Nostalgic Musings

If you’d asked me 25 years ago whether I considered myself a nostalgic person, I would’ve laughed. Heck no!  I live for the moment!  Or so I thought.  In recent years, I’ve become very nostalgic.  Those things, people and places that I took for granted have suddenly taken up a special corner of my heart.  This is evidenced, first, by the fact that I based my novel — The Edge of Nowhere — on not only my home state of Oklahoma, but my actual hometown of El Reno, Oklahoma.

A 17 year-old dorky me
A 17 year-old dorky me

I remember walking across the stage at Jenks Simmons Fieldhouse for graduation nearly 30 years ago.  I was 17 and I couldn’t wait to get out of El Reno.  It’s not that I didn’t really like the town so much as it was that I was ready for “bigger” things in life.  El Reno is a small town where most everyone knows everyone else.  I couldn’t wait for the anonymity of “big city life.”  A few months after high school graduation, I packed my bags and headed for college and the “big city” of Norman, Oklahoma.

It took me a long time to come back to El Reno.  Truth is that I didn’t really miss it until I moved to Minnesota at the age of 22.  Now, at almost 45, I miss almost everything about it.  I miss the people; the small-town atmosphere; the old buildings; the native american culture; the red dirt; the wheat fields as far as the eye can see.  I miss everything.

Yesterday I was trolling around Facebook and found a post in a group dedicated to people from El Reno.  On the page were photos of renovations that have recently taken place at my high school.  I won’t lie — the images brought tears to my eyes.  Actually, just sitting here and writing brings tears to my eyes.

What type of image could cause such a visceral effect, you wonder?  Surprisingly, it was nothing more than an image of my old high school auditorium.  With new chairs and a good paint job, the room seems barely recognizable to me all these years later, except one thing clutched at my heart and made me pause:  the balcony.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cheryl Blair Parker
EHS Auditorium / PHOTO CREDIT: Cheryl Blair Parker

For as far back as I can remember, my dad was a teacher at El Reno High School.  His classroom was located on the 3rd floor, just outside the doors that led to the balcony overlooking the high school auditorium.  My earliest memories are of looking up toward that balcony and seeing my dad watching the goings-on below.  Even before I was a high school student, I remember dance recitals held in that same auditorium.  At recital practices and what-not, I remember looking up into that balcony to see my dad leaning against the door frame.  He always seemed to be there.

As I got older and attended high school assemblies in that room, I remember looking up from my seat on the floor to again see my dad leaning against the door frame as he watched the action on the stage.  And I can’t count how many after school hours and play practices I spent in that auditorium, only to look up and see my dad standing in what seemed like his assigned spot — leaning against the doorframe of the upper level balcony.  He was always there.

Yesterday as I viewed the image of the renovations to that high school auditorium, my eyes went directly to that upper corner.  Like always, I was looking for my dad.  Of course he wasn’t there.  He’s been retired for nearly 20 years.  But it didn’t stop me from hoping.  It seems like he “belongs” in that corner.

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My Dad – Edward J. Hedrick

My dad is 83 now…turning 84 in November.  It’s hard to believe the years have passed and I didn’t even notice the progression of time.  As should be expected, my dad has aged.  Sadly, he is no longer the strongest man I’ve ever known.  His muscles have atrophied with age and, while he’ll never be “weak,” he no longer possesses the physical presence or strength he once did.

I wish I could stop time. No, that’s not right. I wish I could rewind time and then stop time.  Not for everything, obviously.  If I’d stopped time ten or twenty years ago, I would’t have my children or the life I have now.  But I wish I could rewind and stop time as it relates to things like my parents.  I wish I could go back in time to my hometown and see it through the eyes I have now and appreciate it as I do now for its many wonderful aspects.

I guess what this boils down to is this:  be careful what you wish for.  30 years ago I wished to be grown and on my own.  I wished for the anonymity of big town life.  What I wouldn’t do to go back to the 17 year old me with the understanding that — though not perfect — home is where people know you.  It’s where you don’t have to explain why and how you think the way you do because you’re all a product of similar experiences.

I wonder if I’ll look back in another 30 years and again say to myself, “I wish I knew then (in 2015) what I know now.”

“ElRenoHighSchool” by MisterBadmoon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

C.H. Armstrong is a native of El Reno, Oklahoma, and a 23-year resident of Rochester, Minnesota.  A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she is the author of the upcoming Historical Fiction novel, The Edge of Nowhere. For information and a synopsis about this title, follow THIS LINK.

