Sunday, August 28, 2016

REMINISCING: Lockport Alumni

I went to the Lockport Distinguished Alumni Induction Ceremony on Thursday evening at the Lockport High School. The Alumni Foundation was established for community-minded citizens who wish to make Lockport High School a better place to work and learn. The gifts and bequests can be put to good use in the Lockport High School Learning Community, working towards scholarships as well as funding special projects at the school.

When you walk into the foyer outside the auditorium at the high school, there are photos lining either wall of the inducted members of the Distinguished Alumni. Looking among all the past recipients, I realized that there is no one from the Class of 1992 on that wall. It would seem that someone from my class would be distinguished enough for inclusion into this Wall of Fame. It will be my endeavor to find someone from my class to have inducted next year, just in time for our 25th class reunion.

As I sat down in the auditorium, the crowd was entertained by the High School Jazz Ensemble. Even Jim Sansone sat in for a tune and showed us he still has “it” on the trumpet. Across the stage were Lockport Lions chairs in which the honorees would be seated. I’m sure they are hard to come by, but those were some pretty nice chairs. I think I’d like one for my library at home. I wonder who I have to speak with about that?

The eight inductees for 2016 have done some amazing things. Looking back through the previous classes, all have done wonderful things. Lockport High School has been the school of countless great people. We are finally starting to honor some of them. Others remain behind the scenes, unsung heroes, who go about their daily lives being the best person they can be.

While sitting in the darkened theater listening to the accolades of each honoree, I began to think about my own time at Lockport High School, and what I’ve done since graduating. Part of me felt disappointed in how much I haven’t done yet. Lockport High School allowed us to nurture that potential. Yet, at first glance from my own point of view, I haven’t taken advantage of that full potential.

All the stories about their days at the school made me think of my own days there. I was a member of the last 9th grade class to go to the middle schools, Emmet Belknap and North Park. When I went to the high school for my sophomore year, the freshmen came with us. I guess that helped ease the transition, knowing that there was an entire class besides our own that was just as lost as we were.

One of the first things I did once I got to the high school was to join the wrestling team. I wanted to be involved at least a little bit in high school life. I considered joining the cross-country team, even went as far as going to an informational meeting, but in the end decided that I was just not a runner. Little did I know that I would get a ton of running while training for wrestling.

I was not a great wrestler. I won’t even try to fool you. I had 31 wins and 31 losses over my three years on the team. I was perfectly average. Despite the fact that in my senior year I shared a weight class with John Morello, I still stuck it out for the entire season, going to each practice, doing all the workouts, and sweating along with the rest of the team. It could have been easy to quit, and I’m sure no one would have blamed me. It was a team and I was a part of it. I couldn’t just walk away.

I’ve been asked who my favorite teacher was. I can’t decide, but there are two from the high school who stick out in my mind. Charles Begley was my Latin and Greek teacher. He was no pushover. He demanded our best work each and every day. We may have hated him for it at various times, but in the end, he made us better students. I still see Mr. Begley around town, and I always greet him in Latin.

Some people ask why I even took Latin since it can’t be used anywhere. Obviously, as other Latin scholars can tell you, they have no idea what they are talking about. Latin is everywhere. In my job as deputy historian, I use Latin nearly every day. Catholic church records used to be in Latin. So, if you’re looking for an ancestor who went to church there, I can read those records for you. I’ve also used my Latin background to teach myself the very basics of other languages that show up in the records -- notably German and French. So there, Latin haters!

The other teacher who was one of my favorites was Jack Downes. I took an English class with him my senior year that focused on science fiction and fantasy. I can assure you that without his
mentorship, I would have never read Dune, let alone the entire series (including the prequel series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.) He had a way of immersing you in the story. I loved it. He made me a better reader, and opened my eyes to new genres.

I wasn’t the best student -- mostly because I didn’t apply myself. I could do all the work and ace nearly every test, but I hated homework and rarely did it. Aside from Latin, I barely ever turned in my homework. One time, in Mr. Cascia’s class, I turned in my homework on imaginary numbers. It was a blank sheet of paper with my name at the top. He asked, “Bacon, what is this supposed to be?” I told him it was my imaginary homework. Needless to say, Mr. Cascia was not amused, and I spent the rest of the period down at the office.

My times at Lockport High School were pretty awesome. Since graduation I have taken what I learned and applied it to what I’ve faced in the real world. (I need to find a new term. “Real World.” Like what we did at school wasn’t real?) Lockport High School is where I learned what community meant. And I am trying to instill that it in my children. What that means to me is I need to find someone from our class who should be honored as a Distinguished Alumni.

I have a few names in mind. I will do some more research to narrow my list in preparation for the nominations in February. I know there are people who deserve to be honored for the work they do every day. Most of them don’t want the spotlight, and that makes them even bigger heroes in my opinion. If you know anyone from your class who deserves recognition, please make sure to nominate them.

In the meantime, I'm sure there are some great memories of the high school that popped into mind while you read this. Feel free to share some of them in the comments.

Craig Bacon is going to put his own picture on the Alumni Wall to see if anyone notices. Next August, check for the Class of 1992 inductee who I hope to get nominated.