Two ’49ers’ Take on ’09ers’ Yearbook

Words by Richard Townsend 
Formatting by Tom Clark


Our School’s recent Brook Woodwinds is sold-out. So just take our word for it: memories are captured there of beautiful girls and jaunty guys, i.e.,


A playfulness is generated too, as in this Photoshopped representation of faculty within one department: 



Except for a Frontispiece and a two-page spread introducing Advertisements, the campus appears just in backgrounds. It’s as beguiling as ever. Greater attention is given to community service.  Also, student leadership seems more distributed:  British-style dorm ‘prefects’ of 60 years ago have been replaced by twice as many ‘residential advisors.’  Naturally, nothing in the book is significantly injurious to the moral tone of the School. Even so, '09 is not dull.  Education, comfortable Cranbrook style, seems upbeat. It's not something one is forced to undergo.


'09 lacks a Dedication Page. I'm only cognizant of this because by contrast, Bob Leister '49, our educator extraordinaire in public and private schools, has had three School yearbooks dedicated to him. 


Those are my first impressions from an array of sharp, well-composed photos of jubilant folks. They're hanging-out in houses, sports, organized activities, academic departments, and milestone events. In its wide difference from our ’49er yearbook, ’09’s document is a revelation. It’s almost as different as our two generations’ music and music delivery systems.   I had expected those two generations to succeed and somewhat reiterate each other. What I should have also expected was '09's departure from '49's reserve in self-expression. More on that throughout the sections below.


For a comparative and occasionally critical review, I draw from two print ‘databases’ of School life. The focus is mostly on Seniors' Pages, a key section of CK’09’s 400-pager and C’49’s 45-pager.  OK, the comparison’s uneven. CK‘09 had more than 200 seniors. We in C’49 had less than 70.  The '49 Brook did append 27 thin issues of our Friday weekly, The Crane. That inclusion has since been discontinued. Nowadays, teens in Upper School produce a fat, six-times-a-year Crane-Clarion and a video yearbook. Also, now of course there's a literary magazine, a sports illustrated paper, and zines. Plenty of words & pictures action.

C‘49ers will recall the generous outlook of our times. The Brook featured laudatory 100-word sketches that fellow-students wrote about each senior, five per printed page.  Members of our group were few enough and alert enough to recognize the range within each, and so no sketch lazily or crudely summarized a classmate by a single facet.   Beneath those texts and smallish formal portraits were lists of our organizational involvements.  All in all in the Spring of ’49, we didn’t particularly flinch when we read how valiant, resolute, and self-made we all were.  Like normal teen-agers of any time, we '49ers may have largely been emotional messes, our minds often out to lunch. Still, for our yearbook debuts, we wore our rational masks. I suspect the seniors in Woodwinds, Kingswood's then-yearbook, did too. Such polished spins, a mix of celebrity profile and infomercial in third-party voice, don’t seem to cut it in ’09.

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Visits Inside '09ers' Minds


Over time, the format of yearbooks naturally gets worked and reworked.  Hence we shouldn’t be surprised that at CK (and other prep schools), much of the gold now comes as seniors self-present. Their names lead off in standard, bold, non-cheesy typography.  Then, each crafts his or her separate page. (That's a better way than my classmates had.  For one, Tom Clark ruefully remembers "dreading to get my copy of the '49 Brook. What had the editors published about me?")  Now as self-publishers, CK seniors altogether mount hundreds of informal black-and-white shots of their varied orbits. Sometimes they show baby pictures. When Toby Maxwell, our editor in ‘49, introduced pagefuls of informal shots into C’s stream of yearbooks, we rightly thought those 30 casual pics were a big deal.  


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For larger versions of the graphics, click on the images.


To be sure, 20% of ‘09’s senior pages are virtually wordless — aside for that staple of contemporary annuals, a ‘meaning-of-life’ quotation from worthies, e.g., Maya Angelou, Emerson, Joan of Arc. For the weathered tastes of long-lived '49ers, the '09ers' touchstones may be too certain or too partial. Or too cynical, sentimental, or imprecise.  Usually pithy, their chosen maxims also can approach a mushy, if benign, Hallmark aura, e.g. “Happiness…only real if shared.”


C‘49ers and others are left to wonder which ready-made formulations from which worthies we might have chosen as we left Lone Pine Road. And today in the wakes of our imperfectly pursued lives, would we cite any slice of wisdom as representative of ourselves?

