High School Graduation: Times Past

Was high school graduation a big event for you or did it pass unnoticed. As a city baby boomer high school graduation was not an event that my school, at least, made much of a fuss about. I believe that this may have well have changed with different generations and certainly by geography. I know from the American television shows (Gidget, Happy Days and numerous movies) that in the States high school graduation was quite different to what mine was.

Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and  your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking. Looking forward to your memories.

Baby Boomer  City (Sydney) Australia

I was at school in the days when predominantly only those going on to university stayed to sit the exams to obtain a higher school certificate. Others going into a trade left at the end of the school certificate (then 4th year high school). Nothing was done to celebrate those leaving at that time. I was going nursing and wanted to leave at this time but my parents insisted (thank you parents) that I sit the higher school certificate prior to leaving and at that time they controlled what I did.

Two years later, in the build up to leaving school our heads were well and truly to the grindstone. We had our higher school certificate exams coming up and these were crucial to your future direction. They would determine what courses you could study at university. Although I didn’t need it for my career path the pressure was still there. No-one wants to do badly. However, we did start to be a little less restrained in our senior playground.

074 Last days at school 6th form SGHS 197303

© irene waters 2018

and no-one turned an eye at me turning up with a camera and recording our classroom and study area.

076 last days in the classroom

© irene waters 2018

075 last school days

© irene waters 2018

Our school year ended a few weeks prior to the start of the exams and this was our official end of school. The school itself did nothing to celebrate this ending hard to call it graduation) but we did have permission on the very last day to Muck Up.

I don’t know whether Muck up day still exists – I think it may have been replaced with schoolies week which is altogether a different kettle of fish.  On muck up day we would arrive at school for the first time not dressed in uniform prepared to play up. We had waterfights, interrupted classes in the lower grades, kidnapped teachers, put toilet paper everywhere, stole the gardeners wheel barrows and took it in turns to be wheeled around the school. Anything went except violent behaviour, foul language and damage to property. The last thing anyone wanted was to be expelled before the exams. Neighbouring boys schools came to join in the fun and steal female students. None of us had boyfriends at this time and to us this was exciting in the extreme. Even more so when my best friend met a boy that she went out with for a short while.

077 muck up day

© irene waters 2018

077 muck up day (1)

© irene waters 2018

Looking at photos often brings back memories and I was reminded that the old girls union did throw a lunch for us after the exams were over.

© irene waters 2018

And that was our graduation. What do you remember about your graduation or your childrens?  I’m looking forward to reading  your memories…….


Baby boomer Australian City


Baby Boomer (tail end) Suburbia New Jersey (USA)


Baby Boomer Central State School New York State

Remembering High School Graduation

Baby Boomer U.K. Sommerset

Sixty Seconds’ Worth Of Distance Run

Baby Buster USA small town


Gen X Rural USA

Reflection on Graduations

MTV (Bommerang Generation)  Virginia USA


About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
This entry was posted in Historical Perspective, Memoir, Past Challenge, photography, Times Past and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to High School Graduation: Times Past

  1. calmkate says:

    lol my memories are very similar except that I went to a co-ed school so many of the lads and ladies I went through with had been in school together for thirteen years, so the boys were more like brothers. And I remember putting a ‘for sale’ sign on one teachers car, or was it the school? Kinda glad we missed the schoolies week thing, sounds too toxic for me!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I graduated from a regional high school that served over a half dozen small towns. The bus ride was over an hour, same back roads every day.
    Those of us that stayed the course got the whole cap and gown treatment, a ceremonial send off. The best thing was that alumni from that school and the old academy that preceded it have a gathering in the elementary school gym. It is done in five year cycles but my graduation coincided with my mother’s 25th reunion and my great grandmother’s 65th. The generations are spread out across the gym me at one end with the newly released, my great grandmother at the other end in her dwindling group, my mother and other relatives and the townspeople I have always known in the middle.

    Liked by 3 people

    • We don’t get the cap and gown until university level. I don’t think that has changed. That alumni dinner sounds fantastic to have your three generations there. Absolutely special. The same applies here to schools in country towns but there wouldn’t be too many (if any) 3 generation. Old girls reunions are not that well attended here although my mother attended hers until she moved to Qld in 2012. I have never been to one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. JoHanna Massey says:

    Just a beautifully executed photo/essay. The photos are just the best. The comments of others high school graduation memories are interesting. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Johanna. I have taken snaps all my life and it is lovely to look back at a photo record. Often, as it did on this occasion, they bring back memories of events otherwise forgotten. With Times Past I enjoy seeing the generational and geographical differences in our experiences. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was such a fun post to read, Irene. You were so smart to be there with your camera. There are no photos of me at high school graduation.

