From the Historian: ER High School’s ‘Gagashoan’ a 90-year tradition

Anita Mance

Each year, our Department of Local History purchases the East Rochester High School yearbook, for each one represents the history of our school and community during a particular time.   

For many years during the 1920s, a small pamphlet called the “Brown and White” (named for our school colors) was published with Senior Class memories. In 1931, a more complete yearbook of high school years was published called the “Gagashoan.”  

In studying our nation’s history, the students learned that the Native American Indians had no written language, and shared their stories and traditions through the oral language of storytellers. The yearbook staff chose to name their book “Gagashoan” for the stories the Hageota (storyteller) told. The 2021 “Gagashoan” reflected with pride and reverence this 90-year-old tradition. The “Gagashoan” has been published every year except during the Depression in 1933. 

Events in our nation’s history and our village are reflected in the themes of the yearbook. The 1943 yearbook listed the high school students who were in military service. In 1944, the yearbook had its first color photo (glued in the front of the book) — the American flag with the inscription “In triumph will wave.” English teacher Gertrude Fraser wrote in an essay of the students’ involvement in the war effort through blood drives and buying war bonds.  

“Gagashoan 1959” was dedicated to the old high school building on East Avenue, and had a photo of that building and the new school on Woodbine. The high school students moved to the new building after Easter vacation. The 1960 yearbook celebrated the new school by making the building its cover photo. The 1962 book had 10 color photos, each one glued in by the yearbook staff. By 2007, the whole yearbook was in color.  

“Gagashoan” editions from 1960 and 2021.

Themes for some of the books highlighted our village’s history of the railroad and music for the piano factory. A few had comical diagrams of the layout of the classrooms in the high school. For many years to help pay for the cost of the book, village businesses had advertisements in the back pages. During the 1950s such ads included the Candy Kitchen, Sweetland, Despatch Shops Inc. and Frank Koons, Florist. After Title IX (part of the education amendments of the federal Civil Rights law) was passed, girls interscholastic sports became an important part of the sports section. Through the years, new clubs became part of school life, such as the ECO Club, Science Olympiad, Chess Club, Model U.N., Celtic Music Society, the Ambassador newspaper and ER Voice. 

Over the years, there were numerous pages of recognition and dedication for faculty and staff, and sadly, in memoriam pages. Miss Fritz, Latin teacher from 1924 to 1965 was honored four times for her dedication to students. Judy Young, who drove the district’s only bus for over 20 years, was honored in the 2011 “Gagashoan” for her kindness and devotion. Math teacher John Majewski was honored in 2002 shortly before his death.   

“In Memoriam” recognition was given to teachers who died during the school year, including French teacher Kathryn Bieber (1971), social studies teacher Leonard Schieffelin (1972) and Principal Jack Stivers (1986). Perhaps one of the most touching dedications was in the 1964 “Gagashoan” honoring classmate Karen Goy, who died suddenly of encephalitis before her junior prom. 

Anita Mance serves as historian for the town/village of East Rochester.