Yearbook Predictions By Karen E. Livsey, Fenton History Center Archivist

Many of the high school yearbooks in the collection at the Fenton History Center, especially the older ones, have something written about each of the graduating seniors. Often a few words or phrases that may describe their interests and personalities or something that predicts their future. Some yearbooks have a collection of “Senior Superlatives” that have been chosen by the classmates. These could be the Best Scholars, the Most Likely to Succeed, the Funniest, and many others, and always a male student and a female student. One has to wonder if the superlatives continued through the person’s life. Did the funniest male student of each class continue to crack jokes and tell funny stories throughout his life? Did the most likely to succeed actually succeed and in what occupation?

Some classes had class wills and class prophecies. Were any of the prophecies correct? Did the attribute or object that was willed to a younger student get passed on in the next year to yet another student? Someday it would be interesting to take a few of the of the sayings, predictions and attributes and follow the person to see if any continued, were true, or came to fruition over the years.

When Roger Tory Peterson graduated in 1925, the words accompanying his senior picture were: “Woods! Birds! Flowers — here are the makings of a great naturalist.”Whoever wrote that for the yearbook was ever so correct in the prediction for him. The same is true for Robert H. Jackson. In the 1910 Jamestown High School yearbook after his name is written: “Mark you! This promising young orator from Frewsburg!” These are two people that were easy to follow up on after high school but what about all the others who went on to live their lives wherever life took them. The girls could have married, thus changing their name and disappear into history because we don’t know their married name.

Many of the predicted lives were probably changed by the circumstances of the times in which they graduated. The students graduating in the late 1920s and early 1930s may have had to go to work instead of choosing to pursue a college course because of the depression of that time. World War I and World War II altered many lives, as did the later wars.

I have always been curious about the predictions of a yearbook and someday I would like to pick a few people, unknown to me, from either just one year or maybe from a number of years and see if the each person is traceable and find what they did and how it compares to the yearbook. One other angle to this would be compare the junior high yearbooks to the high school yearbooks to see if things changed in the three years of high school. The Fenton History Center has Washington Junior High School yearbooks from 1930 and 1932 with a class will and a class prophecy. How many of these students graduated from Jamestown High School? Did any of the junior high prophecies continue through high school and life? Many of them are a bit tongue-in-cheek but that could have continued through their life. Of course, what will help with such a project would be any of the reunion booklets for the chosen class. These booklets usually report spouses, children and occupations or avocations.

Think back to what was written about you and your friends and see how accurate these were.

Pictured: A few yearbooks from the collection of the Fenton History Center. Many yearbooks offer insights into the personalities of the students through class wills and prophecies.


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