The Round Table

What Was it Like to Attend SHS in the 1950’s?

Emma Sharma, News Editor

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Anita Dembiczak, class of 1952, in her senior yearbook photo

Ah yes, the 50s: a time when Elvis Presley’s huskily voice dominated almost every radio station in the country, gas was 20 cents a gallon, and people often turned to reading more than anything else as their primary leisure activity. To reminisce with the younger generation about the “good old days” and pay tribute to her alma mater on the hill, I recently sat down with Stamford High School graduate Anita Dembiczak (formerly Lorenti  ) from the class of 1952, to pick her brain about what it was like to attend SHS in the 1950s and to also get a sense of just how differentiating our experiences and perspectives are of the home to the Black Knights given that we attended the school nearly 60 years apart from one another. It should also be noted that Dembiczak is the grandmother of our very own Connection Time News Editor John Bolognino, Class of 2019, and has some ~very~ revealing photos of the lad when he was a wee fellow should anyone at any time feel the need to blackmail him for any reason.   

 

Round Table: Have you been back to SHS since your graduation in 1952 and f so has it changed at all from how you remember it to be?

Anita Dembiczak: I have been back because John’s there, so I’ll often attend shows that he’s participating in with the Strawberry Hill Players or with the Strawberry Hill Improv. Players. Aside from the new additions of the second and third buildings, respectively, not much has changed at good old SHS! The auditorium looks identical to how I left it, with the exception of new seats put in I’m sure and new paint, and the first floor where the offices are—it’s all the same! Boyle Stadium is still there and hasn’t changed; but that in itself was built even before I began my time at SHS and I’m sure will continue to be there and enjoyed by the future generations to come!

RT: Given that our gym is was built along with the middle building in the 1980s, where was your gym located?

AD: Our gym actually use to be on the 5th floor, in the back of the school, on the opposite side from where the cafeteria is. They’ve actually, since building the current gym, converted the space of the old gym to be classrooms on one side and a storage/crawl space on the other; with a long, narrow hallway separating the two. I’ve heard that the storage/crawl space area actually contains the old bleachers that we use to sit on in the gym and that the original floor of the gym remains in the classrooms. Also, the library was on the 3rd floor then. It wasn’t that big and it didn’t need to be since the Ferguson Library was just down the block anyway.

RT: Did any of your classes take place on the 6th and 5th floors of the old building or was everything just on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors?

AD: Our classes were on the 1st floor and the 2nd floor, and on the 3rd floor there were some classes, but not too many. I recall the floor itself was very narrow as well as the staircases leading up to them.

RT: What were your favorite classes in high school? Are there any classes in particular that stand out to you, even now?

AD: I really enjoyed business class and science intrigued me too! Back then, you didn’t really have a choice of picking what classes you could take—everyone had to take 4 years of English, science, math, and history, but journalism did count as an English credit which was nice. I remember taking home economics too as a graduation requirement. It was mostly learning how to cook, not so much cleaning. I remember making cupcakes and other simple foods like that; but looking back on it now, I wish we had also learned how to saute´ vegetables and other skills like such that would surely come in handy to know! Girls also had to take sewing class too. We made broomstick skirts and pajamas! Boys would have to take wood shop and mechanics. Back then, everyone also had to take shorthand and we would use an inkwell! I remember it was built into the desk and I would often ended each period having ink coated all over my hands! Unfortunately, I knew that there was no money for me to go to college, so that wasn’t even something I considered… but it all worked out in the end.

RT: What activities did you partake in?

Anita’s senior yearbook caption from 1952

AD: I played softball, hockey, and basketball too!. I remember winning the city championship for basketball and we were all absolutely ecstatic! I played guard and was the tallest among all the girls1. We use to have nighttime practices and then go get ice cream sundaes after at the local sundae fountain. I also recall taking journalism and writing for the school paper. It was called The Siren back then.

RT: Did you guys have a prom? How about a homecoming?

AD: I don’t recall homecoming being as big of a deal as it often is in most high schools throughout the country these days. I recall there being a football game and a dance, but certainly not a parade nor a homecoming float. Prom, just like any other major social event that went on, took place in the gym! They’d spend months decorating the heck out of that place, you’d hardly recognize it when they were done! We didn’t exactly have DJs back then, but music would play on a gramophone and someone would have to stand there manning it, so I guess you could claim it to be a DJ-before-its-time! I do remember dances being fairly awkward though. Girls and guys would sit on the opposite sides of the gym and just stare at each other, no communication at all! What had other small dances throughout the year as well, like the Valentine’s Dance.  

RT: What did kids typically wear to school back then?

AD: Well, while there was no official uniform established, girls could not wear pants back—we absolutely had to wear skirts. Poodle skirts were the rage back then, you wouldn’t want to be caught in anything else! When it was really cold, however, we were allowed to wear pants under our skirts

RT: Did you guys stay at school for lunch or were you able to go off campus?

AD: No—we were strictly prohibited from from leaving during lunch so we sat in the cafeteria. Back then most kids also did not drive to school, so to walk to the nearest restaurant, and remember this was before John’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts was just around the corner, would be like walking to the Ferguson Library. There just wasn’t enough time anyhow, so we didn’t bother to leave!

RT: Did people often bring their lunch to school or did the eat the hot lunch available?

AD: Oh, you definitely brought your own lunch from school if you could! We’d look at that food and we’d say forget it—you wouldn’t even think twice before eating that stuff!

RT: How did you get to school in the morning?

AD: I use to walk to school, like many other kids. I lived over by where the Marriott is now near the I-95 and I use to walk with my neighbors. They did have buses back then, but they were not as widespread and accessible as they are now, so while today I would probably qualify for a bus, back then we were considered in walking distance from the school!

RT: What time did school start and end?

AD: School started at 8 and ended at 2! I use to work after school, like most kids, so we would leave at 2 and walk down to our jobs downtown. I worked at Murphy’s five-and-dime which use to be across the street from the old town hall.

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What Was it Like to Attend SHS in the 1950’s?