Washingtonville Central School Through the Decades 1960’s


The 1960’s began with the first televised Presidential Debates between the Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon and his Democratic challenger, John F. Kennedy.  On March 6 the United States announces that 3,500 American soldiers will be sent to Vietnam. President Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law.  It established federal inspection of local voter registration polls and penalized anyone who obstructed a citizens attempt to register to vote or to actually vote.

The yearbook for the Class of 1960 is no longer referred to as ‘Scribe’ but now called ‘The Crest’.  The Foreword pretty much sums up the purpose for yearbooks in the following statement “Like old letters and photographs, high school yearbooks are endeared to the hearts of their owners because they play such a vital part in keeping alive those memories which typify the happiest years of life.  It is the hope of “The 1960 Crest” that in the many years to come its pages will remind each reader of the warmth of friendship, the true spirit of cooperation, the basic foundation of knowledge, the work and play which enriched the days at Washingtonville High School; and that the graduating class of 1960 may look back in fond recollection of the enjoyable years spent in high school.”

Photographs of the cornerstone ceremony for the 1960 junior and senior high addition are included.  The Junior prom theme was ‘Hawaiian Paradise’ and a description of the four day trip to Washington D.C.  There is no class motto or colors mentioned so it seems that this tradition has ended.  School colors are now blue and gold.  To defray the cost of publishing The Crest, local businesses took out advertisements.  Included are The Harrison Press, Saturnos’ Hardware & Farm Supplies, Pete and Tony’s Service Station,  Courter’s Garage, Borden’s Milk Company, Feller’s Resort, Alex’s Barber Shop, Callery’s Meat Market, Cooper Brothers, Hoskings Bakery, Brown’s Department Store, A.H. Wood & Son, Lefty’s Delicatessen to name a few.  There are 49 Senior photos with biographies as well as group photos of lower classmen.

January 1961 begins with the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.  His new presidency would be tested shortly thereafter with the Cuban missile crisis as the Cold War continued to intensify.  The Peace Corps is established and the space program moves forward with a future goal of a man on the moon.  By December 1961 U.S. helicopters and 400 personnel arrive in Vietnam marking the official beginning of the war that would change a generation.

The introduction of closed circuit television in the high school is established in 1961.  Television programming projected onto the large screen in the new 600 seat auditorium gave students the opportunity to see history being made in real time.  The 1961 issue of Crest is the first hard covered yearbook.

The Class of ’62 Crest features a aerial view of the Washingtonville Central School.  The Foreword takes the motto, still in place today, at the main entrance of the building ‘Knowledge in Youth is Wisdom in Age’ to say that years from now when as an adult we enter those doors it will be remembered as days of long hours of study, exams and finally graduation.  But also remembered will be the fun times that were enjoyed.  There were 80 members in this Class of ’62 evidence that the district was continuing to grow.  Much of the growth came from Stewart Air Force Base.  The Junior prom theme was Underwater Paradise.

On February 20, 1962 the student body was present in the auditorium to witness on the large screen Friendship 7 and John Glenn orbit the earth.

Mr. Taft, the Supervising Principal of the Washingtonville Central School, arrived in the district as a teacher-principal in 1926.  Faculty increased from six to 106 and students from 350 to 2, 220 by 1962.  Mr. Taft would oversee the building of this present school as well as the three additions to the building.  It is in this issue of Crest that Mr. Taft announces his decision to retire after 36 years of service.  He will be remembered as a tough task master tempered by his innate sense of understanding and justice.  One area that stands out in memory is the District’s/Mr. Taft’s policy of closing school for snow.  It rarely occurred!  If it took two hours for a bus to get to school in a blizzard, it took two hours.  Mr. Taft walked to school so if he could get there so could the rest of the students. One occasion that called for childhood rejoicing throughout the district was during the height of a severe snowstorm it was announced the night before that school would be canceled.  Classes were dismissed early in September of 1960 when Hurricane Donna came a little too close to Orange County for comfort.

