Beth Adkison, Greg Avant, Jonathan (Avery) Baine, Traci Baine, Lydia Cade, Michael Creech, Yours Truly, Clay Fulford, Dennis (Wade) Fulford, Shane Gillis, Brian Green, Rodney Hornsby, Sherella Hornsby, Misty Kimble, Cathy King, Drew King, John Knowles, Michael Knowles, Jennifer Lambert, James (Anthony) Landingham, Leslie Lane, Jan Lolley, Wendy Marsh, Chris McCall, Stan McDuffie, Jonathan (Buckshot) Medley, Victor Miller, Christie Mock, Kecia Morgan, LaToya Morgan, Stephanie Phillips, Monty Powell, Brandie Schertel, Felicia Farris Simmons, Jason Slay, Jason Smith, Joey Stephens, Daniel Stephenson, Tammy Thomas, Pamela (Nicki) Vann, Susan Ward, Tammy Ward, Toney (Chad) Ward, Jackie Warren, Leslie Whigham, Shannon Williamson and last but not least, Tonya Windham.
Thats it. That's all. When we graduated on May 23rd, 1993, we sat in chairs on the football field... when our names were called, we got up our of our chairs, walked up the steps, recieved our diploma, shook hands, took a picture, walked back down and then had a seat. Then, the next person was called. The whole thing, including a prayer (!), addresses from both Salutatorian & Valedictorian, awards and the aformentioned diploma process, lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of about 45 to 50 minutes.
This is only important because its in stark contrast to the 2 hour, 400 Senior graduation I attended last night for Oak Mountain High School. It was the first high school graduation I'd been too since the Class of '99, when I saw Stephanie Knipp, Ginger Thomas, Leslie Cordell, Hillary Kelly, Alyssa Guy and Megan Bryan graduate. Last night, I was at Bartow Arena on UAB's campus to see Kourtney & Kandice Kelley and Jaci Gresham graduate, and it was pretty entertaining, let me tell you.
I think what surprised me is that were like, a combined 187 valedictorians and salutatorians. Our version of the "Honor Court" was the "Top Ten Seniors", which consisted of Jason, LaToya, Leslie, Stan, Jennifer, Stephanie, Yours Truly, Misty, Tonya and Daniel. Jason was our Valedictorian, LaToya was our Salutatorian. None of this 580 Valedictorians, or 74 Salutatorians... I personally think you should have one of each, 1st in the class and 2nd in the class, and everyone else above a certain GPA (maybe 3.5? 3.8?) gets to be part of an honor court, or whatever you want to call it.
Of course, that takes nothing away from Kandice (a valedictorian) or Kourtney (a salutatorian) who, along with Jaci Gresham, cause they are all smarter than I am, I'll admit.
Why list all the names above? Wanted to show you that I truly did graduate with 45 people. You could count 47 names, but from what I gather, Brian Green & Drew King didn't really graduate. Samson High let them walk as a tribute to their combined 11 years from 9th to 12th grade. I'm not making this up.
Okay, back to Oak Mountain... they had, from what I counted, about 400 kids walking the stage to collect their diploma. I was supposed to meet up with my old friend Dana Mitchell, who was sitting with Jaci's family, but for whatever reason, the number I had for Dana was incorrect. So, when I got to the Arena downtown, I just sat next to one of the entrances where the b'ball players usually come out. Lucky for me, it was one of two places where graduates gathered to walk out. At 7pm, they began to play the great hip hop classic "Pomp & Circumstance", and the graduates began to walk out. I got to see Kandice & Jaci, as well as Leigh Pegg, Jenifer Lewis (a name I hadn't heard in a long time) and Shannon McGahan, who is now dating my bro-in-law Tyler--yes, she's a senior, he's a junior, the whole older woman thing is working for him.
Before we go on, and before you begin to think of me as some sleaze for being there only to see some 17 to 18 year old females graduate, know that all of these kids, except for Shannon, were on my drama team way back in the day, at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship). I've known most of these kids since they were in 6th or 7th grade... and now they are going to college. Yeesh.
