My mom’s newspaper article: Graduation Memories

Walk with Me  (Priscilla Wieck)

The past week, Connie and I have been entertaining ourselves on our evening walks by looking up to find  tulip poplar trees in town. I say looking up because the small  green/yellow/ orange blossoms that distinguish the trees in the late spring are easy to miss because the trees are dense and huge. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have lived across the street from a majestic specimen for years and am just now discovering it. The early residents of Marshall must have valued these trees as there are so many mature ones around town. Some must be 100 to 200 years old. I hope future city mothers and fathers will continue to preserve them—they deserve our admiration for their endurance and longevity.They also provide much needed shade in the summer. Go poplars!

American tulip poplar trees often grow to the height of 70-100 feet and have a dense spreading branch structure featuring 4 lobed leaves. Blossoms do not develop until the tree is 15 to 20 years old and bloom only on branch tips where the sun reaches. Since the trees are so tall maybe that is why it is easy to miss their yearly spring flowering. Their fine grained wood is used often for veneers over other hard woods in furniture making. Indians named it canoe wood as their massive trunks were used for –what else—canoes! The season for their flowers is almost over so don’t forget to look up!

Graduation Memories

I have been thinking lately about high school graduates and the ceremonies and celebrations that have changed or been postponed because of the onset of the virus.  We can all remember what an exciting time our graduations were. For this years’ seniors, many of the expected events are not able to be held .  The Marshall High School seniors I have talked to  appear to be handling these changes well but it must be a disappointing time for them.  If there is a silver lining in all of these virus constraints it is that they will have plenty of stories to tell to their children and grandchildren. They have become  members of a very special Class of 2020; one like no other before and, hopefully, never after.  What tales they can tell at those class reunions yet to come!

As a teacher, I have attended a multitude of Marshall High School graduations.  The ones that stand out in my memory have to do with the weather.  In the mid 1960’s, there was a record breaking cold spell in late May.  What a sight we teachers must have been sitting behind the graduates  clad in our wool dresses and winter coats.  I especially remember that business teacher Mildred Hutchen’s final touch to her fashionable ensemble was a little fur pillbox hat.  Those were the days!

The ever variable late May weather gifted us with a rain and hail storm on the night of Paul’s (my son)  graduation in 1974.   None of us could leave the gymnasium so almost 300 of us  crowded into the gym lobby to await the end of the storm. Then the electricity failed. After a half hour or so, it became a little hot and sticky and just a tad  scary in that crowded space.  Many of us  drove home through flooded  streets to find our basements in the same condition.   Lots of after graduation events  were postponed that night.

My most personal high school graduation memory its that of my own in 1951. My small class of young women was the final all girls’ graduating class at Francis Shimer Academy in Mt. Carroll in northern Illinois. The school was in the process of  transitioning into a co-ed college from a women’s academy. Our class was the last to follow the 100-year-old tradition of standing on the library steps in cap and gown to sing the school song. I still remember the feeling of pride and unity we all shared at that moment. The words to that song are still with me. It begins:  “Remember the times you had here, Remember when you’re away” and ends with “And don’t forget to come back someday.”

The last graduating class of women from Shimer Academy in 1951. Can you find me, Priscilla? (Hint:  Second row, to the right.)

Honoring the Class of 2020

Those words sung  by high school seniors so long ago still have meaning for the graduates of today.  They will surely remember this most unusual time of their graduation, and when they hold their class reunions, they will recount to each other over and over stories of  the “year of the virus”; stories that will become sweeter with each retelling.

They are and will always be members of a very special class, the Class of 2020. I hope they are feeling that same sense of pride and unity that I felt those many years ago.  May the years to come be good to them as they begin new adventures in life.

Here’s some words of advice: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”–Betty Reese


About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
This entry was posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Class of 2020, Illinois, Smalltown American Life. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My mom’s newspaper article: Graduation Memories

  1. Kate says:

    Priscilla. I will watch for tulip trees in the future. The lawn photos of Marshall HS graduates is wonderful… what small town America does right! Wow, next year will be 70 years since your graduation….given our confinement has passed….will your Class father to share memories?

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