The pandemic has upended the year 2020 in so many different ways, and I was wondering this week about what the Tehachapi High School yearbook for the graduating class of 2021 will look like. . .

Much of yearbooks are based on photos of school activities -- clubs, sports, competitions, etc. What will there be for this year's class? I certainly hope there will be able to be some in-person schooling for our Tehachapi students before the school year is over. This whole thing is so unprecedented.

Tehachapi High School was first founded in September, 1928 by Mr. Orris Imhoff, who was the first principal. The school was reportedly conducted in a house on Curry Street, and after two years with increasing enrollment and community interest, a bond election raised funds for a dedicated school building.

The Tehachapi High Tomahawk of 1931 is the earliest yearbook that I've seen. And there has been a yearbook, or annual, as they used to be called (either term is correct) ever since. So I believe that the 2021Tomahawk will be the 90th one.

High school yearbooks can be such powerful relics of the human experience. Many adults cringe to look back at how they appeared during the fraught, transformative years of adolescence. The clothes, the hairstyles, the attitudes, the friendships in the past -- it all seems so achingly long-gone and nostalgic.

And yet, there can be lots of beauty and joy and sweet memories as well. In the four brief years of high school, most students will go from undeniable children as freshman, to young adults as graduating seniors. It is a dizzyingly rapid and uncharted journey.

As a Tehachapiologist, I love looking through old THS Tomahawks at the faces and places and times. I have about 30 of them, with the oldest one from 1950, when the graduating class was only 25 students. By 2019, the THS graduating class had grown 258 students.

While all the yearbooks share commonalities -- photos of the students, with the senior portraits inevitably larger than the others, snapshots of faculty members, sports teams, etc., some are definitely better than others.

There was a period in the 1970s when the students in the yearbook class, led by advisor George Anderson, were particularly creative, using their own photos and texts to tell their story.

Earlier and later versions of the Tomahawk tended to have fairly generic covers that were clearly created by the yearbook publishing companies. These routinely include a variety of Plains Indian imagery of questionable relevance to a little school in the mountains of Southern California. These images were at least in keeping with the Warriors team name, but my favorite covers are made up of photos taken by Tehachapi High students.

The Tehachapi Museum also has a collection of many old THS yearbooks. I would like to eventually see the museum have a complete collection of all the past Tomahawks, soon to be 90 in total. They are great reference books for the area, for in addition to all the students and staff, these yearbooks also contain photos of places that have changed almost beyond recognition, as well as advertisements for Tehachapi businesses that have since vanished.

I once thought that it would be great to have all the past yearbooks digitized and available to look at for free online, but then learned that scammers, identity thieves and others with ill intent could use this information against the former THS students. Security questions sometimes ask "What year did you graduate?" or ask for the school name, so there's no point in making the job easier for scammers.

There appear to be a few old THS yearbooks that have been digitized online, I think there are some at classmates.com or other websites, and I see that someone on eBay is attempting to sell a 1945 THS Tomahawk for $99. I didn't see any bids yet though.

As I travel through the pages of old Tomahawks, I see the hopeful, often charming, sometimes anxious faces of youth. I know how many of their stories turned out as they became adults, of the triumphs and tragedies, the marriages, births, divorces and deaths that happened. I still encounter many of these former students on a weekly basis around Tehachapi, from the Class of '82 or '69 or '98 or even '42. And so many other years.

I wish the best for our graduating seniors of 2021, who have had to cope with such disruption in their lives, which they had absolutely nothing to do with and no control over. And I hope that there is still a 2021 Tomahawk to join the ranks of all those volumes that came before.

Have a good week.

Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to tehachapimtnlover@gmail.com.

Recommended for you