 (For '49ers' own rules of life, click here.)


What the aforementioned 20% of youngest alumni primarily furnish is a visual, or a set of visuals, of themselves with their reference groups. Their speechlessness may be a sign of defiance, a blast of detachment, an assertion of autonomy, or a protection against emotion. (As such, they may approximate the 'communicative' teen ager parodied here.) Then again, they may not actually be stand-offish. Everyone has feelings, and, by their choice of photos, ‘09ers do seem real at sharing different forms of happiness.


Openness Has Grown

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Almost 80% of the other Seniors' Pages also retrieve lively snapshots. Plus nuggets from the likes of Anais Nim (nervy lady), Churchill, and Emerson (again). This second set of CK '09ers dig deeper. They go for nuances beneath surfaces. They select apt phrases. Occasionally they introduce Spanish, Russian, Arabic, or Asian sentences alongside English ones. 


And alongside such born-in-the-USA names as Taylor, Yonas, Robert, Neal, Alexander, and Austin, the first dozen Senior Pages also boast a Meena, Mishbah, Hyun, Khamila, Sindhu, and Sefora.  On the other hand, '49 had only a few overseas students. Now there's a World Night that at least one senior describes as his peak experience at Cranbrook (for links to videos from that night, click here). The more ethnically diverse '09 reflects a School that's better at welcoming the opportunity and responsibility to be a microcosm of the world, beyond our senior year's largely Euro-centric frame of reference. Direct calls for action to change that world seem absent, though; environmentalism is championed, but otherwise 09's Pages do not particularly push buttons for taking on such global social-justice issues as poverty or equity. If anyone is rebellious, he or she is not openly so; no one says a career goal is to subvert the dominant paradigm.


In scores of scenes throughout Seniors’ Pages, girls huddle naturally with boys, all with glints in their eyes. In our decades-back yearbook, we ‘49ers don't appear prissy   ̶ teenage male lust or at least sexual tension was there. Yet we sure were missing out. No more than ten girls grace all our group pictures. Sad.


Importantly, only a handful of ‘09er pages have grammatical constructions that 'stop’ me. I'd venture that, overall, their prose is as literate as classmates’ copy I helped edit for our era’s Cranes. Not that I want to face up to this, but their yearbook writing may be smarter that ours. That would correlate with what we know about intelligence test scores in every nation and culture over the last 60 years: steadily they've increased. Recent focus on teachers helping learners develop their multiple intelligences also suggests a range of skills that schools did not highlight much in decades past.


Some of ‘09’s narratives are restrained, perfunctory, and probably coded. As can be glimpsed by click-enlarging and then skimming the sample of Seniors Pages reproduced here, more self-sketches are detailed reckonings of students’ inner selves. They ruminate more in print than '49ers did. Their 21st-century disclosures highlight a cohort that’s candid, assertive, and opinionated. Sure, a few may be allowing themselves to be carried along by the current, yet I hope I'm not going daft or native when I add that they appear enterprising get-up-and-goers. I also challenge anyone to read through their Pages and not notice how they're relatively open about their feelings, humanized by their doubts, and unimpressed by the laudatory. Understand, I very much value our dusty old Brook immensely. It's a caring and discerning chronicle.  '49 Brook predates, however, Twitter, Facebook, Texting, E-mail, and Cellphone reductions of privacy in media-smart living. An upshot is that '49’s tone is out of sync with the present decade's tell-much, go-go-go culture. For its part, wiser or not, '09 smacks of an immediacy and off-the-cuff expressiveness that comes across as urgent, authentic, and unfiltered by others. '09ers often make glow with significance the everyday stuff we stiff-upper-lip chaps didn't write about.


Everyday stuff, but of course not everything stuff.  Imagine a teen-age world without certain biggies. Without acne, moodiness, first kisses, and excessive sleeping. Without lame homework or avoidance responses to annoying classmates. Without the yen to fit in or the need be oneself, including a risk-taking self. Without pressures to be on time or a stupid boohoo that life can be oh so hard. Without any fantasizing about possible careers. In both yearbooks at hand, such perennial themes are part of a teen-age world that's unstated.


