November 16, 2015 by genelup
The other day I unpacked a box of books that had been in storage for decades. On top were my 1955 and 1956 yearbooks from Camelback High School in Phoenix. I blew the dust off of them.
Then it hit me.
Next year –2016— will be 60 years since I graduated from Camelback in 1956. I sat on my recliner and reflected. I wondered if we will have a 60th Year Reunion. Are there enough of us still around to have one? If we do, should we have it in a fancy resort…or in a nursing home?
I opened the yearbooks and began reading the personal messages that some of my classmates wrote to me. I’ve been called a lot of things in my lifetime, but what these fellow students, teachers and other staff members wrote were endearing, thoughtful and even revealing. I wondered if some of these people really meant what they wrote, or just wanted to be nice. Some of these comments were: “To A Good Guy”…”To A Swell Guy”…”Thanks For Being Such A Good Buddy, Gene”…”A Real Fine Fellow”…”A Real Fine Guy”…”Gene, To A Guy Who I Think An Awful Lot Of And Who Has A Hidden Personality”…”To A Neat, Neat Kid”…”To A Real Cool Kid”…”Best of Everything To A Swell Pal”…”A Good Friend.”
The school’s janitor wrote: “To A Very Nice Boy.” Hey, I was 18 back then…A Boy? Well, people through the years told me I looked younger than my age. They stopped saying that some five or six years ago.
For the record, I was the sports editor of Camelback’s newspaper; I made the varsity basketball and track teams while a sophomore, and I was the basketball team’s statistician during my final two years. And, while in high school, I delivered newspapers for the local paper and worked at A.J. Bayless store carrying out groceries for customers. And, I was shy; probably a nerd and I never dated in high school or even went to a prom. I did have a stomach-churning crush on a Pom-pon girl for a few months in my senior year, but we never said a word to each other. And certainly not in our yearbooks.
I read more: “Good Luck To A Great Sports Editor.”…”Good Luck To The Best Sports Editor Camelback Will Ever Have”…”To The Best Sports Editor In The State. I’ve Really Enjoyed Writing For You. Maybe When You’re Editor Of The Republic Or New York Times You Can Give Me A Job”…”I Have Really Enjoyed Talking To You And Having You Carry Out My Groceries”…”Best Of Luck In College And At Old A.J. I Hope You Make $1.40 An Hour And Make Cashier”…”To A Very Terrific Person And Sports Editor. One Day I’ll Be Able To Say, ‘I Knew Gene.’”…”Keep That Typewriter Goin’.”
A girl wrote it has been great being in a class with me and that “We sure had some great times.” I think she got me mixed up with someone else. Another girl told me I was a swell guy and “I hope you will always get what you want.”
One guy said, “Gene, Here’s hoping you learn to get to class on time in the future.” Huh! Another said, “I often wondered how we managed to get through advanced algebra without each others’ help as in geometry.”
Another: “It has been fun sitting across from you; I know your life will be a big success because you are so nice.”
A Pom-pon girl wrote: “Gene – The best of luck always to one of the nicest guys on campus. It’s really been swell being with you in high school. I think I’ll be going to Arizona State University next year, too. So hope to see you then. A friend always.” I don’t think I ever saw her there, tough.
Finally, I read what my journalism teacher and our campus newspaper adviser wrote to me: “Good luck to you Gene in future years. I hope you’ll do the things you want to do. Thanks for your splendid contribution to the first two years of “The Blade.” Sincerely, Jack Raymond.
About 30 years after Mr. Raymond wrote that note to me, I learned he was in a nursing home. He had Parkinson’s disease. I called him and told him he was the one who inspired me to become a newspaper reporter. I thanked him. A few years later I learned he had died.
I closed my yearbooks and put them back into the box…probably to gather dust again.