|
|
News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: High school at the Big Lake turns 50

  • WALLENPAUPACK - Fifty years ago, in June 1964, the first high school class to graduate within sight of Lake Wallenpaupack held their commencement. Wallenpaupack Area High School brought together the venerable Hawley High School and Southern Wayne High School (Newfoundland), part of a consolidation plan which dated to 1959.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: MORE PHOTOS AND INFORMATION APPEAR IN THE WEDNESDAY PRINT EDITION.)
    • email print
  •   WALLENPAUPACK - Fifty years ago, in June 1964, the first high school class to graduate within sight of Lake Wallenpaupack held their commencement. Wallenpaupack Area High School brought together the venerable Hawley High School and Southern Wayne High School (Newfoundland), part of a consolidation plan which dated to 1959.
        Here we can only offer a brief review, emphasizing the formation of the new school district and the early years at the high school. Some highlights of the past five decades will also be mentioned, at
    the risk of inadvertently missing some important event.
        There were just 92 students in the first class to graduate by the lake, and that seemed big. Attorney Jack Spall remembers it well. A member of the class of 1964, WAHS, he is also in the unique position to preside at the 50th anniversary as president of the Wallenpaupack Area School District Board of Directors. In fact he has been an elected school board member for 25 years, half the history of the high school.
         As of June 4, 2014 there were 296 students poised to graduate on June 13th. The height was in 2010 when 360 graduated; like other rural districts in Pennsylvania, Wallenpaupack's enrollment has been slowly decreasing. Since 1964, over 9,300 students have received Wallenpaupack diplomas (9,355 through 2013; a projected 9,651counting 2014).
        The Class of 1964 moved up from Hawley High School and the school in Newfoundland in February of that year. It was quite an adventure, with a brand new school. Not everyone in Hawley, however, was happy with the move; Spall said that change is hard. There were some already out of school who wished the high school had stayed put.
        The group from Newfoundland was much smaller than the seniors from Hawley. Former rivals in school sports, the two groups needed to integrate, and  before long new friendships were forged.
    ••• How it came about
          Spall recalled that the Hawley High School was growing and while the old red brick school on Academy Street wasn’t a bad school, it had outgrown them. Next door was the large elementary school, which housed Hawley’s original high school, built in 1879. More change would come: the old elementary was torn down in 1964 as well. The brick high school, constructed in 1937-1938, became the new elementary, when 7th through 12th grade moved to the new Wallenpaupack Jr.-Sr. High School.
         Early in 1959 it had become clear that changes were needed. Forty percent of the elementary students in Hawley were tuition students coming from school districts outside of Hawley. Two thirds of the high school students were coming from beyond Hawley’s borders. There were also problems with the elementary building on Academy Street. The PA Department of Labor & Industry had written to the Hawley School Board in February giving the board 10 days to bring the old elementary building into compliance. The Hawley School District had postponed making the necessary repairs for years. With time and money in short supply, the board had only one option, to close the second floor of the elementary school.
    Page 2 of 10 -    Temporary elementary classroom space was made available in the Hawley VFW Post – the current Hawley Senior Center next to Bingham Park – until a permanent solution could be found.
        Talk intensified into fashioning a joint school district- referred to as the Wallenpaupack Jointure. Meetings were long and heated. Local school boards would continue and each would retain regulation over their own taxes, under this system.  Each would keep their school buildings. The Jointure, however, paid the expenses of the schools with each district contributing its share. The prime concern was creating a new junior-senior high school, financed by an authority established by the Jointure.
        PA Department of Education backed the idea with increased state appropriations.
        The new Joint School Board was in place with the opening of school on September 7, 1960. The new Jointure consisted of school districts from Hawley, Blooming Grove, Lackawaxen, Palmyra- Wayne, White Mills, Palmyra-Pike and Paupack.
    ••• School District forms
        There was a separate Southern Wayne Jointure that had brought together Greene, Dreher and Sterling Township school districts. This jointure was dissolved that summer, and Greene and Dreher joined the
    Wallenpaupack fold. There were nine local school districts involved, totaling 45 school directors.
       In 1970, further consolidation took place, creating three union-type school districts, Wallenpaupack, Western Wayne and Wayne Highlands. Wallenpaupack at last became a single unit for taxing and
    administrative purposes, with a single board of nine directors.
