Newspapers are keepers of history, and this newspaper's archives record that Trinity Bass received the first diploma awarded by the new Grovetown High School.
In commencement ceremonies Saturday at the James Brown Arena and Air-Horn Test Facility, Bass received the school's first diploma because of her status as valedictorian. The News-Times listed that historic achievement along with many other school firsts last Sunday.
What isn't recorded, though, is the name of the person who received the last diploma at Grovetown High School.
I don't mean the last person in line at Grovetown's commencement Saturday. I'm referring to the last person to receive a Grovetown High School diploma in 1924.
The class of 1924 was the last group of graduates from the original Grovetown High School. The class of 1925 never graduated from Grovetown; instead, halfway through the year, the high school portion of Grovetown closed, and those students all transferred to Harlem High.
The Columbia News likely reported that 1924 graduation. Unfortunately, the microfilm record hits a gap that runs from mid-April to mid-May, missing the issue that would have contained that information.
The Augusta Chronicle provided minimal coverage of the event in its society columns. The record from the Sunday, May 11, 1924 Chronicle has this to say:
"The closing exercises of the Grovetown High School were held Thursday and Friday. The teachers were untiring in their efforts in training the children and the general comment was that they gave the best entertainment of this kind ever given here."
Unlike modern graduation exercises, marked primarily by the ear-splitting screams of the overly proud mom sitting right behind you and by the surprising lack of me speaking at them, graduation "closing exercises" were less about celebrating the successful end of high school careers than about marking completion of the school year.
Typically, students would stage a pageant with music, oratory, dance, comedy and drama. That's what the old story is referring to when it says those students "gave the best entertainment of this kind ever given here."
They wouldn't have known that they also were giving the last such entertainment, preserving forever its status as "best" since those exercises ended that year.
In hunting for these historical tidbits, I would have loved nothing more than to have found a listing of those final Grovetown graduates. I strongly doubt any of them are still alive, but I'm guessing some of those graduates' children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren are.
Perhaps one of them even walked across that stage Saturday, closing a historical loop with an ancestor. Unless one of those grads possesses family historical lore to make that link, though, we likely will never know.
One lesson for new grads then, is this: Never forget you are making history.
History thus far records that neither I nor my predecessor in this annual tongue-in-cheek complaint, the late Aubrey Shaw, were ever given the privilege of speaking at a commencement exercise.
But history also records that hundreds of Columbia County grads cross the stage for their diplomas each year.
Virtually all of them make their own decision about whether to climb or descend the near-infinite ladder of success, and in the process decide what, if anything, history will record about them.
We know that, one day, their deaths will be recorded in a newspaper obituary. Perhaps between graduation day and that inevitability, this year's grads will try to make themselves worthy of remembering otherwise.
Then, one day, a future writer will search through the archives and see that Trinity Bass and her classmates accomplished far more than just being members of the Grovetown High School Class of 2010.
Congratulations to them all now, and in that future.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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