• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

Karen Carpenter's 1964 Yearbook - Unseen?

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Quite a few months ago now, I was contacted with the opportunity to purchase a copy of Karen Carpenter's 9th grade South Downey Junior High yearbook. At first I was skeptical and asked for more pictures, but low and behold, the seller sent me her yearbook photo, which I had never seen before- and that's saying a lot. Needless to say, I bought it! It really gives me chills to flip through.
Karen was 13 or 14 at the time, and after searching through the book, I was able to find that she apparently was in the Ninth Grade Service Club, called "The Estrellitas" (meaning "The Stars" in Spanish).
I did a Tik Tok video showcasing the pictures awhile ago, but it didn't seem to spread the word! I figured the best place to share these with everybody is for discussion over here on A&M Corner! Unless these have somehow been seen and shared "underground" between fans, I don't believe they have ever surfaced online! I hope you all enjoy!

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Signature?
There were several signatures in the book ranging in all grades/age groups, but there were actually a significant amount of signatures from students in the ninth grade, though the original owner of the book was in the seventh grade. Karen was not in any extra curricular activities with different ages, but perhaps she could have been in an elective. There were a total of four signatures in the book from girls named "Karen," but one stood out to me as being very close to Karen Carpenter's signature- unfortunately there is no listed last name. The writing is a bit messy, and I've noticed it's a little bit more "squiggly," indicating the person signing the book may have been standing up, and/or in a hurry. The message reads: "To a cute girl, from the cutest one of all! (HA, HA) / Karen" . Maybe you guys can help me out with this part- I swear I have read something, potentially from another signature, where Karen writes the same "(HA, HA)." Maybe this was just a common thing among kids back then (?). Karen was known to have a devilish sense of humor, and a "tomboy" way of writing and speaking. To me, this looks like something she could have said.
Karen was a very popular name, so I don't hold out hope that this is our Karen's signature, but it's definitely fascinating to study! I suppose we will never truly know.

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1969

Active Member
Thanks for posting this. The images look far better, clearer, easier to view on this forum site than on Tik Tok. Let's see if we can help you do some sleuthing here..... If the yearbook is from when she was 13/14, can you compare all the "Karen" signatures/writing to Karen's handwriting in her "My Autobiography" (Ray Coleman book, p. 45-47) where she was 13 years old? Look closely at the individual letters? Do you see anything resembling a match in style? Hmm... it occurred to me that she was probably writing in her best penmanship for her autobio so maybe not as much help here?
 
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karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Thanks for posting this. The images look far better, clearer, easier to view on this forum site than on Tik Tok. Let's see if we can help you do some sleuthing here..... If the yearbook is from when she was 13/14, can you compare all the "Karen" signatures/writing to Karen's handwriting in her "My Autobiography" (Ray Coleman book, p. 45-47) where she was 13 years old? Look closely at the individual letters? Do you see anything resembling a match in style? Hmm... it occurred to me that she was probably writing in her best penmanship for her autobio so maybe not as much help here?
Thanks for the response!!
That was what I immediately went to- I went letter by letter, finding each sample. You’re correct that she was definitely writing her best for the autobiography. Her lettering seems to be a tad inconsistent- for example, her choosing to sometimes add a ‘tail’ to her cursive c sometimes, and not at other times. I’ll upload a few pictures from the book so others can see.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Here is Karen's "Autobiography" at age 13 (8th grade back in New Haven, CT)
Thanks for the response!!
That was what I immediately went to- I went letter by letter, finding each sample. You’re correct that she was definitely writing her best for the autobiography. Her lettering seems to be a tad inconsistent- for example, her choosing to sometimes add a ‘tail’ to her cursive c sometimes, and not at other times. I’ll upload a few pictures from the book so others can see.
Just realized- in the message that the Karen in the yearbook wrote, her c's were inconsistent as well! The first c has no tail, and the second one does.
I think my theory stands that the person signing was definitely standing up, having nothing for the book to lean on- the penmanship looks rushed, the parenthesis were even traced over again. The "T" in "To" is also a bit reminiscent of the way both Karen and Richard write personalized autographs.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
Awww so sweet. Can you imagine how proud those other kids were? They must have been so happy for her.
Eventually - but at that point she wasn't even singing (except maybe in the shower) and had just taken up the Glockenspiel to get out of gym class...
Nobody had the faintest idea then that she would in a few short years become a music Superstar with a voice so beautiful it would bring lumberjacks, oil rig workers and truck drivers to tears... :)
 
