Where are you now, Skinny Arnold?

Last week I bought a jar of old buttons at a flea market held outside a mom and pop motel on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Gilt, leather, worn-down polished metal, square, round, oblong, this button jar has it all.

I also bought a 1935 yearbook, the Ahdawagam, from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. The yearbook belonged to George “Skinny” Arnold, who, from the looks of his senior photo, was a handsome young man with a largish nose and lips pressed together to keep from laughing. And yes, he does look skinny, even judging just from the shoulders up.

The seniors in this book look much older than 18 year olds look today. You were an adult when you graduated from high school, back in 1935. The boys wear their hair brushed back off their foreheads, strictly parted, shining. The girls, too, have straight parts and marcelled curls.

Skinny was a trumpet player and known as a wag. From some of the handwritten notes in the book, he seems to have made the life of a teacher named Cal somewhat miserable. If Skinny’s alive today, I figure he must be 89 or 90. Then again, this was 1935. How many of these boys went overseas in World War II, never to return? Was Skinny one of them? Here is what his classmates have to say, seventy-three years ago, there on the verge of their adults lives.

Dear Skinny, we sure raised the devil in Cal’s class but I sure enjoyed being in the same class with you. So long and Good Luck. “Smitty”

Dear Skinny, Even tho you were a big pest to Mary Jane + me, I’ll write just the same. And I wish you luck + success as an orchestra leader. Best wishes, Donna D.

Well Skinny, I only had you in woodwork class and your wisecracks supplied most of the fun. Good luck at playing the trumpet. Ed

Let’s go to town, George! A good man there son. Hit it! Dave