Bemidji high school yearbooks date back to 1912 and provide an overview of student life over the years

Two projects currently in planning at the Beltrami County Historical Society are looking to the old Bemidji High School yearbooks for information.

We, Cecelia McKeig and Sue Bruns, are working on the history of Bemidji High School, and the BCHS is also preparing an exhibition on “Women in Winter Sports” which will open this winter.

This story provides an insight into some of the information that has been uncovered so far for one or both of these projects.

First there was the Chippewa

110 years ago, the students of Bemidji high school met to prepare the very first BHS yearbook. On October 26, 1911, The Bemidji Pioneer reported the appointment of the yearbook editors: “At a meeting of students interested in publishing a high school annual report held last night in the high school trading room,… officers have been chosen to take charge of such a publication, ”and the names of the first staff in the directory were listed.

Plans were made for an “elaborate” book, and on November 7, 1912, the Pioneer reported that The Chippewa had been selected from several names suggested for the very first edition of the high school. The yearbook would be modeled after the University of Minnesota Gopher and would include various illustrations and photos of all classes, students, faculties, and organizations. Directory staff boasted that “The 1912 Chippewa will be the best book of its kind in Minnesota. “

In April 1912 the book went to press and in May The Bemidji Pioneer reported that The Chippewa, described as “the first of its kind ever attempted in Bemidji” was “out of press and on sale”. Its 10 segments included an overview of the school district and its facilities, high school teachers, classes, and photos of students by class, with seniors first.

It also included the “Normal Department”, illustrations and embellishments, and student-written literature “ranging from sonnets and essays to stories,… speeches,… (and) editorials”. In addition, there were sections for music made up of glee clubs and orchestras for boys and girls; a play, including an image from the cast of “Red Acre Farm” and a summary of the script; track and field, including football, basketball, track and field and baseball – all boys only, and a section on BHS companies and organizations.

The tenth and final segment of the book – and one of the most important – was devoted to the advertisers who supported the publication.

The text was written and provided by the students, and local photographer Nels Hakkerup contributed photos. The Pioneer did the printing and binding. Copies were available for sale for only $ 1 at the Armory, Pioneer Office, and Netzer Pharmacy.

Only 260 copies were printed, and in the May 31, 1912 edition of the Pioneer reported that “of that number, more than half were sold before the book hit the press.”

A copy of The Chippewa at the Beltrami County History Center gives the viewer a glimpse into high school life in Bemidji in 1911-1912. One page contains an early childhood song that focuses less on sports than today’s fight songs and more on school life in general, but reveals the school colors, blue and white.

A page from The Chippewa contains an early childhood song that focuses less on sports than today's fight songs and more on school life in general, but reveals the school colors, blue and the White.  Contributed

A page from The Chippewa contains an early childhood song that focuses less on sports than today’s fight songs and more on school life in general, but reveals the school colors, blue and the White. Contributed

A note from the editors expressed their pride in this achievement of the very first annual edition of Bemidji High School, with the hope that many more directories will follow. Fundraising began in the fall of 1912 for the second annual edition, but while a 1913 annual BHS edition followed, the Beltrami County Historical Society has no evidence.

The Meddler and the conifers

No mention of other annual publications was found until 1919, when a directory titled The Meddler was for sale, apparently in a format similar to The Chippewa, but a new addition in the sports section was a basketball team. -women’s ball. A Pioneer story in October 1920 then mentions planning for a new high school yearbook in Bemidji, but no information on a new publication for sale appears until 1922.

The name of the year 1921-22 of Bemidji high school was called Les Coniferales, which means "an order of gymnosperm trees and shrubs." Contributed

The name for the year 1921-22 of Bemidji High School was called The Coniferales, which means “an order of gymnospermous trees and shrubs”. Contributed

The BCHS collection contains a copy of this 100-year-old high school yearbook – similar content to the 1912 and 1919 yearbooks with sections on faculty, sports, activities, and samples of student writing from the BHS.

The name of the 1921-22 yearbook was The Coniferales. The pioneer noted its unusual title and, in a short article of April 19, 1922, an article defined the term – with the help of the Webster dictionary – as “an order of gymnospermous trees and shrubs” and expressed a lack of admiration. for students who have chosen the title.

The name for the year 1921-22 of Bemidji High School was The Coniferales.  Contributed

The name for the year 1921-22 of Bemidji High School was The Coniferales. Contributed

Women’s sport

Without a copy of The Meddler in the possession of the historical society, The Coniferales is the first BCHS high school publication to include a photo of the BHS 1921-22 girls’ basketball team.

The next annual BHS in the BCHS archives is The Bemidji Chief from 1934. At that time, women’s basketball no longer existed, except in intramural clubs like the GAA (Girls’ Athletic Association) or the GRA ( Girls’ Recreational Association).

The Coniferales is the first high school publication from the Beltrami County Historical Society to include a photo of the BHS 1921-22 girls' basketball team.  Contributed

The Coniferales is the first high school publication from the Beltrami County Historical Society to include a photo of the BHS 1921-22 girls’ basketball team. Contributed

In the 1940s, the title of the BHS directory changed to Lumberjack. During the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and until the early 1970s, girls were mainly relegated to cheerleaders for boyish sports which continued to develop and gain popularity.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, curling’s status as a sport in the yearbooks was unclear, with group photos appearing either as a club (boys and girls) or as a “minor sport” (boys only). ). In 1956 the “curling team” was included in the sports section with a photo that included both boys and girls, but in 1959 the curling photo only included men.

Finally, after the passage of Title IX in 1972, the sports section of the 1973 BHS Lumberjack included a photo of the women’s track and field team, swim team and synchronized swimming.

The sports section of the 1973 BHS Lumberjack included a photo of the women's track and field team, swim team and synchronized swim team.  Contributed

The sports section of the 1973 BHS Lumberjack included a photo of the women’s track and field team, swim team and synchronized swim team. Contributed

Readers who have newspaper clippings, old yearbooks, albums, sports programs, and memorabilia / objects – especially relating to women’s winter sports – that could be loaned to the History Center or photos that can be scanned and returned, please contact BCHS to let us know what you have. Please don’t just drop things off at the History Center.


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