…begins with this 1945 Westwood High School yearbook from New Jersey!
As some of you know, I was born and raised in New Jersey, so naturally when I saw this, I was immediately pulled in. And best of all, I know exactly where Westwood is! I love looking through the yearbooks; it gives me a real connection to the eras that I love and allows me to know what people’s everyday lives were like – especially those just starting their lives in a very scary and trying time – World War Two.
Regrettably, my mind sometimes goes to places that are depressing, and looking at a lot of these pictures made me think of how many had died in the war. I know it is a very viable prospect, and highly likely that this is a situation that exists in high numbers. It really makes things hit you that much harder when you see faces and lives in cold, hard ink. There is even a list in my 1945 yearbook of all the alumni who died in the war until that point, and later on in the book you see a list of who is going into the service from the graduating class.
But one of my favourite things is that it does give a real face to those in the war, and commemorates their lives rather than their deaths. I also enjoy the intense patriotism that these yearbooks show, and it makes my heart swell with pride to know that quite literally, everyone partook in the war effort in one way or another.
The yearbooks also give a great glimpse into the real fashions that people wore, from the teenage/twenty-something students to the faculty and other people in between. I love looking at the outfits and the hair of the girls – I get rather envious of some girls with great dresses and perfect hair to match!
I have five yearbooks now – three from high schools, and two from colleges. Why the college yearbooks? It gives another insight into life back during that time. I love to look at the majors of everyone and see what kind of path they were paving for themselves. I just so wish I could further investigate their lives and see what they made of it. I may have to at least pick a few of the ones that interest me the most and do some research! As would be anticipated, most of the women in college either majored in home economics, English, or education. But I did notice a few outstanding women who went above and beyond the “boundaries” of their time to major and go into fields such as political science, psychology, chemistry, and even medicine. These women make me proud – they didn’t let stigmas of the time dictate what kind of live they led. They let their passion take the driver’s seat rather than what was “expected” of women during that time. And that is trailblazing at its finest, my dears!
My favourite yearbook has to be the 1942 Flambeau from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It’s called the “Victory Garden Edition”, of course paying homage to growing your own veggies to offset the rationing of the time.
This yearbook is unusual first off in that it is spiral bound – this has to be the first and only time I have ever seen this! It was owned by Howard Lensmire, a junior during this time and was slated to graduate in 1943. He seemed to be quite a popular and well-liked guy by all of the signatures he acquired!
On nearly every page you see a few signatures from kids in the school. I love reading them, and knowing that real people wrote on that exact page back in 1942. It just blows my mind and makes me smile
But the real cherry on top of this ice cream? Well, when I opened up this yearbook initially, a piece of paper fell out. It was yellowed, obviously showing some age. I opened it, and immediately was stunned – it was the whole wedding coverage of the yearbook owner’s nuptials! Not only that, there was the announcement of his second child’s birth!
How amazing is that?! I feel like I know Mr. Lensmire personally because of having all of this first hand information. I want to research more of his life and if he is still alive! I think this may become a pet project for me now LOL!
Howard was also on the Junior Varsity Football Squad, and in the picture I have the yearbook opened to that page. You can see him in the group by looking directly where the lower right hand corner of the birth announcement is pointing to in the picture. I believe his jersey was #17.
I have had a few people give me weird reactions when they know I have a collection of vintage yearbooks. My one friend even said, “Why do you have yearbooks from a school you never went to and people you don’t know?” But I feel that unless you are either a history nerd or a vintage buff, you won’t entirely understand the magic of it. But if you are a history nerd or vintage buff, I highly recommend getting yourself a vintage yearbook or two from your favourite eras. They’re not expensive at all, either – the most expensive one I have cost $15 with shipping included on eBay! It is a very cool and very fun way to have an authentic attachment to a period that holds a special place in your heart.