Eva Brown hardly gave any thought to her yearbooks since she graduated from LHS in 1988, and they were presumed lost after a house fire in 1994.
However, her freshman yearbook survived — because she never took it home in the first place. LHS library staff found the annual 36 years later and returned it to Brown on Wednesday.
“I was explaining to them that it was so odd they had found this,” she said. “Just a few days earlier I was saying I wish I had my yearbooks to go back and look, show the kids and grandkids. Then a few days later, people were saying ‘somebody’s looking for you’ and they had found the yearbook.”
Assistant librarian Marilyn Wilmert said the keepsake turned up during a hunt for extra yearbooks.
“We have what’s called the AV room, it’s a storage room,” she said. “And we had someone call and she was looking for some yearbooks from back in the ‘80s. So I pulled them, and just looking through them I saw this one had a whole lot of signatures.”
LHS’s storage room has library copies of each yearbook, along with any extras that weren’t given out to students. So it was highly unusual to find one covered in signatures.
“We saw all this writing and we were just blown away,” substitute librarian Krystall Lindsay said. “We started reading and we were like, ‘this lady was very popular.’ We figured out she was a freshman, and that’s when our heads started turning. What if we found her and gave her back her yearbook? But we thought it was going to be a long shot.”
Fortunately, Brown has remained a Lebanon resident and also signed her name in the yearbook. The library staff was able to connect with both her daughter and her employer after some detective work, despite Brown going by her maiden name of Rollins during high school.
“We were originally going to go through pictures and look for an Eva, but I saw where she’d signed her name in here,” Wilmert said. “So I went on Hip Mt. Juliet and said I’m looking for Eva Rollins, who went to LHS in 1985 … I didn’t say anything else. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to find her, so I didn’t want to put too much information out there or why.”
Brown was wary at first after hearing that someone was looking for her, but her daughter encouraged her to reach out after speaking with Wilmert.
“At first it was just hearing that somebody’s looking for you, and my work said somebody called up here looking for you that works at the high school,” Brown, who works the front desk at a local hotel, said. “I’m thinking, OK, why are these people looking for me? Then when I talked to her, she said they had found my yearbook, and that was 36 years ago.”
Once she learned the yearbook had resurfaced, Brown wasted no time in heading to LHS to pick it up.
“It’s really strange seeing, because a lot of the friends that I went to school with have passed,” she said. “I was telling people, ‘you know he went to school with me,’ but then to read through and see what people said was great.”
Brown was a student athlete and spent most of her time in those circles, an experience she remembers fondly. Reading her classmates’ signatures brought back a flood of memories of those friendships.
“I played basketball and I basically hung out with the jocks because I dated one,” she said. “I was always the tomboy type, I didn’t play with girls much. I was reading one signature from Bill Durham. He lived down the road from us and he had signed my yearbook, and he said, ‘why would you bring hot dogs to my house when it was burning?’ And I don’t even remember, I was like, did I do that?”
Another thing Brown didn’t remember is how the yearbook was lost in the first place. Her best guess is that she accidentally left it behind after basketball practice.
“The strange thing that I asked about is that this school was newly built in 2013,” Lindsay said. “And she went to the old high school, so that yearbook had to have traveled from the old high school in 1985 to here in 2013, and then we find it in 2021.”
However it made the trip, Brown is grateful to have the yearbook back in her possession. She plans to try and reconnect with some old friends now that she can search for them again.
“I’ve actually looked up a couple classmates on Facebook trying to search for them and stuff,” she said. “Years ago I had people looking for me because of the class reunion, so I just went on and started looking, mainly at the pictures in here. A lot of these people I still associate with … because I did know them since freshman year. It’s really awesome to be able to pull it out and go back and look, because it makes you reminisce.”
Brown is also going to use the yearbook to show her family what it was like when she was in high school for the first time. The library staff also gave her an extra copy of the annual from her senior year to help with that effort.
“My kids and grandkids, we walked right by the old high school and I was like, ‘this right here used to be the auditorium, this used to be the gym and now they’ve redone it,’ ” she said. “Now I’ve actually got pictures of it, and I can say, ‘this is what your Nana looked like with that mullet.’ ”
Brown said she is thankful for Wilmert and Lindsay’s efforts in tracking her down and giving her back something irreplaceable.
“I really appreciate them, because even though this is just an old book at means a lot to me,” she said. “I finally got something from my high school years besides pictures that I can go back and look at. To some people, it’s just an annual, but it’s something special to me.”