Several years before they would meet and marry, teenagers Fern and Jerry were unsuspecting students at Central High School in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa.1 They were not in the same grade, and this was a large school; Fern moved to Sioux City only in time for her senior year, and as Jerry graduated two years later, it’s possible that they never crossed paths during their brief overlap as students at the imposing sandstone building dubbed “The Castle on the Hill.”2
Fern Lavonne Thoma graduated from Central High School in 1925. In her yearbook photo, she wore a long necklace and, true to the times, styled her hair in a fashionable, chin-length bob. The only club that Fern had joined was the “Friendship Club,” which, apparently, was mandatory for all female students.3 From what I remember her telling me, she enjoyed her time at this school, especially a banquet for the upperclassmen during which the school gymnasium was decorated like a boat. She thought this event was “just wonderful!”4
Gerald “Jerry” Joseph Adam graduated from Central High School in 1927. According to the yearbook, he was in the general course of study and had been involved in Civics, no surprise given his penchant for writing to politicians later in his life, as well as the Spanish Club. His handsome photo was paired with the quote, “Who shows you your place when you go to the Princess?”5 As a teenager, Jerry earned money as an usher at the Princess Theatre in downtown Sioux City, surely a popular place among his movie-going peers.6
In fact, Fern and Jerry reportedly met while on their way to the movies. Fern and her friend Florence were walking downtown when two young men, who were known to Florence, drove up in their rental car and offered the girls a ride. Fern approached the front to sit next to the driver, when Jerry suggested that she sit in the back with him. Fern later claimed that Florence had set her up, while Jerry liked to say that when he first laid eyes on Fern, he proclaimed, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!”7
If you would like to find yearbook photos of your ancestors (or even yourself), check out the yearbook collections on Ancestry.com. In my experience, yearbooks don’t always appear as strong “shaky leaf” matches, so I have found it helpful to search specifically within the category “Schools, Directories & Church Histories” in order to bring all relevant results to the top.
Also consider searching the yearbooks individually as your ancestor’s full name may not have been given for every appearance, particularly if he or she was an underclassman or appeared in additional club or athletic photographs. As a bonus, see if you can find his or her autograph scrawled in the back of the book. You never know what you might learn about the glory days of your ancestor’s youth!
1 “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 March 2014), entry for Gerald Joseph Adam and Fern Lavone Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City; citing Iowa State Archives, Des Moines.
2 “Central High School/Castle on the Hill,” Sioux City History (http://www.siouxcityhistory.org/historic-sites/85-central-high-school : accessed 24 March 2014).
3 The Maroon and White, Vol. XXI (Sioux City, Iowa: Central High School, 1927), 67; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 March 2014).
4 Fern Lavonne (Thoma) Adam, conversation with the author, 2001; notes in author’s files.
5 The Maroon and White, Vol. XXIII (Sioux City, Iowa: Central High School, 1927), 34; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 March 2014).
6 “U.S, City Directories, 1821-1989,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 October 2013), entry for Gerald Adam; citing “Polk’s Sioux City Directory, 1926 (R.L. Polk & Co., 1926),” 147.
7 Fern Lavonne (Thoma) Adam, conversation with the author, 2001.