On 21 May, 1978, a Thursday night, the parents of the graduating Bay High School seniors thoroughly spoofed their own kids and the school faculty in a comedy variety show.
With dads dressed as cheerleaders, and moms in hockey and football jerseys, it was a hilarious, and sometimes politically incorrect performance.
This was an annual tradition, giving the parents a chance to honor their kids’ accomplishments and activities. Guests were not invited–only the graduating seniors were there (no underclass girlfriends allowed), although some members of the Class of ’79 performed during the intermission (see the end of my photo gallery).
After Elizabeth and I finished our European adventure and moved back into our American house, we started unpacking the boxes of stuff that we’d put into storage in December 2000. I found another box of negatives and contact prints from That 70s Show. It included a few of my favorite shots that weren’t in the negatives I’d rescued from my parents’ crawlspace in 2006, it included some of my earliest pictures from the 60s and 70s, and it included a few surprises. The best surprise was Parents Night.
Who remembered that instead of sitting there and enjoying the show, I actually took 5 rolls of film? I certainly didn’t. What did I even have in mind for these images? The contact prints are marked up a bit, suggesting that I might have done something with these pictures, but I don’t remember printing any of them. Maybe a few of my mom’s friends got some copies, but I can’t imagine that very many pictures circulated. I’m sure that most of the parents and class of ’78 have never seen these.
There is a sort of old fashioned charm to these images, taken from an earlier and simpler time when disco reigned and men still wore neckties. For me, the turn of the generational clock adds personal poignancy to these pictures. After sitting in a time capsule for 32 years, these memories reappear at during a life phase when most of my peers have just seen our own children through high school. While I don’t recognize many of these parents, I do feel connected to them for multiple reasons. As we celebrate their 50th anniversaries and 80th birthdays, I know that many of these proud parents are no longer with us (indeed, some of their children are gone, too).
Somewhat uncharitably, I can’t help thinking that most of these people look old. I have to chuckle over that, because most of them were my own age, or even younger than I am now, and only a few of them would have been 10 years older than my half century. Their clothing and hair wasn’t the only aesthetic of the age–people choose to respond differently to age in different ages. Perhaps one generation has done that more gracefully than the other, but I’m not at all certain which.
32 years ago, we were naive and innocent, and many of the things that mattered to us seem foolish or trivial now. We’d conquered over a dozen years of public school, and we were ready to conquer the world. Our parents knew that. They admired our youth and were maybe just a bit jealous of our energy. They recognized our enthusiasm, supported our passions, and sighed over our lack of ambition. They dressed up and acted foolish on stage one night to demonstrate their love for us, and to show us how proud they were.
To me, these images are a treasure, and I hope that my classmates are touched. Photographers don’t take pictures for their own pleasure–like any art, the true satisfaction comes through an emotional response in your audience. I’m glad that I found these pictures while some of the parents are still with us, and maybe there are some grand children who will get a kick out of them also.
The complete set of just over 200 pictures can be found in the Parents Night gallery on my web site. Click on a thumbnail to view a picture, and click on that image to view an even larger version. My suggestion is that you use the slideshow feature available through a link at the bottom of the screen (click on the icon at the right of the menu bar to see it in full screen).
Now that I’ve found these negatives, scanned them, Photoshopped them, and uploaded them, I’m really curious about just who all these people are. Please put your comments in the photo gallery.
Everything is publicly viewable, although I’ve asked Google and Bing not to search and index these images. Enjoy!