In years gone by there was a special honor which would be given to some of the High School Seniors in their Senior edition of the yearbook. This honor was not an arbitrary thing. The school faculty and staff was not involved in the selection of what was known at the "Superlatives." All the seniors would vote to place this honor upon a select few of their graduating classmates of that particular year. No one got their feelings hurt. No one felt cheated or excluded. No one mounted a campaign to be selected. This was an honor bestowed by the senior students who voted and expressed their feelings about certain of their classmates. If a person was selected as a Superlative, they were honored. No one gloated or bragged about their selection. Selecting Superlatives was something that could be done in earlier years when the politically correct crowd had not polluted things so. It was a day when selecting a winner or someone to honor was not seen as a slighting of others but it was an expression of appreciation and honor to be bestowed upon a certain few. Certainly, if one were selected they were honored but it was not something that people threw in the faces of others.
I remember that in 1961, my graduating year, I was totally taken aback when I was informed that I was among the superlatives that year. I wondered what in the world I was selected for. I didn't even know that that many of the students knew who I was much less thought so highly of me as to select me as a superlative. Some of the categories that were voted on were things such as Most Handsome, Most Talented, Neatest, Most Likable, Most Likely to Succeed, Most Versatile, Most Intellectual and others. It seems that I was actually selected for two of them. I was involved with a lot in High School. My job on the local radio station made me somewhat of a personality as I played records at night for many who made requests. In addition to that very public job, I was in the Big Blue and White Band, the Glee Club and the Thespians (acting club). It never occurred to me that I would be selected as The Most Versatile person in Tifton High School. But, to my total surprise, that was not all. I was also selected at The Neatest. From the time I was a little boy, my mother and grandmother had dressed me very neatly and they taught me to keep myself clean and presentable. My Grandfather Golden was a very neat man and his influence was also evident in my life. But "Neatest".....! I was shocked! The school representative for the yearbook came to me and said that I had won two of the superlative slots but that another person, who I considered much neater than me, had tied me for that particular spot. I couldn't believe that I had actually tied the other young man. So, they gave me a choice as to which one I wanted to represent or that I could be mentioned in both Superlative slots. Well, I really thought that the other young man was much neater than me so I told them that I would take The Most Versatile and that he should get Neatest since I truly felt that he deserved that honor. So, that is the way it was published in the 1961 yearbook.
All of those selected as Superlatives were gathered together for a photograph. We all had to be dressed in formal dress. Evening gowns for the girls and tuxes for the guys. A beautiful home on 20th street was selected and we had our group picture made on that perfect lawn in front of that gorgeous home with the towering South Georgia pines in the background. Each category also had pictures made to be included in the yearbook. The young lady who won Most Versatile that year was a girl named Joan Gray. Her father was the Superior Court judge in Tifton. I went to their house and the two of us had our picture made in front of a beautiful organ they had in their living room. What an honor!
Those days were very special times. In today's world it's considered not PC when people are selected in such a way. Why, it implies that others just don't make the grade and they are somehow slighted. No one ever felt that way. It was not a process of slighting anyone. It was a process of allowing the students to select those among their classmates they considered notable in some way. Today, those not selected would be considered "losers" in some way and no one is a loser in today's PC world. Kids are taught that everyone is a winner. No one loses in T Ball. No one loses in Upward Basketball. Everyone is a winner. That is sweet but it teaches kids that if they are not a winner, they have been discriminated against. They are not taught how to deal with adversity which is surely to come. It is a fact that people will lose some situations in life and young people should be taught early how to handle that. It's a wimpy world where people are taught early in life that everyone is a winner and that certainly, even though no one won the T Ball game, everyone won. What happens when that theory implodes and life takes on a different aspect than they have been programmed to believe? I will tell you what happens. Psychiatrists make a lot of money, personal counsellors have full schedules and the pharmacist can hardly fill all the prescriptions for "feel good" pills. People were taught that they must always be a winner and they are not prepared for being a loser even in the slightest way. No, Superlatives are out of vogue today. The process implies that those not chosen for such an honor have been fundamentally denigrated and discriminated against and they are not a winner.
Yes, it was a simpler day. We could stand some more simple days in the world we now inhabit. But, alas, the day has come and gone when a high school could have something called The Superlatives and no one would get their "feelings" hurt.
William F. Harrell