Not-So-Fast-Times at Wayland High
2004 Local Historians: Colleen Bowman and Jean Yun
The life of a Wayland High School student in the 1950s was very similar to the lives of students in other small, suburban towns. Teenagers of the 50s were lively and very involved in many activities. Focus was placed on school and the opportunities it offered. Because each grade averaged around 40-50 students their class relationship was not divided but united as a whole. Every one tried to participate in all they could whether it be a member in the glee club, member of the student government, or a star athlete. Sports were very popular, and games were well-attended social events. Other social outings included carnivals, movies, drive-ins, dances, and parties. Wayland High School students, like most around the United States, concerned themselves with having fun and making a good time out of any event. Generally speaking, they were not well aware of the harsh situations outsideof their immediate area, such as racism or the looming Cold War. Living in a small, suburban town in the 1950s was like living in a bubble that protected against dire world news.
Wayland High School in the 50's was in the place of the current town building. This high school was built in 1935 by funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) a program that created a system of work relief for the unemployed during the great depression. At an earlier time 5th and 6th graders were also crammed into the high school, it was with the expanding class size the junior high school was formed. Then in 1948 an addition was put on to the high school to make room for the 7th and 8th grade classes, as well as a new gymnasium.
As the high school expanded there was an estimated increase in pupils, from 1300 to 1900 in 1960 (almost a 50% increase). As time progressed the high school continued to be altered to fit the needs of the students.
The adapting Wayland High School led to the continuing success of the students academically, socially, and athletically. With the enlarged school it became possible for new curriculum to be offered to the students. New books, organizational departments, and new classes offered a wide range of interests from commercial law to music. The money for these improvements at the High School is included in the budgets admitted and approved at the town meetings.
The Reflector, the annual Wayland High School yearbook, provides great
insights into the teenage world of the 50's. Student and teacher comments
and quotes draw vivid pictures of the opinions of Wayland, and the pictures
depict every day life for the teens. The reflector shows the students
progress, accomplishments, and the fun they had during their four year
experience. It shows the appreciation they had for their education and the
extra curricular activities that they so graciously partake in.
With clever superlatives, honorary awards, reminders of their senior class play, and triumphant athletic wins the reflector is a perfect reminiscence of the greatest years of Wayland High School graduates lives.
The students of the 50's like the youth today had many likes and
dislikes and a ranges of ambitions that they hope to fulfill starting with
their high school education. Students would not focus as much on the
pressures of the school work or the political and economic state of the
country, but rather enjoying "the best years of their lives." With ranges
of likes such as dating, sports, parties, and movie projection they were
encouraged and determined to get the most out of their lives. Ambitions of
some include getting married, going to college, or becoming manager at the
town store. There wasn't much pressure to follow a set path, but rather
form your own as you discover your true identity during high school.
When graduation day finally came they were forced out of their protective homes and let out into the real world. Being a small community the teachers-student relations were close as the grades were small and the classes smaller. In 1955 for example there were 27 teachers, 17 of which were men, with most teachers involved in activities other than classes. Superintendant Rexford S. Sounder even regarded the vitality of their knowledge claiming,
"We are about to enter a world of agitation and turmoil. Other aggressive nations are rapidly becoming powerful contenders of democracy. It is a vital importance that the young people of America equip themselves with the understanding knowledge to ward off any aggressive action. In order to preserve our liberty youth must be educated." He stressed the importance of being good Americans and taking advantage of their rights as free citizens. He spoke to the students saying "the comradeship that you attained at Wayland High School is one that will be with you always though your paths will be separate."During graduation he celebrated the seniors not just as graduates but as well as individuals whose alteration during their four years was nothing but exemplary.
Evelyn Morris, a Wayland graduate of 1959, Nicholas Willard graduate of 1957, and Lew Russell graduate of 1948 were all ordinary students during their high school years. All three reflect on their high school memories as they recall the days of their youth. Whether their interests lay in academics, sports, or working outside the school they all experienced many of the ordinary occurrences that befell a normal teenager of the 50's.
We interviewed Evelyn Archer about her high school experience at Wayland High School. She graduated in 1959 as a head cheerleader and a member of the National Honor Society. Here is what she had to say about her years at Wayland High School:
Q: Did you attend high school at the current town building, and what was it like?