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Never goody-two-shoes either, the bulk of us '49ers still could be fairly sedate at prime moments. Observe this snapshot Earl Wiener '51 took of several of us during our Commencement Prom. (Our dates emphatically were as beautiful as K '09ers. Let's make that clear. But compare our contemporaries' pitifully long and cumbersome gowns with the chic, leg-revealing outfits the '09 quartet is wearing in the color picture atop this review.) Walking towards photographer Earl is our Army Smith. Fully clothed of course. Contrast that favorite scene with one '09er on his favorite School memory: "I was chilling in the Quad after the Crane, the day before Prom, with Linley Chan, Michael St. Germain, and Alanna Hoffman. We'd just finished up the paper. I was sitting on the bench when I became convinced a spider was crawling down my back and trying to kill me. I flipped and took off all of my clothes before rolling around on the bricks. Then Michael threw all of my clothes into the Fountain."


Between the two yearbooks, our School has been affected by an American society that's grown famously freer (a perspective of sorts on that freedom is here). Beyond that conventional and general explanation for today's youth being less inhibited and more worldly than predecessors, I'm led to a specific wonder. Somehow, did the co-educationalizing of Cranbrook in 1985 help foster ‘09ers’ apparent up-frontness, communicative sharing, and high volubility? Compared to us, have '09ers had better-quality dating relationships, learning to negotiate conflict to mutual satisfaction while becoming smooth at effective and timely care-giving/seeking? Will they settle down and marry, as recent demographic cohorts seem to be doing, at a later age than children of the '40s did? Are they more excitable than we '49ers were? (Reacting to that rhetorical question, Texan Tom Clark emailed Ontarian me about our days before contraceptive pills: "Co-education might speed-up sex education.  I recall in Rev. Walt Young's Religion class how we begged him to teach us something about sex.  No luck.") Were I lucky enough to be a C'brook student any other time, I'd choose 1983-87. Between the all-boy Old and the co-ed New, the equilibrium would've been interesting.


It's sometimes generalized that a year-and-a-half difference exists in cognitive development between teen-age boys and girls. Except for math, allegedly teen-age boys appear immature when put beside girls of the same age. '09 offers no sharp corroboration of that, but deducing only from a picture, males 'own' or 'are' the math club. (I wager that the CK yearbook of ten years hence will show an even distribution of girls and boys in the math club, the result of more females being nurtured in that direction.)


In '09's Pages, no overt indication also exists that the CK merger has feminized the young men. For all I know, similar to other teen-agers of their generation, the guys may use brand moisturizers and wear designer-brand clothes like we '49ers did not. Still, the '09ers' niches lay within the province of the traditional male. That is, current Cranbrook boys are into activities such as chess, auto groups, computer teams, jazz bands, entrepreneurship, robotic competitions, and young Democrats (in Bloomfield Hills, that's gutsy). (I have no current data on this, but in light of adolescents' high hormonally-charged DNAs, I imagine they joke about bodily functions, much as we used to do.) In sports too, they appear physically strong, decisive, and courageous. They're "competing head to head." They're winning at States (for some, the favorite memory). As one claims, they're "badassadors for life.” The badass of course is the epitome of the American male. He has Responsibility. Self-assurance. High expectations. Efficiency at fighting back when necessary. Ability to carve his own path. Socially he may be highly visible as well as aggressive in his gaze.

From '09, it's clear that coeds are not delicate hothouse flowers either.  They don't seem to go for the rough-housing and pretend insults of young-buck camaraderie, but they can self-present with the daring, ambition, adventurousness, competitiveness, and self-reliance of the 'traditional' male. Just for one example, in a Brook Woodwinds photograph, the Rock Climbing Club is mostly girls. There on that rock wall, in a quasi-dangerous past-time I've associated with machismo, they all look deliciously feminine. That goes too for les girls elsewhere throughout this yearbook. How cool it would be now if they could all 1) be my grand-daughters and 2) juggle their future pressures of family, career, and social life with the resolve they evince in this Brook Woodwinds.



