I was sorting books the other day when a slim little number popped up. I haven’t paid much attention to it over the years, I’ll admit, though it offers a peek into a Bend that is largely long gone.
The book is the 1923 yearbook of Bend High School, The Pilot, and it offers a snapshot of the city and the era in which it was printed. It came to me unbidden, it sat quietly unnoticed and when I finally rediscovered it, it contained lessons that went far beyond its contents.
Those contents are interesting enough in their own right.
The photograph of the “old Bend High” at the front of the book is a building I don’t recognize, smaller than any of the city’s current high schools, with the possible exception of Marshall. The faculty numbered a dozen men and women. Four were graduates of Oregon Agricultural College, now Oregon State University. Only the superintendent was from the University of Oregon; a pair of teachers came from University of Washington, there was a lone Reedie and several graduated from schools in the Midwest.
It was the principal, Arthur S. Taylor, who went to the most intriguing school — William and Vashti College. The school, which operated from 1908 to 1917, was located in Aledo, Ill., and named for early settlers in the area, William Drury and his wife, Vashti Lewis. It closed when most of its male students went off to fight in World War I and reopened later as a military academy that operated until 1973.
Though the Bend High faculty and student body are long gone, there are a handful of familiar names among them:
Guy Claypool was a 1923 graduate, captain of both the football and basketball teams and member of the glee club. He, his wife and son ran Claypool’s Furniture on Wall Street, in the building that is now home to 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar, from 1935 until it closed in 1999. Carl Erickson, another 1923 graduate, went on to operate Erickson’s Grocery markets in Bend, Redmond and Prineville.
There were other links to the future, as well. Miller Lumber, now on Third, was located on Wall Street in what is now a parking lot at the intersection of Wall and Franklin Avenue. And Troy Laundry, which gave its name to the field south of McMenamin’s on Bond, was already keeping the city’s clothing clean. In fact, a surprising number of business names recognizable today were already on storefronts 89 years ago.
The yearbook’s other lesson has nothing to do with its contents and everything to do with the fact that I found it at all.
In an era when we increasingly move print materials, books, records and the like, to the “cloud” of the Internet, we save space but we lose something, as well.
Sure, we can locate things in electronic outer space easily; and sure, we can easily find things that we might otherwise not have access to. What we lose, however, is the chance discovery of something we may not even have known we were interested in.
I can’t imagine, for example, Googling something like “books I haven’t read” or “books I didn’t know might interest me” and having this yearbook turn up. It was happenstance, pure and simple, that put the 1923 volume in my hands a few years ago, and happenstance again that I rediscovered it a couple of weeks ago.
What do we lose when we give up the possibility of chance discoveries like mine? I’m not sure, but I cannot imagine it is a good thing. The yearbook broadened, if only a bit, my understanding of the community I have lived in, worked in and loved for years. That understanding may not extend my life or make me rich or turn me into a rocket scientist, but it will influence, however slightly, how I approach the future here. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.