Artist seeks to preserve the past


By Rick Palsgrove
Eastside Editor

Photo composites of the Reynoldsburg High School classes of 1964 and 1967 created by Reynoldsburg resident and artist Mary Stoots.
Photo composites of the Reynoldsburg High School classes of 1964 and 1967 created by Reynoldsburg resident and artist Mary Stoots.

Artist Mary Stoots used her creative skills to preserve some Reynoldsburg High School history.

Stoots recently created high school class photo composites – one for the class of 1964 and another for the class of 1967 – that will be unveiled and presented to the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society, located at 1485 Jackson St. in Reynoldsburg, on April 10 at 12:30 p.m. Representatives of both classes plan to attend the ceremony.

“I hope we will have a pretty good turnout for the presentation as the class of ’64 has a luncheon later that day so they will have quite a few people in town already,” said Stoots.
Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society President Richard Barrett said the society currently has 61 Reynoldsburg High School class photo composites and 50 of them are on display in the museum.

“One important activity of the RTHS is preservation and display of the available composite photographs of the Reynoldsburg High School classes,” said Barrett. “The Reynoldsburg High School (organized as Reynoldsburg Union Academy in 1868) was the first public high school in Franklin County (excluding Columbus) and, thus, its history is a significant part of the history of Reynoldsburg. Persons frequently  visit the RTHS Museum to see the photos of their parents, grandparents or other relatives as displayed in the composites.”

Barrett said the oldest composite the society possesses is the class of 1899 and  the newest is the class of 1970.

According to an email from Suzy Millar Miller, class years from 1899-1970 are represented, although there are a few years where composites are not available. She said the missing composites are from 1871-1898, 1900-1905, 1910 (possibly), 1911, 1965, and 1968-1969.

“Robert Bagent (class of 1950) compiled an index of the classes from 1909 to 1962,” said Barrett. “After Robert passed away, Suzy Millar Miller expanded the index to cover the classes from 1871 to 1966 and added additional information about the graduates.”

Stoots created the photo composites after her sister (class of 1967) and a friend (class of 1964) saw a class photo composite Stoots made of her own class of 1970 for its 45th reunion last year.

Large high school class photo composites were common throughout most of the 20th century, but Stoots said that by the 1960s and early 1970s most photography studios stopped making them.

Stoots said it took her about six weeks to do each 32 by 40 inch photo composite. She obtained the headshot photos from the 1964 and 1967 Reynoldsburg High School yearbooks, scanned them at high resolution, and then laser printed them. She then glued the photos to heavy presentation boards. Both boards were entirely hand cut and the banners and names hand lettered in calligraphy by Stoots.

“The hardest thing was attaching all the photos. Each photo had to be measured to make sure they were even all the way across. It took eight to nine hours to glue the 185 photos to the 1967 board,” said Stoots, who said it took a little less time to attached the 135 photos to the 1964 board.

She said she made the composites each look slightly different. The 1964 photos were placed in a wave pattern while the 1967 photos went straight across. On the 1970 composite she previously made, which is already hanging in the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society Museum, the photos curve across the board.

“On the 1964 board, because there was more room, I was able to add a bigger banner and put photos of both the old and new high school because 1964 is when the move was made to the high school on Livingston Avenue,” said Stoots.

Stoots said she also invoked her “artist’s freedom” while arranging a couple of the photos on one of the composites, which are normally placed in alphabetical order.

“On one board there was a married couple and the wife recently passed away,” said Stoots. “So I went slightly out of alphabetical order and put their two photos side by side so they can be together.”

She said the composites are important pieces of local history.

“It’s vital that we preserve our local history,” said Stoots. “People look at the composites and search for people they know and love. When I took the 1970 composite to my 45th class reunion my classmates took photos of themselves with it.”

Stoots said the composites she created are different from the old style class photo composites that were made in the early to mid-20th century.

“Mine are hand cut and the old ones were machine cut,” said Stoots. “The really old composites are more artistic and elaborate looking. The old ones were black and white while mine are a mix of color and black and white. Mine are layered pieces where the old ones are one flat piece.”

Stoots said she is proud of the composites and glad that she made them.

“They’re not only history, they’re art,” said Stoots. “I made them for everyone who is in the photos. Now they will be represented there forever and be remembered.”

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