History, like English and literature and math and physics, was just another requirement completed, therefore gone.
Not surprising then that the 39 seniors at Pettus High School here June 1 would not know — or probably care — that they were following the footsteps of 79 previous classes to don maroon and gold robes in the school’s Works Progress Administration gymnasium built during the Great Depression.
According to school records, the first senior class was graduated in 1932.
While some family members took pictures of their senior students standing before the gym — which resembles the shape of the Alamo — Precinct 2 Deputy Constable Robert Bridge took it all in stride. He took off his coat, leaned against a cool wall, and started cleaning his fingernails.
“I’ve been on a tractor baling hay all day in the hot sun,” the 1974 graduate said. “I can remember when this gym wasn’t air conditioned.”
Of this year’s class, 17 boys; 22 girls.
Sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, they entered the gym’s northeast doors with a mixture of anticipation and relief, their robes over their shoulders.
“I used to know every one of these youngsters,” Bridge said. “I can remember talking to some of them when they were in the first grade. I don’t know that many of them anymore.”
Teacher Laura Warnix, one of the ceremony’s staff sergeants, was particularly worried about flowers. It might be cool in the gym, but the ceremony was outside in the stadium.
“There are two large vases of tulips,” she told an associate. “I want them brought in last.”
Wilting tulips wasn’t the only worry.
“I can’t tie this tie,” a youngster announced.
Coach Steve Marbach was the man for the job.
“It’s not the first one I’ve done,” he smiled. In a few minutes, he would have to tie another. “I do a half-Windsor, I think.”
Marbach, the fashion assistant, then reverted back to his coaching skills.
“Seniors,” he ordered in a loud, commanding voice, “if you have to go potty, do it now.”
Warnix shifted her attention from tulips to tassels.
“Edward, where are the extras?”
Admiring her leadership skills was another sergeant, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Cesar Araujo, in full dress uniform complete with numerous service medals — which spoke in colorful language of his numerous deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Araujo had recruited three seniors. Chris Metting, Chase Carr and Austin Wessels would get their diplomas and then head for boot camp in San Diego on June 11.
“How many pull-ups did I do?” one of the recruits asked.
“Two and a wiggle,” Araujo answered.
“It’s important to be here,” Araujo said. “It’s a special day.”
“Let’s go, come on, let’s go,” Marbach ordered.
“We’re minus Taylor,” a teacher noted.
“He’s trying to tie his tie,” his buddy in line answered.
“Now listen up,” Marbach ordered. “Turn your cell phones off. Not on silence, off!”
A cacophony of female yells interrupted the proceeding.
“Son, we don’t need to see what you’re wearing,” a teacher tells a tall graduate. “Keep your skirt closed.”
The seniors sit themselves on the bleachers for a group photograph.
“Is anyone serious here?” a teacher asks.
“Hold it. On three…”
Among the 39, valedictorian Chloe Garza would soon would speak for the entire class as she gave the audience outside “a great big thanks to all of our families for all the time, effort, money, patience, love and encouragement” during the last dozen years.
Salutatorian Shay Monson, in her address, covered all the bases, summing up “12 very long, crazy short years of school” for “moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.”
“What will be remembered,” she noted, “is waking up every morning to hear your parents tell you, ‘You are going to school today!’” She then thanked the teachers for “pushing and pushing and pushing for us to do our best.”
Finally, moments before they were to march side by side from the gym to the stadium,beneath a stunning sunset, Marbach reminded them:
“There is a trash can by the door. Put your gum in it.”
Of such circumstances is pomp made.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.