The band America had a hit in 1971– A Horse with No Name –
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”
Of course I remember the song because I was in high school when it was a hit.
In fact, it might have been playing in the background while I worked on my high school year book – carefully inserting the names of the seniors beneath their pictures – probably in alphabetical order. Enabling future generations to find their parents, or their father’s girl friend.
It might be okay to be in a desert on a horse with no name but it is definitely not okay to create a high school year book without names. Yet that seems to be exactly what the staff of the Union High School Yearbook of Burgettstown PA decided to do in 1941. The year my father-in-law was a high school senior.
I could live with names being out of alphabetical order, or even having to flip from one page to the next to match the location of the picture with a list of names on another page. But in this particular yearbook there is no way to make the connection between the picture and the “senior statistics” that appear on the following pages.
Now fortunately, because we have pictures close enough in time, we know that my father-in-law, Frederick William George, is third from the left on the fourth row up from the bottom. But that doesn’t help us much in finding the friends he remembered from high school: Jay Jackson, Glenn Nichols, Donald Tope, Clark McKenzie, Frank Rumbaugh, Donald Bywaters and Dwayne Reed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know what they looked like? But alas, we can’t tell whose picture is whose because for some reason the staff of the Union HS Yearbook in 1941 thought it would be a good idea to just sort the seniors in random order without putting their names under, or even on the page beside, the pictures.
They knew how to alphabetize things because the “Senior Stats” on the pages that follow the pictures include the favorite expressions, career aspirations and hobbies of each Senior. That’s how I know that my father-in-law Fred wanted to be a doctor (and he became one) and that his hobby was playing the saxophone. And his favorite expression was “Did ja know.”
It’s the USC philosophy of no names on the backs of the football players’ jerseys. “We’re a team – it’s not about the individual wearing the jersey.” I’m a fan, so I accept that – and #16 will always be Rodney Peete and # 42 will always be Erik Affholter (sorry Ronnie Lott and Ricky Bell but you were before my time). It might work on the gridiron but definitely has no place in high school year books.
What’s amazing is that back in the early 1990s when we lived in California about 5 minutes away from Dad, Rick and Dad spent time together on Tuesday nights. Sometimes it was a movie and dinner and sometimes it was sitting around Dad’s family room with Rick asking questions and Dad reminiscing, while Rick captured those memories on a cassette recording. And it is great to have those recordings and to be able to hear Dad’s voice eighteen years after he died.
And it is quite remarkable that Dad had such a good memory of his high school days more than 50 years later. So now that the wonders of the internet make it possible for me to see Dad’s high school year book, wouldn’t it be great to be able to look up the names he mentioned and see what his friends looked like?
Yes it would, but it’s not going to happen because for some reason that defies all logic – there are no names beneath the pictures of the seniors in the yearbook !!!
Oh well, we must content ourselves to know that two of Dad’s friends wanted to be doctors (Glenn Nichols and Jay Jackson) and to know that his friend Donald Tope wanted to be a petroleum engineer. Interestingly several of Dad’s friends listed their hobbies as hunting and fishing (four of them) but his was playing the saxophone.
I’ve searched the other Union High School yearbooks from the time period and fortunately a couple of years later, in 1943, when Dad’s younger brother Richard was a senior, the names and senior statistics appear with the photo, which is why we have this picture of Uncle Richard.