The Start of My Vintage Yearbook Collection…

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…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.

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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! 🙂

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

12 comments on “The Start of My Vintage Yearbook Collection…

  1. Eeeeee!!!!! If you just heard a shrill sound echoing out from hundreds upon hundreds of miles away, it was me seeing the photos in this post and reading about your love of vintage yearbooks. I’ve always been smitten with them too, however I’ve not chanced upon any in person yet, so the reserved spot on my bookshelf for one (or more) remains empty at this point in time. Thank you for sharing these vintage yearbook gems with us, dear gal – loved them!!!

    ♥ Jessica

    • Jessica-

      Check out eBay, they have wicked cheap vintage yearbooks, dear! If its expensive to Canada, send it to me, and I have a Stamps.com membership that lets me ship for MAD cheap now internationally. You totally need at least one good vintage yearbook on that shelf, dahling! 🙂

      -Holly

  2. carol stodola says:

    I just happened across your sight. My mother graduated from Manitowoc Lincoln High School in 1941! She is 90 now. I will have to see if she knows the couple you write about and the original owner of the Flambeau! I graduated from Lincoln in 1977. I love the era of the 40’s.

    • OMG that is amazing! I would love to hear about the people from the yearbook, if she knows of them! How amazing to get a followup and fill in more of the story! Let me know 🙂

      -Holly

      • carol stodola says:

        Isn’t this fun! I’m on my way to work now but will get back to you. It’s weird how I found your sight. I was visiting my mom the other day and was on this kick lately of reading about Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind, etc. The other day my mom said that when she was little she thinks that Barbara Stanwyck came to Manitowoc for publicity and mom remembers cars and very bright lights (must have been at night) downtown. But mom was wondering what it was all about or was B. Stanwyck really here. So later I Googled Barbara Stanwyck in Manitowoc Wisconsin and your sight was one of the results. When I saw in the opening line something about a Manitowoc Lincoln High Yearbook I had to see what it was!More later, Carol

        Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2014 22:31:29 +0000
        To: stodolacl@live.com

      • OMG that is so cool! I love hearing the more in depth and personal stories like this – it makes things really come alive to me! I hope to hear from you soon! 🙂

        -Holly

      • carol stodola says:

        Hi, Just been busy but wanting to get back to you! I thought I knew who Howard Lensmire and his wife were from the names and looking at your photos and my mom confirmed that. She said they have both passed away. They had a son James who was in my grade school class. I didn’t know any of the children very well. Also, Rosemary’s sister Mildred (goes by Billie) was married to a nephew of my dad’s (they had 3 kids) but later divorced. Billie lived a few blocks from where I grew up next to her mother-in-law (my aunt) and later remarried. I looked at the 1942 Flambeau @ the library here in Manitowoc (that’s where I work) recently so that was fun to see after seeing it on your website. I saw lots of familiar names from the area. I noticed that John Pritchard was in there-class of 42? He is alive yet (in MLWK area) and a cousin of my mom’s. You might find it interesting to know that Manitowoc has been known through the years for ship building. We built submarines for WW11 so many residents worked in the industry (my mom worked in an office there before she married) It was a source of great pride in the area. There were housing units built in the town for all of the extra people that worked in the shipyards and those streets are named after submarines that were launched. There is a Maritime museum hear and a WW11 sub. in the river as part of it. From what I recall hearing, John D. West (a prominent local business man) was the person that figured out a way to launch the submarines into the Manitowoc River. He went on to build very successful businesses in Manitowoc and he and his wife were great philanthropists. His company, The Manitowoc Company is an international company that sells cranes and one division sells industrial type ice cube machines. There have been reunions in town of men that served on the submarines. As there probably aren’t many vets alive now I don’t know if they still have reunions. Jerry (Gerry?) Pilger who lived a cpl. of blocks from me, was a sub. vet and very instrumental in getting the museum going and the the reunions. He died about 2 years ago. I wonder if he is in the Flambeau of 42. Must run – I probably told you more than you ever wanted to know! lol! If you travel, you might find Manitowoc an interesting place to visit. Lincoln High is still our public high school. Instead of building a new one they renovated it a few years ago. It is a neat building. When you think of all the people that passed through there-not sure when it was built-maybe 1920? The graduation ceremony is really neat to see-the students dress up in formal attire and there is a beautiful ceremony outside in “the bowl”. The graduates march down steps into the bowl. With good weather it’s a beautiful sight. Not sure if it was always held outside. I will have to ask my mom. Just curious-how did you come about acquiring the Flambeau? E-bay? ttyl, Carol

      • Oh wow I loved you telling me all of that! I am such a history buff, particularly personal histories of people. That’s why I love yearbooks so much! I came across the Flambeau on eBay, yes. I was buying yearbooks every single day, it seemed like LOL! That’s so sad the Lensmires passed away – it would have been so neat to have gotten in touch with them and have done a little interview! I have the birth announcement for said son – it would even be cool to do an interview with him! The Flambeau is my favourite yearbook in my collection particularly because of those little hidden gems I found when I received the yearbook. It really brought them to life and made things so much more real than just what is on a piece of paper. I feel like I know them! It would be a real kick to talk to the son! I kind of feel a pull to visit Manitowoc – perhaps after my wedding my husband and I could make a visit! Thank you SO much for the info – it was so cool and surreal to hear more about the Lensmires and the town! I hope you and your mom are doing well in this crazy winter we have been having – tell her I said hi 🙂

        Best,

        Holly

  3. Chris Miller says:

    Hi. Howard was my Dad. I’m the Christine Rose mentioned in the birth announcement. My Dad joined the Navy after High School and served in WWII. After the war he went to UW Madison for awhile and then came back to Manitiowoc and became a plumber. He stayed there all of his life doing well until he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2011. When my brothers and I emptied my parents home to sell it,we donated many things to St Vincent DePaul’s and Goodwill. I thought someone might enjoy the Year Books. I’m glad one ended up with you.

    Chris

    • Wow, that is so cool of you to write to me about your father, I am a little awestruck! Thank you so much for taking the time out to let me know about your father. Your father’s yearbook has become my favourite of all of my collection because of the newspaper clippings and the discussion of him in the past few weeks. It must be so cool to see from your end too 🙂 Would you mind if I made a blog post about this? I am sure my readers would be just as thrilled as I am to find out this information! 🙂

      -Holly

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