Special edition of Denair High yearbook walks through 100 years of school's history

naustin@modbee.comApril 24, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— This year, Denair High School celebrates 100 years of graduations with pomp, circumstance and a yearbook for the ages.

Technology teacher Craig Cumberland and yearbook class students created a decade-by-decade walk through history for the centennial edition.

"We only had one opportunity to do this," Cumberland said. "I wanted to educate our kids about our history. Where we were. Where we are now — which hopefully soon will be in a better place," he added as an aside.

The school topped the century mark against a backdrop of financial problems for the district.

But for the students, this year has been about honing digital design skills and laughing at beehive hairdos.

"They dressed really different then and had way different customs," remarked senior Alyssa Villa, gazing at the early-decade photos.

Sophomore Amanda

Fuentes declared the teased hair and neon colors of the '80s "funky," but added the work was fun and she's now an expert at cutting out digital images.

Editor Samantha Watts, a senior and yearbook staff veteran, said this year's edition was more work and more stress.

"I wanted to make everything perfect," she said. "We weren't just trying to get this year right. We were trying to get 100 years of history right."

Cumberland said he took on the centennial project as a way to write the history of all of Denair.

"We're a town. We're not a city. There's not a lot of history of Denair. Much of what there is is in the yearbooks," he said.

The school had books dating back to the 1920s, letting kids trace some parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents through the pages.

For the earliest years, Cumberland and the class dove into historical records. A Kansas City obituary provided information and the only genuine photo he was able to find of railroad worker and land speculator John Denair.

"For the first time since he was alive, Mr. Denair will be showing himself to the town that was named for him," Cumberland said.

But the yearbook has more young faces than old — all the usual clubs, sports and classmates. Senior portraits line up with a baby photo inset.

"It's a mix. We tip our hat to our past, but we didn't want it to dominate the yearbook," he said.

Jeff Williams, of yearbook publisher Jostens, was impressed by the effort.

"They took it above and beyond. A lot of centennial yearbooks will do a special page, but this is a historic document," he said.

The pages include the cars, the fashions and the attitudes many Denair parents and grandparents will recognize.

"That's the thing about a yearbook," Williams said. "Books are put on shelves. Yearbooks are there forever."

Copies of the Denair High 2013 Centennial Yearbook are available for $85 at the school office, 3460 Lester Road, Denair, or online at http://tinyurl.com/Denair100. For more information, email yearbook@dusd.k12.ca.us.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.

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