When was the last time you opened your 20-year-old, 40-year-old, or 60-year-old high school yearbook?
After you fought through the cobwebs and mold, what did you behold between those yellow, moldering pages?
In my yearbook, the first page was always dedicated to some venerable, long-tenured teacher. In my graduating class's case, that teacher was destined to be Mrs. Fern Christman.
This was the woman we had for social studies in junior high school. She was both stout and buxom, and had a habit of mopping her brow with a hanky she kept hidden deep in her prodigious bosom.
It was always a matter of high comedy when Mrs. Christman went in search of her hanky. I suppose she was middle-age, but we all considered her old. She ruled imperiously with an iron hand and a hawk-eyed stare. I never saw her smile.
In those days, teachers were allowed to whack you with a paddle if you misbehaved. What constituted misbehavior was not open for discussion and was decided by the paddle-wielder.
I personally faced the paddle because of a snowball fight at recess. My cohorts and I were lined up in front of the classroom with our backsides to the class and told to bend over and hold our ankles.
Mrs. Christman then administered our punishment, which consisted of three hard whacks to our posteriors. The instrument of punishment was a flat piece of wood with holes drilled over the surface. The experience was not only humiliating, but painful. Welcome to the public school experience of the late 1950s.
Years later, when it came time for our senior class to dedicate our yearbook, we definitely did not choose Mrs. Christman.
Nonetheless, the powers that be deemed otherwise, so the first page of the yearbook (or "The Annual," as we called it) was slated to bear her color-enhanced photo.
As senior editor of The Annual, it was my bitter duty to personally place my old nemesis front and center. I rebeled, and there followed a general uprising among The Annual staff.
The result was that we elected to name our school custodian/bus driver as the nominee. He had a winning trait in his favor: he was a nice guy.
The best part of The Annual, after discovering who won the vote for "Best Dressed" or "Most Likely to Succeed," were the blank pages where we scribbled our heartfelt messages to our friends. Here are some examples:
"Hi Boosie," (I know, it's awful, but that was my nickname.)
"Have a blast this summer and don't get into too much trouble. Have fun with all your men!" (Huh? What men?)
"Have fun with your many flames. You sure have enough!" (Are we in the same universe?)
"Hey Boosie, stay out of trouble this summer!" (There was trouble?)
"Best of luck in the future with ALL THOSE BOYS." (OK, OK!)
After reading over these notes from so long ago, I am frankly mystified. I remember being very shy in high school. I did have a few boyfriends, but mostly, I had boy-buddies.
As to getting into trouble, I didn't (well, let's just say I didn't get caught.) I quickly compared these notes with those written in the yearbook of my best friend, Kris. Hers were very similar to mine.
Somehow, it seems that we were both perceived as boy-crazy, fun-loving girls who needed to be warned about getting into trouble. Neither of us saw ourselves that way, but apparently, others did. I chalk it up to the fact that most of our friends were blatantly boy-crazy themselves and probably projected their feelings onto us.
There are a few entries in our yearbooks that make me sad: "Best of luck in everything you do. You're a real sweet girl. It has been a privilege to know you." Signed, "Shadow." (Shadow was Don Schafer, who the class chose as "Most Likely to Succeed" and who went on to become a Navy pilot. Sadly, he was later killed in a training accident.)
Another sad entry is from Sonny Jarosi, who was Kris's boyfriend
and who talked about looking forward to continuing their relationship after he went off to college. Years later, Sonny was killed by lightning while watching his young son play soccer.
So I have decided that there is some
magic in a high school yearbook: Regardless of what life has in store for us, Shadow
and Sonny, and all the rest of us are immortalized in those pages. Alive, and forever young.
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