In the spring of 1974, there we all were, all 26 of us – the graduating class of Meridian, Texas High School.
Behind us in the auditorium were our parents and friends who politely and respectfully lauded the culmination of our scholastic accomplishments.
(Back then, no one would dare sound an air horn or scream at the top of their lungs when graduates were announced. Those were better days, said the crusty old man.)
Anyway, we 26 sat there, listening to small town luminaries then our valedictorian and salutatorian.
I remember just two things from my graduation.
One: Superintendent Parks said my name wrong. Like diplomas were wont to do back then, names were inked in fancy script, and my “K.” was read as an “R.”
(Not having a middle name is tricky and having just an initial is even queerer. You’re constantly explaining why you don’t have a name, just an initial. I always told people we were too poor when I was born and couldn’t afford an entire name.)
Two: I won an award out of the blue.
The Class of ‘74 sat there – including the Bride, one of eight girls in the class, who, that late May, I had no idea I would wed 15 months later – as we clapped for award recipients.
Of course, with 26 grads, it didn’t take long and was certainly nothing like the marathon announcing of millions of dollars in scholarships of today.
Anyway, the usual, familiar honors were announced.
Then came the Robert Newberry Award. The winner was “Mark K. Campbell.” (They got my name right that time).
Everyone looked around; no one knew what the Robert Newberry Award was. Including me.
I tried not to look bemused when I went up to the stage to accept my accolade – a key chain.
It was in one of those rectangular, plastic, snappy dealies that’s clear on one side and blue on the other; it contained a nice key chain on a piece of gray foam. My name was on the back.
Unfortunately, while the key chain was very nice, as best as I can remember, the dealie did not contain a check or any cash.
But maybe it came with $50 or something – I can’t recall.
So, being a professional journalist, I Googled Robert Newberry Award. Zilch. (Lots on the children’s book award, however.)
That inspired me to call Meridian ISD.
No one at administration or the high school had heard of the award.
In fact, the MHS woman I spoke with was a 1981 grad and had worked in the ISD since 2000. It was unknown to her for many decades.
Therefore, I have decided I am the proud, lone winner of the Robert Newberry Award.
Now if I could only find that groovy key chain…
Mark K. Campbell is the Epigraph editor, and he also considers himself the FIRST Class B (now A) All-State placekicker; he was the classification’s only kicker in all of Texas in 1973, his coach said, so no one would vote on it.