On Driving Forward

Proportionally, '09's informal Pages show seniors with vastly more cars than our '49 edition did.  Actually, we spotlighted only one, of hip dayboys (pictured). (Let's not lose track that even the most casually dressed of our mobile six, the tie-less Bing Murray, is more formally outfitted than most of today's students on most weekdays (pictured in color below outside Hoey Hall with backpacks, another post-'49 contrivance).  '49er boarders, bereft of cars, were eager to partake of the off-campus freewheeling enjoyed by dayboys. Thus, a grinning Bill Whitfield could recall, in a comradely way, during our 60th Reunion Weekend that "No boarder ever paid me any attention -- until I got a car." Perhaps today's boarders similarly affiliate with drivers in Towers and Fountains Houses? (Hold on. '09 lacks any obvious reference to those twin administrative structures for '49er dayboys. Surely those 'Houses' have not been abandoned like our Smoking Club and Church Cabinet?) Nostalgia buffs, also note this: "Bus schedules between Home & School did not get me to & fro. Boarders like me hitched rides. Surely in today's less safe epoch, no '09ers did?" So says Austin, Texas Tom.  Formerly known as East Tawas, Michigan Tom.

As car insurers insist, the frontal cortex of a teen-ager’s brain is not yet fully developed for impulse control and decision-making. Thus, soundly defining oneself can be an edgy adolescent challenge. In ‘09ers’ autobiographical accounts, however, most seem to be adroitly stick-handling past stresses. My ‘read’ is that none clearly project the particular look of disaffected youth. You know, angst and sullenness! Existential ennui! And Holden Caulfield-like punk disdain of "all that David Copperfield kind of crap." While a few appear quizzical, socially anxious and withdrawn, or a tad worried in their portraits, I interpret the majority of CK’09ers as projecting confidence. Sometimes they wear the serious look we exhibited 60 years ago. That’s when we too wanted unquestioned love and assumed that, for us, all things were possible.


Experiments with Assorted Roles

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For many, a significant factor in recognizing what's really possible is participation in extra-curriculars. High school is a place to try on different hats, enabling students to ferret-out their knacks and tastes for assorted out-of-class activities. Such discoveries can reinforce or shift expectations, setting stages for adult lives. Happily, the Senior Pages of '09ers declare interests that have come to excite their subjects. Instead, our '49 Brook just neutrally lists our involvements in Cranbrook organizations, intense as well as ephemeral. Consequently, our biosketches and unweighted lists are not necessarily from-the-heart. We don't reveal what, if anything, we've grown to care about passionately. We don't so much open-up to ideas about ourselves that have changed over time. We don't hint at what we've come to learn about our preferences.


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Starting in first grade at Brookside, Fred Smith was C'49's sole 'lifer.' Or as one '09er displayed on his page, Cranbrook had a Monopoly on his elementary, middle, and secondary education. In CK's newest yearbook, another of the 17 lifers describes fellow-students' qualities. She says they're "the nicest, brightest, weirdest, most self-obsessed, and most beautiful collection of people I have ever met” (emphasis added). True? Well, given today’s celebrity-minded culture, you’d think that impressionable kids’ edits of their own memories might turn narcissistic. Not so, or at least not particularly so in '09's Senior Pages. By and large, ‘09ers in their yearbook shy away from out-and-out self-absorption about how 'cool' they are. They don't trot out their attainments and citizenship contributions.  Or, those mentions are subtexts. Not in-your-face.


Moreover, reticence marks those who were to win top honors in June ’09 for athletics, ceramics, dance, jazz, sculpture, and metal-smithing & jewelry. Their self-portraits don’t even begin to hint at such keen accomplishments. I see that modesty elsewhere in their yearbook. Consequently I regard that Kingswood lifer’s characterization of self-aggrandizement as inconsistent with ‘09’s actual contents. The seniors’ pats on the back seem directed more toward others than towards their own selves. Alternatively in C’49, every biosketch commemorated only its subject, us. Masters-of-the-universe us.


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Not Just About Students

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Across decades, Seniors’ Pages have evolved to salute relatives.  If parents nag, lecture, or argue with these teen-agers, those actions are not aggressively recalled.  Nor are those households’ expenses for CK’09ers’ pricey tuition, room, and board are explicitly referred to. Rather, “sacrifice” is the recurrent general term for the Bloomfield Affluence those elders immerse their kids into. It's a sacrifice perhaps especially arduous in Michigan’s freaked-out economy. It's possible that '09ers are confronting this long depression "getting by" without brand-name clothing and showing responsibility as young adults to fiscally help their families while nailing a good education.  In any event within '09, often family members are pictured and praised for their reliability, wisdom, and strength. Consider these typical snippets of gratitude and tenderness from '09’s extensive tributes:

  • “…Thanks for forgiving my wrongs and encouraging my pursuits, but mostly for understanding when I can hardly explain…”

  • “[…You know] when to coddle and when to kick my butt.”