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15 thoughts on “Nostalgic Musings

  1. Nita Harder

    I agree with everything you wrote here. I too am a graduate of EHS (class of 1957) and I have so many fond memories of just what you wrote about here. My mom, Lavone Enfield, spent many years there as the HS Librarian, so my memories continued long after I graduated from there. I’ve also attended class reunions through the years when we were able to go back and have an “assembly” there in the auditorium. Remember all the devotional assembles we shared in? I sure do. I was usually at the piano accompanying the EHS mixed choir directed by Marie Moore. Those were the days!!! Thanks for sharing with all of us. Benita Enfield Harder (Nita Harder)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I think they’d ended the devotional assemblies by my time, but isn’t it funny how we can be separated by so many years, yet brought together by a love for the same thing? I never thought I’d miss El Reno or EHS, but I do…like a hole in my heart that need something to fill it some days. 🙂

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    2. Cinda Patrick

      Nita, I too graduated from EHS but then went back and taught there for almost 30 years. Your mother was one of my very favorite teachers and one of the reasons I became a teacher! Seeing her name in your comment brought a big smile to me. I was so lucky to have been a student in her classroom in junior high, a reader in her library, and a fellow teacher a few years later!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lance Hindman

    I would love to get a copy of your book.. I am a proud 1987 graduate of El Reno High. So much of what you were reminiscent about I was reminiscent about as well when I lived in El Reno . I have been gone for quite sometime and would love to be able to get back there.. I to wanted to to see the world outside of El Reno . Moved to a large Texas city.. I absolutely hated it . Living in Arkansas now . Back to small town life. But has never felt the same as El Reno. I was one of your fathers students and remember him well. Many good memories back then. Just like you. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Danny Downen

    I had your dad as my Sociology teacher in 1974. He was a no-nonsense former Army man with some quite interesting stories. I graduated in 1975 and never saw him again. Good to hear he is enjoying retirement. You observations about El Reno and our school are a common denominator with lots of us who moved away. Many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for telling game that, Danny! Yes – he’s still a non-nonsense former Army man with NO END of stories. LOL! 🙂 Seriously, though…I enjoy his stories. He’s got tons of them. I’ve asked him to put his stories into a journal. Some day I hope to take the journal and compile the stories into one or more books…if he ever passes it back to me like he’s supposed to. 🙂

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  4. Carole Hanna

    Enjoyed reading your nostalgic comments. I didn’t grow up in El Reno but my first car came right off Howe Chevrolet ‘ s showroom floor in Feb 1964.
    I grew up and still reside on the family farm in southeast Canadian County at Mustang. Barely a hundred students in the whole school in 1952. Today, it, Yukon and El Reno are the biggest school systems in the county.
    I remember it was a big deal getting to go to El Reno. I remember the old county courthouse, McClellan’s, TG&Y, the movie theater, etc. I still go to Carnegie Library to do historical research. The old musty odor, the historical archives, … heaven for a historian.
    I look forward to reading your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brad Kirkman

    Hi Cathy. You and I were schoolmates. I left El Reno return to my state of NC just a few days after graduating in ’89. I also have great memories of El Reno. I was only there for a few years, and have only been back a few times, but it will always be a special place to me. I look forward to reading your novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brad! Where are you in NC? It’s so funny – In my case, I couldn’t wait to get OUT of El Reno when I graduated, and now I’d do just about ANYTHING to go back. Seems like you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it, ya know? 🙂

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  6. Joe Patrick

    I, too, have many memories of El Reno as a teenager in the late fifties, the Golden Age of Rock n’ Roll. Although I left home to join the Army (with my buddy Billy Hill), and later taught at LSU for over 30 years, there was always an attraction to El Reno that often brought me back to relive all of the rich memories. Here are a few that many of you may remember…Dragging Sunset and circling Sunset Drive-In, waiting for the trains to cross on Watts (the man would come out of the hut with his stop sign), hamburgers advertised ” 7 for $1.05″, SQUAW Drive-In, skating rink, Hensley’s Truck Stop and Restaurant… all on historic Route 66, Teen Town, the Center, Rocket and Royal (later a shoe-shine parlor) theaters, Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times office in the back of the El Reno Sporting Goods store, the Reno Rancho at the “Y”, Summer camp at Ft. Hood, (45th Division National Guard) and the swimming pool with a sunbathing deck and five diving boards. Also. the log swings in Legion Park were a joy to ride when classes were over at Lincoln Elementary. These are but a few of the many memories of that era.

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