Autograph Book Circa 1975

autograph book 1One of my favorite novels of summers’ past (well, 2003, at least) is Audrey Niffenegger’s odd little gem, The Time Traveler’s Wifea sci-fi romance novel that really defies both genres because of the strong writing and in-depth characters. The film version is being released this weekend, an interesting antidote to the hyper realistic, anti-romantic, time travel to the 1960s, season 3 premiere of Mad Men, which is also this weekend.

I’ll be missing them both: I’m going on my own little travels for a few weeks. I’ve always found that saving summer travel until the end of the summer allows me to return to academia in a much more restful state of mind. But an entire summer spent on the home front has me a bit on edge and anxious to get out of Dodge and see the world—or British Columbia, at least. And, if you think of Victoria as a city that replicates Colonial England, then I suppose that I, too, will be time travelling.

Inktopia has been time travelling to the 1980s by cleaning her closets. And while many of us (of a certain age) wish our favorite dancing dress from the 80s was still in style (or at least, zip-upable), most of us have long since donated or trashed our old clothes. 

But I have saved the more packable mementos of my past, such as my Autograph book from 1975, signed by teachers and classmates during the month of our “graduation” from 6th grade, when I was 11 years old.  Junior high began for us in 7th grade, in the much larger building on the other side of town, and although we were the only elementary school in this small town, and thus we were all going to the same junior high, it was still a big deal (lockers, different teachers for different subjects, 9th grade boys, etc). 

The first page, written in what I remember as my very stylish handwriting, is the following “poem” (misspellings included): “Who ever steals this book of knowledge shall graduate from Sing Sing collage.”autograph book 3

Then there’s a page titled “My Favorites”: in 1975 my favorite book was Laura’s Luck by Marilyn Sachs, a book I don’t remember at all (and here I thought that my blog’s namesake, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a book a DO remember well, was my favorite book at that era!). Sachs’ novel was one of a series about a poor family living in the Bronx (well, I obviously was quite fond of New York-centric fiction); in this book Laura faces a summer camping trip with great dread (I still relate to that).

My favorite song in 1975 was “Close to You” by the Carpenters (and note that in this video poor Karen does look anorexic—even though she is wearing a puffy shirt!).  My favorite “Motto” was “Keep on Truckin’” and my favorite athlete—who was more likely my brother’s favorite athlete—was Rusty Staub of the NY Mets (we were a Mets family growing up, though my nephew is decidedly a Yankees fan, much to my brother’s horror). 

Of course the most interesting parts of the Autograph book are the autographs from friends and teachers.  And they are not just signatures, but little rhyming poems. Where did we GET all the little poems, anyway? From older siblings? How did we know to do that?

Here are some gems, again with a few creative spellings included:

From Debbie (sorry, Debbie, don’t remember you at all, but she is the FIRST to sign my book):

Standing before the judge
Do I see tears
Sentenst for J.H. [junior high]
It’s only 3 years.

And, right below it from the same Debbie:

God made candy
God made cake
When he made you
He made a big mistake.

And, included on top of the page in smaller print:

Dated till France gets Hungry and Fries Turkey and Greece.

Other “dated tills” throughout the book include:

Dated till the sidewalks.
Dated till tulips kiss.
Dated till bacon strips.

How we loved such punning.

There are several “emeralds are green” poems, such as this one:

Emeralds are green
Pearls are white
Some kids are good
But you’re out of sight.

And, squeezed onto many pages is this little math equation:


Being 11, there are lots of “poems” about boys or marriage, though what’s interesting is how cynical many of them are. In fact, the last two nearly make me cringe—what sort of family life did my mostly 2nd generation Italian and Irish classmates have?:

If all the boys
lived across the sea,
what a good swimmer
Annie would be.

Sailors like ships
babies like toys
but all Annie likes
is boys boys boys

When you’re sitting with your honey
and your nose gets runny
don’t think it’s funny
cause it’s snot.

When you get married
and have a set of twins
don’t come to me for some pins.

When you get married
and live in the slums
send me a picture
of each little bum.

When you get married
and your husband wants a drink
take him to the kitchen
and say here’s the sink.

When you get married
and your husband gets tough
pull down your pants
and show him your stuff.

