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Judging people by their high school yearbook
Dennis Wyatt

I – as a 62-year-old man – would not want to be judged by the El Eco.

It’s not that there are things in my high school yearbooks either in photographs or the published word that should particularly embarrass me. It’s the sophomoric attempt at scribbling on my autograph pages by friends as well as some people who insisted on signing my yearbook who quite frankly most of the time acted as if I was not worthy of being within five feet of them. 

The “official” record of my high school years that met the seal of approval of the Lincoln High administration before they went to press showed I was freshman class vice president and sophomore class president as well as being in journalism, the ecology club, and voted most likely to succeed. Except for journalism class and the ecology club I’d forgotten about that stuff. Not because of selective memory but they weren’t exactly things that defined me although I’m sure some pundit somewhere that’s taking a Psychology 1A class would use that skimpy information to write a dissertation on me.

What photos you will find that aren’t head shots show me all four years wearing a wind breaker of some type whether it was winter or the cusp of summer. Read whatever you want into that. One other photo does show me on the freshman class float dressed as a zebra complete with a snarling paper mache zebra head. Before you judge me, Lincoln High’s mascot was the Fighting Zebras and the items belonged to my cousin Arleen who was the mascot several years prior.

Now for the “juicy” stuff that might get people worked into a lather on the Internet or at least tune to TV for titillating diversion as we wallow in a cultural and political war.

First the mundane stuff. Apparently I was a nerd, was too smart, was almost witty, was too shy, manufactured my own luck, and was a nice guy. For the most part the type of things a teen would write trying to think of what they should write about someone that they casually know in high school when a $20 yearbook (yes, I’m that old) and an ink pen is thrust into their hand in the waning minutes of a school year.

Then there were what I guess would fall into being sexual in nature. One girl, who I had to look up in the class photos section in order to remember, apparently was obsessed with my legs writing “you have the best legs on campus” not just in my 1974 senior yearbook but the prior yes as well. Another — written by a guy — referred to me as a “sex fiend”. Of course if you read his entire message, after three lines he wrote “just kidding” but if it was read today and I was worthy of anyone’s attention those words would have been posted online a second after they were read, to hell with context.

It wasn’t exactly a treat reading the words because the person in question happened to be the best friend of a classmate who aggressively groped me when we were sophomores as we were sitting in the back seat of the driver’s education car waiting for the instructor. The grope was accompanied with an extremely lewd comment whispered into my ear. It made me uncomfortable. I ended up dismissing it along with other awkward high school moments. I shouldn’t say it but it was a stupid thing some guys are prone to do at that age. 

The two other comments were from girls who point blank wrote “I couldn’t take hints” and that I “couldn’t read signs.” In reading what they wrote 44 years later, I do not take them in a sexual context given I did not date either one or hang out with them besides in classrooms. It is obvious to me they must of referenced flirting which makes sense because I’ve been told I’m clueless until someone hammers me over the head. However you could easily read more into either written comment.

What I still possess from my high school days besides my diploma are some editions of the school newspaper “Zebra Territory” I was editor of for three years, a copy of the play “Don’t Drink the Water” I had a lead in and two plaques. I saved no calendars or such.

The plaques were for outstanding senior boy (Lincoln High was a small campus then) and a most valuable plaque for basketball my senior year.

Now you might think that is straight forward, but it isn’t. I did not play basketball. I was a complete klutz then and I’ve since refined that status.

The award was presented to me at the winter sports banquet by then coach Dale Pence. At the risk of feeding the nerd narrative, I was the varsity team manager for four years, prepared the gym, swept the floors at halftime, kept stats, kept the scorebook or ran the clock for freshmen as well as girls games, and was trained to tape ankles and such.

Who we are requires the context of where we have been and how we lived our lives. It is not based on one snapshot that can be read 20 different ways. 

And for the record, I did not go to a single party in high school nor did I drink.

Because of that I might be one of the few former high school students that could actually pass the bar needed today to serve in public office.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.