A Page from North Quabbin History: Athol High School yearbook

By Carla Charter

Published: 01-30-2023 2:27 PM

The Athol Public Library is looking to add to its collection of Athol High School (AHS) yearbooks and hoping the community might be able to assist them.

“For the ‘current high school’ era (1958-present) we are missing 1958, 1965,1968, 2018, and 2019,” said Robin Brzozowski. “The list of yearbooks missing prior to 1958 is quite extensive, and we would welcome the addition of any AHS yearbooks from 1900’s through 1958.

“A high school yearbook is a glimpse into the life of young people of our community highlighting their activities, style, and popular culture of the time. It makes sense that librarians of the past chose to include yearbooks to our local history collection as they became available.”

The purchase of the AHS yearbook became an annual practice in 1958 when the current high school building was opened.

“Typically the yearbooks are used by patrons researching their family history. For some, the yearbook may contain the only picture they’ve ever seen of a relative. They may also learn about their relative’s interests and personality through the details and quotes included with their picture,” Brzozowski explained. ‘In addition to the senior portraits, patrons may find that a relative participated in a club, activity or sports team.

“The yearbooks also offer a snapshot into life in Athol at any given time. For example, yearbooks from the 50s and 60s have pages and pages of advertising from local businesses—highlighting the vibrant economy of downtown and beyond. The “Class Will” (found in nearly all yearbooks) is often funny and insightful capturing the events and language of the year.”

The older yearbooks focus primarily on the senior class with no mention of underclass students. Starting in the 1950s the underclasses were included in group photos. The 1970 yearbook is the first to feature underclass sections with individual pictures of each student.

“Throughout the years the style of the books has changed reflecting the current trends of times and students. The content has remained consistent with sections on the faculty, activities, clubs, sports, candids and advertising. The class history and class will appear in most in most in some form,” said Brzozowski. “The early 2000s brought the addition of some color pages, and 2012 was the first class to print a full color yearbook.

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“Some of the yearbooks that have been donated do contain autographs. One of the most interesting examples is the 1933 “Elite Memory Book” originally belonging to Wynona Goddard. This leather-bound book features 3×4 ½ inch individual photos of each class member, a hand written class list as well as newspaper clippings and hand written journal entries outlining some of the years most memorable events. I don’t think this was the “official” yearbook, but it is a charming look into a young Athol woman’s senior year.”

From 1857- 1892 the Athol High School was a wooden structure located at 494 School St. Due to the growing number of students a new larger brick school building was built at the same location. In 1915, the East and West wings were added and another addition was completed in 1937. This is the structure that today is known as the School Street Residence, a 55 plus apartment complex. As Athol continued to grow, an even larger high school was needed, and in 1958 the current high school, located at 2363 Main St. opened, Brzozowski explained.

The local history room offers other resources for residents interested in local history as well and is always willing to consider new additions to their collection. ‘The archives room at the library is a repository for a variety of books, maps, documents and publications relevant to Athol’s local history.

“We are always interested in documents that preserve Athol’s history, an appreciate the opportunity to look at and discuss items that people think might be important. While we can’t guarantee that everything that is offered to the library will become part of our collection, we value the community’s support and appreciate the chance to see what might be out there,” Brzozowski said. “The focus of our collection is the preservation of our town’s collective history, rather than that of the individual families that make up our rich past.”

Other records in the local history room include Valuation & Tax records from 1855-1919, Street Lists from 1913-present, The Price &Lee Athol-Orange Directory from 1892-1970 and Athol Vital Records, published by the Systematic History Fund. The Local History Room also has Vital Records for many other Massachusetts towns. The library is missing some years of the Price & Lee Athol-Orange Directory and would welcome any directories which may be available for their collection.

The Local History Room/Archives is open to the public during regular library hours, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Requests can be made on-line by visiting the library website, www.athollibrary.org or by calling or visiting the library. Questions and yearbook donations should be directed to Robin Brzozowski at rbrzozowski@cwmars.org.

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net.