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Wholesale Observations: St. Patrick’s Day, Pt. 3
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

This recollection of Savannah’s famous signature event took place the year after my last column, which reported on my experience marching in the parade as a sophomore at BC, many years ago.

That next year (1968) I had transferred to (the “original”) Savannah High School on Washington Avenue, ten blocks north of where I grew up, on Columbus Drive at Reynolds Street. It was a major adjustment, for a boy who grew up in the parochial school system so prevalent in Savannah back then.

For one thing, the school was huge: 2,300 or so students from all across Savannah, compared to the 300 or so at my former high school, Benedictine Military School (BC). For another, it was the first time I had been exposed to such a wide swath of Savannah society, both the non-Catholic type, and of all economic backgrounds. It was a major re-adjustment to my world-view. And a most welcome one.

I made lots of friends there, and was active in many more school activities: Drama Club, Russian Club, Key Club, Student Council, Interclub Council, and later, even the Booster Club, because my then-girlfriend was in it.

What an amazing experience those entire two years were! They literally changed my life, enormously and for the better. I will be forever grateful that my parents moved me there in the beginning of my junior year. They were among the best two years of my life.

Thar first year was of course a year of enormous acclimation: learning how to get around in a huge 3-story building; learning who the teachers were; getting settled into new relationships with a large number of people, which I had never experienced before. Plus courses on all sorts of new topics! All good preparation for college.

March of that first year at SHS, I wound up going to the St. Pat’s parade with a new friend I’d made at SHS, a girl I’d met through Drama Club, who lived across the street from the school – right on the bus line to downtown. I don’t remember whether we planned to go to the parade together, or just happened to meet up downtown, but in any event, we wound up walking all over downtown after the parade was over, discovering many of its jewels during our walk.

I remember being so amazed, then, at how many architectural details there were that one never normally noticed , just passing by on the way to somewhere else. Mershon noticed that too, as she said when she signed my SHS annual at the end of the school year, a few months later. I was so glad that she and I had experienced that special time, after the parade, and discovered parts of Savannah neither one of us had known existed.

We remained just friends, afterward, but that day will always remain special to me. And, I think, to her.

Life is often like that! It sometimes brings opportunities one has to embrace and enjoy, and then be grateful for, afterwards. They often present themselves with no warning; and one sometimes just has to be brave and accept them, without knowing where they might lead to.

I was glad I did, that day! I will never forget it.

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of Savannah High School and the University of Georgia. He and his wife live in Liberty County with their menagerie of rescue cats, and are long-time Rotarians. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at

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