Remembering Baker

Bill Dawson, '52

Several people (my wife among them) have asked me why we Baker folk hang out together through this medium. People from other schools don't do that. What makes us different?

After all, we're surely not all alike. (All you have to do is mention politics or religion to find that out.) We're of widely different ages. We have widely divergent tastes (except that we all agree on barbecue). We live in different parts of the country - very few of us anywhere near Columbus, Georgia.

I tell them that, first, I don't really know. But there are several factors.

High school itself is a time we all remember. Some memories, maybe even most, are good ones. Some are painful. But all of them represent times in our lives when we were, for better or worse, forming our character.

Hormones were, of course, raging. As much as we love the person we eventually wound up with, few of us will ever forget the huge mood swings of teenage love. The highs were out of sight. And the lows - oh, my, they were terrible.

We were impressionable. We had not yet reached the point where we thought we knew everything. We had a lot of "gee, whiz!" moments when we discovered something about the universe, the world, the country, or the people therein that surprised us. And we had some "aw, shucks!" moments when bubbles were burst, when we found out that not everybody in this world is honorable, or even nice.

But those high school moments are remembered by everybody. What makes us remember them more poignantly than others?

Well, consider who we were. Many of us - maybe most - were from military families, and had lived in many, many places. Even those of us who weren't military were from widely different parts of Muscogee county, brought together to what was, when I was there, the only "county" high school. We had no history together. And I maintain that this can be a good thing.

Where I spent my early childhood in South Carolina, I was known to be bookish, shy, and reclusive. At Baker, nobody knew that. People asked my opinion about things, and I told them. And they listened! It was wonderful! People who knew me back home would never have recognized me at Baker.

I think it was that way with a lot of people. Not having to live up to - or down to - preconceived positions in life can free us all.

Next, there was Baker itself. None of our parents had gone there. We didn't know any older people who were alums. The history of Baker was one we were making ourselves. Friends at Columbus High and Jordan used to tell me that they liked their heritage. Actually, I liked the fact that we didn't have any heritage. It was a fresh slate.

Then, of course, Baker eventually ceased to exist. Not only did we have no past to live up to or down to, but no school at all. There is no Baker High anymore. It was born in our lifetime, and it was gone in our lifetime.

That makes the memories special. Remember the Broadway show where, late in Act III, a weary King Arthur told young Tom...

Each evening, from December to December,
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember
    Of Camelot...
Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
    As Camelot.

Well, for one brief shining moment there was a spot called Baker High. There's no crumbling school to spoil our glistening memories, no decadent young thugs running around with blue sweaters to jar us, no ugly references to it in the media. In our minds, it's still Camelot. And that's a good thing.

Thanks, guys, for helping us all remember it.

April 8, 2005