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Yearbook Of The…20th Century?

Former Carey High School teacher one of the first to create video yearbooks

Bob Walpole did it to raise money for Carey High School athletics decades ago. He’d lug his trusty camera around the hallways of the 230 Poppy Avenue teaching ground, documenting students to give them something to watch years later with family and friends: a video yearbook. Walpole just wanted to help, but what he would learn decades later is he may have been the first anywhere to do such a thing.

The former high school gym teacher may be one of the first ever to create video yearbooks, something that’s become a staple with the ever-growing area of video technology. Walpole’s first visual scrapbook rolled on screens in 1983.

Walpole, 69, said a former student called him up in 2008 looking for a tape of the 1988 graduation to play as background visuals for her upcoming class reunion. After a Google search by his daughter Karen, she found that no video yearbooks were created in the U.S. until 1985, and in Germany in 1987. 

 “I called up the New York Public Library and had the lady research it for me,” he said. “She didn’t find anything earlier than my video.”

Walpole worked at Carey from 1967-99. He attended at Penn State University from 1961-65.

“My wife and I had four children so I was trying save up some money and what I did was I started taping weddings and softball games for bars,” Walpole said. “I would take the recordings back to the bars and show them the games and I would make money like that.”

One would figure that a company like Jostens may have cracked the moving-yearbook code first, but according to Library of Congress and New York Public Library representatives, the earliest video yearbook produced in the United States other than Walpole’s was in Concord, MA in 1985. Other early advents of video yearbooks include Iowa City High School and Long Island schools such as Division Avenue, South Side, Lawrence and Massapequa in the late 1980s.

Paul Friedman in the General Research Division of the NYPL managed to dig up old newspapers articles dating back to 1985 from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. The articles mention video yearbooks in Pennsylvania and California in 1982 and 1981. Though Walpole may not have been the first, he certainly was ahead of the curve in terms of foresight into the future that is the technology age.  

Walpole credited his video-editing prowess to Norm Hosler, who helped him splice a co-worker’s son’s wedding video in the AV department at Carey. Hosler died in 2008. He worked on Broadway and pioneered the first interclass communications program dubbed ALERT, at the high school.

“It dawned on me that it would be pretty cool to make a video yearbook,” Walpole said while working on wedding videos. “At that time, you didn’t need release statements. Nowadays you can’t take a picture in the hallway without getting one. I checked with the superintendent, principal and checked with the main administrative officers and they gave the go-ahead.”

Walpole called Hosler a “genius” and commended the former Carey AV expert and his eye for the screen.

“He was a great man,” said Walpole. “He helped me a lot.”

From prom, to football games, barbecues and hallway interaction, Walpole would scour the corners of Carey to make the transition of seniors that much sweeter. Adding music to the video was his finishing touch.

“I would sell them on graduation day at the end of the year and take all that money throw it back into the athletic programs,” Walpole stated.

In 1983, a novelty at best according to Walpole, he sold about 40 tapes. The following year saw more than 100 videos sold, and it skyrocketed graduation upon graduation.

Walpole’s interest in videotape sparked from his brother-in-law Dave Flaherty, who worked for Pfizer as manager of training and development. He brought home a reel-to-reel video recorder he used as a teaching tool and taped the family and watched it on the TV.

“A number of years later, cartridges were invented and I got hooked into that,” Walpole said. “Because I was involved in coaching and I was in the hallways and I had kids in class all the time, I thought [video yearbooks] would be a good idea.”

In 1986, he started taping the first day seventh-graders walked onto the campus and would hold the tape under lock and key until they graduated. Walpole created a then-and-now segment, showcasing students’ days as youngsters, followed by their time as seniors at Carey.

“I would never show them the tape until six years later when they graduated,” he said. “That was a favorite among the students.”

Audio/Visual Clerk Barbara Priester also aided Walpole. A number of years into his video chronicles, he attained her expertise.

Priester, an advisor for a stage crew, organizes theater plays at Carey and Walpole would tape segments, which were edited into the end-of-the-year video. She would procure video units for him during his video yearbook adventures.

“It was always very exciting because [Robert] was just so into what he was doing,” she said. “He put so much time and effort into it.”

Walpole hung up his reel-to-reel shoes in 1999 when he retired.


News

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say Sewanhaka High School will receive a camera on Covert Avenue, which spans the eastern stretch of the property. Tulip Avenue runs in front of the high school and was also considered. Cameras could begin operation in September.

The Village of New Hyde Park finished its Operation Main Street project just in time, because the town’s eligibility for federal funds is shrinking, officials announced last week.

“The qualifications revolve around money,” trustee Donald Barbieri said. “Like how much income is being earned by people in the area. I guess as seniors move on, you can’t buy an [expensive home] and it changed the demographic, shrinking our eligible area.”


Sports

New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud brightened the day for some patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center last week in New Hyde Park, posing for pictures and handing out gifts and autographs. The players hung out with the kids in the afternoon, playing video games and answering questions.

They also found the time to make the rounds, stopping by bedsides to spread some cheer. Mr. Met also joined the tour and was a big hit with the children, who peppered him with questions about everything from his four-fingered hand to the whereabouts of the missing Mrs. Met.

The Sewanhaka Indians football team has a season of change in store.

The Indians have moved up from Conference III to Conference II, due to an increase in enrollment, and are set to face teams that they have never seen before, according to head coach George Kasimatis.

“It is hard to gauge where we will be in this conference,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty as where we fit in.”


Calendar

Library Board Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Welcome Reception

Wednesday, Sept. 3

Herricks School Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com