A: Yes. We were kept pretty separate; the junior high stayed in the junior high section, but it was all one building. One cafeteria, one gymnasium, one girls' locker, one boys' locker room. We saw all the kids, but you basically knew everybody in the whole school.
Q: How large were each of your classes?
A: Each class, there were probably 20-25, because we didn't have as many classes as you had. I mean history was, in your junior year of high school, Problems of Democracy. That was what was available. And that was all, and you had to take it.
Q: What were the other types of classes available?
A: We had home economics, and all the girls took home economics, and the boys took shop. Girls did not take shop, and boys did not take home economics. There was one teacher and one half the year you did sewing and the other half you did cooking.
Q: Did you enjoy home economics?
A: Yes. I mean you had no choice, but I did enjoy it. There was no selection, so you didn't think much of it.
Q: Were sports very popular?
A: Yes, but again there wasnt a lot of choice. In the fall, girls played field hockey and basketball and in the spring they played softball, and that was it. The boys, the only choice they had was in the spring, and that was baseball and golf. Most people that played sports, they played all three sports. Because if they didn't they wouldn't have had enough people for teams.
Q: Were there any big school rivalries?
A: Yes. Wayland and Weston have always been rivals, but our bigger rivals were Ashland, as far as football was concerned. Ashland was a very tough town, and they were tough kids, so that was more of a rivalry on the field than Wayland/Weston.
Q: Did you play any sports?
Q: What was your junior prom like?
A: We had a grand march, and a queen and a court. The band leader did it, and only juniors could go out on the floor. And they went around and they tapped people until there was a certain number left, and then they picked the queen. The band did the whole thing. It wasn't a popularity contest, because they didn't even know you. It was a lot smaller, so we could do things in different ways. We could have a dance with the whole school.
Q: Was the prom only for juniors?
A: No, anybody could go, but only juniors could be on the court. Everyone was included, nobody was excluded. Girls asked boys; boys asked girls.
Q: What other things did kids do for dating?
A: We went to drive-ins. Not just theaters or drive in movies, but drive-ins like car hops. Twin Maples was like an ice cream parlor. You could get a hamburger or a hot dog, maybe a sandwich. And we would go there after basketball games. There weren't a lot of other places to go. You either went to the movies, but you couldn't go to a movie theater like now and see a choice of movies.
Q: Where did teenagers go for social outings?
A: We, like you probably, had a lot of parties. We didn't have a lot of the same issues that you do, because, I'm sure there was some drinking that went on, but it was never in the party. And as far as drugs, we never even heard of those. So that wasn't an issue.
Q: What types of music did you listen to?
A: Rock and roll, of course, and it was like the music today; our parents hated it. You know, Elvis Presley was a big thing then.
Q: How did girls dress for school and for going out?
A: Girls wore then, probably chino pants, flat shoes, and a sweater or a blouse. There weren't a lot of jerseys.
Q: How about the boys?
A: They wore shorts, chino pants; no dungarees, not allowed. Dungarees weren't a big thing like they are now. But we wore pedal-pushers and shorts. We wore shirts, button down with short sleeves. Loafers, white socks with loafers. I never owned a pair of sneakers.
Q: Were there defined social groups in the school?
A: A little bit, but not a lot because the school was so small. There were groups, like the real studious student groups that stuck together, but they did intermingle a lot. It depended more on how quiet or outgoing you were, more so than class.
Q: Did upperclassmen look down on underclassmen, and were they any initiation rights for freshmen?
A: Oh yes, there was initiation. I didn't ever get initiated, but I did do the initiating.
Q: What types of things did you do for initiation?
A: Oh, we had them dress up beautifully. They had to wear a big "F" on their face, and they had to do anything you asked them to do, within reason. I mean, you could not go overboard. First of all, it was decided by a committee what the boys would have to wear, and what the girls had to wear. You could make them do anything. They had to get your lunch; they were your servants of the day. It was a lot of fun.
Q: Were there student elections?
A: Yes, every year. We had them for all the offices. They would get up and give their speeches to their class and each individual class would vote. And always, always for every class, there was a boy president senior year. It was an unwritten rule.
Q: Did students drive, and was there a drivers education program at school?
A: We had drivers education at the high school but even when I got my license at driver's education, I didn't have a car. Some students did, but I never had a car. The town that I grew up in and my kids went to Wayland schools and high school also--the town that I grew up in was a very different town than my children grew up in and the town that you kids are growing up in is a different town than they grew up in. It's changed.
