Promises to keep in touch. Funny quotes. Bits of teenage wisdom. Words of advice. A motto meant to define you for posterity. Autographs. And photos. Don’t forget the photos. All of the aforementioned things form the landscape of one’s high school year book. Do you know where your yearbook is?
Promises to keep in touch. Funny quotes. Bits of teenage wisdom. Words of advice. A motto meant to define you for posterity. Autographs. And photos. Don’t forget the photos:
- The class photo.
- The club photos.
- The activity photos.
- The candid shots.
All of the aforementioned things form the landscape of one’s high school year book.
My yearbook photo was taken at Vincent Price Studios in St. Louis. It was done in a sepia tone. My hair was puffy because the photo was taken on a misty-hot St. Louis day and my hair had blossomed in response to the temperature. I’d hoped to get my hair cut into an afro before my senior photo but my mother had nixed that plan.
Do you know where your yearbook is?
When was the last time you pulled it out and looked at it?
Did you even buy a yearbook?
Did your high school have a yearbook?
I ask this last question because of the experience of my friend Pattie, who graduated from a public high school in 1981. There was no yearbook for her graduating class because the (adult) class adviser absconded with the yearbook funds. I’ve also heard recently of some schools not having a yearbook, because there isn't an adult committed to organizing a yearbook committee and overseeing the process. Still other schools have decided to forgo printed yearbooks in favor of virtual yearbooks.
I didn’t buy my yearbook because I knew money was tight in my household and didn’t want to burden my parents with the cost. I didn’t get a class ring for the same reason. (I didn’t have a paid job in high school and had an erratic allowance, so I didn’t have the means to save for my own or the chutzpah to figure out how to get one.)
A few years after my high school graduation, my sister picked up a copy of my yearbook at a yard sale. I was thrilled to get a copy because a poem of mine was printed in it. It was a poem about time, written in an English class. When I read it aloud in the class, one of the members of the Yearbook Committee and the teacher thought it made a profound statement, and determinedly went through the process to get it approved for inclusion in the yearbook.
When my sister gave me the yearbook, I opened it indifferently at first but then found myself thrilled as I turned the pages and saw the faces of friends, forgotten classmates, faculty and staff. It was nice to see the various clubs and activities, even the ones in which I didn’t participate. I should have participated more. (One excuse was that I came to the suburban high school for my junior year and just didn't understand the school's culture. I didn’t have an adult pushing me to participate and explore; just my parents expecting me to get good grades continuing the tradition of what I’d done in my previous school.)
This found yearbook sits on a bookshelf, hiding in plain view, but it doesn’t belong to me. The autographs and graffiti in it were written for someone else although, and come to think about it, the yearbook isn’t littered with many of those. Perhaps the classmate it belonged to felt no attachment to it and let it go. There’s no signature in it to tell me to whom it belonged.
Recently, my husband had several classmates over for dinner -– a mini-reunion of sorts. He pulled out his yearbook, and they happily and boisterously looked through it and reminisced. They graduated from Boston Latin School. There were only seven Blacks in his class, the last all-male class before the school went co-ed. Each of them had included the same quote under their photos –- a final act of unity and acknowledgment that they had survived the rigors or that school.
I, unfortunately, am not in touch with anybody from my high school class. There is one friend who graduated the year before me who lives in the area. We are long over-due to be in touch so I think I’ll contact her and ask her to bring her yearbook, pull the found one I have out and compare notes between our classes.
As I get older, I have come to appreciate more and more the importance of records, archives and rituals. These are talismans that allow us to capture and recapture times and events. Who knows, I may even go to the next class reunion.
Related Reading About Yearbooks
- The site yearbookladies.com is dedicated to all things yearbook. There are posts on celebrating Yearbook Week (signed into law during the Reagan administration) and whether video yearbooks will replace printed yearbooks. They also offer advice for yearbook advisers.
- If you’ve lost a year book, Ron Bogdan may be able to help locate it. Ron lost his year book. In the process of looking for it, he realized there were probably lots of other people like him who had lost their yearbooks as well. A business was born. On getmyyearbook.com, he sells and locates yearbooks, although, sadly, he has never located his own.
- In a post, High School Yearbook Memories, Raisin Toast shares photos from her daughter’s high school yearbook. Having homeschooled her daughter through 8th grade, she was concerned about her daughter’s ability to adjust to public high school. Her daughter adapted quickly and this post pays tribute to her high school years.
Yearbooks: 2000 and Late, or Still Great?: On this post two Spark writers, Kathryn Williams, a former year book editor, and Kat Rosenfield debate whether yearbooks still have relevance. The ichat starts out swinging:
Kat: Now that everyone's high school memories are forever immortalized and always accessible via facebook, the yearbook is just a vanity project for people who didn't have anything else decent to put on their college resumes.
Kathryn’s response is great –- read more on the link.
There are lots of blog posts and news articles about yearbook controversies. The following one was interesting to me because it didn’t involve a money scandal; rather it was design and budget oriented.
Brouhaha over Timber Creek High’s yearbook: Timber Creek is one of the district’s biggest schools, and last year it teemed with more than 4,200 students. So, the theme for last year’s book was “System Overload.”
But then this year rolled around. As did the recession. The school, according to both the district and Taylor, shed more than 1,000 students. Teachers left. Portables that covered the campus were removed.
So this year, a completely different focus seemed appropriate, she said: Cutting Back.
“It just seemed right with all the stuff going on in the world, and it was relevant to Timber Creek,” Taylor said.
The staff did some research and found a similar cut-page design on Google. So they put together a soft-cover book with a few ripped pages contained in a cardboard box, like a slipcover. It warns students not to hold the book by its cover
An aricle on the 50 Something Moms blog by Tekla Nee explores The Facebook dilemma: If they weren’t your friends then, should they be your “friends” now?
So now, when former classmates friend me and I don’t remember them at all, I realize that it’s not their fault that they didn’t see me in high school, the walls of the boxes were too high for me to see them, either. And that the people who fit into their little boxes, the ones that seemed to navigate those treacherous waters effortlessly and happily, were likely trapped by the structure as well. And maybe, finally, as we slowly connect on Facebook, we’ll have a better idea of who each other is—and was—than we ever did back then.
On Midlifebloggers.com I found a post, Returning to High School: the Reunion Show by Mar-Ce Bennett of Boomer Pie.
Our high school senior class consisted of 200 students. I know this because I just unpacked my old high school yearbook and I counted every one of those grainy black and white photos. Lordy, get a load of those goofy poofy hairstyles on the girls. All the guys sported neckties and suit jackets. Little did we know how much our world was about to change with Vietnam and the ensuing radical Sixties. I think we may have been the last of the innocents back then.
Good and plenty!
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