  • “While I annoy you with my sarcastic comments, the constant support, trust and compassion you provide enable me to be both independent and dependent simultaneously.”

  • “Love you Dad, but in a guy way, you know.”

  • “You were not only Grandparents to me, but you were also my friends.”

  • “[You are] the exotic Aunt that every child needs in their life.”

  • “Thank you [Sibling] for being there when I needed a friend, lacrosse partner, or an ally against Mom and Dad.”


In turn, after Seniors’ Pages and at the back of the book, over 30 families of ‘09ers are among those who place congratulatory adverts (as in the images at right). Proudly they urge the School’s most recent alums to spread their wings and soar. By contrast, and unlike public high schools in those years, our ’49 yearbook lacked such pages.  Ads, though, entered the Brook a year later.

(I appreciate '09's back pages help finance a costly yearbook.  This Advertisements section also yields winning pictorial data on the 30 students. But whoa Nelly. These displays of affection also might be characterized as manifestations, however slight, of a current North American trend to hyper-parent. I hope these '09ers, and stroked members of Generation Y, will not take extra attention as their due in Grown-Up Land. Nobody likes youngsters' senses of entitlement.) 


It Took A Cranbrook To Raise '09ers


'09ers imply that they're still discovering the ins & outs of their personalities. Towards that unfolding, they muster appreciation for staff who “shaped” or “molded” them.  Of course, different teachers click with different students. Detectable, however, is a sense that overall the School's agents have contributed to what will be '09ers' lifetime performance along lines of happiness, productivity, income, and fullness of being human. Maybe like '49ers, most contemporary seniors do not settle exactly on their majors until they reach college -- according to Tom Clark, '49ers' choices were only made by Cranbrook graduation "by those whose families who wanted their sons to be doctors and lawyers." Still, to nudge us along, we too did have sprightly academics who guided some of us us towards intellectual pursuits. Who made quantitative subjects fun. Who stoked our interest in qualitative 'stuff' like music, history, and language. Who taught us something about reading and questioning the world. Who were nice to our families and reinforced their work ethics. Who pushed us towards being well-rounded or who nudged us toward becoming self-confident at something. Who were there to assist when we were going through rough patches. Nevertheless, my take-away from '09 is that today's faculty may be scheduling more constructive one-on-ones with their charges than 'masters' did 60 years ago. New technologies may be reducing teachers' prep time. Those 'freed-up' moments may be providing faculty with extra moments for an ethos of mentorship.

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Not that we '49ers lacked personal interactions outside class. We were coached, dined-with, and reported for infractions. We were UnSat-listed and channeled into skills and good works we still enjoy. We were preached-at, e.g., the Assistant Headmaster's counsel in Assembly that "Gentlemen don't chew gum," the Headmaster's urging through his 'Under the Tower' column, to "squeeze out bad habits by acquiring good ones which contradict them." Although schooled to "Aim High (Ostensibly In Work)" and sublimally from across Kingswood Lake to "Go Forth To Serve (Others)," we had social events in the Little Gym, mischeviousness in the halls and dorms, and sports and weekends to reinforce our natural inclinations towards leisure and play. And boarders,  do you remember Page Commons as a venue for hurried, after-dinner, and lukewarm cups of Senior Coffee? Tom, my close collaborator here, views those sessions as attempts to teach us the social graces of the day, such as drinking coffee from a demitasse cup After graduation, Tom adds, he "never saw a demitasse again.”

I'm tempted to see those events less as civilizing and more as community-building among masters, their wives, and us 'hot rod joyboys,' W. Brooke Stabler's term of criticism. (Headmaster WBS initially may have been alluding to those 6 hip dayboys in Derek Orth's convertible, above. Before long, '49ers mockingly appropriated the phrase to describe our sometimes rambunctious selves.) For me, those long-ago Senior Coffee half-hours were a form of partying. After graduation, I was ready for more. More coffee. And partying. In any event, those interludes were agreeable. Were they as sustaining as regular advisor meetings “over a cup of tea and a laugh” that ‘09ers celebrate?


Certainly our ranks boasted a handful of regular cut-ups. They were great then and later too in central roles, e.g., Judge, General, Prenatal Doctor, Professor, and Entrepreneur.  None of us schoolboys ever had the chance or appetite, though, to apologize in print to staff. In ’09, one chap did: “I am sorry for all of the things you had to put up with when I was in class, but hey, I was just trying to lighten the mood lol.” 