    High school graduation in the States is indeed a very different affair, and getting to be more so over the years. Lots of parties and celebrations. We want all our kids to graduate high school, even if these are the final education years for them, as they’ll have a hard time advancing into any profession except the lowest service and labor industries without it.

    I had few friends in high school and my parents were unimpressed with my achievements. I’d been a very decent student but they had their shining eyes on my two younger siblings. I couldn’t even put my hand on my HS diploma today, nor on my college diploma for that matter.

    I tell young people to get as much education as they can before they start making decisions that could alter or limit them in future. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t complete my master’s degree, though I really tried hard.

    Baby boomer here, but I think other US BB HS grads will have a very different story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My brother and I both became hooked on photography due to my maternal grandfather. It was, however, too expensive to be as snap happy as I am these days and I doubt the teachers would have tolerated me bringing a camera to school under normal circumstances but I am glad that I did get some of our final days.
      I agree with you that these days children need to be encouraged to study as long as possible. In Australia jobs are rationed by education and even those that hold the stop go signs for roadworks have to have school leaving certificates and have done further education at a technical college to qualify for a job that is common sense and to my mind boring.
      I knew that graduation from high school was a big thing in the States but predominantly from television. Thanks for joining in.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Graduations | Musings of a Retiring Person

  6. macmsue says:

    Again it’s interesting to read others’ memories of graduations. I think, Irene, you had far more fun than I did at Secondary School. I’ve posted my memories here: https://wp.me/p4d8rD-l6

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Annecdotist says:

    Love those photos, Irene. Bet you’re glad you took – and kept – them. We didn’t graduate until university, just slipped away after the exams if my memory serves me right. But having a school reunion later this year so I can check out if others think differently.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I believe that we followed in the English footsteps by not making a big deal of it – also until university.The gown and mortar board held a significance that it seems to lose when they are worn for celebrating school endings. We, I believe, are starting to go the way of the U.S.

      Liked by 1 person

      • don’t know what happened there. Published before I had finished. Yes I am glad I took some photos. I didn’t take as many in those days due to the cost of development but they are nice to look back on, particularly as some of my best friends at school are no longer with us.
        Thanks for commenting Anne. Would be interesting if others have different memories although I suspect not.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Charli Mills says:

    Even thinking about commenting makes my blood pressure rise. Bad time, bad memories for me. However, I witnessed the extravagance that is high school graduation in the US with my kids. They each pushed back in their own way, which also made me happy to know they did not succumb to suburban conformity, and they all focused on college and adventure next. I’ll pick around their graduations for a story — one didn’t “walk” which created a huge uproar; another walked wearing nothing under her gown; another accidentally set our house on fire during the neighbor’s graduation party. I love my kids! Those are actually good memories! You will need to consider any response from me as highly a-typical to generation and location. But I’ll try to at least make it entertaining.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. My grandchildren have a graduation ceremony when they leave each level of schooling – beginning with kindy. I was somewhat gobsmacked about kindy, but the proud look on their faces with the scrolled document is priceless.

    I took my box brownie to High School once, and I love the photos of my friends messing about. I didn’t take any in class though. And gosh, weren’t we a fashionable lot in those days before designer gear. Adorable photos.

    I was one of those who slipped away at the end of form four – but not without notice – which I may or may not write about. I’ve a dismal track record of following through, Irene!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kindergarten? That is hard to believe but I guess if the kids get a kick out of it then you could argue that it is worth it. I know my nephew attending a Swiss primary school has celebrations at the end of each year to celebrate going up a grade. So perhaps it is as much European as American our recent graduating at kindy level.
      I’d love to see those photos Christine. They tell so much about the times and bring back such memories. Fashion plates – I’m laughing at that.
      If you get around to writing it Christine would love to read it, even if two years hence. Don’t worry about your track record. You can only do what you can do and it is just nice to see you when I do.

