Monday, January 26, 2009

The Day I Turned 18

It was 53 years ago today on my 18th birthday. I graduated from high school; Central High School in Detroit, Michigan to be exact. The following week I started college at Wayne State University (also in Detroit).

I mention this because I recently came across my final high school report card, both sides of which are pictured below:

This report card is interesting for a number of reasons. To start with, it is far different from the computer generated reports that are turned out by schools today. The writing on the front of the card (other than the grades themselves) is mine. At the beginning of each semester, every student had to fill out his/her own card. The back of the card shows my mother's signature for the first two reporting cycles. In the mid-1950s, my mother would never sign anything with her own first name; it just wasn't done. It was signed as "Mrs." before my father's name. That was a married woman's identity; in some ways we have moved forward a long way in the past half-century even if the glass ceiling has yet to be fully shattered.

Another curiosity: at that time, the school system in Detroit (as in many other communities) operated strictly on a semester system. Children entered kindergarten in either September or January, depending on birthday. And high school seniors graduated in January or June when they completed 12th grade. Since I started school in January, I graduated in January. The grade "12A" on the front of the card indicates that this report is for my 2nd semester in the 12th grade. The first 12th grade semester, which had begun the previous January, was "12B."

The listing of courses is rather sparse. I was a graduating senior and I was able to have a relatively light load my last semester; my 2nd semester of Chemistry, 4th of composition and 3rd of Journalism. Economics was required. During my 1st 12th grade semester I took Trigonometry (which at that time was the highest level of math offered in high school in Detroit unless you were at a "technical" high school"). The periods of the day for which students had no classes, they were assigned to Study Hall. I still remember Henrietta Carr, my study hall counselor, who oversaw the records, progress and behavior of all the members of my family.

An interesting sidelight: When I graduated, I completed 2 generations of our family to attend Central High School, although when my parents were students, the school was in a different location (which later became and still is the Old Main building at Wayne State). To my knowledge, the Central my generation of Cohen's attended is still there and in use. I last was in the building when I went back for my 35th reunion.

Oh, the memories this old report card has conjured up. It just seems fitting to share it on my birthday.


Eric Valentine said...

That was very interesting Leon, and I'm sure stirred some memories for you.

I can just see kids doing their own cards today with all the computer capabilities. LOL :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've got some of my old report cards that look something like this. I didn't show as much promise as you did, however.

savannah said...

what a lovely way to remember, sugar! happy birthday! xoxox

Darlene said...

Things are much different now. I won't rant on that, but will add that I attended my High School's 65th reunion last summer and we have done a little changing ourselves. ;)