents and school and boys and friends, because we all did. I only hope she has as little pain as possible and that she makes wise decisions most of the time. She’s a smart girl with good parents. That’s a great way to start high school.