People and institutions have at least one thing in common: when they start out, they don’t even think about lasting 100 years.
After the years have rolled by, though, planning a centennial celebration is difficult due to that natural lack of forethought.
A case in point is the upcoming 100th birthday for The Forge, Santa Barbara High School’s student newspaper. Said to be California’s second-oldest school paper, The Forge’s longevity will be recognized on Oct. 17-18 by both its current staff and by the Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association.
Sharon Henning, alumni membership chairwoman, is coordinating the celebration. Thanks to current Forge faculty adviser Otto Layman and last year’s staff, she has at her disposal a composite list of almost 1,700 students and faculty members who served the paper at some point between 1914 and now.
“Contacting them, especially those from somewhat distant decades, is one of our biggest problems,” Henning noted, acknowledging that most from the 1930s on back have passed away.
Sun City, Texas, resident Bob Wakefield, then known as Bob Johnson, was editor-elect of The Forge in 1947-1948 school year. He has stepped up and started “surfing the web” to locate various people on the master list.
“This is a purely voluntary effort for everyone, but for me at least it’s also a labor of love,” Wakefield admitted. “I treasure my time with The Forge. It has links to a large part of my later life.”
When Wakefield began his research, he already had contacts with about six former Forge members from his time. As a result, he began searching for all members of a given year’s staff and got stymied more often than not.
“I learned my lesson early, though, and switched to locating just each year’s editor — or in a few cases, co-editors,” he said. “That’s been hard enough. It has taken hours using a variety of search engines, some free, some requiring subscriptions, to find a single person.
“Still, almost all whom I have contacted were appreciative and supplied personal background information.”
Many of them, it turns out, have gone into adult careers that involve writing. There are historians, authors, magazine writers and public relations people among former editors and staffers contacted from the 1940s through the ’70s.
With the celebration nearing and many former staffers perhaps still not aware of the centennial, Henning has advice for anyone interested in attending or at least learning more.
“Write the SBHS Alumni Association, PO BOX 6121, Santa Barbara, CA 93160-6121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,” she said.