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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, August 5, 2009 • Posted August 5, 2009

Precious Memories…

Column #327 for Release Saturday, August 1, or Later

Back in the day, students in their final year at most smaller high schools in Texas looked forward to their “senior trips” as capstones of their educational pilgrimage.

They typically raised the funds, with the final figure dictating the type and length of trip, destination and mode of travel. Some have flown to foreign destinations, living it up in four-star hotels.

Our senior trip was made to the Texas Gulf Coast in a “yellow dog” school bus, with our superintendent at the steering wheel. At Corpus Christi, we ran into another bunch of seniors whose fund-raising must have greatly outpaced ours. They bragged about traveling in a “chartered bus.” “Chartered bus” didn’t compute with us; in fact, we joked about how sad it was that they didn’t have a “yellow dog” for their trip. The laughing stopped, though, when we saw their conveyance. It wasn’t painted yellow, and it wasn’t a school bus. It was a regular highway bus!...

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As we muddle through the current recession, we hear about conservation, cut-backs, doing more with less, etc. Yes, the lowered bar applies to school programs, too—including proms. Some of the incoming seniors are in a snit that their end-of-school prom may NOT be in a fancy hotel three counties away, and leasing limousines may be out of the question. In fact, it could be at the armory or gymnasium, and they may have to ride in their own cars!

This may be the time for hand-me-down prom dresses, scaled down corsages, two-fork dinners and pre-recorded music.

It’s hard for me to share their pain. We had no prom; it was what was called a junior-senior banquet instead. There was no dancing; we played board games instead. With no card-playing or dancing on the premises, the likelihood of our receiving diplomas a few days later was enhanced. A wrong step (dancing or cards) could result in serious consequences.

Our parents did the catering, I guess you’d say. They brought covered dishes. Nobody could even spell “corsage,” and the only spiffing-up were the new strings in our tennis shoes….

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This to say that the seniors at Star High School (one of the state’s tiniest districts on Highway 84 between Brownwood and Waco) showed mature judgment when they started fund-raising for their senior trip last fall. Given that the recession was yet up ahead, or so we thought, in retrospect, they were visionaries.

The seniors—all seven of them—sold concessions at home football and basketball games. They had a couple of bake sales on top of that, and the final tally was $6,000.

Early on, they realized that a record sum meant they could go far and stay in fancy digs. However, they decided on making memories they could touch, appreciate and use long after senior trips are but distant memories. They decided on laptop computers for each senior, and they had money left. Each graduate also pocketed $150….

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They utilize many approaches to “make do” at the rural school that had an average enrollment of 62 last year. Personnel there wear many hats, and one of the teachers wore a helmet!

Well, that’s not quite true, but Ladonna Feist, an elementary school teacher, did wear a whistle around her neck every afternoon for football practice, and her charges—members of the football team—wore helmets. She was on the sideline for the games, too, because she was an assistant football coach!

The team, by the way, had a 11-1 record, losing only its final game in the quarter-finals of the play-offs in six-man competition. And the Tigers’ only loss was on a controversial play. Little wonder that concession sales were so good!...

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For Superintendent Barbara Marchbanks, her work there guarantees long work days.

Gearing up for her third year at Star, she was a principal before promotion to superintendent a year ago.

Oh, I didn’t mention that she has a commute. She lives 98 miles away in Cleburne. She and her son, Matthew, who will be a 7th grader this fall, leave early and get home late every school day. Their commute covers about 1,000 miles weekly.

“He and I are in the car about 20 hours each week, but we have some good mother/son talks, and I’m able to mentally organize—and analyze—my day,” Marchbanks explained. This arrangement wouldn’t compute for most people, but for her, it is a “matter of the heart.” It’s hard to argue that….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. Send inquiries and comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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