Writer’s Workshop: School Pictures!

One of the prompts for today is “Throwback time! Share an old class photo of yourself.” Of course, last week I shared a picture of myself from the sixth grade…

So I went back in the archive and found the other school pictures I have in my possession, which I found when we were going through my Mom’s stuff after she died. Here I am in fifth grade…

You’ll notice it’s in black and white. For some reason, they didn’t print color pictures that year. For that matter, they took several years off from having individual class pictures and instead had us all posed in a group. This was the first year they went back to the individual portraits.

We did sixth already. Here’s seventh grade…

That year I was a finalist for Best Looking in the Class. I didn’t win, but it was nice to be recognized.

Eighth grade…

The strange look on my face can be attributed to the general atmosphere of smartassery as we were waiting in line to have our pictures taken. The guy behind me, John Collins, had shouted “HEY HOLTON! SAY ‘PROVOLONE’!” Fortunately, the photographer let me compose myself somewhat before he snapped the picture.

As a bonus, this is one of the proofs from my high school graduation portrait package. This is one my mother didn’t choose, but I found it among all the others…

I look like I should be sitting on Paul Winchell’s lap with Jerry Mahoney, or on Jimmy Nelson’s lap with Danny O’Day. Winchell and Nelson were ventriloquists; here are a couple of videos of them in action.

And as long as we’re talking ventriloquists, here’s Señor Wences…

and Jeff Dunham…

I had a classmate who was a ventriloquist. No video of him, though. Anyway, I went a little stream-of-consciousness there…

30 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: School Pictures!

  1. Wow, all gussied up for school photos. A coat and tie in (almost) every one! Apparently, the beard came along later 😉
    Congratulations on graduating high school. Your Danny O’Day comment cracked me up.

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    1. Mary snapped my profile picture on my birthday four years ago, and it’s one of the first pictures of me with the beard. It was shortly after I retired and decided I wasn’t going to shave anymore.

      I went to a Catholic grammar school, and in the ’60’s a jacket and tie were pretty much required, although the ones I was wearing in the pictures were my dressier ones. High school was a different story, because I went to a public school and it was the ’70’s, so you can kind of imagine all bets were off….

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  2. I love this!
    Say Provolone!
    My son tried to do the peace sign in his class photo one year. Made for one awkward shot after the photographer said “Great! Now I have to take another one. There are no peace signs or any hand gestures allowed. Or faces. No faces.” so of course the kids were wondering who was making a face. Almost all of them were looking at one another when the photo was taken. It was priceless.
    I love these school memories we take with us. Hopefully they’re the good ones 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this John.

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    1. In high school, until senior year, all the class pictures were taken by advisory (what we called homeroom). When we’d get our yearbooks, we’d look for the one kid who was surreptitiously giving the finger. And trust me, there was always one.

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  3. Hi John – those early ones just reflect youth … but it’s fascinating to see you change. Provolone – well now I’ll remember that for future photos … take care – fun to see and happy memories for many of us thinking back to our school years – cheers Hilary

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  4. What a handsome young man! One of the things I offer in my Etsy shop is a school years mini-album to hold all those types of pictures and to jot down the memories, like provolone! We’ve seen Jeff Dunham live. He is pretty funny. Thanks for sharing, John.

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    1. I’ve only ever seen Jeff Dunham on TV and YouTube, but he can be funny like very few others can. How he can keep all those characters straight amazes me, especially when two of them get in an argument. It’s like Mel Blanc when he’s doing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck or Sylvester and Tweety, except Jeff is doing all of it realtime.

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  5. John,

    Ahh, you’re a red head! My uncle has red hair which I can’t figure out for the life of me because neither of my grandparents had red hair. In fact, theirs was pretty dark. Mine had auburn color hair when she was younger. Sometimes you can see a tinge of red in mine but you gotta stretch the imagination. 🙂 Isn’t it funny how you can remember what you were thinking of the instant a photo was snapped? There are a couple wedding pix that I have vivid thoughts and my expressions in both fit purrfectly. In one I looked dead tired and I remember how exhausted I was. It really shows on my face. The other I had an enormous grin on my face I can’t remember what was said to me but my girlfriends shouted something at me right as the photographer squeezed the shutter. I loved the ventriloquist videos! These acts always amaze me. Thanks for visiting. Have a great afternoon.

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    1. I get that a lot when I show these pictures, that people didn’t know I was a redhead. The truth is I got all the benefits of being a redhead (namely, all the freckles and fair skin with a tendency to burn as red as a lobster if I get too much sun and don’t wear sunscreen) without actually having red hair, at least on my head (my mustache and beard were redder than my hair when I first grew them, and hair in other locations was about the same). Mom always said I should have been a redhead, and red hair does run on my dad’s side (two of his brothers and most of their kids are or were bright redheads), but the best I could do was brown with some red highlights. Now, of course, it’s mostly white, which started before I turned 40. Early gray ran in Mom’s family. As for the pictures, I have a feeling that the color changed somewhat and added more of a reddish tint than was there originally. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had the bright red hair that my cousins did…

      Ventriloquist acts have always been favorites of mine. The dummy can get away with saying things the real person can’t. Edgar Bergen was the classic example, with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Candice Bergen, Edgar’s daughter, said she thought Charlie and Mortimer were her brothers until she went into her father’s closet and found all the spare heads. A couple of others are Willie Tyler and Lester, who used to be on Laugh-In, and Wayland Flowers and Madame. It was a dying art, but it seems to have come back.

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  6. In elementary school when I lived in San Diego we only did one group shot per year and never got any single shots. I still have all of those class pictures. In fact, other than in my senior year (in Tennessee), we never got any single shots other than the one that appeared in the annual at the end of the year. Or it could be that they were offered and my parents chose not to buy any. But I don’t remember ever seeing any.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  7. School picture day was a serious event at your house! I doubt my brothers even had sports jackets in 5th grade….or 6th and 7th! I like the 8th grade attitude. I guess that I am in the right field—Social Worker at a middle school–because I was immediately drawn to that 8th grade shot.

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      1. We had to wear a tie (bolo ties got popular), white shirt, and dark slacks. Not sport coats. That was in the 50s and probably a more lenient order, but I thought ours was pretty tyrannical.

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  8. This was such an enjoyable read! I learned a new way of saying cheese and the videos made me laugh out loud, but the comments are what really made my day. I love reading the comments and I’m always itching to reply to those too.

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  9. I like the Say Provolone face best. There’s a happiness residual, I think 🙂
    I’ve written a rant about school pictures. Dunno when I’ll release it, but it’s there.

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  10. Ohhhh…those school pictures! They could easily make or break you. I recall my mother making my hair look just “so” but there was always a photgrapher’s assistant present at photo time who would grab a comb and do some hair rearranging. And then hand you the comb as a keepsake. The end result was always awful.

    You’re a brave man for sharing, John. And I loved Senor Wences. S’ariiight!

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  11. John,

    Thanks for your kind words on my post from last week (The Time I Fell). I was out of town over the weekend and am just now able to respond. I love your post on school pictures. I attended public school, but my husband attended Catholic, so I can empathize. I love your research ability…you always come up with the best!

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