For 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.