I like old things. Old photos, old books, old music…I dig it all.

One of the things I like to do is look at old high school yearbooks. That’s right, even if I don’t know a soul between the covers, I will still look at a yearbook from the past. It’s kind of like looking at an old Life magazine or something…it’s just a wonderful snapshot of that period in time. I especially like to look at the faces of the graduating seniors and try to imagine where they are in life. Did they achieve their dreams? Did life deal them a losing hand? Are they still alive?

The best yearbooks are the ones from small towns, where schools don’t exist anymore. When my sister died, I inherited all of her old high school and college yearbooks (Yes, ISU used to have a yearbook, called The Index). Some of the ones she had were from her early years in grade school, since the small schools featured the ENTIRE school. After all, there weren’t many kids there.

Take, for example, Rutland High School. When we lived on the farm, my sister, my brother and I all went to Rutland Grade School. When my sister went there in the early 1950’s (remember, she was much older than me), Rutland High School was still operating. By the time my brother and I got there, all the high school kids were going to Minonk, but Rutland still had a grade school.

I was astounded when I looked through the 1954 Rutland Ranger. The senior class consisted of ONE person…a cute girl named Marion Copp. She was the ONLY senior in the entire class. Can you imagine?  What are her class reunions like?  Does she automatically win the prizes for travelling the farthest, changed the most, and married the longest? Is she on the committee for EVERY reunion? And who would she reunite with?

Let’s take it a step further to see what her senior year was like. In looking through the yearbook, there was a senior class play that year. The cast had a whopping 11 members, so they obviously opened it up to the rest of the school. But get this…Marion was the ONLY senior in the SENIOR play, and didn’t even have a lead roll!  That went to Kathleen Gibbons, a junior.

To answer the question that you’re already asking, there was a prom, but it was referred to as the “Spring Prom”.  To quote, “Our banquet and prom were held on April 24th. We had a fine time at the banquet and later went to the gaily decorated gym to dance to the music of Joe DeZutti and his orchestra”.  There is no mention of there being a prom queen, but I’m sure Marion would have been in the running.

Let’s take a look at Marion’s activities her senior year: she was on the Ranger staff (the yearbook), and in the senior play (it also noted that she was in the senior play her sophomore year, so they must have had a small class that year as well). She was also class president and on the student council. Marion was a cheerleader and also the D.A.R. award winner that year. I’m sure that the nominating committee could think of no one more deserving.

I wonder whatever happened to Marion Copp. By my estimates, she would be around 74 years old by now, if she is still alive. Did she make a speech at graduation? Did she announce what her plans were for after graduation? Was she honored as valedictorian or salutorian at graduation?  Was there even a graduation ceremony? Even if she did give a speech, they probably could have wrapped the whole thing up in about a half-hour.

I consider my high school graduating class small (75 people), but its huge compared to the Rutland High School Class of ’54…which can be considered huge compared to the RHS Class of ’50.  Through research, I’ve learned that there were NO graduating seniors that year.   

Must have been a tough year for the cap and gown rental folks.


About groovyrick

I live in a small town in Illinois with my wife and three kids. I am a part-time musician, part-time writer, and full-time dreamer.
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