Graduations’ Paper Trails

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

This is the weekend for graduations in this area. Besides the diplomas that are awarded and the yearbooks that are kept, graduations generate paper in the form of commencement and baccalaureate programs, invitations, announcements and other ephemeral items. Graduations continue to produce paper through the ensuing years as reunions are planned, classmates continue to stay in touch or classmates join alumni groups within their schools.

Special Collections at the Fenton History Center’s Research Center continues to grow as these types of items are donated to the center. Having the yearbooks from area schools help to document who was in what school, what their activities included, as well as, what the clothing, hairstyles and interests were for that time period.

As reunions are held, often a booklet is published that contains information on where classmates are and what they are doing. Over the years, things change and these reunions help to document these changes.

At the Research Center, we have a number of yearbooks from Jamestown High School, as well as many of the surrounding area schools. We are always looking for ones we do not have, so if anyone has yearbooks and any other items associated with one of the schools please consider donating them to the collection. We do limit the number we keep for each year for each school, so please call to see if we need what you may have. But, in addition to the yearbooks, we are always happy to continue the stories with reunion booklets or add to the story with the other paper, including photographs, that are part of graduations and reunions.

Schools are an important part of any community, so having any related material that can help tell the story of the school, its teachers, staff and students are welcome in our collection. Early yearbooks for Jamestown High School, for instance, did not have pictures of the graduates as today’s yearbooks have. The yearbook had the list of names but no photographs. One day, a donation arrived that contained the individual photographs of each member of the class of 1905, most of whom were identified. We now have pictures to go with the names that were in that yearbook. Another donation contained a photograph album that had a number of identified young people who turned out to be members of the class of 1895 from Jamestown High School. There was no yearbook for that year, but the names of graduates for that year were found in the school’s annual report, which is also in our collection. Sometimes more than one item is needed to put the story together. Another case involved a researcher who had never seen a picture of an aunt who had died as a young woman until she found her graduation picture in a Jamestown High School yearbook.

Congratulations to all of the area graduates. We wish you success and happiness in whatever you decide to do with your life. Stay in touch with friends as you go in different directions and make new friends. Today’s graduates now have social media with which to accomplish this, and who knows what will be used in the future to “stay in touch.” Social media is electronic, so most of the communications are even more ephemeral that the previous decades’ paper items.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

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If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.