Thursday, February 7, 2013

Progressive Nostalgia and the Class Clowns

I like to look for old high school and college yearbooks at yard sales and estate sales.  Some of them are rather collectible, and there are lots of folks who didn't buy a yearbook when they were in school who are kicking themselves now and looking online for the book they didn't buy.

I found a stack of 'em at an estate sale this past weekend.  In addition to several yearbooks from a local high school dating back to the 1980s -- pictures of girls with big hair, guys on the basketball team wearing very short shorts -- I found a copy of the 1957 L'Acadien from Southwest Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The 1957 L'Acadien is a snapshot in time of the American South.  The student body was mostly white, but there were a number of African-American students, as well as some international students from Central and South America and Asia.  The school's website confirms my observations:

"In 1954, SLI became the first college in Louisiana to integrate its student body. The first African American students were admitted without incident, and today UL Lafayette has honored its first African American graduate, Christiana Smith, by naming an alumni chapter after her."

The students celebrated Sadie Hawkins Day; they joined sororities and fraternities, the Home Economics Club; they played basketball and football.   Entire pages were dedicated to debutantes, to showcase their "glamour" photos.  (This was the South, after all.)  Some of the student names are very "Southern" as well, and hearken back to this era past -- young ladies named Heartsease, Jose Ann, Inza Rae and Billy Ann; young men named Abelardo, Junice, Expadie, Ludrice, and Curvin.  A young woman named Reggie Lou Gates was in the ROTC.

But as I leafed through the pages of  the book, my nostalgic-progressive reverie was interrupted by the presence of the fruits and vegetables lurking among the photos of the underclassmen.

The pear's name is listed as Conspiance Poire.  A few pages later, Belle Pepper appears among the sophomores. 

An apple, a bunch of bananas, and a female student smoking a cigar labeled "Pogo Possum, Okafonokee, Georgia" also appear among the underclassmen.  Many of the sophomores and freshmen had their class pictures made wearing silly hats.

The yearbook staff had struck again.

The school is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and apparently L'Acadien is still being published.  I hope the current yearbook staff members have as much innocent fun, and put out as nice a publication, as their predecessors did.  

And if anyone is looking for inspiration and a reference source for a Gently Humorous Novel of the Mid-Century American South -- y'all need look no further.

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