Recently, I was notified of my high school's 50 year reunion that is to be held this spring (March 28, 2009). As you can see from the above graphic my high school was Killeen High School in Killeen, Texas. The school mascot is/are the "Fighting Kangaroos". Granted it is not the lions or the tigers, but then a lot of people have those as their mascots and ours is rather unique. Today, the Killeen area has eight high schools. One of them is named after the Superintendent of KISD while I was in high school, Mr. C. E. Ellison. His daughter, Margaret, was one of my classmates. One of the other seven are still the Fightin' Kangaroos (Killeen) and is still at the same campus I attended 50 years ago.
The song you hear, if you get sound, is Glenn Miller's "In The Mood." It was our high school fight song.
To say I was surprised that it has been fifty years since we graduated from high school is to put it mildly. It seems only a few years ago, I went to the Tenth Reunion. It was great seeing everyone. I was surprised at two things then how: more healthy everyone looked having filled out into adults and how many of my classmates elected to stay in the Killeen area. The latter, no doubt, was encouraged by the fact that the Killeen area has grown from thirty some thousand residents when I was there to over one hundred thousand in population today. Most people appeared happy with their lives and there were few who felt it important to impress the others with their success.
There was something else that effected our graduating class. The fact that Killeen is right beside the very large U. S. Army Base - Fort Hood. Fort Hood advertises itself as "The Great Place." It is big, 339 square miles of big, with over 52,000 soldiers and 70,000 dependents on post these days. Probably 30% of the classrooms of KISD were populated with army brats from the fort. I was one of the army brats. This rather large incursion into the culture of a relatively small town was offset by the fact the U. S. Army subsidized a portion of the KISD budget (rather than build and maintain staff and schools on post). More importantly, the friendly and open nature of the native Texans toward the dependents of those who serve to defend the nation was a major factor in a harmonious relationship.
It generally was not spoken of out loud, but there was a separation between the students attending Killeen schools. The difference was between those who attended school from the families who lived on the base and those coming from the families in Killeen. One major factor for this difference, was when the army kids left school on the army busses back to the base. They went back to a separate community complete with its own churches, hospital, Post Office, banks, newspaper, libraries,stores, snack bars, theaters and gyms. The base had a teen center, a Little Theater group and countless other activity centers that tended to isolate the two groups of students away from one another when school was over. The City of Killeen did provide a teen center for its teens in my senior year at Killeen.
Another differentiating factor was the travel the army brats had generally accrued through their service member's career. Many army students had been to several countries not to mention more than a few states, while the Killeen students were much more limited in their travel experiences. This tended to bond the army brats along with the military experience and terminology that they all shared. Another factor, somewhat tied to the travel issue, was that neither Killeen, nor Fort Hood, was home to most if not all of the army kids. Everyone was from somewhere else. While at Fort Hood, they were between their last station and their next one.
I never saw or felt any discrimination from the city students. In fact, the opposite is true, as demonstrated by the fact that I was elected Student Council President in my senior year and was sent to Boy's State by the school (the American Legion Boys State program is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for high school students. It is a participatory program where each participant becomes a part of the operation of his local, county and state government. Individual high schools nominate participants who are selected by the American Legion after an interview focusing on leadership qualities). But I was party more than once to city parents and even KISD personnel complaining about army kids being nominated for or winning the various titles available in school such as Prom Queen, Most Popular, etc. Their position was that a lot of the army kids will be in a different school the next year. Most of the army kids will graduate from a high school away from Killeen. They felt the titles would not mean as much to them as it would to the kids born and raised in Killeen. From what I could tell, the students voted their hearts free of any such restrictions and many army students were elected to positions and titles of honor.
At that Ten Year Reunion I noted something from the association with Fort Hood that reached into many of my classmates lives, both army brats and the city people - the Vietnam War. Soldiers at Fort Hood often married people from Killeen. When their service time was over, many settled in the area. Likewise, older service people seeing the boom that was Killeen in the 60s, 70s and 80s retired and settled in the Killeen area so as to enjoy the best of both worlds,- retired military privileges on post and the boom in growth and the jobs in Killeen and the area. The Vietnam War seriously changed many of their lives with husbands, uncles, sons, daughters, cousins, grand kids or in-laws killed or wounded. We have had three more wars since then including, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. So, I am expecting many of my classmate's families will have had their lives altered by one or more of them.
I am looking forward to attending the ROO union, as the planning committee has termed it. It will be fun to catch up on those who are there, and those who are not - through others. My classmates will all be my age, or within one year of my own age, and it will be interesting to see how each of us has fared against life, nature and old age.
High school is a most shaping experience; it was important in our development and played its part in the evolution of our lives. I am looking forward to seeing everyone I can remember and those who I don't (hopefully they will remind me).
It will be fun to sit down and have a brew with another Roo or two, and talk of the old days when we were new, before we really knew ....... anything - but thought that we did.
Now, we are older and wiser, some of us with kids and grandkids and all of us with some history under our belts. But, we will always have, as a common bond, our days in the Fifties and our good and bad times at Killeen High. I remember them as mostly good times with good people, and that includes our teachers and administrators.
The following is based on one of those things sent around the internet. Usually, I think they are too schmaltzy, but when I read it recently, after I learned of the ROO union, I thought of us, the Class of 1959, and modified it a bit:
We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.
As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because,
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms........
WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
Our generations produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
YOU, Class of 1959, are among the survivors - CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good. While you are at it, forward it to your kids - so they will know how brave (and lucky) we were.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Roo Union, so there is no follow up as promised - perhaps another time..
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