      Liked by 1 person

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  13. julespaige says:

    Unless your parents could afford to do so most of us went to co-ed public schools from k-12
    there is sometimes a difference in the split as to elementary school Kindergarten – 5th grade then Middle School 6-8th grade and High School 9-12. There is a choice of Jr College only two years.
    I got that type of Associates Degree. Or the 4 year route of traditional college (or more if you are a perpetual student or studying for a Doctorate or Masters).

    The pomp and circumstance starts early with party for even pre-school classes. Just too much I think. And then maybe some assemblies for awards for Elementary and Jr. High completion. But there was Cap and Gown for High School, Jr. College and I can only guess the same for higher learning in the States.

    I moved around too much – but I did end up staying in the same High School for 4 years and then graduated 2 year college. I think every school has their own special muck up or silly days. But maybe not as you described them. Some schools even (with the aid of the Parents and Teachers Organization or PTO help to provide Senior Class trips. My sister got to go to someplace fancy maybe even out of state for at least an over night maybe even two…but since they didn’t behave … my Senior Class was a day trip ending with a fancy dinner.

    My own High School experience wasn’t the greatest and I’ve never been to a High School reunion.
    I knew a few other gals who had other best friends long before I ever came into their lives. Out of those three – one was a Bridesmaid at my own wedding. But I wasn’t even invited to any of their weddings much less be a member of their bridal parties. I’ll live 😉

    I like being a genuine Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Liked by 3 people

    • We only get the cap and gown for university which sounds as though it is the equivalent of your 4 year traditional college. We follow you in so many things though it may have changed since I went to school.
      It sounds as though your graduations were a reward for good behaviour or rather a punishment for bad behaviour.
      I think you either keep up with friends at school or you don’t. I feel a little sadness that you weren’t even invited to their weddings. I had a best friend at school who I would go as far as to say we were soul mates. Our lives seemed to mirror each others although we did never see each other as we lived at other ends of the world. She is the only person I have been a good correspondent with. I didn’t attend her wedding nor she mine (and we didn’t invite each other). Sadly she has passed on from ovarian cancer but as in life I still feel she is there. Apart from her I had two other friends but we lost contact as soon as school finished.
      I agree – it is nice bing a genuine Buckaroo at the ranch and I’ve met some wonderful like-minded people through it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • julespaige says:

        May your dear friends memories be for blessings. I have a couple of cousins that it doesn’t seem to matter how much time passes.

        However differing lives in different areas makes everyday contact harder. And I don’t have FB. I think that I offended one relative I have – because I refuse to get an account and their lives are plastered all over FB. They have pretty much stopped communicating with me – I have to think – their loss. I can only worry about the nice people in this life. And Carrot Ranch has plenty of them 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • I have FB but I don’t use it much but do find it is a way I keep up with people that otherwise I would have no contact. It does impact your privacy though.

        Liked by 3 people

      • julespaige says:

        A few years back ‘The People’ did not speak up and from what I read FB offers zero privacy. Top that with more than 75% of what is on FB shouldn’t be there….
        I’m going to avoid it as long as humanly possible.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Yes I think it has little privacy but so far so good but I can understand your reluctance.

        Liked by 3 people

  14. Pete says:

    Irene, I really enjoyed your post and wonderful pictures to go with. Here’s mine. It was a learning experience to say the least! It’s a good thing we grow up. I tried to play off of your Muck Days as well!


    Liked by 3 people

  15. susansleggs says:

    Baby Boomer, rural central school in western New York state, graduation 1971

    A central school in the sates means it services multiple towns. I attended K – 12 in the same sprawling building with essentially the same 60 students all 13 years. There was a Catholic school that fed us about ten students at the start of seventh grade. We not only knew each other, we knew the whole family and pets too.

    Up until my junior year I was one of the popular kids and included in their activities. My mother had gotten sick during my freshman year and my grades fell so my senior year I was in classes with students I knew, but had never been close with. Mom died November of my senior year and that distanced me further from the “crowd.” I recently talked to a high school classmate, first time in 45 years, and she told me, “We didn’t know what to say, so we didn’t talk to you.” It’s nice to know, finally, it wasn’t all me. I’m really glad there are now grief counselors and people talk about death and it’s repercussions.

    Graduation itself was cap and gown with Sunday best underneath. Each student was limited to five tickets because of the size of the auditorium. People with large families had a problem with that. My father, who until my mother’s death had rarely attended anything to do with school, was there, along with my Aunt, my older sister and her boyfriend, and my boyfriend. Dad reached in his suit pocket and pulled out his reading glasses that we had been searching the house for on a daily basis. We had a good laugh, the last time he had worn his suit was at mother’s funeral. He probably said something like, “Guess I should dress more often.”