Q: What are the major differences?
A: Of course it's a lot larger, and it's a lot more expensive town to live in so you have a different financial level and a different education level. It's just very different. When I grew up we walked everywhere. I never had a bicycle; my mode of transportation was my feet. But we used to be able to walk down to Cochituate ball field and there'd be something going on there all the time. Baseball games, old timer's games, we used to have carnivals in towns. Fireworks on the fourth of July, parades where they brought in marine bands. They don't do any of that anymore.
Q: Did students work part time during the school year?
A: Some did, not a lot. I never did. I worked in the summer time, but never during school.
Q: When you were in high school, did you visit places out of Wayland for vacations or trips?
A: No, I never did. In fact, when I was a senior in high school, I made my first trip into Boston. See what I mean when I say it was a different world? We never took any family vacations, and I don't know anybody else that did.
Q: Were high-school students well aware of the political issues going on at the time?
A: I don't think as nearly as much as everybody is today, because there wasn't the TV exposure that you have now. The TV was only on certain times of the day, and there were only certain shows that were on. We listened to the radio a lot. They had shows on the radio, but they didn't have a lot of news exposure. So no, we were not as aware, not as near as aware.
Q: Did you follow the occurrences of the Civil Rights movement?
A: No, I didn't even know about it. That's the thing with everything that was going on in the South, a lot of people didn't know about it. It stayed right there; it was localized.
Q: What did people usually want to do after they graduated high school?
A: The percentage of kids going to college was not as big as it is today. Five girls in my class got married right after graduation. So, they went to work. My guess would be that maybe 25% of the kids went to college.
Q: Was there anything you particularly enjoyed or disliked in high school?
A: I really enjoyed my high school years. I like going to school. I liked it better than when I got out of school. I missed it. It's like a family that you grow up with and you knew so many of them.
Q: Do you think most people enjoyed their high school experience?
A: I think so. I don't think anybody was made to feel like an outcast in class. But a lot of kids were very shy. All in all I had a very good high school experience; we were very involved, like I said, with sports. And you know, it was like a big family. So, it was a fun experience. And it was a good town to go to school in.
We also interviewed Lew Russell whose grandfather founded Russell's Garden Center in 1876. Lew Russell not only took part in many school activities but also worked after school on the farm which is now currently his garden center. He proves his school spirit for partaking in as many school events and activities as he could. (link to the audioclip of the interview)
Q: What year did you graduate the Wayland High School?
A: in 1948
Q: What sort of activities did you participate in at the High School?
A: Actually, not a lot, back them for sports they only had football, basketball and baseball. I could not make the team on any of them. I really didn't participate except for gymnastics; I tried to make the other teams. But, I was also working at Russell's part time. Russell's was founded by my grandfather in 1876, so I was active working there.
Q: When you were at high school, was the addition for the 7th and 8th grade put on?
A: No, I was there before the addition.
Q: How big was your graduating class?
A: 46 students.
Q: Did u do drivers education?
A: They didn't offer it, when I was in college I had to take some classes. They didn't offer it at that time. You students have a lot more offered to you now.
Q: Did you attend your Junior Prom?
Q: Did they have prom king and queen?
A: I think so.
Q: Was it a big deal?
A: Yeah, a very big deal.
Q: How many people came to the prom?
A: 2/3 of us in our class went to the prom. But of course some of the juniors would date sophomores and seniors. So say there was about 30 that went in my class, and you would double that for their dates.
Q: What kind of dancing did you guys do?
A: O, I remember they had the jitter bug. I could only do the ordinary slow dance, which they put on for us older people now. That's about all, they didn't have much.
Q: What subjects did you study?
A: College preparation, the basic English, math, science, chemistry, physics, etc?
Q: Did u like your teachers? Since the classes were so small, were you close with your teachers?
A: Yes, yes, I did like my teachers. I also remember, my senior year, especially when it became March, April and may, I really hated to see it end. We truly enjoyed it; we had a lot of fun. I happen to be one of the youngest in my class. I skipped a year, when I was in first grade my parents thought that my grades would be good enough, so in November I could move to the second grade. And so I did the first and second grades in one year, so that turned me into one of the youngest in my class. So yes I could get the grades, but socially I wasn't up to it. I was a shy farm boy. And I think that is one of the reasons why I couldn't do well in sports, because I could play ball with friends when we working here, and during lunch time I could play and do pretty well. But when I tried out for the teams, with everyone watching me, I would get nervous and I would drop the ball.
