There is something definitive about walking out of school on your last day, even though the school day is largely about cleaning your locker and desks, maybe getting yearbooks signed… saying goodbye to friends. No matter what you did on your last day of high school it was an end of an era for you, and likely memorable.
I remember I did NOT throw all my papers in the air, school had craftily had us take home all of our stuff days before, but there was a definite sense of finality about the day.
As was my tradition, I went home and listened to “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper from my “Alice Cooper – Greatest Hits” album.
Obligatory meme about school’s out…
There was still the graduation ceremony to come, which we had practiced on a senior school field trip. Field trip? Yep. Our class was too big to be handled in our school gym, so we did it at Poplar Creek Music Theater.
One distinct memory I have of the place is actually of one of the knuckleheads in our group… as we practice marched out of the theater and past the concessions this guy dipped into the beer garden and poured himself half a beer which I presume he fancied himself drinking on the way back to the bus. One of the workers came up behind him and unceremoniously slapped it out of his hand.
As I sat to write this I was surprised to find that Poplar Creek closed in 1994!
I found a video of someone filming inside after it was closed. It 100% blew my mind. Seeing the bright orange, pink and yellow colors outside by the concessions area and then inside the seats and stage was a real throw back.
It’s sad. Here is a great article on it’s history and demise. R.I.P. Poplar Creek.
Poplar Creek drew big name bands. Here is the shows list from 1983.
We were between Waylon Jennings and Hall & Oates that year.
I remember vividly waiting and waiting and waiting… our class was B I G and then when we marched out to the entrance area and were standing around waiting for family to come out to join us.
It was in that moment I realized a well laid out plan and course of education was over. From here on in it was largely up to me… what college I would go to, what classes I would take… all the choices were my own. It was at once exhilarating and terrifying. Everyone there was trying to gather in their little groups and taking photos and we eventually left Poplar Creek. I headed to Milwaukee.
My journey was a little, actually a lot, like a roller coaster, but eventually there was another graduation for me (not Milwaukee). I remember sitting in the chairs before we marched, and then poof, taking a picture by the tree in our front yard when we got home. Almost nothing in between.
This year Joe finished High School.
His last day of high school was NOT like mine. He didn’t get that rush as he walked away on the last day. He was in his bedroom on his computer, then came out and told me “Well, I’m done”. That was it. No graduation ceremony (at least for now) since the world has fallen into pandemic and chaos. GPA frozen at last semester, and this semester set to just a pass/fail. What a weird f-ing end of High School and transition. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but there is nothing to be done about it. Regardless, I am proud of him and his accomplishment. He had some times of struggle, of taking it head on (AP classes) and some issues he had to overcome, but he did it and is already accepted to college. As the final twist to the “unprecedented times” we are still waiting to hear if he will actually be GOING to the college campus. Official word will not be until mid-July.
For me, the moment when it seemed real was when I took him out to get some photos of him in his cap and gown and tassels. Not pre-grad ceremony, but for a virtual grad page they are setting up. There was just something about seeing him in them that spun me out. Though I think he pretty much hated it, he was a good sport. We hit the town water tower, the bridge in the park and for some reason up against a barn near the park. Turned out to be my favorite.
So High School is done and a UW school is waiting for him.
Way to go Joe. Congratulations!
In lieu of the commencement speech you may eventually hear, either virtually or live, which will no doubt be full of the requisite cliches… I offer you this. It is the Keynote speech by Alice Cooper for a college music institute. Though true not a high school speech, and aimed at musicians and not your standard fare, but it has a great message that I think applies to anyone. Minus the Elvis and chicken stories.
“Go out on the limb as far as you possibly can.”
Good luck Joe. Your journey has already started.