Wednesday Ephemera #1: Eighth Grade Memory Book (1923)

Above image: Close up of eighth grade memory book, found in Glendale, California.

Welcome to the first installment of Wednesday Ephemera! A very happy Fourth of July to you all in the states, it really is a wonderful day to look back and commemorate.

Today I want to share with you a little hand bound book I picked up in Glendale, California at the Vintage Paper Fair a few years back. This is dear to my heart, not only because I have an obvious love affair for the hand bound book, but because it reminds me of the first hard cover book I bound by hand as a child in grade school. We were given the task to research a selection of desert animals and the first to complete their research would be taught to bind their pages into a hard cover book. Believe you me, little Gina saw this as serious motivation and was the first in the class to not only complete the research (my penciled draft carefully outlined and sealed in permanent pen!), but accompanying it were brightly colored illustrations of each animal. This was merely the beginning of years of childhood book making, little handmade books compiled of drawings, poems, riddles, and short stories.


This little book has definitely held up against the test of time! We have here an eighth grade memory book, made in 1923 by a girl name Irma A. Newcomer. It’s a shame, but there’s no clue inside the book of the place of origin. I haven’t done any intensive research, but we may never know by simply examining it. The cover reads “Class of 1927” and inside are Irma’s handwritten fragments that chronicle the 1922-1923 school year, the last year before they transition into their first year of High School.

The first page begins with a poem about leaving the eighth grade and moving forth into their academic future. There are a total of 14 pages in this book, but I will show you below a few of my favorite spreads.

The left page, a list of class members and their appropriate nicknames (my favorites being “Coxy” and “Mux”, and Irma’s nickname “Squirm”). The right page, a pressed Pansy representing their class flower, and their class colors “Orange and Blue”.

A group class photo! And in case you needed a guide, a careful mark of North, South, East, and West has been made on the border of the photograph. Our very own Irma can be spotted in the first row, 3rd person from the left, dark haired and holding her right hand. Click the photo above for a closer look.

Their class song is a version of “Auld Lang Syne” that has been revised to reflect their specific passage of time. “Auld Lang Syne” has always been a personal  favorite, proudly sang ever New Years Eve if I can help it. Listen to Frank C. Stanley’s 1910 performance of “Auld Lang Syne” by clicking here, or better yet, click here for a sound bite of cats meowing “Auld Lang Syne” (why not?).


More class photos, this time the girls are separated from the boys. Irma is spotted again in the front row, third girl on the end, white dress and a scarf tied around her neck. I’ve stared endlessly at these people, trying to think up narratives of who they were and what they were to be. The blonde haired boy scrunching up his nose in the back row. The brown haired boy with the opened mouth, front and center, crossing his fingers with his thumbs pointed up. But stories are just stories, and I may never know what became of any of these kids, who would be about 103 years old if they are still alive today.

I leave you with this last spread. On the last page and inside book cover, Irma provides us with a little update into how their 9th grade year has started (“there was much unfriendly strife going on between the Freshies and Sophs”), along with a drawing of their class flag. Irma affectionately describes the moment she and her peers raised their class flag on the flag pole one Monday morning.

I won’t forget, in the years to come, how we Freshies made our beautiful flag and hung it on that memorable Monday morning at 6a.m. As it fluttered to the stop of the staff, we severe loyal delegates cheered wonderfully. The sun was just coming up when the flag started up the flag pole. It had (the sun) cleared the horizon and was burning reverently and softly on the beautiful Orange and Blue flag of the class of 1927.        –Irma A. Newcomer

Happy Fourth of July my friends, I hope you have the opportunity to go outside and enjoy your family and friends! Wednesday Ephemera #2 will come around again next week. Good bye for now!

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