In December 2007, Mr. Joseph F. Bruno donated his personal copy of the 1944 Veritas yearbook to the Providence College Special and Archival Collections. With his gift, the school obtained a unique artifact that reflects both the domestic difficulties created by World War II and the ingenuity of the class of 1944.
Mr. Bruno, a resident of Hamden, Connecticut, entered Providence College in September 1941 as one of almost 300 freshmen. While studying for a bachelor of philosophy degree he played football and basketball, and eventually became vice president of his graduating class.
As World War II progressed many Providence students joined the armed services, and by commencement day, April 16, 1944, just a fraction of the original class remained. Only thirty-two degrees were awarded to the members of the senior class, two of whom were returning World War II veterans. The class of 1944 was the smallest since the college's first commencement in 1923.
Yet despite their lack of numbers and the hardships of the war, the class of 1944 continued the Providence College tradition of producing the annual Veritas yearbook. The 1944 volume, however, was remarkably different from the printed volumes of prior years. In line with the sacrifices of the war, the class of 1944 decided to produce an ersatz yearbook using minimal materials.
According to an April 1944 article in the Providence Journal Bulletin, the class voted against using any materials that were strategic to the war effort. Therefore, to avoid using new copper plates, a metal integral to the printing process, images of campus buildings and administration members were cut out of old volumes of the Veritas.
The class of 1944 supplemented the recycled materials with items drawn from other campus resources. According to the March 22, 1944 issue of the Fort Friar Crier, the class obtained forty large white albums from the campus bookstore, removed the pages, and pasted in pictures of events and activities. In addition, the article reported that "a composite 11x14 (print) with the mugs of each Senior will take care of the personals, a small write-up with the name, degree and address, after the fashion of an index will do for the personal histories." In all, approximately 1,400 photographs were produced by the campus photographic department for use in the yearbooks.
Together as a class, the seniors assembled the 1944 Veritas using flatirons and wax to mount pictures and composites onto white or black background paper. The students individually constructed their own yearbooks, selecting the pages that would be fastened together. As a result, each copy of the 1944 Veritas is unique; the pages in each yearbook are oftentimes in different order and some students added their own captions to the photographs.
As class vice president, Mr. Bruno was one of many directly involved in the flatiron and wax process. The result of his labor, and that of his classmates, was a scrapbook that highlighted both the traditional social events of the school and the more unusual aspects of student life created by the war.
Photographs in the Veritas show the presence of the Army Specialized Training Program on campus as well as the men of the class of 1944 constructing the Veritas. Students are also seen engaging in wartime activities such as collecting scrap metal and attending a lecture given by a Father (Lieutenant) Thomas Reardon of the U.S. Navy and veteran of Guadalcanal.
In addition, space was reserved in the back of the yearbook to add pictures of the 1944 commencement exercises. While Mr. Bruno did not include these in his Veritas, other members of the class added pictures of the Parent's Reception and Luncheon and the Commencement Ball. The inclusion of commencement photographs marked a first in Veritas history; no class prior to 1944 had pictures of their graduation in their own yearbook.
It was in this homemade manner that the class of 1944 created their distinct version of the Veritas, a yearbook that can be viewed as a symbol of wartime sacrifice and the creativity of Providence College students. The Fort Friar Crier noted that the Veritas "rolled off the 'assembly line' in time for Easter," and "assembly line is the correct word because it was made up page by page and then put together into its cover." The 1944 Veritas lacks the narratives and advertisements traditionally found in yearbooks; and instead, the photographs stand alone conveying the spirit of this unique class and the events that were held most dear to the class of 1944.