    I received a $200.00 award for having the highest average of a student entering a near-by two year college. A couple of my fellow male students kidded me they would have done more homework if they had known there was money to be had. It felt good to be ahead of them for once.

    My guests and I went back to my aunts to cut a celebratory cake and that was that.

    Liked by 5 people

  16. Pingback: Remembering High School Graduation – Susan Sleggs

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  19. Hello Irene, I love this idea. It inspired me to dig out the few family photographs I have and I wrote this post: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/carrotranch-times-past-high-school-graduation/. I loved seeing your photographs and reading about your high school times – so interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Hi Irene, and how very much I enjoyed reading your Time’s Past Graduation post – I feel like coming home to an ‘old’ friend reading you again here. It makes me nostalgic for my blogging days when I was able to participate and keep things flowing at the Summerhouse. I am so glad you are still here and I can visit you! So much seems to have changed in my world and I’m trying hard to get back to some kind of ‘normal’. I commented over at the Ranch on your post and am so much looking forward to your memoir series. Is it too late for me to post on my blog for your prompt and link here? My experience is similar to yours – sans Muck Up day! – so when I experience my son’s high school graduation in California, it was a huge eye opener! As always, love your photos. Sadly, I don’t have any from my high school days, but plenty from the kids! If still in time and hopefully okay with you, I plan to post by the end of the week 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  21. TanGental says:

    Not a very British thing, back in the 1970s. Different now as both my kids had their balls at the end of their schooling and their degrees. In so far as we had anything it was to hand out the certificates of our exam achievements, all very staid and dull. I do remember a final year disco which was memorable, if that’s the word for a live band – Hawkwind – who had a small degree of fame later with Silver Machine but at the time were unmitigated crap. I think, in many ways, it was good we had no ball because I would have been terrified to ask anyone to come as my guest – had that been the expectation – or to ask them to dance on the night.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I believe we followed the British example Geoff with no celebration of ending but only of achievement, which of course not everybody did so it was a non event. You were lucky you had a disco even if the band was crap. The thought of dancing instilled males with terror so they just didn’t happen. Thanks for your memories.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Pingback: Sixty Seconds’ Worth Of Distance Run | A View From My Summerhouse

  23. Hi again Irene, and here I am barely scraping in by January’s end with my Times Past post! Phew…it only took me a week to get it out there, ridiculous. The post I began with is nothing like the one I ended up with. I hope you don’t mind that I made it into my first post of the year, but I always love how your prompts tie in with the posts I enjoy writing at the Summerhouse. It feels like old times, like I’m getting myself back on track again after a very long time away. Hope you enjoy…you won’t be surprised that like Geoff’s and your experiences, there was absolutely no celebration at all in my day! Here’s the link, thanks so much for your patience Irene ❤ https://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2018/01/31/sixty-seconds-worth-of-distance-run/

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Liz H says:

    Boomer from the Midwest, USA. graduated in the late 1970’s. There are faint flickers of Senior Skip Day, a month-long senior project/self-designed internship where I volunteered at the local Children’s Hospital, and over-planned everything else, including adding on singing background for a fellow senior who had composed and performed a number of songs for a school concert (and the teacher-evaluator who threatened to fail me because I didn’t finish sewing my white graduation dress–thanks to teacher-eval Leslie G. for calling him on his trollish b.s.!), a senior prom that will make a great comedic short story one day, our class (size=73) in graduation white dresses for girls, and blue jackets and ties for the boys, and a smaller celebration in the hospital room of one of our clique of girls, who had just been operated on for a cancerous tumor in her neck.
    And now I want to sail away from these memories because most of the last couple years of high school and many of the years following were overshadowed by a lot of pain and loss, and those stories are my friends’ stories, not mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Liz it sounds as though the period leading to graduation was the start of a very sad and hard time for you and others around you. The two stories contrast and the white dresses and blue jackets which probably should be the focus of the time become meaningless in the face of the tragedy that is happening. Thank you for sharing these painful memories. You have touched on an important part of memoir – we may be telling our story but we are also telling the story of others. We have to be comfortable doing this. Thanks again for joining in. Hugs Irene

      Liked by 1 person

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