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Pomp and Circumstance
Clara Gunderson Hoover
Omaha, Nebraska

Rolfe High School class of 1960

Itís May, the time of year when we often hear the strains of Pomp and Circumstance. As we hum along to the familiar melody and feel the steady march, we recall when we were 17 or 18, lining up in the back of the Rolfe gymnasium, walking in pairs, from the shortest to the tallest, to the front of the gym, and then proceeding up the steps to our chairs. I can still see Judy Jordan playing Pomp and Circumstance on the piano just below the stage. Over the years Iíve attended high school and college graduations of friends, siblings, nieces, nephews and students. As a life-long educator, Iíve supervised graduation ceremonies in large auditoriums and listened to high school orchestras play the familiar melody as 500 seniors marched to their places. No matter if the ceremony has been in the Rolfe, Pocahontas or Perry gymnasium; the Atlantic or Seminole (Florida) high school football stadium; or large coliseums at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, or the University of Detroit, I always think back to our own high school graduation. Everyone probably has similar feelings. Itís something we all have in common.

I feel fortunate have grown up on an Iowa farm and to have attended Rolfe Consolidated School for 13 years. Iím grateful for this educational experience. Would I want to do it over again? No way! Do I have regrets? No. Are there things Iíd do differently? Yes.

Many people who have written other essays on this Rolfe High School alumni web site have recalled specific incidents from high school and have spoken highly of their Rolfe education and their teachers, especially Miss Marcum. I, too, feel that Rolfe provided an excellent education. Iím especially glad I took two years of Latin because it helped me understand the English language and later learn French and Spanish. I am grateful I took four years of math and science - even though I never heard of DNA until I went to college. Iím glad I learned to type (thank you, Miss Blewett), drive (thanks to Mr. Carleyís patience), play volleyball (in our white one-piece PE uniforms that had to be ironed after every washing) and cook (although potato soup will never be the same after my experience in Miss Foxís home economics class). In biology, we took a field trip to the Des Moines River near Bradgate. Under Mr. Hillearyís watchful eye, we learned about the chemical and physical properties of matter. We experienced the Van de Graaff generator in Mr. Hustonís physics class as we tried to see if we could make our hair stick out from our heads.

Did Rolfe provide us with a good education? For the most part yes; however, our education canít be judged by todayís standards. The school district in which I have worked for most of the last 27 years has as its mission to "ensure that all students will learn the academic and life skills necessary for personal success and responsible living." Although in Rolfe we did learn the academic and life skills we needed for the 1960's, there were some things our education lacked. Except for one year when Mr. Hilleary, I think, served as a counselor, we had no counselor, nor do I recall receiving any advice about colleges or careers. Actually, at that time who among us girls could have envisioned that we would need, be able, or want to work most of our adult lives? And what careers and opportunities were open to us besides teaching, nursing or being secretaries? Unless you count the "library" outside the superintendentís office, the room with its shelves of "classics," we had no school library. We saw only two movies - one on automobile accidents and one on sex when the boys and girls had separate movies.

Recently I told someone I loved to diagram sentences. It seems we did that throughout junior high and senior high. I slaved over my American literature term paper on Longfellowís Wayside Inn Stories and still have that paper with its most unique form of footnoting. I learned to write, but am not sure I learned to express myself in a meaningful way or to organize my thoughts logically with concrete examples. That skill developed over time. Although I liked studying, I wasnít fully prepared for the competition and challenges of college. I wasnít used to stretching myself academically. I blame that on myself, not my education.

We had wonderful opportunities in band (we all loved Mr. Shoemaker) and vocal music (Mrs. Boyd just couldnít do anything about my voice). Plays and speech contests were great experiences. And thanks to Mr. Mortensenís coaching, we even had a debate team our junior year. One thing I appreciated about growing up in a small community is that all students can participate in activities. And most students participated in several. Remember how some cheerleaders and football players had to change into band uniforms for halftime performances? From my perspective, no one was excluded from activities or events such as homecoming or the prom. Actually, everyone was expected to attend the prom - with or (more likely) without a date. And even though the prom was held on a Monday night, we stayed up all night and went to school the next day.

Most of our memories of high school are mental snapshots of events and people. Iíve already written about some of those memories in my February 29 contribution to the Rolfe Alumni Forum. There was also the night in 1957 when Rolfe lost to Webster City in the district basketball tournament. I donít know whether there was more excitement because Rolfe was in the district tournament or because of the severe blizzard which forced many people to stay overnight in the school gym. Who can forget marching band practices - up and down the street in front of school or on the football field? And unless we had band practice, we generally had an entire hour for lunch. That meant we ate lunch in less than 30 minutes and then walked up town or to a friendís house, played softball on the playground, visited in the gym, or sat on the railings in front of the school.

Three teachers stand out in my memory. Mr. Grace was our junior high principal, teacher and coach. I recall a math class in front of the junior high study hall. Apparently several students had not fully memorized the multiplication tables, so Mr. Grace gave us extra homework. He had high standards, but was a very caring teacher.

Miss Marcum was respected because she was demanding and because she represented tradition - to us and to our parents. Nothing seemed to change in her classes. The message from Poeís short story must have been hidden in the same place for years. And speaking of not much changing, did you know that there was a Martha Gunderson in Miss Marcumís first Rolfe class as well as in her last Rolfe class?

Mr. Mortensen was superintendent from the time I was in first grade through my junior year. During that time he wore many hats - superintendent, bus driver, baseball coach, government teacher, debate coach, official photographer, and probably even custodian. His firm voice challenged us all. I can still hear his resounding challenge to all of us, not just the athletes, when he spoke at pep rallies. "DESIRE!!! Without DESIRE, you wonít accomplish your goals in athletics and in life."

These three teachers, especially, embody the type of dignity associated with the teaching profession. Their examples and the experiences they and the other Rolfe teachers provided are what I think about when I hear Pomp and Circumstance.


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