To tell you how this worked, they all walked in, there was some "Inspirational Thoughts" from Erica Marie Mihelin (when she stepped up, I actually said out loud "Heaven forbid they pray". It got a few laughs from the immediate people around me). They had thankfully short speech from Steve Martin from the Shelby County Board of Education (what, Hoover High & Spain Park got the good speakers? They could have called Tyler Watts or Ruben Studdard? Those guys aren't doing anything), followed by a scholarship given out, then they recognized the Vals & Sals.
Ashley Corinne Brown, was the Head Valedictorian, but didn't seem at all happy or enthused to even be there. She gave a cliche filled speech filled with phrases like "Chapters ending" and "new beginnings" and so on... I'm sure through no fault of her own, because I'm sure it had to pass through several sets of eyes for approval.. I'm curious as to what she might have said if given free reign. Then, Shaw-Ming Lin, the Vice-Valedictorian, spoke... I'm sure he's a nice kid and all, but when he started talking, I could actually imagine him standing in front of Simon Cowell, dressed like Clay Aiken, saying "I AM the next American Idol", and launching into "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson.
I ended up sitting next to the parents of one Samantha Jane Funkhauser, who, besides the kids I knew, became my favorite name of the night. As they were walking through, the Funkhausers, myself and dozens of other parents who were fortunate enough to sit there, were standing next to the railing watching the graduates come in. When Samantha walked through, that led to Mrs. Funkhauser saying this:
"Samantha! Samantha! (looking at Mr. Funkhauser) Is she chewing gum? (looking at me) She's chewing gum! (looking then at Samantha, who was walking below us) Samantha Jane Funkhauser! You get that gum out of your mouth right now!! (looking back at me) I'm still her mother." For the record, Samantha immediately jumped out of line and spit her gum in a nearby garbage can before entering the big arena area.
So, some moments & thoughts that warrant mentioning, as I watched the proceedings--(besides the kids I just mentioned, plus Rachel Nicole Robinson, Annika Danielle Hindman & Emily Claire Arledge, I don't know any of these people)
--Oak Mountain Principal Randy Fuller was doing the name calling for the Vals & Sals, and ended up stumbling on only one name: Chandra Jayanthi Chakravarthi. When the diplomas were given out, he sailed through that name, plus a brutal stretch on the program that included Sotaro Sano, Eric David Schauwecker, Logan Alexander Schencker and Shraddhaben Rajendra Shastri.
--Of course, this success on the aforementioned brutal stretch was moments after he called out Michael Brooke Penn... who is actually Michelle Brooke Penn. You'd think that name he would master. Overconfidence. It happens. Especially if you are on the Crimson Tide football team playing Central Florida at Homecoming. Okay, okay, I had to reach for that one...
--They gave out diplomas to the Vals & Sals in another order besides alphabetical--wonder if it was class ranking? Anyway, then they started on the alphabetical list of kids, to which someone around me says quietly "now its time for the also-rans."
--They began with the normal "Please hold your applause until after all the names are called." This actually worked for giving the diplomas out to the Vals & Sals. Of course, this makes me feel sorry for them, and "also-rans" from Sarah Kathleen Alderson to Aaron Adarius Anderson... they got no love from the families, as I think everyone was unsure how much cheering would be tolerated. However, a kid named Nicholas David Antonio, who looked like he had Downs (no, I'm not making fun, I'm serious), walked across the stage and the place went bonkers. After that, chaos ensued.
--First it was subdued cheering, but as the Seniors went one by one, the cheering got louder and louder, and by the time we got to the L's, it was clear that no one was going to tell the audience to simmer down. So, some yutz in the upper deck started blasting this air horn, like you hear at sporting events. Everytime it went off, which was sporatically at first, everyone--me, the Seniors, the Funkhausers, the faculty on stage--jumped. Then, somewhere around Jackson Walker Moon, the air horn blasted long and loud. So here comes Principal Fuller, who says "Security, please get rid of that air horn." Then, he called out the section and row where the schlub was sitting. The whole place erupted in applause.
