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Saturday, June 25, 2005


All Hail and Praise the Blah Blah Blah

I have no real idea why, but I woke up this morning thinking about my alma mater.

I'm not talking about where I went to school, I'm talking about my school's alma mater, the song of praise to the school's high quality that is sung at assemblies and football games. I woke up this morning to the revelation that I don't know my high school's alma mater.

I remember the alma mater from the school district where I went to elementary school. Apparently, I had that one drilled into my head at an early enough age that it stuck. As far as alma maters go, it's not bad, I guess. It rhymes. It's short and to the point. It's got a pithy melody that doesn't sound bad when played by an inexperienced horn section.

The alma mater from the place I went to junior high and high school, though, is another matter. I remembered the first line. It went "Oh hail to thee, our Western Reserve and honor to thy name." The music that goes with those words I remember as well. I remember singing them and thinking, "Wow. Whoever wrote this had absolutely no fucking clue what he was doing." It's a song that makes you feel kind of sorry for the notes; makes you want to apologize to the ears of people who listen to it. It's basically like the songwriter took a bunch of notes and plucked them at random to string together into a song.

But, as memorably awful as the first line is, I hadn't a clue what followed it. So I Googled it. I Googled "western reserve berlin alma mater", because I went to Western Reserve High School in Berlin Center, Ohio. And because I wanted to find the alma mater. I found out that my tiny little high school--I graduated in a class of 80 students--now has a web site. That tripped me out because WR was not the most tech-savvy school out there. We had a computer lab, but the computers weren't really much more than abaci with On switches.

The site has all kinds of handy info, like pictures of the faculty. They don't tell you who the people are or what they teach, but they've got pictures on there, so that if you see these folks on the street, you'll know what you're dealing with. They do identify the principals of the high school, junior high and elementary, which proved mind-blowing when I found out that a guy with whom I graduated is now the principal of the junior high. I am old.

Anyway, they also have all of the words to the alma mater. I clicked on the link and took a look. I'm thinking now that the reason I didn't recall this song is basically out of self-preservation. I think my mind didn't want to be home to something that ugly and so, like a plane crash survivor blocking out details of the wreck, my brain just shut down the synapses where that song was stored.

It's long for an alma mater. It rhymes in places, but not all over. Lines are repeated for no apparent reason. It also lacks some of the confidence that one normally looks for in an alma mater. One of the repeated lines is "We strive to do our best." That sounds kind of Special Olympicsy, doesn't it? The music, thankfully, isn't on the site. I'm fairly confident that the rest of the tune is as awful as the first line, so I think the world is probably a better place with the notes left off the web.

I liked my high school. I didn't have a Golden Years sort of high school experience, but neither did I fantasize about shooting up the place. I edited the school newspaper--then called the Devil Dispatch, now called the Devil's Den, although I think maybe Missives from the Dark Lord would be a better title if you're going with the satan thing--and had a column, which gave me the practice to write what I'm writing now. I did morning announcements; I was in Drama Club and Student Council and I never got laid. So not great and not awful.

I just wish they'd get a new Alma Mater. Maybe they could hire Peter Frampton to write something. He's got to be working cheap these days, right? Maybe Al Jarreau?

I never went to a school that had a theme song... unless 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall counts.
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