Other than doings in fine and performing arts, curiously both ‘49ers and ’09ers publish scant pictures of their Senior selves in academic settings. It’s almost as if the lives of young Cranbrook minds were un-suave, un-photographable. Classroom scenes don't have to be bo-ring, however. It's conceivable students could be shown debating or role-playing issues. They could be seen examining artifacts or completing lab exercises. It shouldn't be hard to photograph them hearing-out teachers or peers without fidgeting or disinterest. If not on Senior Pages, elsewhere in yearbooks students could be viewed reading texts or poring over maps to accumulate declarative knowledge. I can also picture a tableau with Seniors even responding creatively to tests or assignments that are visible on SmartBoards (for recent videos on SmartBoard in Cranbrook's Chemistry, French, and Physics classes, click herehere, and here). No hint,  pictorial or verbal, is mounted either that through diligence and superb marks, a student might be able to land a personal Moby Dick, e.g., acceptance into a first-choice college, movement towards a fulfilling career. Granted, depictions of such cognitive activity can be starchy and off-putting to the adventurous young.  But as shown above with the jaunty guys on the goal posts and with the pic of the Science Department, yearbook editors can have a light touch. My argument is simply that one way or other, in an overview of a year, representation is appropriate of students as learners.


On an everyday basis, students experience the architectural and site-planning gems that comprise the Cranbrook Educational Community. By bus, they shuttle to classes and lunches at both campuses, perhaps sensing that the Kingswood design is the more aesthetically unified. More than we expressed in our Gray & Blue yearbook, several '09ers call attention to those enclaves of beauty. In retrospect, probably their other classmates will too.


The Special Gift Of Friendship Among Peers

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Not least, seniors give shout-outs to buddies generically, e.g., “Going to miss football more than anything and it’s because of everyone on the team.” More often, usually through first names or initials, nods are given to those who may be “polar opposites but perfect for each other.” Private sentiments go public in print, e.g., "Scarlett, we have become so close, and I hope that we remain best friends for time to come; you make me better in all aspects of life." And "Syd, I feel like we should still be friends, and our closeness was cut short. I wish you all the best, and I hope that you excel to your fullest." Only the rare '49er might have scrawled such a falling-apart regret, alongside his autograph, across our Brook's bios, margins, and blank end-pages. For better or worse, our postwar generation did not discourse much about such "relationships." My sense is that only during the later half of the Swinging Sixties did the confessions and life reviews of psychology and psychiatry really start to catch on.


More specifically, ‘09ers seem drawn together by common histories and mutualities of attitudes and behaviors, e.g., road trips, midnight conversations, jointly surviving French, the dorms where one learns "how to cooperate." Friendship formation and stability is facilitated by joint interests, e.g., Hillel, taking laps, dark chocolate, video games, taking trips to movies, "skewed musical preferences.” Amid adolescent tumults, seniors validate and spark each other to live up to potentials. That includes mischief-making, e.g., “dancing badly,” “shouting out loud aimlessly near faculty houses at 2 a.m.,” depositing “a frog in a [girls’] tent on the Wilderness” Expedition, and generally joking-around. (Although savoring that they "morphed the mundane into comedy," the Seniors in their Pages generally do not indulge in the irony of humorous contradictions. Neither, for that matter, did yearbook depictions of us ‘49ers. Was irony more of a ‘70s or ‘80s game?)




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A sociogram could be charted of social links and lines of communication between the mixes of ’09’s personalities. How about that Cranbrookian who credits many peers who “have my back”?  Well, he might qualify sociometrically as a Star, many lines radiating to and from him. What about the Kingswoodian who declares, “I’m glad I looked for all the black people freshmen year, or else I would not have found you”? A sociometrician could rate her as a Mutual Choice. Elsewhere the ‘found’ classmate reciprocally fist-bumps the frosh who ‘looked.’


From ‘09’s words and pictures, I couldn’t identify any Isolates or Lone Wolves. Partly, that’s because numerous ‘09ers go vague and avoid specifics. Their friends “know who they are.” Also, when seniors publicly ‘friend’ Jordan, frankly I’m confounded: which of ‘09’s four first-named Jordans do they mean?