--Among the cheering were signs. When Gabrielle Grace Green got her ticket, her family held up big white signs with her name plastered across, each family member with a letter. Big family. Other families had signs too.
--Jonathan Wayne Guthrie was an evacuee from Hurricane Katrina--Mrs. Funkhauser told me so--which, along with doing a cartwheel on stage, got him a big applause. Then she added, "Samantha is supposed to go out with him later." Mr. Funkhauser smirked, "Yeah... I'm really happy about that." (Jaci later confimed that Mr. Funkhauser's hesitations were warranted)
--Poor Jacob Paul Gwarjanki had to follow young Master Guthrie, and I'm not sure anyone even knew he was up there.
--So, for a while, I was thinking that William Dorsey Ponder had to be the smartest kid in the building, even above Ashley Corinne Brown... I mean not only does he belong to the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Society, the Foriegn Language Honor Society and he's a Valedictorian, he's in the National Forensic League Honor Society! I'm thinking he's a genius in anatomy, and medical forensics and autopsies and everything else... imagine my let down when I see that the National Forensic Honor Society is really about leadership in youth. I watch too much CSI.
--By the way, when did they do away with the practice of having a class song? Is this only small school tradition? Ours was "Its So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday" by Boyz II Men, a great ballad about death. Comforting. Though I will say that "Freebird" was almost the winner... somehow, good taste won out. I wanted "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart, but everyone looked at me like I had two heads. I liked our song, though... it was better than the class before us, which had "Friends" by Michael W. Smith. Incidentally, the Class of 94 had "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men, a great ballad about... death.
--Kourtney told me later that when the Senior Singers got up to sing the alma mater, someone in the class actually yelled "Freebird!" Its good to know that redneck will never die. I'll bet out of 400 students, about 390 of them didn't know the alma mater (and probably 200 of them didn't know that OMHS had an alma mater)
With 400 graduates come 400 names... and I'd be remiss if I didn't give you some of my favorites:
- Samantha Jane Funkhauser, my favorite name of the night. If I were a Funkhauser, when I got to college, I would totally plaster on my dorm door, in big letters, "The Funk Hause". And it would be cool.
- My second favorite name of the night was Edward Dickson Hicks, VI. Thats right. His name is Eddie Dick Hicks the Sixth.
- Loved the name Poppy Leigh Tidwell. Poppy Leigh sounds so uppity, but there's nothing like remembering your redneck roots by being a Tidwell. Maybe she'll marry someone named Worthington and leave allf o this behind. Or she could marry the brother of Sarah Virginia Cox. (get it? poppycox? poppycock? ha!)
- You gotta know that when Joseph Edward Bobba was a child playing Star Wars with his friends, he always had an upper hand on being Boba Fett, if only because he played the "its my last name!" card constantly.
- Poor David Blane McPeake, Jr. His name was so simple and nice until that stupid magician got famous.
- Are we so preppy now that we can't just say "Cory" or even "Korey"? Do we really have to spell it "Khoury Lee Wood"?
- Na Lin. How can you not like someone with a name that my first name could encompasse?
- Heather Rebekah Hannah. Never, ever trust a chick with three first names. Especially if she's hot (I wouldn't know... I could only see her from afar)
- Annika Danielle Hindman used to come to our church (I used to call her Anakin, natch)... I know a guy who thinks she's the hottest thing ever, but would never admit it because it made him feel creepy... not anymore, though. She's a college kid now.
- The coolest potential nickname had to go to John Thomas Cubelic... being called "Cube"? There's not much cooler than that.
Alright, well, I'm off to Barnes & Noble to kill some time until I get tired enough to sleep (gotta be at work early). It was fun last night, and I give a big, hearty congrats to my girls Jaci, Kandice & Kourtney... I'm honored to have worked with you at church in drama, I'm humbled by the things God did using me, and I'm proud of the beautiful young Godly women you've become.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go change the batteries in my hearing aid and get my arthritis cream.