Tempus Fugit (Countdown to the Big Six-Oh Edition): Songs, Schedules, & Off-Campus Lunches…My High School Experience in February 1983

Ronald Reagan was President of the United States in February of 1983. Mikhail Gorbachev was still an obscure (in the West, anyway) Soviet bureaucrat, and the Cold War was still…cold. Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

“I blinked my eyes

and in an instant,

decades had passed.” John Mark Green, Taste the Wild Wonder: Poems

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With less than 18 days before my 60th birthday – the first such recurrence of a “landmark” birthday since my mother’s death nearly eight years ago (and the ensuing physical as well as the emotional parting of ways with my older half-sister Vicky) – remaining, my thoughts keep circling back to the past, wheeling through my mind like a flock of startled seagulls flying over equally startled beachgoers at Crandon Park Beach.

I can’t honestly say that it seems as though the year 1983 – much less 1973 – was “only yesterday” or ask “when did the time fly by so quickly?” Of course, there are times when I do look back at some of the key years of my life – especially those before the topsy-turvy anno horriblis of 2015 – and perceive them as if they were not that distant in the rearview mirror of life. Stuff like my first French kiss, my one-and-only trip to Europe, or my first time with a woman seems like it happened recently.

That only happens when I’m pleasantly buzzed after consuming a tall glass of beer or a bottle of Seagram’s Escapes. Most of the time, I feel the weight of the passage of time pressing down – somewhat unpleasantly – like a ton of bricks upon my shoulders.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today – South Miami High School, Class of 1983 Edition

My senior year “official” portrait. It was taken right after my junior year ended in the summer of 1982, so I was still “only” 19 when I posed for it at the Bryn Alan studio. By this time in 1983, the beard was gone; I shaved it shortly before the winter break.

“It’s like high school holds two different worlds, revolving around each other and never touching; the haves and the have-nots. I guess it’s a good thing. High school is supposed to prepare you for the real world, after all.” Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

In the year 1983, February 15 fell on a Tuesday, so at this time on that date I would have been finishing my lunch at the cafeteria in South Miami Senior High School. Either that, or I would have been on my way back to campus after eating a slice of freshly-made pizza at a nearby pizzeria whose name I’ve forgotten. It was, after all, my senior year at South Miami, and by then I felt confident and comfortable enough to venture out and not eat in the cafeteria, even though I still ate there most of the time.

My class schedule – as I remember it some 40 years on – looked like this:

  • Homeroom/1st Period: Drama
  • 2nd Period: Mixed Chorus (SATB)
  • 3rd Period: English 4 – Regular
  • 4th Period: Newspaper Reporting/Production
  • 5th Period: Art
  • 6th Period: Algebra I

If you’re wondering why you don’t see any social studies classes listed on my class schedule, I can explain: I took the required U.S. Government (two units) and Economics courses during the summer session between the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year to carve space in my schedule for four electives. I still had to take English as a mandatory class, even though it was a “regular” course not geared for either advanced placement (AP) or college-bound students.

If I could travel back in time, I’d focus a bit more on self-confidence and how to be more assertive, especially with women and skip Algebra I altogether. Image Credit: Pixabay.

“I wouldn’t have minded school if they taught you important things like how to have good sex and what brand of wine is the best… But for some reason they were hell-bent on teaching me algebra”Ben Mitchell

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

And although you might think that Algebra I was a requirement in the 1982-1983 academic year, it turns out that my senior year was the last one when we only needed two years of math coursework (10th and 11th grade) to graduate. I didn’t know this then, or if I did, I thought that because I – barely – passed my pre-algebra class with a C (and I wager that it was a low C), I could learn algebra, albeit with some difficulty. So I signed up for the class, even though I did not have to. (The State of Florida Board of Education and the Legislature made math classes mandatory for all high school seniors the following academic year, and as far as I know, four years of high school math are still mandatory if you want to earn a high school diploma.)

“If everyone started off the day singing, just think how happy they’d be.” Lauren Myracle, Shine

40 years ago today, South Miami’s various choral groups – there were at least four separate choirs: the Men’s (or Boys’) Ensemble, the Women’s Ensemble, Mixed Chorus I, and Advanced Mixed Chorus (these were the singers that sang at the choral competitions at the county level; I was not one of them) – were practicing for the Spring Concert, which was scheduled for either mid-April or late May of 1983.

Our chorus teacher, Ms. Joan Owen, was still going through the process of choosing several songs for the Spring Concert program; this involved trying as many as seven different songs – I remember we practiced Elijah Rock, a “scat” version of The Pink Panther Theme, and a song by John Dowland titled Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite – and eliminating the ones that didn’t quite work out and keeping the ones that did.

We also did vocal exercises to improve our performance, both as individuals and as a group. I still remember one morning when Ms. Owen, unhappy with how the bass section (where I was assigned then as a baritone) was singing, snapped her fingers at us and said, to my horror, “Sing like you have a pair, men!” in an uncharacteristically stern tone.

Granted, we were not projecting our voices – I think we were trying out either Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther Theme in its scat version or the Dowland song – as well as we should have, but this was the first time I’d seen Ms. Owen flustered and even angry.

There are, of course, a bunch of other stories I could tell about what high school was like for me during the last four months or so of the school year, but this post is getting a bit long, so I’ll close here. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe and healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.  


Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

3 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit (Countdown to the Big Six-Oh Edition): Songs, Schedules, & Off-Campus Lunches…My High School Experience in February 1983

  1. I am quite impressed that you remember your classes from high school, the periods and everything. That I cannot do. As for me I did not like foreign languages such as English and German but I loved algebra and calculus, as well as physics and other science subjects. We are all different. As it turned out algebra and calculus became quite useful to me later on in my engineering career. However, in 1983 I was in college (Uppsala University).

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    1. I kept quite a few of my old schedules, hall passes, and other items from high school for many years. I no longer have them, but they helped me remember some of the everyday details from my daily routine.

      Today, though, I had to REALLY think about my schedule and remember which class was in which period. The easiest to remember was homeroom/first period because that year was when they made our first class of the day homeroom.

      (When I was in 10th and 11th grade, homeroom was its own thing and we only saw our homeroom teacher for attendance and morning announcements. I guess the authorities decided to streamline the process!)

      I eventually remembered Periods 2-6, but for a while there I was like, “Was English my second or third period class?”

      The sixth period, incidentally, was Algebra I. The instructor was a gorgeous first-year teacher in her 20s named Ms. Castaneda. Many of the guys in my class said she was super sexy. It made going to class bearable, but I can’t understand math beyond a certain point, so this was the only class in high school that I flunked. Good thing that the 1982-83 school year was the last one in which only two years’ worth of math credits were required for graduation!

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