Youthful summers in my hometown — Amsterdam, New York — were always special. I recall many general experiences like sucking on popsicles, walking to the playgrounds, and swimming in the “new pool,” a huge public pool that opened, I believe, during the summer before tenth grade. I also vividly remember specific summer experiences, experiences that occurred well over 50 years ago.
I remember chipping a front tooth while playing outdoor basketball on the South Side during the summer before my junior year. During the following summer, I recall my first full-time job as a factory employee carrying supplies throughout a blistering hot building, a job that convinced me that I definitely needed to attend college. And at the end of that same summer, I also remember having my photo taken for our high-school yearbook.
I’m thinking about my yearbook photo today because for some reason, many of my Facebook friends are posting their yearbook photos to honor the quarantined class of 2020. Quite honestly, I don’t see the connection, but I am enjoying seeing the old photos because they are sweet reminders of our youth and all the optimism and unlimited potential that my contemporaries and I possessed at that single moment in time. That yearbook photo is a memento that most of us have shared here in modern day America.
Having that photo taken in the late summer of 1968 was especially memorable because it was such a unique experience. Think about it. Back then, very few individuals actually owned cameras, and if they did, like my dad, they weren’t taking individual shots. Most pictures of me prior to age 17 included at least one sibling and, as the years passed, up to five siblings (all females, by the way).
In addition, every other photo of me prior to my senior sit-down included numerous teammates. And since I was always the tallest kid on my teams, I always had a reserved spot: top row, left, big, skinny kid with the glasses and the goofy smile.