Graduation has come and gone for me,

but I remember it vividly.

The gifts, friends, and family

bear witness of past history.

The diploma speaks of knowledge and skills acquired

that I still use even though I’m retired.

Friendships formed and lessons learned

are in my memory forever burned.

Graduations are taking place throughout the United States, from preschool through graduate school. The diploma speaks of our accomplishments and our move forward in life. It’s like changing from a kid to a grownup. Thousands upon thousands will be entering the work force while others return to school to specialize in a specific trade or other course of learning.

I remember my eighth-grade graduation because I wore a beautiful sheer pink gathered waist dress with high heels and matching hat. My mom let me wear a girdle and hosiery for the first time, which made me feel grown up. I looked pretty that day. You know how it is, a girl wants to look her best everyday — and especially on such a special occasion.

There were 60 girls in my graduating class of 1960 from Girls Catholic High School in Hays. There was the usual “Pomp and Circumstance” played as we marched into the room at the former Jefferson West School Building. After we received our diplomas, we went to the cafeteria area to be greeted by friends and family.

Do you remember any of your graduation presents? I do. My parents bought me a good sounding stereo record player and several albums. One was polkas and waltzes (which any good German would enjoy to have in their record collection) and another was Mel Torme. I listened to them for years.

My future husband bought me a set of stainless steel cookware for my graduation present. He was probably thinking about the delicious meals I would fix him in those pots and pans when we would marry. But as time went by, we broke up, and the cookware and I parted ways. He then gave it to someone else. Wouldn’t you know it? We got back together, minus the set of cookware. Needless to say, we had to purchase new cookware when we married in 1961. I still chuckle about it.

I recall my older brother, who graduated from Hays High School four years earlier, received a new yellow and white 1957 Ford Fairlane from our parents. It was beautiful. Our parents made the down payment, and he went to work to make payments on the car.

My younger brother received a wrist watch from our parents for his graduation from Hays High School. Perhaps he wasn’t good about time. The following year, they made a down payment on a new 1965 Buick Skylark, but he too had to make payments.

When my oldest daughter graduated from Hays High School in 1983, the senior class sponsored a graduation party at the Home 1. The graduates were stamped on the hand so the establishment would know who could buy and drink beer since the legal drinking age at that time was 18 years old.

By the time my youngest daughter graduated from Hays High School in 1986, the school sponsored a “Project Graduation” party for the graduates. This was an alcohol-free, all-night event filled with activities, games, music and food, which the kids enjoyed. As far as I know, “Project Graduation” is still an annual event at Hays and TMP-Marian high schools. It’s a great way to celebrate, say your goodbyes and best wishes before you all go your separate ways.

I started college right out of high school but didn’t finish at that time. Instead, I worked and started my family. Later I decided to go back to school. I took correspondence courses and evening classes to complete my degree. In 1989, I graduated from Fort Hays State University, but since I was a non-traditional student, I didn’t go though the graduation ceremony. Now I regret not walking across the stage and receiving my diploma. My co-workers baked me a cake, and we ate it on coffee break to celebrate the momentous occasion. Later, I celebrated with family.

The younger generations make out like bandits. We celebrate their graduations from preschool, kindergarten, fifth grade, eighth grade, high school, vo-tech school, college and on and on. We are proud of our children’s and our grandchildren’s achievements. Some of us will live to see our great-grandchildren succeed in life as well. Congratulations are definitely in order to all graduates.

To this day, I enjoy learning. Writing articles for The Hays Daily News is a recent learning experience for me, and one I’m glad to do. We are never too old to learn. Even an old dog can learn new tricks.

Alberta Klaus is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.