It’s just a typical old-fashioned high school yearbook photograph: students lined up in the gymnasium, tallest in the back row, one photo to represent that group of people in one year of their four-year high school journey to graduation. For at least one of those students in that grainy black and white photograph, the picture represents an entire high school career.
My Dad is in the picture of the sophomore class at Port Leyden Central School. He’s the first boy in the top row. I gave Dad the reproduced image on Father’s Day. When visited him in early July, I found he had put the photograph in a frame and placed it at a prominent spot in his home
Now there’s nothing spectacular about a son surprising his father with a lost photo, or with the father placing the gift in a place of honor in his home. But as in most situations in life, there’s more to the story than what meets the eye.
Dad dropped out of high school within weeks of when that yearbook photograph was taken. He was needed on the family farm and like a lot of boys in upstate New York in the late 1940’s, he was simply more valuable to the family by helping out at home than by staying in the classroom. Everyone made sacrifices in those years and the Newvine family was no exception.
That high school photograph was the last one of Dad in school. He wouldn’t have a class picture for a junior year, no senior portrait, no team shot from athletics, and no group image from clubs or activities. His high school years ended less than half-way through the four-year cycle.
Dad went on to marry my mom a few years later. A few years after that, they raised three children, and saw each one pick up their high school diplomas. While Dad never got one, he’s as much a part of those three diplomas as his children who earned them. My Dad values education and it’s easy to see why.
So that picture, while it represents some unfulfilled aspirations, also represents something else. To me, it’s about a man who made sacrifices for his family beginning at a very early age. It’s about a man who overcame those challenges to make a better life for the next generation.
And it has established a foundation for my generation to build upon.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced and visits his dad Ed every year in upstate New York.