Friday, January 27, 2012

Further adventures in yearbook research…

After I completed my column for the Carlsbad Patch on the Carlsbad History Room yearbook collection: http://carlsbad.patch.com/articles/for-the-love-of-yearbooks, my curiosity about the state of girls’ sports was so piqued that I headed over to Oceanside High School to look at their complete collection of yearbooks for the former Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School. Aside from girls’ sports, what I found in the earlier yearbooks was interesting enough to warrant a second write-up. So this blog will cover more fun tidbits from the earlier yearbooks, and a second blog will go over girls’ sports as per this yearbook collection. The Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School opened in 1906 with just twenty students in two grades, 9th and 10th. The first yearbook for the high school was published 1909. It gave a short history of the students’ activities and the school itself from 1906-1909. The yearbook was called The Nautilus and the cover included an inspirational saying: “Build thee more stately mansions, oh my soul”. It seems that the student body had consisted mainly of girls from its opening until this first publication. Five girls made up the first graduating class: Sibyl Spencer, Ramona Rieke, Marguerite Brannen, Enice Everett, and Edith Cotteral. They were active girls and serious scholars. During the 1906 and 1908-1909 school year, their basket ball [sic] team played against other schools: Santa Ana, Orange, Escondido, and Fallbrook. By 1909, they also had a new tennis court. Despite what our preconceived notions might be of the education available to girls in the early 20th c., there were no home economics classes until 1919. They did have a school library, which opened in 1907 and a student council. The student council consisted of the usual officers, as well as a “Mistress-at-arms”! Similar to our experience today, the incoming 1908-1909 freshman class was the largest: seven students, including two boys. Five girls made up the sophomore class. The junior class consisted of one boy and one girl…I hope they got along! The “Athletics” section of this first yearbook is contradictory, as were many aspects of progressive behavior in women in the past. Just as Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first female to graduate from medical school would not walk in her college’s graduation because it wasn’t “ladylike”, so these active and intelligent girls apologize: “The feminine element of the OCUHS is predominant, so if the discussion of girls’ basketball fills the space devoted to athletics in general, we hope our readers will not be disappointed.” I have tried to surmise who that apology was meant for: the three boys at the school, parents, or perhaps the general public? Regardless, the rest of the section contains their scores for the season, descriptions of the players, a general discussion of the benefits of athletics, and gratitude to those who supported the team. They won four out of seven games, and the county championship. Each player was described, e.g. "Sibyl Spencer-Small, quick, sly center" and "Enice Everett-A nifty guard with a swift arm". Ramona Rieke, who wrote the Athletics’ section, wrote a very inspirational and uplifting description of the game and its benefits (NBA/WNBA PR, take note!): “…basketball is one of the very best tests of the activity and alertness of the brain…. The real heart of its popularity is that the game is a most insistent shaper of character. Endurance, energy and patience are the secrets of successful playing. Good control of temper and the absence of selfishness and personal antagonism are necessary for a real player. But best of all is that beautiful friendliness, companionship and concentration of many minds on one thing in common, causing respect and love for one another, which is all so firmly established by team work.” By 1912, the yearbook had been re-titled, Green & White. Due to the fact that there were hardly any photos in these early yearbooks, there is a lot of information about coursework, examples of student writing, etc. In the 1912 yearbook, a student wrote about how the 10th graders studied the papers of Sir Roger de Coverly, each taking a character name to “make them more interesting”. Based on other essays in the yearbook, it is evident that Joseph Addison was revered. Another student wrote an essay about the history of African-Americans. The sophomore class motto was “That which we think we understand best, we find ourselves most ignorant of.” Good advice for all of us. This year also saw a new school built for about $16,000, after a $15,000 bond measure passed. The curriculum was still very general. This is understandable since there were only six graduating seniors in 1913. The ninth graders course load consisted of: Latin, Algebra, General Science, and English. In the senior write-ups of 1913, it was noted that Mary Machado and Ruth Bryan were three-year graduates, with the well-earned congratulations on their achievement. In one of these early yearbooks, the foreword suggests that teens consider attending high school for its excellent social aspects, but admonishes them not to even consider it if they aren’t willing to improve themselves through the challenging academics offered at the school. In an essay by Sedric Brown entitled “Ranches of California”, he suspects that the land would soon be in the hands of the “incoming tourist population”. He felt that the government should preserve the ranches, just as the do the Missions. One of the most fascinating aspects of reading documents from the past is to see if they were right or wrong about what has since come to pass… The years of WWI are reflected in the pages of the yearbooks with former students serving in the military, and there were many! There were several seniors who served and then returned to finish high school, as noted in the senior write-ups. At a time when it wasn’t a requirement, coming back to complete their high school education speaks highly of those young men. By 1925, Home Economics was relabeled Domestic Science. In 1927, it had become Domestic Art. The boys were not to be left out of advancing their own knowledge of domestic activities- the 1931 yearbook has a photo of the inaugural Boys’ Cookery Class. Another unusual class that only appeared to last a year was an Advanced Physiology Class for girls, apparently to learn about hygiene! The 1928 yearbook showed a photo of the three buses the school now had at their disposal. Prior to this, my understanding was that most students took the train and/or walked. By 1931, that number had increased to six and by 1932, seven. It was noted in the yearbook that some students had a round-trip of sixty miles. For those who participated in extracurricular activities, there were late buses that left the school at 5pm. Among the extracurricular offerings, the Stamp Club, Badminton Club, Homemaking Club, Future Secretaries, and Future Secretaries were new options in the 1950 yearbook. Senior superlatives made their debut in the 1945 yearbook. Watching the evolution of school culture and teen-aged students through their high school yearbooks in a “time-lapse” fashion affords us a unique “big picture” view, as with the changes in Home Economics classes and cheerleading (see next blog to learn more). The similarities and differences between high school students of today and those one hundred years ago, demonstrate that while teen-agers haven’t changed as much as we might think, the world around us does affect the sensibility of those who live in it.