It was a graduation like any graduation - with a few exceptions.
Inside the Hynes auditorium it was all smiles and cheers and flying mortarboards. But in the area behing the stage stood a platoon of tactical police officers waiting for trouble that never came.
After three years of court-ordered desegregation, demonstrations, racial confrontations and riot-garbed police, the Class of '77 was graduated from South Boston High School Tuesday night in an atmosphere of peace.
"Nobody came and popped anyone, no one called anyone any names," Headmaster Jerome C. Winegar said. "Things went fantastically.
"We presented all the awards with out a hitch," he said. "The kids respected each other despite their private feelings. There were no catcalls when the students came up to receive their diplomas. There was applause for friends and silence forothers."
Boston School Committee member Paul R. Tierney, a featured speaker at the ceremony, told reporters, who were barred from the proceedings by the students and admonistrators, that he too thought the graduation went "remarkably well."
He said the students "deserve a great deal for being able to go to school under the most difficult conditions over the past three years and still be able to achieve their diplomas."
However, South Boston antibusing spokesman James Kelly warned, "A peaceful graduation doesn't mean there won't be problems. I anticipate there'll be problems next year and the year after and year after that."
Winegar conceded part of the reason the graduation went so smoothly was because of the tight security imposed because of the threat of demonstrations by antibusing groups.
Aside from the more than 25 officers stationaed in the wings, a half-dozen mounted patrolmen and squad cars waited outside the auditorium. Inside, several plainclothes police stood along the walls.
For the students the security precautions were nothing new.
As in the daily morning routine at South Boston High School, each of the 224 graduates and nearly 1,000 guests attending the ceremony was forced to fule past a line of security aides and police. Some pocketbooks and coats were searched.
All that was missing was the school's metal detector at the door.
"There are more cops in there than students," one graduate complained. They're not graduating us, they're just letting us out."
Winegar had ordered the site of the graduation changed twice because of "solid evidence" that some persons were planning to disrupt the ceremony.
About 3,000 tickets had been distributed for the graduation and then recalled in favor of a smaller number as an added precaution.
The only disruption was cheering from white students for three graduates who had pasted a white shamrock and the word "Southie" on the back of their powder blue graduation robes.
Outside the auditorium mawny of the smiles turned sour as reporters approached the graduates and their families.
"We're been burnt too many times by the press," one graduate said. "I'm not talkin' to reporters. I'm not saying a thing. This is my graduation day."
One parent who refused to reveal his name said, "I'm disappointed that the education got lower becauseof what (U.S. District Court Judge W. Arthur) Garrity pulled. Every Southie boy and girl loved to go through Southie High until this busing happened.
"But what can you say when the police are outside your door day and night; it's not an education it's a police action," he said.
Rita Flemon of Dorchester, whose daughter was graduated, said, "It's been pretty rough for her with all the fighting and carrying on in the school. But I'm glad now because she went through it. She went in and came out all right. She made it."
For Leroy Hunter, the experience of three years at South Boston high school is one to put aside and not look back on.
"I'm planning to forget about it. No, I didn't like it much."