After receiving some high school yearbooks in recent donations to the collection at the Fenton History Center, my curiosity has gotten the better of me. Each high school in the area has a yearbook/senior annual. Each school has a mascot and school colors. Sometimes, at least in the past, each class in the school had their own colors, motto and even a class yell. These become the traditions over the years and create a sense of community, a sense of pride and loyalty to place and friends.
Reunions bring classmates back to the place, bring shared memories and stories to the forefront for at least a few hours and reinforce the shared triumphs and sorrows of the past.
Many of these memories are captured each year in the yearbook. The yearbook celebrates the senior class and in a way challenges the following classes to continue the school traditions and even to improve themselves and the school. Many yearbooks have pretty much followed a standard format.
Technology has changed yearbooks as photography and printing improved and color was added. Seniors often had individual photographs while the other classes often had group photographs. School faculty and staff photographs are included along with the many activities of the students.
Earlier yearbooks included advertising from local businesses. Sometimes histories of the school, activities or even local happenings are included.
But the feature that sparked my curiosity is the title of the yearbook for each school. Jamestown High School, beginning in 1901, had a yearbook/senior annual. For the first three years each one had an individual title. Beginning with the 1904 annual, the title became The Red and Green.
For a few years in the nineteen teens, The Red and Green, became a quarterly that was more like a literary magazine with reports of school happenings included, but no listings of seniors or photographs. But when and why was that title chosen and when did the colors of red and green become the school colors?
The titles of other schools’ yearbooks can be puzzling or really make sense when one considers the place or other circumstances. The Falconer yearbook is the Falconaire, and their mascot is a Falcon which goes with the place name. This was probably chosen after the Celoron, Lakewood and Busti schools were centralized and the two high schools, Lakewood and Celoron were combined into the Southwestern school.
Senior Leaves is the title of the Frewsburg yearbook. So are they leaves of a book of memories for the seniors –just what were the thoughts behind the title? Randolph has The Hilltop, maybe because the school was on a hilltop? Pine Valley has the Pine Knot. Does that title refer to the use of a pine knot as a source of light in earlier times and thus the yearbook helps light the way for graduating seniors?
Cassadaga Valley has Valley View, which makes sense since the yearbook reflects many who live in the Cassadaga Valley while going to school. Lakewood High School, before centralization, had the Cardinal, as in the bird, for a title, but why?
Maple Grove has the Pointer, which makes sense in that it is the school district including Bemus Point. Panama has the Panorama, which is logical in that a yearbook does offer a panorama of activities of the students.
Plus Panama Panorama is alliterative. And Washington Junior High School chose the title, Surveyor, since George Washington was a surveyor, and the yearbook does survey the entire year. Does anyone know the story behind any of the yearbook titles?
These are not the only yearbooks in the collection at the Research Center. The collection includes most of the schools in the southern portion of Chautauqua County (and Randolph in Cattaraugus County, since it is so close to our area).
Many people look at these yearbooks for different reasons. One person who stopped in the other day found his own yearbook and commented on the memories it brought back. Another person had come in looking for family information and found her aunt in a yearbook. That picture was the only picture she had ever seen of her aunt.
As high school graduations draw near in this area, yearbooks will be passed from person to person, collecting autographs and greetings from classmates. Whatever title is on the cover, the contents will be similar, with only the names and faces being different.
Pictured: A sampling of area high school yearbooks in the collection of the Fenton History Center’s Research Center.