High School in the 50’s
Recently one of the high school history teachers at Hanover High (NH) invited me to talk to his classes about high school in the 50’s. The format was question and answer.
Q: Was school easier then?
A:Yes, I think it was. For example, I’ve seen the materials you’re reading in English and
many of them I didn’t have until college.
Q: Did you have more or less homework?
A: Much less. For example, in Latin, we would translate 15 lines a night. Sometimes
you are given a few pages.
Q: Did you have a lot of tests?
A. No, and the ones we did have were not have essay tests as you often do. Also, we
did not have midterms or finals.
Q: How did you do papers if you didn’t have computers ? Did you use typewriter?.
A. A few kids had typewriters at home, but mostly we wrote everything in ink, by hand.
Most teachers required measured margins on “themes” as they were called. I had
one English teacher who would say, ” A theme without a margin proper will
cause your grade to come a’cropper.”
Q: How did you get to school?
A. We either walked or took public buses. There were no school buses.
Q. What languages and subjects did you take?
A. You have many different courses from which to choose. For us it was mostly a
set curriculum . For the college track, each year you had a basic English course, a
history course, a science according to year in school, and a language choice :
Latin, French, or Italian. You were allowed to take Latin and another language. Q. A. Was there as much pressure involved in college applications?
Not at all. It was no big deal. Only a small percentage applied to college, and those
who did applied to only 3 or 4, if that many. In general girls were not encourage to go to college except for a state Teachers’ College. Girls grew up knowing they
could be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher and that they would probably get
married soon after graduation from high school or collete.
Q. Did you have an open campus?
A. No. You went in the building by 8 and stayed there until dismissal which I think
was 2:30. If you wished to use the lavatory, you had to get a pass from the
teacher, and there were student monitors stationed in the hall to check your pass.
No class was over until the bell rang, and as you walked in the halls, you walked
on the right hand side.
Q. What if you didn’t?
A. I don’t know we just did.
Q. What other rules were there?
A. No gum, no whispering to classmates during class, (I always got in trouble
for this and passing notes.) raise hand to speak.
Our Latin teacher had us stand to recite.
Q. What about punishment?
Q. What about drugs? Alcohol?
A. I can honestly say I did not even know of the existence of drugs. Oh, maybe in
Hollywood but not elsewhere. We had never heard of Maijuana.
I guess there might have been alcohol at parties, but even that was not
Some boys and even girls smoked, but not on school property.
Q. What did you wear to school?
A. Well, girls were not allowed to wear pants so it was always a skirt and blouse
or sweater; rarely a dress. No girl even owned jeans. I don’t really
recall but I think boys wore slacks, not jeans.
Q. Were there sports teams and after-school clubs.
A. Maybe football and baseball for boys. No girls’ teams
Q. If there were no after school activities, what did you do after school?
A. Did homework . Worked at jobs .
Q. Did you have dances and Winter Carnival and Spring Fling?
A. We had a Senior Prom and a Senior Reception . I was very lucky that I
attended a church that provided lots of social activity. This was true
for lots of kids.
Q. Did you have class trips?
A. Seniors could go to Washington, DC if they could afford it.
Q. While you were in high school, was there any memorable event like 9/11?
A. Not really. Maybe the McCarthy hearings.
Q. Are you still in touch with anyone from high school?
A. Because I moved out of state once I graduated from college, there are only
three friends with whom I am still in touch . Remember, it would have
involved writing actual letters; there was no email, and long-distance calling
was too expensive. I have to say that thanks to Face Book I have become
reacquainted with some of my classmates.
The kids were attentive, interested, and, you could say, shocked. Hanover High School is governed by a student council, has an open campus, and is offers a myriad of courses, clubs, and sports. I was very aware that to them I WAS history!