Lessons From an Old Yearbook

I was in an antique store yesterday, and I found a bunch of old yearbooks.

I decided to buy the oldest high school yearbook with pictures: Grass Valley, CA, class of 1930.


It was done quite artistically, with only a few pictures but lots of stories, anecdotes, and “prophesies.”

“Where will we be in the future?” was a common thread throughout the text…future paths as photographers, physicians, and artists were common predictions.

(Many of the women were predicted to become the “future wives” of prominent figures…sigh. But, a sign of the times.)

As I turned the pages and read the stories, I felt like I retrospectively got to know people at a budding time in their lives. The jokesters, the artists, the poets, the jocks.

Lives that have long since played out: people whose fate is now sealed in time.

I have little idea who these young people actually turned out to be…they were graduating high school the year my grandparents were born. My grandparents have all passed away now, and chances are…all of these once-young people are now gone too.

How did their lives turn out?

Did they become artists, photographers, wives of physicians? Did they leave their small town of Grass Valley, or stay there and raise families? How many were lost in World War II? What dreams of the class of 1930 were realized?

If I really wanted to know I could probably set out on some sort of public records search, but records only tell a partial story. Besides, for me the questions are more important than the answers.

The questions show me that we were all once young, and had yearnings of opportunity, promise, and hope. The questions also show me how quickly we will all become old, if we’re lucky enough to live long lives: that time zooms by so quickly, and does so when we’re not looking.

Days that don’t seem to hold much significance pile onto each other, and as they do our own fates are formulated: small creases form next to our smiles, accidental paths become well-worn and familiar, and before we know it someone’s finding our picture in an antique shop.

“I wonder how their life turned out…” they’ll wonder, flipping through pages on a whim.

“I wonder how they lived.”