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The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Look Back...The Class of 1970 - Okmulgee, Ok

With graduation ceremonies having ended around the country...I've included in this post something I wrote several years ago...with a few modifications...to reflect back on my own graduating class and who we were.  Although the building has changed some since those days, it still stands today with future generations walking the halls hoping someday to find their place in this world...I wish all the graduates God Speed...and good luck.

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I often reflect on those early days of 1965 when I first entered 8th grade in the Okmulgee, Oklahoma school system and climbed those wide steps, through the arched doors of that massive, red, brick building, a newcomer.  Life changed forever at that moment as the friends and experiences that were to follow still influence my today.  When I left those halls for the final time some five years later, I was no longer a newcomer, but someone with a history and a connection to a wonderful and sometimes tumultuous experience that was lived through a unique rendezvous of place and time.

I return to the yearbooks occasionally and thumb through the pages looking at all those youthful faces from 1965 through my senior year of 1970 and beyond, well, you can’t help but wonder where they are, the juniors, seniors, sophomores we came to know.  It never ceases to amaze me how people come into our lives for what at the time seemed like a long term event, but in reality touched us for only moments…then, the moment is gone.  Even so, who they were and how their lives connected with our own, remains with us for decades.  Thank goodness for Facebook as it has allowed for reconnections I thought long ago lost.

I wondered as this skinny, insecure 8th grader…oh so long ago…at how mature and grown up the juniors and seniors looked, and the young ladies in the high school section …I had almost forgotten…they all looked like...well…young ladies…beautiful, sophisticated, energetic.  They still do…those images…even today.  I’ll run across a name or a face and a flash of memory echoes across the decades-old forgotten valleys of hidden memories…the football hero…the big fight in the bleachers at the basketball game… a moment in the hallway or the teacher who spoke encouraging words toward greater things…the cute girl with the magnetic smile and intoxicating eyes I wanted desperately to ask out, but was too shy to do so…all the “What if or How come” regrets or the “Oh Yeah, that was fun” highs…things I haven’t thought about in years suddenly rise to the forefront.   It is the emotions of those days that stay with us…the emotions that created the memories, and those memories became, for better or worse...us…for better or worse they were the best times and the worst times…for all the same reasons.

That’s who we were…then, 1970.  We were the Bulldogs…state champions in football and basketball…and not too shabby in Baseball and Track either.  We were the generation of “One” the loneliest number, “Hey Jude” and “Temptation Eyes”, “Butch Cassidy and Sundance”.  We were the generation who in the course of our lives witnessed a President lose his life and a civil rights leader die for his cause.  We were the ones that bridged the gap of segregation, who blended cultures into common goals.  We saw men stand on the moon and heroes of another sort stand their ground in the ghettos of the south, and we watched brave young men go off to war…many to never return.  We saw a young politician refuse to ask “Why” and instead asked “Why not”…only to fall victim to fanatical ignorance.  We were a generation that questioned many things and sought solutions to that matter of ‘why not’.  We laughed…we cried…we cheered…we prayed.  We were all these things.  We nurtured friendships from once segregated classes...respect of ideas and cultures.  We were patriotic and defiant, reverent and vain, humble and arrogant, and liberal and conservative.  We were the sons of the fathers of the Second World War and the daughters of the loves they left behind.  

We were a unique generation defined by complex days with an ambiguous future, yet when our turn at bat came, we stepped up to the plate of life, and swung away to eventually take our place on the pedestal of America’s finest…to become the most productive and innovative generation in history. 

Sometimes we choose to forget about the trials and tribulations of our youth.  Even so, it’s good to ponder on such things, not to shrink into some distant past and ignore the future, but simply to remember those days and reflect on the events that helped to mold us into who we are today.

Having one amazing son now working through college and one exceptional son who is now facing consequences of ill-advised choices…I see many similarities of this current generation to the one from which we came.  They are energetic and searching, much like we were. They live in a world full of uncertainty clouded with conflicting ideals and world views, seeking difficult answers to difficult questions, yet…somehow I believe they will find their way…like we did.  They will step through their open Windows of Opportunity and take their place amongst America’s finest, because...well, they had a pretty good group of mentors to teach them about such things and when all is said and done, we have, so far, compiled a pretty good lifetime batting average.

We are the Class of 1970.


Keith R. Bridgman

1970 – Graduate of Okmulgee High

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