The Sixties were a time a great change all over the world with African countries claiming independence from European rule, Nikita Khrushchev saber rattling at every opportunity, the construction of the Berlin Wall separating Germany; social unrest in the United States with segregation at the core, and in 1963 the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  It was close to dismissal that cold day November 22 and the corridors were teeming with students at their lockers getting ready for the bus ride home when the announcement came over the loudspeaker.  Mr. Docherty, the school principal, was reporting to us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas Texas. The ride home was somber but hopeful.  The arrival home to the news that he did not survive, however, dashed all hopes.  We all stayed glued to the television sets for three days watching history unfold before us.

The Class of 1964 grew from seventeen to a class of 102.  Junior prom theme ‘Un Soiree a Paris’  and the last class to make the time honored Senior trip to Washington D.C.  Such a disappointment to the underclassmen that had waited, for what seemed like forever, to make that pilgrimage to the nation’s capitol.  Rumor had it that there was conduct unbecoming in the Class of ’64 Senior trip.

The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was passed outlawing segregation in schools and public places.  It did little to quell the tensions felt in the Black community and race riots became news headlines. The Beatles made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show.  By July there are 21,000 forces serving in Vietnam as the conflict there continues without any solution on the horizon.

And so the Class of 1965, with 116 Seniors departed the halls of Washingtonville Central School as the largest class so far.  Their Junior prom ‘An Evening in Shangri-la’ wowed everyone with a garden centered around a large tree covered with blossoms and illuminated with colored lanterns.  A new assistant principal, Ralph Coon, came aboard in September of 1964.

The Class of 1966 begins their journey on September 8, 1953 as kindergarteners in the newly constructed wing of the Washingtonville Central School.  Their journey would end on June 24, 1966 the final high school class to graduate from the 1932 building.  Of course not everyone who graduated spent their 13 years in Washingtonville but as with every other class there is a core group who proudly say “I’ve known you since kindergarten!”  And for some that is a very long time!  A smattering of memories over the years include a third grade class trip to Mrs. Baird’s farm in Sugar Loaf, and helping Mrs. Baird tap a maple tree in front of the school and boil it down to make maple syrup, trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Automat and the following week a second trip to New York City to visit the Museum of Natural History, the doll show and train show in Mrs. Watkin’s sixth grade class, listening to her read Anne of Green Gables and Mrs. Hasbrouck read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, making maps in Mrs. Watkin’s class, the death of classmate Robert Wirth who was killed while walking on Route 208 by a hit and run driver in 1958, for girls-the ugly blue gym suits, buying lunch on Fridays for a quarter or ice cream for a dime, music class in the cafeteria with Miss Gosling, newsreels in the gym/auditorium, getting detention for chewing gum in gym class and then explaining it to your mother when she picked you up, school spirit!!

The Senior class trip was a bit closer to home than Washington D.C. and took only a day.  The class traveled to the Brickman Hotel in South Fallsburg New York.  The Seniors enjoyed horseback riding, swimming in the pool, games of pool, basketball, ping pong and horse shoes.  At night there was dinner and dancing.  It was so memorable that there is not one mention of it in The Crest of ‘66!

The United States, now under the leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson, is still embroiled in the Vietnam War.  As with any major war eventually the burdens of it come home to rest.  Washingtonville would not escape seeing young men taken in their youth.  Patrick VanDuynhoven, class of 1964; Robert Rera, class of 1966; Joseph Duelk, class of 1967 became casualties of war and joined the ranks of other Washingtonville alumni who gave all in service to their country.  They all will be forever remembered for their ultimate sacrifice.

This ends the series in honor of the 1932 building and the students who occupied it.  It is a building that holds so many memories for generations of little boys and girls who grew up within its walls.  Those who excelled and those who struggled; those who fell in love for the first time and those whose hearts were broken.  Those who won the league championships and those who suffered defeat; those who had their seats constantly changed because they were too social and those who got caught in the bathroom smoking.  Situations that to us, were so big, so earth shattering at the time.  But as the motto at the entrance clearly states Knowledge in Youth is Wisdom in Age we now know it was part of the rite of passage experienced by all the generations that came before us.

Alma Mater

Hail to thee, our Alma Mater

May thy spirit near us be

With a strength and power undying

We will do our best for thee.

Now and ever in the future

We will honor thy loved name

And through efforts never failing

We’ll perpetuate they fame.

So, we’ll fight, fight, fight

Onward to the right

Ever upward to the goal above.

We will forge ahead

By thy banners led

All for thee the school we love.