       Donald Kranich (Lackawaxen) became the first board president of the district; Daniel Eckes of Palmyra-Pike became vice president. Other board members were Elmore Haag of Dreher; William McLaughlin, Blooming Grove; Evelyn Haldaman, Greene; Rev. Robert Mark, Hawley; George Haas, Palmyra-Wayne; Walter Kostige, Paupack and B. Ray Minich, White Mills.
        Supervising Principal Howard Michener became the first District Superintendent in 1970. The budget for the first year was $1,685,000 (the proposed budget for 2014-2015 exceeds $65 million).
    ••• Building the new school
        Eleven different sites for the new high school were being considered by the seven member Joint School Board.The decision was made in February 1961 to utilize a 31 acre tract along Lake Wallenpaupack, belonging to Pennsylvania Power & Light (PP&L) Company.
        PP&L viewed the land use as compatible with their mission to be good stewards of the land and protect the scenic quality of the lake. Healthy economic growth was also foreseen for the area with the new, modern high school.
        The land was to be leased from PP&L for $1,000 a year. In a philanthropic gesture by PP&L, the payments were placed in an academic fellowship program to fund higher education for qualified teachers.
    Page 3 of 10 -    In August 1961 Everett Associates, an architectural firm, began making a plan for a building to serve 650 pupils. Bids were opened in July 1962, with the total of low bids at $1,656,692. Construction was ahead of schedule. The framework was finished in early November.
       On April 4 - 5, 1964, an open house was scheduled, and a dedication ceremony was held on May 24, 1964 for the "Wallenpaupack Area Joint High School". Roger M. Blough, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Steel Corporation and a former teacher and principal at Hawley High School, gave the keynote address.
       Blough said in part, "This world has seen so many changes, the catalog is endless. Students today are bigger, stronger, more intelligent and more advanced than were the students of my day, and the school itself is also a contrast.
       "Changes are so rapid, so confusing, that life long education has become imperative. Constant updating of knowledge and professional training is necessary. Today's world is not easy... competition is endless and intensified. We must remember that today's skills will not hold tomorrow's jobs."
         He referred to the new Wallenpaupack school as a "splendid new center of learning... here a boy or girl can grow up with all of the advantages..."
         Maurice H. Bobst was Supervising Principal. Daniel Callaghan was High School Principal.
        "Dan Callaghan lived across the street from me," Spall recalled. "He was an interesting man." An early basketball coach at Hawley, he was a strong advocate for the athletics programs at the school. As an administrator, "he ran a tight ship," Spall said.
        A beloved educator at the Hawley High School, who was Supervising Principal when he retired in 1956, was Albert Haggarty. When the new Wallenpaupack Area High School was built, the original library was dedicated in his honor.
    ••• Big change
     
       Mrs. Melva Vogler taught mathematics at Wallenpaupack 52 years, retiring on March 31, 2013.
        The Hawley resident said she first taught at the Lake Consolidated School for five years, before coming to Hawley High School in 1960. They were already calling the Hawley school "Wallenpaupack," she said.
        When the new school opened, she was off on maternity leave. Her son Robert Vogler was born in November 1964, and is today teaching third grade at the Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School.
       There was some hesitancy concerning the consolidation at the Southern Wayne High School in Newfoundland. The biggest problem was from the parents who felt they were losing their school, than the students, Mrs. Vogler reflected. It was also hard for the families in the southern end when Sterling Township was broken off and joined with the new Western Wayne district.
    Page 4 of 10 -     She said a lot of credit should go to Thomas Peifer, who was a Wallenpaupack Middle School principal and later became superintendent. Peifer, who attended the school in Newfoundland, did a lot in easing the transition and helping the two segments come together.
        The faculties of the two school were also combined.
        Spall said that there were some rough spots but overall the transition was smooth. Suddenly they had an enormous school district stretching the length of Lake Wallenpaupack and past that. The weather differences could be so extreme from one end to the other, closing school and making more "snow days" for everyone.
         "It was very difficult on many levels," said Terry Baughan of South Sterling. He was one of the "Newfoundland kids" who came up from the Southern Wayne High School half way through the school year and joined their Hawley counterparts in 1964.
        He said there were approximately 30 students transferred from the school in Newfoundland. They were moving up to a big, spanking new modern school he described as a "Taj Mahal." He said it was a "culture shock."
