As I write this my daughter is off to her last official day of high school. It’s all downhill from here. The next few days leading up to Friday’s commencement ceremony will be filled with graduation practice, but her thirteen years of academic classes including kindergarten are over for her.
For the first time in twenty-two years I will not have to worry with excuse notes, teacher conferences, or deal with report cards. I will never be a room mother again, a PTA officer, or participate in a school fundraiser as a parent.
No more homework wars or the never-ending battle to get someone out the door before the tardy bell sounds. No more agonizing fraction lessons or mad dashes to the drug store for glue or poster board when a forgotten project is suddenly remembered at 9:30 at night.
Fairly soon back to school clothes shopping will be replaced with dorm room shopping, and she will be making that trek for school supplies on her own now.
But in our immediate future is the commencement exercise–the graduation ceremony.
My son’s graduation ceremony a few years ago was the first one I had experienced since my own in 1980, and I have to be honest here–the overall atmosphere had changed.
Back in my day–gee, did I really use that phrase? Well, back in my day I remember my own ceremony being a bit reverent, fairly quiet and you could just sense the importance of the occasion. In fact, all of the graduations I went to as a young girl were rather sedate rites of passage whether they were held in a gymnasium, on a school lawn, or auditorium. My sister’s graduation in 1974 was held at the old Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta where Georgia Championship Wrestling made its home for awhile. Her ceremony was nothing like a wrestling match. I remember a stern admonishment from my mother regarding talking and fidgeting, so I had to forget thoughts of a takedown or a half Nelson pin.
Nowadays most graduation ceremonies are held on the school’s football field because of the large number of graduates and guests. While the atmosphere is still thick with the knowledge that an important milestone has been reached, and there is some seriousness to the occasion, the events are also loud with bullhorns, bells, whistles, cat calls, and sometimes it’s a little hard to hear your child’s name being called. Parents jostle for the perfect camera angle, people stand in front of the bleachers blocking your view, and if you don’t arrive at least three hours early grandma won’t get a seat.
Turn back the dials on my own version of Douglas County’s Way Back machine, and we might be attending the graduation exercises for Douglasville College.
Douglasville College was in existence from 1888 to 1914 and was founded at the insistence of Dr. T.R. Whitley, a citizen of Douglasville who wanted to educate his children locally. He was strongly opposed to boarding schools as the only means of providing higher education for youth. Unfortunately, his ideas were slow to catch on as many members of the Town Council were afraid to allocate any money for the school because they feared the idea would be unpopular with citizens. They were wrong, of course, and pretty soon Douglasville College was built and opened where today’s sits along Church Street. When I toured The several weeks ago I snapped an image of Douglasville College drawn by Steven Garrett and provide it here with this article.
The school included what we consider to be elementary, middle and high school grades today even though it was referred to as a college. Children from other towns were accepted and boarded with local families.
Fannie Mae Davis’ history of Douglas County advises the commencement excises at Douglasville College were marathon events. I would have to agree. Commencement exercises often began on Sunday morning and ended the following Wednesday night.
This seems very long and drawn out to us today, but basically what the school did was combine several events for various grade levels into one long event instead of spacing out various award days, chorus performances, and other events over several days with breaks between.
The 1902 commencement for Douglasville College was just as extensive lasting from Sunday to Wednesday. Sunday, of course began and ended with some preaching–two sermons to be exact.
An article from the paper at the time, The New South, advised during those few days of commencement “College Hall was crowded….every nook and corner filled. The old and the young, the children and grandparents, from town and country, from other towns, far and near, the professional men and the plowmen, the stalwart and the paralytic, the preachers and parishioners, crowded into the spacious college hall.”
Monday’s events included activities for the Junior Class. The members of the class read their essays followed by an address from L.C. Upshaw regarding the subject Men and Money. Later members of the class participated in a debate taking sides with issue of Prohibition. Colonel W.T. Roberts, also addressed the junior class and a four hour banquet followed.
Monday evening included two operettas and a garland drill with many younger members of the student body participating.
On Tuesday the seven graduating seniors read essays they had written, and the featured speaker was Colonel B.C. Griggs. The article from The New South regarding an earlier ceremony advised “one of the girls seemed to realize the momentousness of the occasion and whispered to those in the rear, and said: ‘Pray for me.’ The afternoon gave way to entertainment included recitations, essays and music.
Tuesday evening belonged to the school’s music department with a brief comedy sketch, and operetta. The evening of music was a ticketed event and apparently $63.25 was taken in at the box office in 1902.
Wednesday morning belonged to the senior class and they provided their literary addresses followed by Mr. Sam Small, a well known orator during that time who was a journalist, Methodist evangelist, and prohibitionist. His topic was education focusing how “prior to the Civil War the South had lagged behind in the education of the masses and [Smalls] pointed with pride to the progress made since the war. Education, he said, was not cramming the mind with information, but teaching the mind how to give out things of value.”
Wednesday afternoon was the dominated by the school’s alumni followed by what we consider the traditional graduation ceremony as the final event of the day. The Salutatorian and Valedictorian provided their addresses and the presentation of diplomas rounded out the program and music was provided by a five-piece orchestra from Atlanta.
Can you imagine?
Commencement activity after activity all jammed together in four consecutive days, and here I am wondering how I’m going to get through a reception, graduate recognition at church, Baccalaureate on Sunday, followed five days later with Commencement. At least I have breaks built in even if I will probably have to put up with a noisy bull horn during the actual graduation ceremony, and I will more than likely have to pack a telephoto lens in order to get a decent picture of my daughter as she receives her diploma.
Like many parents throughout Douglasville and Douglas County this week I’m one proud mother, and heartily congratulate my daughter, Rachel, and the rest of the class of 2011.