West Side High School Yearbooks

IMG_4187For some reason I’ve always found yearbooks to be fascinating. The two yearbooks featured in this blog belonged to the Franza brothers of 519 South 11th Street. The older brother Orfeo, graduated in 1942. Italo , the younger brother graduated in 1944. These two yearbooks ,which I purchased at the same time ,had stayed together all these years.

Orfeo Franza’s January 1942 yearbook was called The Nautilus. The volume was thin, with a dark green cover. Tucked in it’s pages was a letter of recommendation, written on school stationary, from the chairman of the math department ! Hard to imagine that letter, tucked into the pages of that yearbook in 1942, emerging unscathed in 2016 looking as if the ink had just dried. You couldn’t help but  feel a personal connection to this young man who was about to join the Navy and go to war.

Italo Franza’s June 1944 yearbook was called The Record. This yearbook was very thin, most probably due to wartime restrictions on the use of paper. The cover was white and it sort of resembled the cover of a wedding album. Full of signatures and well wishes from classmates, it resembled  all yearbooks before and since. This yearbook also had a little secret tucked in its pages, a small printed invitation from the Class of 1945 inviting the Class of June 1944 to a reception in the Girl’s Gym. The invitation, printed in green ink, was in the shape of a figure in a cap and gown. Italo Franza was also joining the Navy as his brother had two years before.

Just as an aside, I looked for the house where they had lived and it’s now a vacant lot. When the Franza brothers lived in the neighborhood there was a large Italian-American community living in that vicinity. The City of Newark has begun to redevelop the street.

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12 thoughts on “West Side High School Yearbooks

  1. Orfeo is my grandfather. I googled him today in the hopes of finding a photo to share of him with my husband, and stumbled upon this, which was a wonderful, unexpected surprise.

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    1. I also have a letter of recommendation that was written for your grandfather by the chairman of the mathematics department at West Side High. It was tucked in the pages of his yearbook.

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  2. Orfeo is my grandfather. I happened to google him earlier today to see if I could find a random photo of him on the internet to show my husband. I stumbled upon this and it was an unexpected, but wonderful surprise.

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    1. You’re welcome to view the yearbook if you live in proximity of Newark, where I live. Otherwise, I can send more images. What I found amazing is that your grandfather’s and great uncle’s yearbooks stayed together all these years. I bought them together. Moment’s such as these really make my efforts worthwhile. Thank you !
      John Lipari

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      1. Wish i lived over there. I live in Chicago! he has family in Florida too. Could you let me know where you bought them? I am curious! my email is ashley.spencer86@gmail.com if you want to send images and i can share with the family! THANK YOU!

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      2. I bought them on ebay. I’ll have to check and see where the seller was from and how much I paid. The fact that both yearbooks were together intrigues still intrigues me.

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  3. Hello,
    My wonderful niece, Ashley, forwarded your blog post to me. I am Lisa Franza and Orfeo was my father. Italo was my uncle. I find it very interesting that you found the yearbooks together because I believe my youngest brother, David has my father’s yearbook. It was such a nice surprise to see those pictures again. Also, Orfeo’s 13 year-old nephew, Nicholas, looks just like him.

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    1. Greetings,
      I am so pleased that Orfeo survived the war and went on to have a wonderful family. If you care to share anything about your father and uncle I will add it to the post. I seldom, if ever, get a chance to do that so I’d be grateful for the opportunity.
      John Lipari

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      1. Hello John,
        In an earlier response to my niece Ashley Spencer Strom, you mentioned that you would have to research from whom you bought the yearbooks from on ebay. I was hoping you had found that information.
        Thank you,
        Lisa Franza

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      2. I haven’t forgotten. I looked last night and had no success. I’ll try again tonight. I imagine your question is how they wound up on eBay? I won’t be able to answer that. In addition, a lot of sellers mask their identities online.

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      3. I was unable to figure out where the seller was from as I didn’t save the return address from the package. The sellers ebay name was of no help. . However, I’d still like to update the bios. of your father and uncle and add it to my post if you’re willing.

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