        He said the Newfoundland gang stuck together "to a point." The boys and girls from Newfoundland who were going out with each other were still going out with each other. Still, the merged student body allowed for new friendships to form.
       It may have helped that their teachers from Newfoundland also made the move.
       They were also former sport rivals. Baughan was on the basketball team at Newfoundland, where their mascot was the Stag. Now they were Buckhorns. Those who shined as athletes in the smaller school in Newfoundland now had to share the spotlight, and act as one.
       They had new uniforms, and a new coach.
       He said the transition for the sports teams was a little easier because they had merged earlier, in November 1963.
        Among his new friends was Jack Spall, he said, who was one of the Hawley basketball players now on the Wallenpaupack team. "Jack was our captain," he said. "A good guy."
         John Kiesendahl (WAHS '65) was also on the team, he recalled.
       The Southern Wayne High School, however, has never been forgotten by the alumni, he noted. Baughan is president of the Greene-Dreher Alumni Association which since forming in 1915 has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to high school students from Greene or Dreher townships. They currently give away about $20,000 a year. Wallenpaupack, he said, has no alumni association.
       Baughan worked as a Realtor and retired two years ago from Xerox.
    Page 5 of 10 -     Miriam Kreitner, who resides in Seelyville, worked 31 years in the Guidance Department at Wallenpaupack. She started at Hawley in 1961. Prior to that she was a mathematics teacher at Honesdale. Her twin sister Marilyn [Barbe] returned to the area and took her position, when Mrs. Kreitner "retired" when her first child was born in 1956. In those days, she said, a teacher was expected to retire when she had a baby.
         She had taken studied guidance at Penn State in the summers, and was certified in that area. There was a need for a guidance counselor at Hawley, and Supervising Principal Maurice Bobst asked Mrs. Kreitner to consider coming to Hawley.
         Telling Mr. Bobst she would only be available for a year, she soon found herself attached to the students and loved the work, and was there 31 years.
         She recalled that they had to do a great deal of rescheduling when they moved up to the new school in mid-year. She also had to accommodate the new students coming from Newfoundland.
       Mrs. Kreitner said that the transition went very smoothly, "amazingly so."
     
    ••• 1964 Commencement
       
        Baccalaureate was held in the auditorium on June 7, 1964.
         Judy (Goodman) Stephens, Class of '64, shared her copy of the senior class photo, taken by Honesdale photographer Robert F. Jennings. He is still taking the class picture, after all these years.
        The first commencement was held on June 12, 1964.
         Spall recalled that the newly combined class, bringing together Hawley and Newfoundland seniors, sported new school colors: Purple and White.
          The old colors at Hawley were Maroon and Gray. Newfoundland High School's colors were Blue and Gold. "This probably was a compromise," Spall reasoned. "Everyone tried to be sure no one took advantage. We created a new identity." (Class colors, however, were Red and White and the Class Flower was the Red and White Rose.)
        Commencement was held in the Richard A. Porter Auditorium. Dr. Porter was the president of the Wallenpaupack School Board. Porter was given this honor for his leadership during the discussions that led to forming the Jointure and planning the new high school. A medical doctor, he was scheduled at the May 24th dedication to accept the building key for the board of education but was called out on emergency hospital duty. It was announced that Dr. Porter was instead delivering a baby, anticipated to be a future student in Wallenpaupack schools.
        L. Bruce Worrel was the president of the board by the time of the graduation the next month.
    Page 6 of 10 -    Stephens also shared a copy of the commencement program.
       Keeping a tradition that extended back to the very founding of Hawley High School, a minister led in prayer. Rev. Robert W. L. Mark, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Hawley, gave the Invocation and Benediction. This practice remained at commencement through 2013 when Constitutional issues surfaced.
        Joan Arter and Michael Smith were Co-Presidents of the Class of 1964. William Hutchinson and Lucille Marro were Co-Vice Presidents. Marilyn Mowatt and Margaret Wohlfart served as Co-Recording Secretaries. The late Wayne Stephens, who latter married Judy Goodman, was Financial Secretary. Allan Heller and Bonnie Price were Co-Treasurers. Van Eckes was School Treasurer.
        John C. Villaume, President, International Correspondence Schools, gave the keynote address. His topic was "Be Docile."
