They graduated in a city where Prohibition was law, though it didn’t have much effect. In 1926, the Board of Supervisors had even passed a law banning local police from enforcing Prohibition. The Mission was working class, and Catholic — though there are questions as to how devout the neighborhood’s Catholics actually were. Art and culture was something that happened downtown. The only entertainment was the Big Rec ballpark (where the Valencia Gardens Housing Projects now stand) and the movie theaters.

These students were white. Really, really white. Look at yearbooks from the same era from high schools in Chinatown, and you’ll see an almost entirely Asian student body. A combination of laws and social pressures kept them there. Under the laws of the time, if a white woman married an immigrant who was not eligible for citizenship (this usually meant Asian), she lost her U.S. citizenship. In one notorious case, a socially prominent San Francisco woman lost her citizenship when she married a Japanese samurai; it was restored only after his death. 1924, Congress passed the National Origins Act of 1924, which further complicated the citizenship options of would-be Asian Americans.

These kids look old compared to the teenagers in today’s yearbooks. They dress and wear their hair like adults. The men tend to be leathery, as though they’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, inappropriately hatted. And their faces are so serious.

What did they think, really? They seem so stern, so un-San Francisco as we know it today. “I hate the prostitution of a name of friendship to signify modish or worldly alliances,” writes Eleanor Kramp next to her yearbook photo. Really, Eleanor? What does that even mean? Are you even aware of the fact that, at this moment in time, you live in one of the worldliest cities in America? You’re going to find avoiding it to be a bit of a struggle.

So here you have it: the class of 1928. If you’d like to look at the entire yearbook, you can find it at the Internet Archive, here.

Whatever a Yell Leader was, it must have been great.
Writeups of the sports teams are harsh, but poetically so. “The unlimited crew started the season by losing to Oakland High on Lake Merrit. The men were severely handicapped, using oars to which they were unaccustomed, and rowing on a strange course.
A sad year for unlimited track as well.
Proof that yearbook quotes have been deeply strange since at least 1928. Prize for the most intense goes to James Philpot “ “How slight chance may raise or sink a soul.”
Eleanor Kramp, upper right “I hate the prostitution of a name of friendship to signify modish and worldly alligiances.”
The 130lb wrestling team. Wears very short shorts. Looks grim. Has cute little shoes.
From the accompanying texts: “Debate topics: resolved that the city and county of San Francisco should establish a junior college. Resolved that the intervention of the United States in the internal affairs of Nicaragua is justified.”
A section called “Horoscopes” speculated as to students’ futures.
A bad year for sports all around: “Due to a variety of causes, the work of the Rifle Team this year has been exceedingly disappointing.”
Not only do they have awesome outfits, but according to the text, the Mission High “Sea Scouts” , “Besides taking many cruises around the bay, they have completed the installation of a motor on their boat, and are now building a cabin on it so that they will be able to go on a long cruise in the fall and winter.”
Bank day every Wednesday. “I BELIEVE it is worth my while to deny myself some things now: not stingily, but sensibly, in order to build up this fund that later will assure so much greater happiness for me and my loved ones.”
Mitchell’s wouldn’t open for another 25 ears, but the Mission and ice cream go way back.
What future lay ahead after high school? For the ladies, not much. Job opportunities for demale graduates in 1928 were in occupations like sitting in a chair and moving cables from hole to hole all day.

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Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and a contributor to the book Infinite City.

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