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June 3, 2013

Getting creative with gifts for grads

By Big Chuck D'Imperio
The Daily Star

---- — Well, it is graduation time again. So much pressure, so many decisions, so many things to take into consideration.

And that’s just the gift buying!

What are you going to give the high school graduate in your life this year?

No matter how much you sweat the decision, we know (and they do too) that all they really want and need is cash. Yet, we continue to traipse in and out of gift shops, clothing stores, electronic outlets and more looking for the least useless gift we can bestow upon our budding young academic. We resist giving cash for the most part. There has to be the perfect gift for your special graduate out there somewhere. There just has to be. So what will it be this year?

When I graduated from high school in June of 1967, my parents gave me three things: a Timex wristwatch from Cooley’s Jewelry Store in Sidney, a high-fidelity record player with a 45-changer from Bresee’s in Oneonta and the seed money of a savings account at the First National Bank of Sidney ($50). So my total take was about a C-note in value. Which was pretty good, really.

The record player was a great gift. It had big swing-out speakers and a “no-skip cushioned turntable.” It played all the big albums of the day and of course had that big, fat round cylinder in the middle where you could stack up a dozen 45s. The record player lasted through my first year in college. The Timex watch lasted me more than 10 years. The $50 was gone in a week.

Of course, the year before me, in 1966, my sister Fran got a used Corvair (“engine in the back”) for graduation, so I was a little miffed.

We have a graduate in our family this year. His name is Michael Schunk, my sister’s boy. Mike holds the distinction of being the absolute final D’Imperio to ever graduate from Sidney Central School, beginning with my parents in the 1940s, and running through all of their eight children and a small army of nieces and nephews.

So I gotta get Mikey something. He’s an avid outdoorsman with a love for hunting, camping, salmon fishing, four-wheeling, boating and things like that. Probably a “high-fidelity record player with a 45-changer” is just not going to cut it. Clothing? Maybe, since he wore a camo vest for his senior prom. Yet I still want to resist just giving him money. Maybe a few dollars in a camo wallet! I’ll have to think about that one.

For guidance on graduation gift-giving, I visited a priceless treasure of mine. It is my grandmother’s graduation book. Sarah Day D’Imperio graduated from Unadilla High School on June 20, 1911. I have had her keepsake from that day for years, so I went flipping through its old, brown pages to see what she received for her graduation gifts 102 years ago.

The list in the book, in now-faded ink with the perfect penmanship my grandmother was known for, is an eye-opener.

A Mrs. Flaesch gave my grandmother a “pair of kid gloves.” Mrs. Mullane gave her a hat brush. Mrs. Oles gave her a paper cutter. Mrs. Gurlach gave her a cup and saucer. Ethel King graced my grandmother with “a shiny pair of scissors.” Mrs. Clyde’s gift was “beauty pins.” Mrs. Woodruff gave her a “selection of perfumery.” Mr. Joyce gave her a belt pin, and Mrs. Joyce gave my grandmother a bon-bon dish. Kathryn Jones gave “a sugar shell butter knife” and Dr. Butler surprised her with a “shirtwaist ring.” Five different women gave her fans.

It’s quite a list, isn’t it? Practical, fancy, nostalgic and whimsical (two men gave her “books of toasts”). So different from today’s graduation gifts. Different times. Not an electronic item in the bunch. No clothes. Many handmade items. Items my grandmother could use in everyday life in Unadilla in 1911: embroidery scissors, three spoons, an Italian pin, silk stockings, a “gardening hat,” some cuff buttons and a “fancy umbrella.”

So it is a tricky decision this year, isn’t it? How much will you spend on a graduation gift? Hundreds? Thousands? Will it be a computer? A car? Will you resist the siren’s call of cash and seek out the perfect gift for your graduate?

I am still pondering. If only Mike were a girl. Then it would be easy. I’d just run out and pick up a shirtwaist ring, a hat brush and a book of toasts.

I’ll catch you in two ...

“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find “Big Chuck” on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.