        Class speeches centered on Abraham Lincoln's words, "We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility" Delivering speeches were students Michael Smith, Shirley Smith, Joan Arter and Richard Wallat.
       The school's Instrumental Group played "My Fair Lady" and other selections.
       Class awards were presented. The School Board President handed out the diplomas.
       There was no yearbook until the first full year at Wallenpaupack, for the Class of 1965. Before that time, there was a monthly newsletter,"The Herald," with student essays, poems and information.
         
    ••• Wallenpaupack develops
         Full advantages of academics and extracurricular activities offered at the new high school did not appear until the first full school year by the Big Lake.
         Rita Saylor, Wallenpaupack Area High School Librarian, allowed review of old yearbooks for this article. Here we find the procession of years, the changing hair styles and eyeglass frames so evident as a new group of students took the place of those before them. We take note of the big and developing array of activities, from sports to school plays, and the less frequent change in the names of administration and faculty.
       Clubs proliferated, from a Model Club and Coin Club to Future Nurses, Future Farmers and Future Homemakers.
        Wallenpaupack Chorus, Marching Band, Girls' Ensemble began filling the air with music.
         The first school play at the new High School took place May 7-8, 1965, with "Brigadoon" presented by the Theater Arts group and Vocal Music Department.
        Student Council began hosting the annual Sadie Hawkins Dance. As the 1965 "Lake Echo" yearbook stated, "This is an informal dance... latest fashions from Dog Patch."
        Senior Class trips in those days went to Washington, D.C,
    Page 7 of 10 -      Enrollment was increasing. By 1982 they had reached a class of 176; by 1996 it had surpassed 200. The 300 mark was surpassed in 2006.
           More and more families were moving from urban areas and settling at Lake Wallenpaupack. Mrs. Kreitner recalled that this brought special challenges for the Guidance Department, in having to provide for what each new student was going to need to have enough credits for graduation. Assimilating students from other areas and backgrounds also brought challenges.
         Mindful of the safety of their students, Wallenpaupack over the years developed an emergency action plan and has been host to many drills as well as a couple major exercises with regional emergency response agencies. A big step took place in 2013 with the hiring of the District's first armed Student Resource Officers.
         
    ••• Sports teams added
        "Buckhorns" as the school mascot, Mrs. Vogler, said, predates the new Wallenpaupack school and was in use at Hawley. The term came from the "Buckhorn Mountain" which is the ridge along the falls bordering Hawley.
        Basketball and baseball were the big sport programs at the beginning, Spall recalled. They also had Boy's Soccer, which began in 1963, coached by Robert Haag. Girls' Soccer is a recent development, starting in 2000 and coached by Mike Soskil.
        The football program was introduced in 1976. James Oplinger was the Head Coach. That year they scored six wins and four losses.
         A golf program was introduced in 1965, coached by Henry Arnberg.
         Girls' Tennis came in 1981, coached by Judy Horth.
         Ann Pietrobon was the first coach of Field Hockey, started in 1973.
         Girls' Cross Country came in 1978, with Coach James Godlewski. He also coached the Boys' team when it began the year later.
         Boys' Basketball in 1965 was coached by Robert Haag. Mrs. Donatelli coached Girls' Basketball.
         Wrestling debuted in 1968, with Paul Hilliard as coach.
          The Rifle Team was active 1970-1992, at first coached by James Smith.
          Joyce Marshall coached Softball in 1974.
          James Ball coached Boys' Tennis in 1982.
          Baseball, in 1965, was led by Coach Fred Schuster.
          Boys' Volleyball, led by Thomas Simons, formed in 1972. Girls' Volleyball began the same year, coached by Ann Pietrobon.
          Boys' Track came in 1968, led by Coach David Wycoff. Girls' Track started in 1975, with Coach Edith Bender.
    Page 8 of 10 -     The Swimming Team, led by Lynn Vanderhoof, debuted in 2014, with a boys' and girls' division.
    ••• Building boom
           Elementary classes continued in the brick old high school on Academy Street. The school is still part of the Wallenpaupack system. The wood-frame elementary school next to it was finally taken down in the spring of 1964, no doubt with a tinge of sadness for many in Hawley who had received their education in its hallowed halls.
        Roland Seiler was elementary school principal in this time period.
