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West Morris is 60! 1958-2018

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On the day after Labor Day, sixty years ago, a new school, in a newly created school district opened for the first time. All students were bussed, unless he or she lived within what was considered walking distance by the Board policy.

The loading/unloading ramp in front was the first place where all those tentative feet first set down.

Staff and student helpers greeted us wide-eyed kids as we entered the building for the first time. The student aides who had been brought in during the summer to help get things ready were also trained to direct peers to where they needed to go. Each student held his or her schedule in hand, it having been mailed to their homes only weeks earlier.

I was a freshman, assigned to homeroom A-134.  I was lucky. It was the first room on the right in A-Wing. Teacher, Carolyn Emmons, greeted us as we entered her room. Even though it was a hot end-of-summer day, she wore a cream-colored College of St. Elizabeth blazer. It became her trademark during those first few years.

Our eyes darted around the school.  For the first time ever, kids who had allegiances to the high schools that previously served this broad geographical area, tried to figure out, “Oh, he/she must have gone to Morristown, or Hackettstown, or Netcong, or Roxbury!” There was a bit of culture shock. We tried to establish and maintain some semblance of order in this new milieu by categorizing and stereotyping one another.

While there were no school colors on that day, it could have been construction dust grey.

Some wires hung down from ceilings, particularly in the hallways.  Crates of uninstalled metal lockers stood in the hall at the top of the ramps that connected A-Wing to C-Wing.

Room numbers had yet to be stenciled on classroom doors, the intercom had yet to be installed so an elaborate system of electronic “bell” patterns was employed.  A crew of memo runners ran from the office to the classrooms with last minute announcements to help all through the day. One announcement of critical importance was to direct genders to their specifically designated bathrooms as “Girls” and “Boys” also had yet to be stenciled on their doors. The announcement read (paraphrased), “If you enter a washroom and the tile is blue, it is the Boy’s Washroom.  Likewise, pink tile indicates a Girl’s washroom.”

It took a few days more for school officials to note that the one-way window glass on some washrooms had been installed backwards allowing interested parties to see in and not see out. There were interested parties.

The surrounding school grounds? Dirt, dust and rocks. Grass? There was none on the grounds and none in the pockets of the students.

Gender-specific P.E. classes were conducted, inside for girls, outside for boys.  What did the boys have to do? Parchman Farm. A tractor pulling a flatbed trailer led the boy’s classes around the grounds as they picked up stones and construction debris and tossed it aboard so the grounds could be graded and seeded. But, alas and alack, one kid apparently complained about this forced labor to his or her Board Member parent and this practice ceased immediately.

We had no football team, no basketball team, no nothing except teachers, classrooms, chalkboards and books. Bare bones…basics. Our first interscholastic team was the basketball team, coached by Rudy Mueller. In the spring, baseball commenced (same coach) with an away game against Roxbury.  We lost by about 20 runs.

In that first year, we voted and got school colors and nickname, class officers, established a Student Council, began a school newspaper, “Highland Fling,”  created the first yearbook, had band concerts under the direction of David Lantz, accepted the newly penned alma mater, established academic criteria, established curriculum, and set the mood for an entirely new venture.  With all that going on, it is no wonder I nearly failed Algebra I.

Year two, we got a football team, the “Not quite mighty Highlanders.” Home games were played at the Netcong HS field north on Rte. 206.  Practices were held on a farm field nearby and then in the dust on school property. We won a game, against St. Bernard’s only to forfeit it later when one of our players, who had previously played for St. Bernard’s, was found to be ineligible.

I was the manager (waterboy).  Not too sanitary, I’d carry a bucket onto the field and in that bucket of water was a sponge and a ladle.  Dip and drink from the common ladle or suck the water from the sponge. During halftime I cut oranges in half and each player got a piece for whatever it was worth.

I returned to good old WM for a 3-year teaching gig before moving to the Midwest. Things were changing fast, the original building was bursting at the seams, even after two additions. The stage in the auditorium had been turned into two classrooms. Mendham HS was soon to open as was Mt. Olive.  I loved that place but I needed to stretch myself a little. Never again, during my 34-year teaching career would I work in a setting as beautiful as WM and its view across the valley to Schooley’s Mtn.

 

Happy Birthday Highlanders! (Wolfpack, too).

 

Jack Hyde, Class of 1962

Holland, MI

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The student news site of West Morris Central High School
West Morris is 60! 1958-2018