artist - musician - craftsman
and furniture maker
[April 25, 2021]
simply revland: senior year (spring 1971)
It was mid-morning in the Spring of 1971. Just another typical and unremarkable Tuesday or Thursday. While our fellow students were back in class at Fargo South High School, we were combing through the ball rack at The Bowler on South University Drive, a weekly required ritual meant to track down our perfectly-fit, black-colored, three-holed sphere. The bowling alley was usually empty around 10 am, so finding the same ball each visit was a simplistic task, as was selecting our choice of lane. By now, we were on a first name basis. It was a typical day.
We weren’t even very good bowlers, but it really didn’t matter. We were being a bit rebellious, and there was some thrill to that, I guess. By 11:30, we were settling into our pink vinyl upholstered two-seater booth at Pinky’s Pizza, next to Agassiz Junior High, for our weekly pepperoni pie, which we washed down with a can of Coca Cola. We were certainly proverbial creatures of habit.
My friend (I will call him Lee) and I enjoyed these Tuesdays and Thursdays, as by now, missing class really didn’t seem to matter. Neither of us was going to college, we each had Vietnam hanging over our heads, and the odds of us actually graduating with the rest of the class were slim to none. The future, if my memory serves me well, wasn’t so bright.
Both Lee and I worked in the afternoon; he, at King Leo’s drive-in, and I, at Dakota National Bank, in downtown Fargo. We each got a class credit for working, and crammed in our remaining required classes in the morning, most of which I never attended. I obviously was not your poster child for educational development and, with graduation on the door step, Cletis and Edna were in for a rude awakening. Report cards were coming out soon and their youngest child would not be graduating. Just another family embarrassment.
The last few weeks of May was when everyone was cramming for finals, taking their college entrance exams, and participating in senior “skip” day, a tradition the administration was not fond of. Senior "skip" day was the ultimate form of redundancy in my world, as pretty much every day was “skip” day. One thing I would not advise, however, was consuming whiskey in a van down by the river, then heading back to study hall. I had spent the better part of four years trying not to make a fool of myself. That abruptly ended in the form of a slam dunk during the 2 o’clock hour. [And my reference has nothing to do with basketball.]
Report cards came out right before Memorial Day ... appropriately so, as the confrontation with Cletis and Edna would be memorialized forever. Four credits short, 45 absences, and a GPA of .08. I remember Edna having to take a seat to absorb what she just read. And I, at the same time, wondered how I possibly could have achieved a .08, thinking the instructors were being more than generous. After doing the math, I realized it was my “C” average I earned in wood shop that brought me up to such an impressive level.
Needless to say, college entrance exams or the annual graduation ceremony rehearsal was not on the menu for me ... until Edna received a phone call. It was my class counselor, Russell Riveland (no relation), God rest his soul. “Why wasn’t Steve at the graduation rehearsal?” Russ asked, to which Edna swiftly reminded him of my remarkable scholastic achievements, and my feeble attempt to fervently graduate last in my class. “Do you really think we want him back here next year?” he replied. He encouraged her to be certain that I attend the ceremony.
It was late May, 1971, at the Fargo Civic Center. The place was packed, as being a Baby Boomer, it was one of the largest class of students on record. My parents and my brother, Paul, were conveniently situated in the top row (or the nose bleed section), not because they arrived late, but to avoid embarrassment as I was instructed to give them a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down,” referring to the realization that I was a proud recipient of a signed high school diploma. As the MC called out my name, I felt a bit sheepish, completely undeserving, as I tried not to trip over my oversized brown and gold robe, something I was fitted for that evening. The beauty of this moment, after four years of total failure, was that none of my fellow classmates even remotely knew that I was a complete and utter derelict. Everyone was smiling, as was I, when I discovered that my diploma was signed. I quickly gave my family a “thumbs up” signal, as the medical staff tried to revive Edna.
I’m kind of surprised that this blog post was this lengthy, as high school was a total non-event for me, which might lend itself to a lack of needed material to write about. I don’t recommend or endorse this type of behavior for any young individual today, as getting an education is imperative in today’s highly competitive world.
in closing ...
... some of you might surmise that this post is rather pathetic, or quite sad. But I assure you, don’t feel bad for me, as I actually bowled over 200 on numerous occasions. It was a typical day.