I attended the Waterbury Graded/High School for nine years from 1957 to 1965. We went to the same school our parents and grandparents went to and it showed. Our desks were fixed to the floor in rows and had a hole in the top to hold ink bottles for the old quill pens.
The Waterbury school was divided into three sections each connected by a short connecter hall which gave it a unique sight.
The left building was the elementary part, the middle building had a couple of rooms for the sixth-graders plus the library and nurse’s office on the second floor with the admin on the main level. The right building was the gym, cafeteria and high school.
As a student there, you always hoped for a classroom on the second floor. The building used to have large fire escape tubes extending from the second floor to the ground. They were great fun to go down and it was actually very efficient.
Our class was the last class to experience Freshman Reception in 1966. We had to wear funny-looking clothes and carry the seniors’ books around for the day. Other than some minor harassment, my experience wasn’t overly troubling, but others may have had a different experience.
I don’t remember how I felt during my last year at Waterbury before moving on to Harwood, but I think I was looking forward to it. But of course I had no idea what it would be actually like.
When I first walked into Harwood in 1967 as a sophomore, I was incredibly impressed. The building was huge. The gym was over twice the size of Waterbury’s. It had a huge auditorium, which Waterbury never had. But for me the best part in this new school was the library. It was also humongous. For me the library was a treasure trove of literature that Waterbury was never able to provide. The new cafeteria was huge also. Everything in the school seemed to be super sized.
One real change was in the student body. It wasn’t just Waterbury anymore but also Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston. But new friends grew quickly and we all became classmates. Come to find out, those Valley kids weren’t as bad as we feared.
Being in a union school meant everybody rode the buses. My home route remained the same as the bus would drop us off at the Waterbury school and then we’d load onto the Harwood buses to continue our journey. Any after-school activities meant you rode the 5 p.m. bus back to Waterbury. They’d drop you off at the Waterbury school and getting the rest of the way home was up to you. I usually walked up to Cobyville where the new thruway ramps were. I’d sit on the guardrail and wait for a car to go by. Traffic was pretty sparse back then. When a car would happen by, I’d stand up and stick out my thumb in the hopes I’d catch a ride. I usually had pretty good luck but would still have to walk the last mile up Kneeland Flats to home. I didn’t mind because if I got home any faster it would mean I’d have to help my father milk the cows, so the longer it took, the less time I’d be stuck in the barn. Today I assume there’d be real issues if a school bus dropped you off 4 miles from home and left it up to you to get there.
A new school means a lot of new stuff – new furniture, new supplies, new school buses and new teachers. I had gone from a life where everything was old, the building, the furniture and, yes, even the teachers were old as they had been there forever.
Seeing new teachers, literally fresh out of college and sitting in their first class was very interesting. They brought fresh ideas with them. Some didn’t bother wearing suit jackets, which was unusual at the time. It was also normal to stand up every morning and pledge allegiance to the flag. The new teachers brought it to our attention that no one could make us do that, it’s a free country, though I don’t think many started sitting it out as I guess lifelong habits are hard to break.
As new members of the school, it was up to us to decide on the school colors and the mascot. I don’t remember the other choices, but we were the ones that decided on black and gold for colors and a Scottish Highlander as the mascot.
One of the new rules I really hated was the dreaded dress code. I don’t remember all the parameters, but boys were expected to keep their shirts tucked in at all times and the length of our hair was always being scrutinized. The 1960s was the age of hippies and I really wanted long hair to show I was cool and with it. Due to the dress code, I got real good at slicking my hair down and combing tightly above my ears. For my senior picture, I combed it down and it was long enough to cover my ears. When my children and grandchildren see my picture, they just think I look weird, not a cool, hip guy. My, how times have changed. I’m not sure what the girls had to put up with, but I’m sure they had their share of issues also. A few years after I graduated, the students had a sit-in demonstration surrounding the office and pretty much shut down classes for the day. Their efforts paid off as the dreaded dress code was finally repealed.
The three years I spent at Harwood were very good years and I certainly had far more resources at my disposal than I ever would have received at Waterbury HS. I still think of it as that new school and it’s hard to believe I graduated from there 50 years ago!
Marshall lives in Waterbury Center, Vermont.