The Fresno County library's collection of nearly 3,000 yearbooks is full of fascinating details. Some examples:
Among the seniors in the 1948 Fresno High "Owl": Robert Coyle (U.S. District judge, whose name is on downtown Fresno's federal courthouse); Allen Funch (owner of Fig Garden Village for many years); Pat Mon Pere (owner of Patrick James clothing stores); Jack Baker (a founder of Baker, Manock & Jensen, one of Fresno's top law firms); Madeline Thornton (who, as Madeline Davidson, was a long-time reporter/food writer at The Bee); and Les Richter (All-American football player at the University of California at Berkeley, All-Pro linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams and later a motor sports industry executive).
"Owl" editor Bob Keldgord (who would become Sacramento County chief probation officer) wrote in the 1948 yearbook: "One of the most important lessons to be learned at Fresno High is the fact that the spirit of our school is represented by the achievement of our student body."
Window to the past
What was it like to be at Fresno High in 1948, according the yearbook?
The campus is spotless. The students are neat, clean-cut. There are lots of trees in front of the school's classic main building.
Across the street is Stillman Drugs -- nicknamed "Still's" -- with its fountain service featuring Borden ice cream. Next door is Green Frog Food Market.
Five males among the individual senior photos are wearing the same tan-and-black sports coat with wide lapels. According to class lore, the five guys passed the same eye-catching coat among themselves as a subtle joke. Would posterity notice?
Almost from the start, the yearbooks had advertisements for local businesses. The ads chart the evolution of American business.
The 1950 Fowler High "Litoria" features an ad for the Calwa Variety Shop at 4119 Jensen Avenue. "Hardware -- Paints -- Infants' and Children's Wear -- Notions -- Cosmetics -- Novelties."
The advertising section of the 1962 Roosevelt High "Nautilus" shows some of the nearby home-grown drive-ins: Tick-Tock Drive-In at 4431 E. Tulare, Wally's Drive-In at 4519 E. Ventura (phone number: CL 5-3927), Hill's Fountain at 4231 E. Tulare (featuring on the back counter an immense wood barrel with spigot -- root beer?) and Alfredo's Pizza Drive-In at 4491 E. Tulare.
To be young again
The library's 1962 Nautilus belonged to a student named Bill who went by the nickname Flash. Among the book's many signings:
"Flash -- I'm glad I went to Cheryl Cole's party last summer cause if I hadn't gone I wouldn't have come to Roosevelt and if I hadn't come to Roosevelt I wouldn't have mean't all the neat kids, including you ..."
Coalinga High's 1942 "Petrolia" shows 10 girls and three boys in the California Scholarship Federation, a club for the best students. This 3-to-1 ratio for this well-known club seems to hold true in many of the yearbooks.
Many yearbooks identify so-called "senior bests" -- most likely to succeed, biggest flirt, best dancer, etc.
The 2010 Hoover High "Memoir" featured the male and female "best backside."
Sometimes war is tackled head-on in the yearbooks, sometimes it is handled more delicately. Coalinga High's 1942 "Petrolia" makes no mention of Pearl Harbor. The last page states: "In Memoriam -- William Ellis, U.S. Navy."
The 2003 Clovis High "Cavalcade," on the other hand, asked students to opine on the Iraq War.
"I think the whole idea of killing innocent people to satisfy our need for justification is ridiculous," said senior Christa Miller.
"I think it is important to disarm Iraq to save innocent lives. That is what our military is doing and we should be proud," said freshman Dhilvinder Kauer.
-- George Hostetter