We’re the best under the sun,
Senior Class of ’81!
That was my senior class cheer, as it were. We yelled it at pep rallies, on bus trips and just whenever the occasion arose for us to scream loudly (there were lots of those). There were several variations on the theme.
Our class colors were kelly green and navy (this was the ’80s, think preppy). Our class flower was the yellow rose.
The year was 1981.
• Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales.
• Ronald Reagan was president.
• The introduction of the first Frequent Flyer Miles AAdvantage was made by American Airlines.
• Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to become the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The first American test-tube baby was born.
• Iran released 52 American hostages who had been held for 444 days.
• Muhammad Ali finally retired with a career record of 55 wins and 5 defeats.
• Pope John Paul II was shot, but not killed.
• DeLorean cars made their debut. (Talk about Back to the Future!)
• NASA launched the very first Space Shuttle mission.
• Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were born.
• Scientists identified AIDS.
• IBM launched its first PC which used Microsoft Software MS DOS.
• The term INTERNET was first mentioned.
• Post It Notes were invented.
And our Amory High School class became known for ruining graduation for every graduating class thereafter.
At the time, graduation was traditionally held on the football field, but in case of inclement weather was moved indoors to the non-air conditioned gymnasium, which greatly limited seating and patience.
We practiced that morning outdoors, but as ceremony time grew nigh, the clouds and thunderheads rolled in as they do in the spring. My mother, who was assistant to the principal at the time, heavily suggested they leave graduation outside. “Do not move it indoors,” she said.
They moved it indoors.
It rained for a bit during late afternoon and then stopped, leaving everything steamy. But graduation chairs were already set up on the hardwood floor of the gym. Graduation would take place indoors.
The graduation ceremony went as well as could be expected when you’ve got family and friends in their Sunday best packed into an un-air conditioned gym with the big fans turned off so people could hear.
All went well. We stood at the end to sing the alma mater and switch our tassels to the “graduate” side before marching out. And that’s when all hell broke loose.
Some classmates on the back row or two (who shall remain nameless), decided to be cute, funny, mindless, dumb and stupid and promptly lit what seemed to be an endless pack of firecrackers. And the stampede by graduates to get out of the gym started. Audience members just stood with their mouths open.
It’s truly a miracle no one was trampled. Graduates, on an adrenaline high, returned to the library where we handed over caps and gowns and went on our merry way.
After graduation that night, we went home, changed clothes and headed to Black Cat Bottom (the river), where the Amory Panthers roam as well as a few million mosquitos.
As I think back on that now, and how big the snakes probably were hiding in the overgrown undergrowth, I cringe. But back then, we were fearless. With diplomas in hand we were ready to take on the world or at least our side of Monroe County.
The next day the fire marshal started an investigation into the incident. Newly-graduated AHS alums were called in and things could have gotten really ugly. I’m not sure what, if anything, occurred other than some stiff reprimands. We already had diplomas in hand, what were they going to do, sit us back in a biology or algebra class?
Since that time, graduation has been held on the football field. If it rains, then there’s a rain date and the ceremony continues to get pushed back until sunny skies reign overhead.
We were at our best under the sun, but we had our moments when it was raining.
We were the class on the run.
Senior Class of ’81!
Beth Bunch is managing editor of The Hattiesburg Post, Petal News, Lamar Time and Signature Magazine. She’s only attended one class reunion in the last 37 years. Don’t ask!