Wolcott Historical Society History for September 2015
By Florence Goodman
This year marks fifty years since the Class of 1965 graduated from Wolcott High School. It also marks fifty-one years for the Class of 1964, fifty-two years for the Class of 1963 and fifty-three years for the Class of 1962, which was the high school's first graduating class. This month I would like to share some history of Wolcott High School and my recollections while attending it from 1958 through 1964.
Recently a Reunion was held for the first four classes of W.H.S. to remember, revisit and renew friendships from the past. We had done the same in 2007, but this Reunion seemed to have more meaning for those who attended. Maybe it was because the lists of students from each class who were no longer with us was growing and we realized how important it is to keep those fond memories alive.
Prior to the building of Wolcott High School graduates of our elementary schools attended high school in Waterbury and Bristol with our town bearing the cost of tuition and transportation. Our Board of Education was concerned that our growing enrollment would soon cause these towns to close their doors to our students. About that same time, Mr. Willy Pritchard's health was failing. Mr. Pritchard owned approximately fifty acres of land on Bound Line Road and a homestead on Center Street, but in his latter years had acquired some debt to the town on these properties. Upon his death, the town was able to come to and agreement with the administrators to acquire the fifty acres of land on Bound Line Road for a payment of $25,000. By October 1956 four years after the purchase of the land, a school building committee was established to prepare plans for a twenty-eight-room Junior-Senior High School. It would also include an auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium, library and offices for the superintendent of schools. Thus construction on the new high school began.
By the fall of 1958 our school enrollment was at a new high and classes were forced to go on double sessions. In November of that same year the first group of freshmen were transferred into six partially completed rooms on the second floor of Wolcott High School. As additional classes were completed another class of students was added. By late fall of 1959 grades 7-10 inclusive were attending Wolcott High School, but it was not the typical school scenario. Students received their education while working through a cacophony of sounds: saws buzzing, hammers pounding and workman shouting. They walked over planks and around piles of building materials to get to their classes, something that would never be allowed today. By 1961 the Board of Education asked voters to support a twenty-room addition to the high school and the construction continued.
As I perused the Class of 1962's yearbook as well as my own, it opened the floodgates and those memories came crashing through. There were so many firsts for the Class of 1962, but the classes of '63, '64, and '65 were also able to enjoy those special times. There was the choosing of the school colors: scarlet and grey and the school mascot: the eagle. Then there were the firsts in school sports, activities, clubs, dances and programs.
Amid these sounds of construction the learning process continued because they were all in it together and soon they would have a new high school. Mr. D'Agostino stated it well in the Class of 1962's yearbook, "Your 'educational adventure' began in rough surroundings, in an atmosphere of growth, in a building in the early stages of construction. Your minds were alert and receptive. There was excitement in the air and optimistic expectancy and hope in your hearts, and with it all, a keen sense of responsibility... In this respect, you had to carry a heavy burden- you had to pioneer- you had to experiment- you had to make decisions that would be lasting - you had to establish firsts..." The Class of 1962 established these firsts, the rest of us shared in their glory, which tightened the bond between all students in these first four classes at Wolcott High School. This new adventure brought students from all sections of town into one central school building. This was a BIG first; it allowed students in four grade levels to meet other students they may have never met because of where they lived, especially if they had to attend high school in Waterbury or Bristol as older siblings did. One hundred six students in our first graduating class from Wolcott High School walked across the auditorium stage on June 20, 1962. Forty-eight members of that graduating class went on to a school of higher education.
A quote from the 1962 yearbook sums it up nicely, "We, the first class to graduate from Wolcott High School, are proud of our meager beginnings, just as we are proud of our completed and continually developing high school and all that it represents to us. As with the building, so the foundations of our education were built."
I asked former students who attended the reunion to share some of their memories from their high school days and here are their comments. Charlie Book remembers, "We went to the high school in 7th grade, with the 8th and freshman, the workers were still putting the finishing touches on the building and the language was colorful. Mr. D, ever the diplomat talked to them and said he hoped to expand the students knowledge but not in that way." Charlie also commented that, "The cafeteria was not finished, we brought lunch and ate it in the classroom. Milk was brought to individual classes. Only the freshmen had new furniture, 7th and 8th graders used wooden chairs with the tablet on the side." Nancy Addessio said, "I remember like it was yesterday when the intercom came on with the announcement that President Kennedy was shot. I was sitting in Mr. McManus's classroom and there was dead silence as all my classmates listened with fear and intensity on their faces! On a brighter note I remember our Sadie Hawkins dances where everyone dressed up in crazy outfits and got to let their hair down to show off their dancing moves, especially Bobby Essex! Great dancer!" Bill Phelan commented, "Mr. Shapiro clearing his throat before any general announcement. He wrote in my yearbook "... and I will be here clearing my throat." Gloria Gubitosi remembers, "A class trip for class of '64 to the Worlds Fair in New York." I remember several of my classmates and myself making the gray uniforms for the junior varsity cheerleading team with Miss Rice and Mrs. Fitzpatrick." Bob Tamburello wrote, "When I was on the baseball team and at practice I broke a half dozen fungo bats just hitting fly balls to the outfielders. After that the coach (John Morris) would not let me touch the practice fungo bats." Barbara Martin said, "I remember that a group of students from the class of '65 went on the class trip to Europe, the summer of 1965, had a small article and picture in Seventeen magazine." Lastly, John Rigby says, "I remember preparing stage sets in the gym for what I think was either the junior or senior prom and music was playing, I think the song was something along the lines 'Getting married in the chapel' - we were so cool." As you know these memories have lasted over fifty years and they are still quite vivid in our minds today.
(Much of the information for this article was taken from Class of 1962, 1964 yearbooks, A Salute to Two Centuries of Education in Wolcott, Connecticut, The Wolcott News, first edition, June 20, 1962" and responses from former students.)
Wolcott High School in 1962.
Class of 1962 at Reunion 2015, at St. Maria Goretti Pavillion.
Class of 1963 at Reunion 2015.
Class of 1964 at Reunion 2015.
Class of 1965 at Reunion 2015. They celebrated 50 years this year.
Sign posted in front of building during construction.
Students walking into the high school around the construction.
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