Looking Back to 1971-My Graduation from North Hollywood High School

Anything seemed possible after high school...

It’s graduation time for many of you; that time when you’re on the precipice of everything, and when the world holds so much promise.

I remember my graduation fairly well.  All of us were decked out in those royal blue gowns, tassels shimmying in the sun. We were all so excited like it was Christmas morning.  We all swarmed around our favorite friends and teachers on the football field like excited bees near their hive. Afterwards, we threw our caps into the air in exultation. Free at last!

Back then we were wondering what the future would hold, pretending we’d still be good friends with all our buddies from class, and hoping things wouldn’t change too much. Of course, they always do. Boyfriends find new girlfriends. You morph into a different person, and you are sometimes slapped in the face with the difficulty of being in college.

Summer provided the break between the bliss of NHHS and the great beyond. I got rid of my virginity that summer, surprised that I didn’t feel all that much different, except that I could now say I wasn’t a virgin anymore; a rite of passage for anyone who grew up during the 70’s.

I studied at Valley College for the summer, taking a class in anthropology to keep myself busy, be around people, and whet my appetite for UCSB where I was headed in the fall.  I was excited being there even though it wasn’t very far from home, because it gave me a chance to be around other like-minded students who believed that higher education was a move in the right direction. For most of us, it was.

In fall, I started at UCSB, staying in the dorms my first year and rooming with a very religious student who was also Catholic. Why they would put me with a woman like this was quite beyond me.  I was far more interested in “socializing” than studying, evidenced by her incessant knocking on our dorm room so she could crack the books.  As you may have guessed, I was usually “busy.”

A few of my pals from NHHS also attended UCSB, and we fostered a bond that first year, using our friendship to provide a common home base, and to fend off homesickness. Some people had a hard time being away from their hometown, but others like me loved being away, making new friends, and testing the limits of self-restraint.   One of my NHHS pals transferred to Berkeley as she claimed UCSB was “too sunny.”

During our breaks from school, I’d usually come home to see my pals, former boyfriends, and visit with my family.  But as time progressed, these relationships naturally faded, and new friendships took their place.  The ebb and flow of people is all part of the college experience.

I wish all of you who are graduating, or know someone graduating the best of luck. The economy isn’t very favorable right now, making jobs a bit more problematic.  But the lessons I learned in college remain forever embedded in my psyche, and have helped me endure some of the hardships I’ve had to endure throughout the years. 

To me, going off to school was one of the best times of my life. Back then, I didn’t have to contend with finding a job, dealing with house payments, parenting, or having to interview with bosses who often make your life a challenge.

Enjoy your school years while you can, and Happy Summer to all of you!

teresa mcgrath June 12, 2012 at 02:13 PM
great story mary....i remember taping a peace sign on my cap...i like the phyllis siegel photo, among the other ones too...i think we had a party at our house after graduation, and hash was smoked in the kitchen...evan asked mom for a dollar...don't know what that was about....it was sweet to graduate and stretch our wings to new adventures...happy graduation to all
Mary McGrath June 12, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Right, I do remember Evan borrowing a dollar from Mom...It's a transition time for many, and I'm sure we all have varying experiences...
Andy Steiner June 12, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I remember staying up very late the night before to pull yet another harmless prank on our Alma Mater. We gathered every trash can from the every corner of the campus and used them to form a large replica of our club's emblem in the middle of the quad. A nice present to the lower classes on their penultimate day of school. On that day, I did not know the title of the song to which we would be marching, but a certain teacher trusted me to lead my section of the class in the procession. Because of that small gesture, I will forever remember Pomp And Circumstance. I remember my sadness when I saw that our club flag wasn't still flying high atop the girl's gym. A small raiding party of club members had taken possession of one of Neiderberg's keys and used it to open the padlock sealing the access hatch to the roof of the auditorium. We lashed a 4'x6' flag of our club's emblem on a 10' pole and then replaced the padlock with one of our own. As I lead the procession, I couldn't help but wonder where we had gone wrong. I remember hiding beer and bourbon under our gowns. Graduation was the best reason to party after all and we had every intention of starting early. I remember that each member of our club had a very small flag, an emblem of our club hidden under the sleeve of each gown. As we stepped on to the stage to receive our diplomas, each member of the club shook Dr. Pack's hand, took the diploma and handed him the little flag. I'll never forget that scowl on his face.
Andy Steiner June 12, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Upon returning to my seat, I remember watching, with pride, as my fellow club members also handing over their little flags after shaking the hand of an increasingly pissed off principle. I remember noticing that the diploma holders were empty and became concerned that Dr. Pack had retaliated for our flag stunt. Then somebody reminded me that we would need to return the cap and gown in exchange for the actual diploma. I remember how sad I was that my father had chosen to travel back to Budapest for the first time since our family escaped in 1956 instead of being with my mother to watch me graduate. I remember the disappointment I felt when I couldn't locate my name in the program my mother and aunt were given as spectators and the utter elation when I found my name listed under "Graduating With High Honors." It was a magical day. At the time, I thought I would never experience a better day. I was wrong... as I usually am.
teresa mcgrath June 12, 2012 at 08:58 PM
great recall andy....tohose pranks...neat...sorry about your dad
Mary McGrath June 13, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Boy, I should have hung out with you Andy! What a memory you have...
Mary McGrath June 13, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I'm amazed at your recollection of all these details Andy. No wonder you graduated with honors...We should have copied off your tests!
Tami Danielson June 13, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Great story Mary. I remember mine in 75 very well too, although not from NHHS - should have been though. So many great memories. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
Mary McGrath June 13, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Glad you enjoyed Tami!
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