Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

Wolcott Historical Society News - August 2024

By Florence Goodman

This year marks sixty-two years since Wolcott High School's first graduating class, the Class of 1962 walked across that auditorium stage. It also marks the year that they celebrate their 80th birthday. The Class of 1963 will celebrate sixty-one years since their graduation, the Class of 1964 will celebrate sixty years, and it will be fifty-nine years for the Class of 1965. Although many of our teachers and administrators are no longer with us, one of our teachers Mrs. Geraldine Pelegano, is celebrating her 100th birthday! A very Happy Birthday to her. This month I would like to revisit some of the history of Wolcott High School and recollections of those early years.

Back in 2007 and 2015 the first four graduating classes started having reunions together. They had attended school together for so many years that it was only natural to start having joint reunions. Everyone attending felt that as they aged the reunions seemed to have more meaning or 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 was to keep those fond memories alive. It has been nine years since the last reunion of these classes, so it was time for another. Come September 21st we will once again reunite with former classmates at East Street Eatery from 5:30 - 9:30 and try to recognize each other and share stories of our times at Wolcott High over a buffet dinner.

Prior to the building of Wolcott High School graduates of our elementary schools attended high school in Waterbury, Bristol and Southington 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, so discussions began on building our own high school. About that same time, Mr. Willy Pritchard's health was failing, and he owned approximately fifty acres of land on Bound Line and Minor Roads and a homestead on Center Street. These properties had acquired some debt to the town so upon his death, the town was able to come to an agreement with his estate administrators to acquire 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 so the construction continued.

As I perused the yearbooks from those first four classes, 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. Academics were of the utmost importance, but school sports played an important role as well. When I graduated in 1964, I remember baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, and field hockey. As I looked over the yearbook from the class of 1965, I noticed that golf was in its third season and that it was the first season for varsity track. Over the years more sport teams were added, and competition increased as well as league changes.

Amid these sounds of construction, the learning process continued because we were all in it together and soon, we would have a new high school. Mr. D'Agostino, the first principal 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." Back in 2015, I asked former students who attended the reunion to share some of their memories from their high school days and here are some of their comments. "We went to school while 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 student's knowledge but not in that way." "The cafeteria was not finished so we brown bagged our 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." "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!" "I remember Mr. Shapiro clearing his throat before any general announcement.  He wrote in my yearbook "... and I will be here clearing my throat." "I remember our trip for class of '64 to the World's Fair in New York and also, several of my classmates and myself making the gray uniforms for the junior varsity cheerleading team with Miss Rice and Mrs. Fitzpatrick." "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." "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." "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." These memories have lasted over sixty years and are still quite vivid in our minds today.

Recently, a reunion committee has been meeting to organize this next get together and we are hoping to reminisce about those early adventures that seem like they happened just yesterday. Life goes on and so do our memories. If you know someone who is a graduate of Wolcott High from these first four classes, please tell them to give me a call at 203-879-9818 or email me at fjgtdg@gmail.com so they can join in the fun and add to the memories.

(Much of the information for this article was taken from Class of 1962, 1964 and 1965 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 - 1964

A photo of Wolcott High School taken from my 1964 yearbook.

Students walking

Students walking into the high school around the construction.

Mrs. Doris Peterson, Mrs. Rose Klitka

Our school nurses Mrs. Doris Peterson and Mrs. Rose Klitka.

Mrs. Crandell, Mrs. Phelan, Mrs. DuBois.

The school secretaries were Mrs. Crandell, Mrs. Phelan and Mrs. DuBois.

Construction sign

Sign posted outside the building during construction.

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