Y is for Yearbooks: Nostalgia in Glossy Pages


If you stumbled upon me through the A to Z Blog Challenge, welcome.  If not, check out the challenge and all those participating at their site.


The second to last strange thing for this April adventure is yearbooks.

I don’t know how ubiquitous yearbooks are in other countries, but most folks in the US had an option to get one every single year they were in school from kindergarten all the way up through college.

Don’t get me wrong, yearbooks are fascinating, and I still have all of mine, but they still strike me as being fairly strange.  The strangeness comes from the uniform nature of them.  Yes, there might be a section of candid shots, or pages that were purchased by seniors or groups or whoever to print whatever they like within the guidelines the school sets, but they’re largely a catalog of photographs from one day in that school year.

I speak from experience when I say that yearbook photos can be some of the worst you ever take.  I think I took about four in twelve years that I wouldn’t care if anyone saw.  And I’m not the only one in that boat.

Plus, there are pictures of everyone in the school.  Unless you go to an insanely small school, odds are you don’t even know half the people.  The book is a broad stroke design so that it can be given to everyone.

Then there’s the signing ritual.  You have to ask your friends to sign yours and what if they don’t ask you to wign theirs?  Does that mean you aren’t friends?  I think as a child I actually thought yearbook signing events in the gym were a torture designed by the popular teachers and students to torment the rest of us.  They probably weren’t as malicious as my elementary and middle-school self thought, but those assemblies still hurt every year.

So yeah, I think yearbooks are strange.  I think the rituals surrounding them are strange.  I think the silly superlatives they give to seniors (or whatever they called the highest grade in the school) are strange.

That doesn’t make it any less fun to leaf through an old yearbook to see who signed it, who’s face was scratched out or stared or even given a heart, or what I looked like each year.  The reminiscing value is high with yearbooks, but nostalgia is a bit of a strange thing too.

Do you still have all your old yearbooks?  Are there pictures in them you hate?  Ever win one of those superlatives?  And did it come true?


Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: male 1, female 1, female 2, male 2, male 3, cover 1, cover 2.


4 thoughts on “Y is for Yearbooks: Nostalgia in Glossy Pages

  1. At one of the schools I work at they have a class picture taken in the first week in class and then at the end of the year in the last week. It’s always fun to see how the boys have changed over the year, especially since I teach reception (kindergarten) through Year 3 and they change so much over one year.

    • I think I’d like a yearbook like that better than the ones I have. Mine were just the one picture, usually about a quarter of the way into the school year. You had to compare years to see changes. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Good topic for Y. Yes, I have my yearbooks and yes, they are basically meaningless to me because I attended massive schools with thousands of students. So I rarely appear anywhere in them, nor do I care. What keeps me from getting rid of them? IDK. Some old yearbooks are cool because of the fun messages inscribed. But that stopped being fun when they started organizing the signing sessions as you mention. Mine may not survive the next house purge.

    Yearbooks are a business, of course. You might be surprised what entities qualify as yearbook-worthy. I recently came across a small softcover employee ‘yearbook’ of the Carowinds amusement park the summer my son worked there.

    • I’m the same way with my yearbooks. I barely care about them anymore. I think I might scan the important pages and purge mine during the next house cleaning.

      The business side of it does come into play, I remember the company that did my high school yearbooks was the same one that sold the caps and gowns. I’ve always felt to be a true yearbook it had to be related to a school, but to each there own.

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