I was always grateful I went through my binge drinking stage in high school. By the time I got to Penn State, I was past all of that, and binge drinking seemed juvenile. Kid stuff. But it was new to many freshmen students who were free from parental control for the first time, and experimental drinking badly damaged their lives. They were the ones who flunked out after their first semester. I assume some, at least, learned from the experience and eventually enrolled elsewhere, but they lost valuable years that I did not.
I am publishing here photos from a drinking party with high school friends in 1954 who some of you may recognize. They are the most valuable photos I have, and I want to assure their preservation. I do not value them as evidence of the debauchery I have experienced, or to purge my shame, but simply a stage we had to first experience to later reject. We all became credits to society with upstanding careers, stable marriages, and children to be proud of. We paid a lifetime of taxes. None of us became alcoholics. None of us became felons. None of us became a liability to society. It was a dangerous experiment, but all’s well that ends well, I kid you not. To quote another old adage, “the proof is in the pudding” where all ingredients contribute to the final result, even the bitter ones.
(Those years must have been difficult for my poor mother, but, on the bright side, she was very relieved when I started dating my stable, church-going future wife, and they always had a warm relationship. When my mother died, my wife made the choices for her funeral. She was the only one who knew my mother’s favorite colors, hymns, and flowers. Neither my father nor I had a clue.)
I am leaving out the names. It is a record of what once happened and perhaps should happen to others. The identity of the participants is unimportant after all these years.
Feel free to deny it, old companions, if it embarrasses you. Tell your family it is some other kid who everybody said looked exactly like you. It will be our secret. The vault is sealed, as they say on the Seinfeld TV series.
And this is true, anyway. You are not the same person shown in the photo from over 60 years ago. That really was a different kid who doesn’t even look the same, anymore.
(The last photo is still remembered as the “Famous Potato Chip Bowl Photo.” It was not staged. The bowl was thrown out.)