“…I’d Run Across Siberia for You…”


A hope in ‘09ers’ page is that CK friends are bonded for life. They don’t want to “miss a beat” when their print yearbooks are passed around -- and their autobiographies are expanded -- 20, 40, and 60 years on.


In light of the substance and style of their yearbook, '09ers' chances seem good. Extrapolating from friendships among ‘49ers, I envisage cores of ‘09ers also remaining 'tight', their relations far from dormant. As parts of the kids that they were, they'll value each other’s openness, kindness, and enjoyable presence. They'll trust and understand one another for who they each think they are. Their co-evolutions may arise by dint of propinquity, social-networking sites, new-found projects, and the realization that everything is finite. Differences, moreover, may fade. The sociological literature suggests that ties need to be maintained to have value -- but weak ties can be strengthened through periodic reconnecting. Hey, some may grow close to classmates they scarcely knew in School. After all, as we move through life, upbringings can rise up and reclaim us when we least expect.


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And the Winners Are...

So, in the end, what's it all about?  Well, to begin, both sets of Seniors' Pages succeed. They tell their stories in their own special ways. They stir memories that kindle pleasure and pride. They make engaging stabs at documenting two cavalcades of fresh-faced Niner personalities.  Most seem to own their high-school experiences. In the aggregate, the Pages affirm that there's no single right balance of values that yield the 'good' Cranbrook life.


More or less accurately, these pivotal sections also represent fleeting moments of folks on one of life's cusps. Some in both classes probably have reason to wince or grumble now over their yearbook depictions which, after all, reflect but one stage of their lives. Yet, at bottom, Seniors' Pages are about something larger. They're snapshots about Community. They're about people who had the

good fortune to develop singly and jointly in a sophisticated School. At a world-renown setting, to boot.


Inevitably too, Seniors' Pages convey Tone. In their ranks, exceptions likely exist, but the overall tenor of this '09er Community does not conform to severe assessments of their generation in the media (e.g., here, here, here). That is, yearbook words of Cranbrook-Kingswood '09ers' do not smack of the faults the national press has identified as commonplace among adolescents today, viz., indolence, cynicism, shallowness, materialism, praise- and reward-hunger, and inability to read or respond well to others. I don't remember us '49ers — at Cranbrook and elsewhere too — as faulty on those grounds either. (Tom Clark has urged me to offer a societal comment on how 21st century teenagers may have become that different, but that's beyond my competence. The thought occurs, however, that if that variance in values is real, our generation's parenting may be implicated.)


Seniors' Pages are also about Change. Divergences in the two yearbooks bespeak differences in the internal and external resources accessible to the two groups. Structures change, lifestyles change. Notably, just scanning our Brook and their contemporary Brook Woodwinds, one is reminded that today's kids mature earlier. What's more, it can be inferred that '09ers have a spirit or panache that we '49ers then lacked. Or maybe, to meet the stern expectations of 60 years ago, the panache side of us was suppressed.


Whatever the cause, in my geezer's view, their visual and verbal fragments capture pluck, wobbliness, and coming-of-ageness more richly than the outsider’s perspective manifest in '49.  Be cheered by the '09ers. As suggested by their smart and vibrant Senior Pages, they may not be miracle-workers. They may not have all honed the skills of coping with adversities that certainly are out there. Yet with age and experience, they'll supplement the wisdom and work ethic they've accrued. Right now, they appear ready to pump fresh and strong blood into the world. They'll keep things alive.


Dick Townsend was a staff member of the '49 yearbook for Cranbrook. His older self is indebted to Class Secretary Walt Denison for animating '49ers over the years, to friend Tom Clark '49 for formatting, re-formatting, and re-re-re-formatting this picture story and to Brook Woodwinds Faculty Advisor Joe Smith for sending him one of the School’s last ’09 yearbooks. Smith got in touch with Townsend through the Alumni Association's Kathy Discenna, an extraordinary Friend and Booster of the Class of '49. Smith, incidentally, is the father of the CK varsity golfer Griffin, shown here recently making par while watched by a crane, still a strong Cranbrook symbol. Go Cranes!

Crane on green 


Related Links

- Lessons Learned - '49ers' own rules of life
Class of '55's recent Rules of Life for graduating seniors in Bonus Question

- Bill Gates, another school's Class of  '73, has 11 rules

- Page in '10 Yearbook



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