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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #98: Exeter High School Yearbook, 1993

The original facebook.

The deeper the well of memory, the trickier it becomes to separate history from myth. As the years pass by, favorite stories become embellished legend, and eventually not even the teller can recall the truth of the matter. And yet even our personal histories are rooted in fact, however shrouded by narrative packaging. And this is where photographic evidence comes in - black and white, permanent, unforgiving.

One score and six years ago today our class graduated from Exeter High School. Twenty-six years is long enough ago that our coming of age predated social media and cell phones, so that the photographs of our awkward adolescence belong to another age entirely. There were no perfectly curated selfies in the benighted late 80s and early 90s, no multiple takes to ensure everyone in the group shot is even looking, let alone looking fabulous. Our cameras were candid, and that candor is on display in these pages.

The 211 souls who finished their high school journeys together were an eclectic bunch, drawn from different towns and socioeconomic strata and family structures. We had the usual high school cultural anthropology: athletes and actors, students and smokers, fighters and lovers. The pictures in these pages - and the scrawled messages alongside - evoke stories of guys I played football with, women who knew better than to date me, and classmates I knew as little more than names. Their stories have continued, of course, in the more than quarter-century since our paths diverged. Many have married, some divorced and married again. Children have been born and lost. Jobs and jobs and jobs, navigating the heart of an economy transitioning from the reliable postwar boom of our parents to the untethered anxiety our children will know. Some I know better now than I knew then. More than our share are no longer with us.

We were the last of the innocents. The last of the landline dialers and typewriter academics, the swan song of making concrete plans in advance. We have more stories than we do pictures, and some of them are even true.

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