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Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
That’s a very cool discovery, thanks for your sharing pics. I’ve never seen that yearbook photo before. This would also bring a lot of money if her phrase and signature could be verified in that yearbook. Great collectible item.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
That’s a very cool discovery, thanks for your sharing pics. I’ve never seen that yearbook photo before. This would also bring a lot of money if her phrase and signature could be verified in that yearbook. Great collectible item.
That is very true, though I don’t intend on selling it any time soon. Maybe borrowing it to the Downey Library collection ought to be in order some day.
I was thinking of sending it in to Beckett or another authentication service, but I’m not sure they could rightfully say that it’s hers due to the lack of a last name, and lack of other examples of her signature at that age. They really would only be verifying that it’s not a print, which in this rare case I think anyone can do just looking at it.

If anyone has any other rare examples of her writing or signature as a teenager/child, please send it my way. I’m sure Richard has quite a few, but I’m not aware of any that have been shared.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Eventually - but at that point she wasn't even singing (except maybe in the shower) and had just taken up the Glockenspiel to get out of gym class...
Nobody had the faintest idea then that she would in a few short years become a music Superstar with a voice so beautiful it would bring lumberjacks, oil rig workers and truck drivers to tears... :)
Since this is the South Downey Junior High yearbook, it’s even more interesting to think that she hadn’t even picked up the Glockenspiel yet - she wasn’t even in band this year, though Bruce Gifford is listed in the yearbook as the band director. This is really some of Karen’s earliest history preserved by a fan.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I took a photo of an acetate I have in which Karen handwrote the label. Take a look at her name. Strikingly similar, but of course her penmanship was much cleaner years later.

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Also with the record label, wouldn’t she have been writing that on a table, whereas the book she might’ve been holding in her hand/arm by her locker, or in some hallway with no access to a table in order to have a more solid surface.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
I took a photo of an acetate I have in which Karen handwrote the label. Take a look at her name. Strikingly similar, but of course her penmanship was much cleaner years later.

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Yes, indeed! What really gets me is the way she does her ‘r’s’. It’s very unique to her handwriting. This is an awesome piece of your collection. Are Agnes and Harold any good? 😅
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Yes, indeed! What really gets me is the way she does her ‘r’s’. It’s very unique to her handwriting. This is an awesome piece of your collection. Are Agnes and Harold any good? 😅
You’re absolutely right, Tori! The “n” almost never changed throughout the years with Karen’s writing.

Agnes is the one featured “solo,” and she sounds strikingly like Karen in a couple of places.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
You’re absolutely right, Tori! The “n” almost never changed throughout the years with Karen’s writing.

Agnes is the one featured “solo,” and she sounds strikingly like Karen in a couple of places.
Wow, I would’ve never guessed! I always thought the vocal talent must’ve come from Harold’s side. Harold’s mother, Nellie, apparently had a strong voice if I recall correctly.
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Wow, I would’ve never guessed! I always thought the vocal talent must’ve come from Harold’s side. Harold’s mother, Nellie, apparently had a strong voice if I recall correctly.
Karen and Agnes had very similar speaking voices, which partly explains it. As Richard will tell you, Agnes didn’t have the instinct of a professional vocalist, but you definitely hear the similarities in the tone and her pitch is spot on.
 

Jack A.

Active Member
That’s really neat! Recognized her immediately…

I suppose we can’t be 100% certain if that was KC’s signature, since only the first name was used, but Tom brought up a good point about how she probably was carrying the book when she signed it, which would make it appear somewhat different. But even if it wasn’t her signature, that definitely seems like something she would write. 😂
 
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