        There were several additions to the Wallenpaupack Area High School through the years, as the Baby Boom generation swelled the District and more families were also moving to the lake area from other regions.
        Mrs. Vogler said she started out with a "lovely math room with windows" but said, "I soon lost the windows." They always seemed to be in the midst of construction. "Patio after patio were closed in," she said.
      Additions or alterations were completed in the following years: 1972, 1976, 1982, 1990, 1993, 2000 and 2007. The new gymnasium was added in 2000. The new library opened in 1993.
       Growth in the District also brought need for new facilities. A major change came in 1977 with the opening of the Middle School, dedicated on October 16. The High School became 9th-12th grade. The property for the Middle School, known as Wilson Hill, was purchased in 1973.
        On October 30,1988 the North Elementary School was dedicated, connected to the Middle School. This later became the North Intermediate School.
         Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Newfoundland was dedicated on October 29, 1989.
         Administrative District offices were built adjoining the High School.   
       On November 20, 1994, the North Primary School was dedicated.
      A major renovation to the heating and air conditioning system took place in 2013, bringing geothermal wells to the High School and nearby North Campus, and other energy-saving measures. The mixed match of various additions to the High School through the years created poor efficiency in management of energy and costs.
    ••• Reflections at the Lake  
     
        Spall spoke highly of their faculty, which the District has enjoyed a good record. "We have had a lot of outstanding teachers who gave above and beyond," he said.  Academically, he said, Wallenpaupack scores high.
        Mrs. Vogler, as a long-time teacher, reflected that the quality of offerings at the Wallenpaupack school has been remarkable, bringing so much to the local student that was not available before.
        She spoke very highly of both former Superintendent Thomas Peifer and current Superintendent Michael Silsby. She noted that both of them are from the area, attended Wallenpaupack schools and have truly cared about the schools and their students.
    Page 9 of 10 -     Long time a leader in the teachers' union on the state level and defending the rights of Wallenpaupack's faculty, Vogler said that they have been treated fairly. Teachers are never compensated to the extent that they deserve, while the local school boards have given more than they should, in terms of their budgets. Vogler said they were always able to reach a compromise, and although the teachers had once talked about striking, they never reached that point. "Neither side wins in a strike," she said.
       Mrs. Vogler was elected in December to chair the Pennsylvania Public Schools & Retirement System. She retired from teaching last year so she could run for the open seat on their board assigned to a retired school employee.
       "I was always proud to be a Wallenpaupack teacher," she said.   
        Mrs. Kreitner also said that they had a great faculty and administrators through the time she was there.
          Spall reflected on the tremendous changes and progress at Wallenpaupack in the last 50 years. Better facilities came with growth. Students have computer stations; language labs were added. Community education classes have flourished, helping make Wallenpaupack a community focal point.
          Both the Theater Arts Department and the Athletic Program have grown. Spall said that the presentations of the WAHS Players bring packed crowds in the auditorium.
       He made special note of the leadership given by both their former Superintendent Peifer and Superintendent Silsby. He said Peifer managed and Silsby is managing the District incredibly well. "Both (have) had foresight for the future. We have been really fortunate."
        He said that from the administration of  Superintendent Peifer to the present day, Wallenpaupack has ranked as the 11th or 12th lowest tax district in Pennsylvania. Considering the size of the District, Spall said much credit must go to the good work of adminstration as well as the various elected boards of directors through the years.
        As chairman of the board, the 1964 WAHS Buckhorn will once again be seated at the stage when the Class of 2014 assembles for their diplomas.
        "I'm proud of my school," Spall said.
    === Wallenpaupack's Alma Mater ===
    Near Wallenpaupack’s rugged shores
    Firmly stands our Alma Mater
    With lakes and forests at her doors,
    Holding dreams of Chief Paupackan’s bravery
    There Wallenpaupack e’er will be
    A symbol of fidelity.
    Through fires and floods and searing wars,
    She will guard our country’s liberty.
       Information on the origin of the Wallenpaupack Area High School Alma Mater is still being researched. Anyone having information is invited to contact Editor Peter Becker at 570-226-4547 or news@neagle.com.
    Page 10 of 10 -  
    Sources:
    The Wallenpaupack Area: History of a School District (1997) by George J. Fluhr
    Wallenpaupack Area High School archives
    Wallenpaupack Historical Society archives of The News Eagle

        calendar