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September, 2008

7th Grade Graduation

by Julia

In 1936, my mother married a tenant farmer, and I, with my

brother and sister, moved to a farm a few miles from Lorena, on

Bull Creek. We had been city children from Waco but now got

used to riding five miles on the bus to school. I finished the 6th

and 7th grades at Lorena.

At that time, the Elementary School ended at the 7th Grade, and

upon completion we were given a nice graduation ceremony.

The girls had to wear white dresses, the boys white pants and

shirts. For many of the students, most from surrounding farming

areas, it would be their last year of schooling.

My stepfather had a heart attack in 1937, and we were put off

the farm. So at this time we were living in a shack on Bull Creek,

very primitive, with no running water or electricity. Food was

scarce, but I did well in school. My teacher was very encouraging

and asked me to write a poem for the graduation ceremony.

I knew there was no money for a white dress but luckily one

of the periodic bags of clothing given to us by the ladies from the

First Baptist Church in Waco contained a yellowed white dress

which more or less fit me. I earned $1.00 by gathering eggs for a

neighbor, so was able to buy the white shoes. Yes, in 1937

I could go to Grantís Variety Store and buy shoes for $1.00,

not very nice to be sure, but they were white!

A friend whose child was also finishing the 7th Grade gave me

a ride to the graduation. I was terrible aware of how poor I looked.

But my teacher insisted I had to be there and recite the class

poem.

There had been much talk that the girls would have corsages,

and I knew that I would not have one; just one more thing to add to

my feelings of discomfiture. So it was with a mixture of bravado

and embarrassment that I started up the walkway to the entrance

of the high school auditorium where the graduation ceremony was

to be held.

There by the door was a high school student and her mother

with lovely corsages tied with ribbons of the school colors.

They must have worked all day gathering flowers and getting

them ready in time. They looked like smiling angels as they

pinned a corsage on the dress of each of us who didnít have

one.

How often through the years I have thought of the gratitude I felt

that evening and wished I remembered their names. I think the girl

was Shirley, and I didnít even know her last name.

Later that summer, I moved back to Waco to live with my

grandfather and in 1940 finished school at Waco High School.

I married and moved away to follow a nomadic life as the wife

of a military man. We moved back to Texas after retirement and

now Iím back in my hometown. The simple act of kindness I

experienced upon my graduation from the 7th Grade in Lorena is

a story Iíve told many times. Iíve tried to let others know that it

isnít necessarily the big things that make a large and lasting

impression. I donít know whether the corsage making was an

annual thing; maybe that was their way of helping to make the

small world of Lorena in 1937 a better place. For me it did.

Thanks much, Julia, for another of your interesting and poignant memoir essays!


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