Bourne High School Canal Currents yearbooks, dating back to 1900, are now available to be viewed online, thanks to the Bourne Archives and the Boston Public Library.
Bourne archivist Gioia L. Dimock said that they were able to digitize a total of 70 yearbooks from the archive’s own collection, the high school library, and from a volunteer at the archives.
Boston Public Library sent someone to collect the books. Each page of each book was then scanned to make the books into interactive and downloadable documents. The Boston library has the equipment and funding for the work, so the process did not cost anything for Bourne.
The Boston Public Library has been working for about a decade on creating digital versions of historical commonwealth documents. Its extensive collections include yearbooks, postcards, photographs and posters. All these documents can be found at www.digitalcommonwealth.org.
There are a number of books missing from the current collection, although Ms. Dimock is hopeful that they will be able to find them.
“We are hoping by publicizing the project we can come up with the missing ones and get them digitized as well,” Ms. Dimock said.
The missing years are 1901 through 1929, 1932 to 1935, 1942, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1980, 1985 and 1989.
While the format of the yearbooks has not changed much throughout the years, there is a wealth of history to be found among the pages—particularly during World War II.
In the 1941 yearbook, student Carolyn Quattromini wrote a short essay called “Isn’t It Great To Be An American.” In the essay, she recalls an airplane flying overhead as she walked into a Halloween party. It struck her that as this happened, no lights were turned off and no one ran for shelter.
“I thought of the people in Europe; how they dread the sight or sound of an airplane,” she wrote. “They realize ‘over there’ what it means—it means destruction and death of many men, women, and children.”
She wrote that she had been corresponding with a girl from England who had told her more of the horrors of war than any newspaper or radio broadcast could.
In the same yearbook, another student, Celeste Vercellone, recalled walking home from choir practice and seeing a window display depicting a war scene. Frightened children in the display stood around a sign that read “We need your help, America.”
“This made a very queer impression on my mind,” she wrote. “For I noticed, instead of people talking, or exclaiming loudly to their companions to look at the display, there was no real excitement; only a hushed silence as we all watched the miniature war.”
A short story written by student Justine Cassels told the story of an English girl who became a refugee, leaving her parents behind to come to America.
“On my tenth birthday people were beginning to talk about some person named Hitler,” she wrote. “On my 13th birthday, Hitler was no longer an insignificant madman.”
Once America joined the war, pages in the yearbooks were dedicated to recognizing the men and women from Bourne who had gone to fight.
In later years, essays and stories were no longer part of the yearbooks but some hints as to current events still make an appearance. The 1966 yearbook lists “Alabama gets lady governor,” Vietnam War wears on,” and “Garrison suggests conspiracy in murder of JFK” among the year’s happenings.
The 2002 yearbook has a page dedicated to American pride, with pictures of students wearing articles of clothing bearing the American flag in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Other signs of the times can be found in the club offerings throughout the years—yearbooks through 1972 have group photographs of smiling young women posing as “Future Homemakers of America.”
Even what the students listed as their ambitions are indicative of a changing world—most young women in 1970 aspired to be housewives and secretaries with men looking to work for NASA and join the military.
In 2006, young women wanted to own record companies, be in polka bands and scooter across the country, while young men wanted to sneak into Area 51, join the NYPD as gang unit detectives and be good fathers.
Despite the differences, many things have remained unchanged over the decades. Most of the yearbooks feature individual student pictures, superlatives,and the year’s athletic achievements.