Site icon Susan Suntree


AVHS HALL OF FAME      MY TALK      September 22, 2022

Thank you for this honor! Your praise and appreciation is deeply moving.

            My grandparents moved to the Antelope Valley when I was six and they soon bought us grandkids a horse that became our transport into the then wild desert. Gramp installed the glass in the new schools and housing for Boeing and Edwards Air Force Base workers. The flood of these new residents generated a real estate boom. When my family returned to California from our stint in the Bahamas, I was thrilled by the prospect of attending a real high school.

            I arrived at Antelope Valley High School as a junior, followed later by my brother Ted and sister Peggy. I’d spent my freshman and sophomore years, along with my older sister, Ginger, at a very strict girls’ boarding school where there were no televisions, radios, or record players. Our mail, in and out, was read and censored, though somehow a few letters from friends in Arcadia, where I attended middle school, arrived with news about high school life: surfing, the Beach Boys, sports, boys, dances! And, oh yes, so many classes! Wow!

            The first day of the fall semester at AV, I was terrified: There would be boys everywhere and such a complex world, one I had longed for but that suddenly looked overwhelming. Quickly, however, it became my teenage paradise, a feast of opportunities. There was a theater program, a speech team that went to tournaments, student government, a newspaper, clubs and classes of all sorts. There was sports for girls as well as boys, and modern dance, and so much more. I loved it even as I suffered my teenage miseries. And there were my excellent teachers, especially Mr. Guzman, my English teacher, who was a foundational influence in my life.

            My two years at AV, junior and senior, shaped my life in ways that have become more and more clear to me over the decades. In fact, my first one-woman performance, “Origins of Praise,” was based on my experiences in the Antelope Valley desert.

I’d like to share with you the poems I wrote and presented at my class reunions which starts with the year of my graduation. I think it describes the world I experienced and that deeply shaped who I am and how I have lived:  

For Antelope Valley High School’s Class of 1964


High desert children

                        migrants to Lockheed payroll

                                    to Edwards Air Force Base

            to test pilot’s BOOM banging into windows

                        to Yes it’s gonna BOOM next year

                                    real estate jumping up and down

                                                            with a speculator’s wink

Oh beautiful for spacious skies

                                                wide ocean skies

            wind blown into waves across the Great Basin

                        the ancient dust stirred

                                     from dry lakes’ once blue green shores

Joshua forests made farmland

                                                alfalfa, hogs, cattle, horses, and wheat

Wildness around the edges

                                    coyote’s cry heard in the housing tracts

Kids working on their algebra look up

                        smell dust in the wind

                                    worry about their hairdos

Dardenelles, LaDonnas, Debonairs

            Spartans Barons Lettermen

                        our tribal collection

                                    practicing everyday

                                                who we thought we wanted to be

            each the most lonely

                                    most likely to say the wrong thing

Cruising the Drive In, A&W, Denny’s, cafeteria odors

                                                drift from sandwiches all day in paper bags

                        trays rattling with the jukebox beats

  Angel Baby my Angel Baby   He’s a rebel and he never does what he should 

  Do you wanta dance and hold me tight?

Our dreams

            spread out so wide

                                    the moon is no limit

Burst from our simple desert socks

                        Right on! Sisters and Brothers

                                                into George Orwell’s arms

We, so finely shaped

                        and sent to the streets to change.

20th Reunion–1984

“I had a good time at my 10th when I went with my wife.

Going single to my 20th was different….”

20 years making lives

To explain atom bombs to step-children

                        our short hair

                                    coifed to fit an uneasy era.

How do we look?

How do we feel?

Deaths, broken homes,

                                    sagging or sharp successes

                                                new loves, knowing our work well

Those of us who are happy with small things

            happy with layers and layers of things

                        never happy

Alma Mater, nourishing mother, the reliable desert wind

                         reveals our bond:

                                                it is not this year

                                                            these memories

                                                                        this paraphernalia of the past

Our bond: death and the dreams

                                                we measure against our youth

Dancing at the Antelope Valley Inn

                                    awakening the dreamers

                                                                         for another 20 years.

50th Reunion–2014

“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere…I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.”  Carlos Castaneda

Since we met, thirty years

            to get it right

            or wrong, to fit our lives to

            old dreams new dreams no dream


                 dawn to dusk

the wind still blows,

                        dust clutters the windowsills

ravens turn across the sea blue sky.

Our memories toss their burdens, bright

                                    or fraught, into the present

We fray and bag in familiar places

                        old Levi’s fade, stitches loose at the seams

Yet we are sturdy in spirit

                        children unto grandchildren

                                    careers unto beguiling vistas or debt and worry.

There are no recliners for our lot

            the fuse of history lighted under our hearts

            sent us flying into our lives

            with rockets to the moon, space shuttle to the space station,

            classes to teach, newspapers to edit, pipes to fit, gardens to tend.

            Vapor trails of Endeavortomark our passage

            through wars, assassinations, climate threats, cycling boom and bust

Wherever we go, our inevitable interior landscape:

                                                                        desert simple vistas.

If all paths lead nowhere,

                                        here we are

Our bond: death and the dreams we measure

                        against the spaciousness of our hearts

We 60s dreamers

            this year more dining than dancing

                                    at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Susan Suntree

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