Thursday, January 13, 2011

HNT - Grade 13 Lounge

A friend I hadn't seen in many years contacted me recently after discovering my blog.

Apparently, I have the same zany sense of humour I had back in high school. (That's a relief to hear because I thought I was becoming a grumpy old man).

For kicks, she emailed a couple of pictures she had taken of me. They were both taken in our "Grade 13 Lounge" -- yes, we were the last official "Grade 13" class in Ontario. This was back in 1988. What used to be known as Grade 13 morphed into "OAC" the following year -- that, too is now gone, and instead of folks in high school getting the chance at that fifth year to try to figure out all their post-secondary options, they're forced to make that decision before the end of 4 years.

I valued Grade 13 not for the additional year of learning, but for the chance to sort a few things out and attempt to become better prepared for post-secondary life. At the age of 17/18 we really needed that extra year to try to find out what we wanted to do next.

But back to the "Grade 13 Lounge" at Levack District High School. This was a small room (perhaps 15 feet X 15 feet) located in a corner of the cafeteria. The room was usually filled with borrowed/thrown out furniture nobody in their right minds would normally sit in and gave the grade 13's their own special little "hang-out" separate from the rest of the school.  It was like a little oasis or place to escape -- I remember that from Grade 9 through 12 the "Grade 13 Lounge" was a seemingly magical place that one day we would get to enter. There was something special about being allowed in to it once you got to that grade. (Perhaps like the key to the executive bathroom)

Between classes it was the easy place to find almost anyone in Grade 13. We'd spend time there just hanging out, chatting, joking around, worrying about the future, gossiping, hiding from the rest of the school, sleeping and sometimes even studying.

In any case, here are a couple of shots of me taken in the Grade 13 Lounge back in 1987/88.

In this first one you can clearly see Steve, me, Lisa and Penny.

I seem to have my eyes closed in that shot, although I suspect, based on the hardcover and sheet of paper on my lap and the pen in my hand, that I was composing something -- maybe working on a homework assignment, or perhaps more likely writing a story about a middle aged man who was reflecting back on his high school years.

The second shot shows me wearing a lovely brown bathrobe and pajamas as I was entering the lounge. Lisa is also in this shot, as is a Top Gun movie poster and Pizza Pizza box.

No, we didn't take our "sleep time" in the Grade 13 Lounge that seriously. This photo must have been taken during one of our high school's theme dress-up days. If I'm guessing correctly, I'd say it was "pajama day" -- and I'm only guessing that because our "Dress Like Your Favourite Father of Conferation Day" didn't get all that many participants.

Interesting that I have my eyes closed for that shot, too.

Is this a reflection of reality, how, at that age, my eyes were closed to much of what was going on in the world around me, so consumed by my personal identity, by the things pertaining to me personally, that I just couldn't see? Could this be a reflection that, like Hamlet, I was just not seeing the "things beyond heaven and earth" that my pal Horatio was trying to inform me about?

Or was it merely that I had really bad timing and blinked at the same moment the photo was being snapped?

In any case, there's a small insight into that special place we called the "Grade 13 Lounge" and back to a time when I had a full head of hair and seemed to walk around with my eyes closed.

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