1980

– Mark Lewis ©1980. Used by permission. Suggested cutline: Columnist John Moore, pictured here in 1980, began his journalism career as a photographer for his high school newspaper and annual.

It seemed at the time that my senior year in high school was busy – and tumultuous.

That’s because it was.

When some of my fellow 1980 classmates and I began working on plans to get together for the 40th anniversary of our graduation, memories came flooding in. Memories that had been filed away.

I pulled a stack from the grey matter file cabinet, blew off the dust, and poured over a few.

The year 1980 was the first year in my life that I took an interest in politics. We didn’t know it yet, but the end of our senior year would be the end of Jimmy Carter’s one-term presidency.

Hindsight, politics was likely the reason I decided to join the high school journalism department to work on the school newspaper and annual staff.

My role as one of the school’s four photographers kept me busy.

So did my after-school jobs of sacking groceries at Big Star and as a DJ on the night shift at the local Top 40 station, KMLA.

The Beta Club, and playing bass guitar and singing in the high school choir were also on the agenda.

Memories of all of these things and more returned after decades on hiatus.

You don’t think much about such things once you’ve done and experienced them, but as I was contacting my friend Fabienne (the only one of us from 40-plus years ago who is still a DJ) to ask if she was available to spin some tunes for our scheduled upcoming fall reunion, the specifics of 1980 began to come back into focus.

The Iranian Hostage Crisis, Mount St. Helens, Who shot J.R.?, the explosion in popularity of the Rubik’s Cube, the transition from 8-tracks to cassettes, and the beginning of the NASA Space Shuttle Program were just a few of the highlights of 1980.

I made $2.90 an hour. And it took every penny of that from both of my jobs to fund my metal-flake, gold 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and the gasoline it guzzled.

Keep in mind; I wasn’t anywhere near the busiest member of my class.

I look back and wonder how in the world we crammed that much living into a nine-month school year.

Pasture parties. Lying on the hood with our backs against the windshield with Boston, Journey, or Hank Williams, Jr., blaring through the open windows as we sipped our beverages, smoked our Marlboro’s, and stared at the stars.

The world was in turmoil. The draft had ended a few years earlier, only to be somewhat resurrected that year under a new name: Selective Service.

I registered for it on my 18th birthday.

There was talk of war with Iran. It was an election year, the first one in which I would vote. We were in a recession.

Yet, in spite of all that, we didn’t see things as worrisome. Life was good. It was fun. Lots of fun.

We graduated and walked into the next four decades of our lives.

I’ve thought a lot about the Class of 2020. Most students did not have a graduation ceremony.

A viral pandemic prevented it. The same one that may prevent my class reunion. We don’t know yet if we’ll be able to have one.

Fabienne is on standby. Really, we all are.

But, for this year’s graduates, let me encourage you to focus on now, not later. Because 1980, just like 2020, had some bumps in the road. But in spite of the tumultuousness of your senior year, come 2060, it will be the fun that you remember most, not the rest.

I promise.

©2020 John Moore

John’s books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on Amazon and on John’s website at TheCountryWriter.com. His weekly John G. Moore Podcast appears on Spotify and iTunes.