Native Writes: Classes of AHS

As I watched the Alamosa High School Class of 2019 walk into the gym May 25, my mind — and heart — went back to May 1961.

Ours was the 67th class to graduate, though our yearbook had a gold cover signifying its history as the 50th El Alarado to be produced. This year’s yearbook is beautiful, yet different.

The first high school classes went to school in various locations until a new high school was built on Main Street. That one burned in the early 1920s and another was built, lasting well into the 1990s when a new high school was built, and middle school students moved into the old high school.

Many graduates feel a tug on the heartstrings when they drive past the Safeway store and remember the building that was there. The carved murals on the store are from the long-gone AHS.

I have bricks from the first building and the last, retrieved during demolition of the school, a reminder that the first school burned, but Alamosa High rose again like the Phoenix from the rubble.

Attending high school isn’t easy. National politics, local economy and (sigh) the opposite sex draw the mind away from the rigors of classwork.

The Class of 1961 had one colored cord to wear and that was for what Principal James P. Hawkins called his “honor corps,” students who had consistently maintained an excellent grade point average.

Ours was the first year for the cord and corps, and we “honored” Mr. Hawkins by tossing him into the river during our senior “sneak” picnic.

After commencement, a boy who claimed to have “squeaked through” wanted to look at my diploma. He draped my cord around his neck.

The diplomas were the same. We all were headed out into the world.

There were no messages on our mortarboards. Boys wore maroon and girls wore white, with keepsake tassels. That hasn’t changed, though black is considered an alternate school color.

All 1961 graduates agreed on what would be worn under the gowns and what color shoes we would wear, but that changed. One fellow this year opted for comfort and wore flip-flops.

The year, the diplomas were alike, but many students wore several cords signifying high school activities.

The fresh, smiling faces of the young students were the same.

In 2021, our class will celebrate its 60th anniversary. We are growing old, folks! We have lost members to death and some of our favorite teachers have joined the Mean Moose section of the hereafter.

Politically and economically, the world is different. Members of the Class of 2019 who had chosen to enter the armed forces were honored. For some AHS grads back in the ‘60s, it wasn’t a choice; it was the draft.

The United States had just finished in Korea and it appeared things were heating up in Southeast Asia. In 1961, the cold war reared its head with the USSR exploding some powerful bombs during testing and then masterminding the building of the Berlin Wall separating East from West Berlin.

There’s still talk of a wall, but on this continent. The pressure is still on for the graduates.

If we had television, it was black and white on a flickering screen, with a choice of three to five channels and a roof antenna that seemed to constantly need work. Stations signed off at midnight and we tuned our radios to KOMA in Oklahoma City for rock n roll all the time.

We found our thrill on Blueberry Hill and did the Twist, led by Chubby Checker.

The Class of 2019 can collect and carry with them the sounds of the day on small electronic devices.

They take many of the military and technological advancements of the past for granted and have access to amazing communications that were science fiction to us.

Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio; today, anyone can. We have walked on the moon, explored Mars via robotic craft and public space travel is on the horizon.

Still, watching the crowd gathering after commencement May 25, I realized that kids are still the same when they complete another step in life’s journey.