Others are a bit more sophisticated, like this one, oddly appropriate for me on a daily basis these days:

Can’t think
Brain numb
Won’t Come
Poor ink
Bad pen
That’s all

There are a few rare comments related to academic success in junior high, or happiness in life generally (mostly from relatives and teachers). This first one is from the one and only classmate I remember very well since we’ve recently found each other on Facebook:

May your life be like arithmetic:
Joys added
Sorrows subtracted
Cares divided
And happiness multiplied.

Several teachers also wrote in my book: my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ryan, who encouraged my poetry writing and tutored me in math, wrote “You’ll never stop being a favorite.”  And my music teacher, Mr. Garrie, whose page I folded differently to express, I believe, my great crush on him (he loved Broadway show tunes, and had the 5th and 6th grade girls’ vocal ensemble sing a rousingly funny rendition of “All That Jazz” including doing the motions for rolling “our stockings down”!) wrote: “It has been a real pleasure knowing you these past two years. Never stop singing or playing—have a ball this summer and get ready for next year.”  

[Update: I still sing, but only when I’m alone (you’re welcome), and I’ve long since stopped playing violin and guitar (I was never very good); I no longer write poetry but I still struggle with math (thank the goddess for Quicken).]

Does anyone else remember having an autograph book? I suspect they were limited to elementary school, since by junior high we had yearbooks with photos to sign.  From my brief survey of friends on the subject, it seems that elementary school autograph books had a brief period of popularity, limited to the 70s or so, but I’d love to confirm (or refute) that. And did only girls keep them or did boys have them, too?

11 responses to “Autograph Book Circa 1975

  1. Annie, this is AWESOME! Love it and actually got a rush of memories just from reading what people wrote in *your* book! That is an incredible time capsule. Some of those inscriptions are absolutely priceless.

    But I don’t think I like the sound of Debbie…

    (Ok, now I have to go dig through the basement boxes to see if I still have mine…)

  2. Oooh, please dig! I’d love to know if my autograph book was sort of NY-centric, or if there were geographic differences. It IS quite the time capsule! (And Debbie, yes, clearly she was forgettable).

  3. “I wish I was a piece of soap
    So soft and very mushy
    So when you took a bath at night
    You would wipe me around your tushy.”

    —Remembered verbatim from fifth grade, though I can’t for the life of me recall the name of the girl who wrote it. She moved to another school soon thereafter. Anyway, at the time this poem struck me as expressing a really strange aspiration, and it seems no less strange now.

  4. Oooh, please dig! I'd love to know if my autograph book was sort of NY-centric, or if there were geographic differences. It IS quite the time capsule! (And Debbie, yes, clearly she was forgettable).;. All the best!!

  5. I know where he poems came from-the books were equipped with a card with these sayings!!

    I can tell you that I have 2 autograph books. The reason being, when I was in the 5th grade, the district decided to close Baldwin Drive elementary and therefor I was sent to another one in district (Eastplain) just for 6th grade so we were also given one there too! Half of us went to the school on the one side of the street and the other half on the opposite side. I had lost touch with a lot of friends from Baldwin, and when we all entered the Jr High we saw each again but was very hard to re-aquatint with each other 😦 . For me anyway-I was very shy
    Also: In the 6th grade, on the last day of class, I couldn’t find my book, only to learn that a boy took it home “by mistake”(he never had one), well I was able to get it back only to find that the boy ripped out part of my name to leave just three letters that started with his last name?!?! My name-Margie , his last name was Marchese. How sad was that for a 6th grader!

  6. 2y’s UR
    2y’s UB
    I C U R 2Y’s
    4 ME!

    Christoper Columbus discovered America in 1492
    I discovered a good friend when I discovered YOU!

    And my 5 the grade teacher Mrs Helms wrote in 1983……
    Strawberries are red
    Smurfs are blue
    Remember this teacher in 2002! (If I make it til then!)

    I was surprised when my 4th grade son’s yearbook said nothing more than “HAGS” which means have a great summer. I was telling him about some of the witty ways kids signed autograph books when I was his age. Fun post!

  7. I just cleaned out my attic and found one of my autograph books from elementary school! I loved collecting signatures from friends and teachers. I had this exact one and the first thing I did was to fold over all the pages into triangles, but I would also use any notebook that came my way. The one I just found was in the shape of a foot. I grew up in a very small town outside of Houston, Texas, in the 1970s. I always thought these were a throw back to the 1950s (from when my parents were teens.) I hope, as a fellow ‘Debbie,’ that I wrote better things to my friends! I mostly remember:
    2 good
    +2 be
    4 gotten

    Guess that doesn’t apply to your Debbie 😉

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