a life well lived

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Semper Perge 06/09/00

Here in Bryn Athyn - where we have an elementary school, high school, junior college, senior college and theological school (with it's wonderful masters program open to one & all) - the end of May and early June seems swamped with graduations. Today was 8th Grade graduation and tomorrow will be high school commencement.  College graduation was over Memorial Day weekend, I believe.

I missed out on an elementary school graduation.  Garrett Heights School went up to 9th grade and I was transferred after 8th grade to Eastern High School along with other "academic" students - they only kept the "business" students for 9th grade.  We was gypped!

My one & only graduation was from the Academy of the New Church, which I attended for junior and senior years.  The Class of 1928.  My mother, who was living in Baltimore, sent me a beautiful dress for the Senior Dance - a short dress (remember, this was the era of the flapper and short dresses were the rage) of blue crepe de chine, with cream-colored chiffon sleeves.  That was when I discovered blue was my color!  I have been wracking my brain as to whether John Frazier or Phillip Odhner took me to the dance and I just cannot remember for the life of me.

My graduation dress was a similar style - white, of course, and as straight as possible falling just below the knee, with a deep hem of tiny pleats.  I had lost a lot of weight the previous summer, so I looked practically fashionable.  Anita Synnestvedt (Woodard) and Beryl Caldwell (Odhner) were the fashion setters in our class.  I can still see their outfits – sharp looking suits with unshaped jackets that brushed the tops of their legs over straight white skirts.  I remember that Beryl's was a beautiful light brocade, which gave it extra interest.  Anita and Beryl had classic taste and were what I like to call "the genuine article."

What did the boys wear?  I have no recollection, but knowing who they were, they had to look pretty sharp - Dick Gladish, John Schoenberger, John Frazier, Oliver Powell and Graham Gurney are just some of  my fellow graduates.

Our banner - all ANC classes have banners - was done in silver threads on a black velvet background, with the motto, "Semper Perge" - "always forward."  Our class ring reflected the banner, a gold ship on a black enameled background.  As I recall, it set me back around $10.00.

The Assembly Hall was not built at that time and the Asplundh Field House was many, many decades down the pike.  We graduated in the DeCharms Hall auditorium, which was on the top floor at that time.  The graduating girls' families would present them with flowers.  My parents were not able to be at the ceremony, so I did not expect to have a bouquet.  Peggy Cowley (Schiffer), who was all of around 12 years old, was very sad that I would not have a bouquet, so the dear wonderful girl made me a bouquet of roses out of her family's garden.  No other bouquet could have been carried with more pride or happiness.

I remember the music as we, the graduating class, marched in – Edward Elgar's "Land of Hope & Glory."  I felt like nobility walking into that.  As the senior girls were seated for the graduation ceremony, the junior girls came up and stood behind us and entwined our hair with a wreath of ribbons and flowers.  I kept that wreath for a long time.

Back then, and in fact until a few years ago, all the upper schools – the high school, the two colleges and the theological school - graduated at the same time.  I received my degree from the Girls School headmistress, Dorothy Davis.  Elsa asked me to describe "Dodo" - she was Clara Davis Pitcairn's twin sister and, like her sister, Miss Dorothy could be very abrupt and direct, never one to pull her punches.  She was not out to win a popularity contest;  her eye was always on the prize of making sure "the girls" got a top notch New Church education.

Elsa asked me what I would say to the graduating Class of 1928 or 2000, for that matter, if I had the chance.  I would tell them what my father always said, "When you stop learning, you are dead."  I would tell them to continue their education, whether in college or not.  Some of the "brightest and best" people with degrees and advanced degrees know squat compared to less "highly educated" folks with a good sense of people and common sense.  That they should welcome change.  To not give themselves airs, to take themselves lightly.  In short, remember "Semper Perge" - -"always forward."

Nite-nite and God bless, with special love to Kelly, Carl, Meg and any other graduates who are dear to my heart that I might be leaving out. - - The Gramster

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