Geno, Edith, and Tony, the youngest 3 of the “Big 7” DiBagno siblings (the name I like to use to refer to the 7 children of Giulio and Atela DiBagno) may have been the only ones to attend public school. At least, I have scoured the yearbooks and so far have found no record of Mary, Joe, Frank, or Agnes.

Ever since realizing that with a paid Ancestry.com subscription I can peruse old yearbooks to my heart’s content, I have taken full advantage of it. In truth, it is one of my favorite features available on Ancestry.com. Yearbooks are a goldmine of information, especially if you look at the whole thing and don’t just zero in on your ancestor. Yearbooks can offer a glimpse at the time; often they list key events that happened that year, both locally and globally. They highlight what was important to that class of teenagers and give insight into what they were experiencing. Not only that, but from my grandparents’ to my parents’ generation, when the student became a senior, the yearbook had the wonderful habit of listing a bio by their senior picture that listed not only the clubs the student was in, but what their interests were, sometimes even who their friends were, etc. Man, do I wish that bio section did not go out of style.

All 3 younger DiBagnos attended Jeannette High School in Jeannette, Pennsylvania.     

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(above left: Geno’s senior photo; above right: A message from the class on 1941)

Geno (my great uncle) was the pride of the family. Intelligent and an overachiever, his senior yearbook hints at the success that he would achieve later in life as a Navy veteran, doctor of radiology, school director of the Hempfield area schools, and first president of the Dante Alighieri Chapter of the Italian Sons and Daughters (ISDA). Should rate high on the honor roll, the bio next to his senior picture stated. A music and theatre lover, he served as an usher for Jeannette High School’s performance of the Pirates of Penzance and enjoys Maurice Spitalny’s music and Bette Davis’ acting, too. 

He played Junior Varsity Football (all of the DiBagno men loved sports, either as players or spectators) and Interclass Basketball. Somewhere in between academics and sports, he also managed to be a member of the auto club and the Alpha Hi-Y’s. He graduated in 1941.

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Geno is standing far left in the third row

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Edith DiBagno (my great aunt and grandfather’s twin sister) was an avid reader and was a member of both the library monitors (who served in the library as assistants) and the reading club. She was also a member of the Rembrandt club (whose members would make signs, posters, and other public artwork), the science club, and expressed an interest in becoming an efficient nurse. In her adult years, this interest would morph slightly and she would become a technician in the operating room of the (former) Monsour Medical Center (a place that ended up employing several DiBagnos; the Monsours being family friends).

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Edith, far right in the first row

Edith’s 1944 senior yearbook reflected on what was on the minds of the graduating class: “We seniors are not graduating in the best ‘weather.’ In fact, this, our graduating year, will also mark the third year since our country entered war…Some of us will secure positions. Most of us will go into the armed forces. And a few of us will go on to higher learning…And, so, now we leave our Alma Mater with the hope that what we have learned and gained will help us to be better citizen and to hold and appreciate the freedom and privileges we are now fighting to preserve.” A page in the yearbook was dedicated to seniors and faculty serving in the Armed forces. Of the 24 names, 4 were faculty, 1 was a woman, and 1 was marked killed in action.

Tony DiBagno (my grandfather) never appeared in the senior yearbook with Edith. His last appearance was in the 1943 yearbook so it appears that he dropped out sometime before or during his senior year. While at school, he was a member of the Grex Club, a drama club for aspiring actors and actresses. Tony would never become an actor himself, though sometimes I wonder why he didn’t try (or if he did!). He lived in California for a couple of years, had a gorgeous singing voice, and was both enormously charismatic and incredibly handsome (the most frequent description I hear of him is “he looked like a movie star!”)

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Tony is in the middle of the back row; the only one not looking at the camera

These mid-war yearbooks really do offer a glimpse of the times. In the 1943 yearbook, 4 clubs popped up under the blanket category of Uncle Sam’s Helpers. The Victory Corps was made up of boys waiting to be called into the Armed Forces. Room 18’s members collected scrap and tin for the war effort. Home Room Lieutenants organized the scrap drive. Air Raid Messengers were taught how to give first aid, extinguish fires, and handle incendiary bombs (?!).

Yearbooks are an amazing resource in your genealogy research. I hope you have fun perusing!

*****

Sources:

http://www.Ancestry.com’s yearbook collection

http://www.Classmates.com

Jeannette High School’s Jayhawk yearbooks (years 1941, 1943, 1944)