Q: What was your most memorable experience at the high School?
A: Well, oddly enough, it was a mix. It did include the sports even though I couldn't make the first team. I would try out and I would be on the second team, you know I would try, especially in baseball. I enjoyed, trying. But also, the classes and the friendships, which I'm sure you do. And of course since there are only 46 of you, you know everyone very well. And I don't know if when you get up over 200 if you know everyone as thoroughly or maybe you don't. But we were all good friends.
Q: Were clubs and academics a big deal at your school?
A: Well I don't really remember any clubs.
Q: Did you guys have any other after school activities other than sports?
A: No, and I'm trying to think if there were any other activities other than sports.
Q: Did you guys have any plays, drama or music that you participated in?
A: I froze on the stage; yeah I remember they got me up there. I was in one play and the words I had to say was "He'st thou come far?" I was sitting on the stage, nervous as can be. Those were the only words I had to say. Another thing is that, I got A's and B's, but I didn't really know how to write an essay, until I got into college. I'm sure that's different now. The first time I really had to write even a 150 word essay, pick a subject and write on it, was my freshman year in college.
Q: What college did you go to?
A: I went to Harvard.
Q: What subjects were you interested in?
A: Well, I've always enjoyed arithmetic. And, plain geometry, I've always had an arithmetic mind.
Q: What types of things did u do over the summer?
A: I worked here on the farm.
Q: Did you guys eat lunch all together as a grade?
A: Yes, in high school. In grammar school I would go home for lunch.
Q: Did you used to buy lunch?
A: Yeah, we would by lunch, sometimes we would bring. I remember, the chocolate covered ice cream was 10 cents, we didn't do that too often, but it was such a nice treat.
Q: Did people smoke at school?
A: No, but if it did happen, it would be in the corner where I never saw them. I don't think students were smoking in high school back then. That was something you tried in college. As far as drinking, no my parents did not believe in alcohol.
Q: What time did school start?
A: I think it was 8:30. I would run to school, and I lived here at this house in Russell's. I had to go through Wayland center, and take the back road. I used to run it in about 4 minutes. I would run it in the winter. We didn't have a family car, and my parents didn't get a car until I was in college. There might be some days I had to walk because it was icy.
Q: How long did u keep in contact with your teachers after you graduated?
A: Not that long, we went on to college and that was pretty much it.
Q: Can you remember any one big incident in your high school career, or big issues?
A: Of course, World War 2 ended, during summer vacation in 1945. And the European phase of the war ended when I was a freshman. We had a warped perception of the war though. I don't think I ever understood the brutality of these wars, until they were over. I do remember the joy and the celebrations when we finally beat Hitler. I also remember the joy when the bombs were dropped on Japan. I remember the confetti in the streets, and big smiles on peoples face. I remember the news reports, and I remember Gabriel Heater would come on the radio and describe the land we were gaining in the war. It was as if we were following a football game, and we had scored a touch down when we would gain more land. I never really understood the sheer brutality of the war, and of course we didn't really know of the Holocaust until it was over.
Q: Did you travel a lot?
A: We had no family car, so we never traveled much. On a typical year my mother would take me and my brother to Rivera Beach, we would take the train or the bus. Then on another day we would go to Nantascut beach for a day trip, and we would connect to the ferry boat. My father would also take us to Red Sox games, so we would go in to 2 or 3 baseball games a year. Those trips would pretty much be it.
Q: Was the Red Sox big at your school?
A: Maybe not as much today. I can tell you that I fell in love with Fenway Park when I was only 10 years old in 1941. The first time I ever saw it, to me Fenway Park is an architectural gem. It is original with character, and I loved Fenway Park since the first time I saw it. I was a Red Sox fan. You could go to the bleacher seats for about 50 cents, and my parents would splurge for about 2 dollars and get us grand stand seats.
Q: Were baseball games and other sports games also big at your school?
A: Yes. But there was one thing that disturbed me. On the football team and the basketball teams we had some gung ho coaches who were really bent on winning. Wayland was just begging to become a championship competitive team. But overall, you just played for the fun of the sport.
Nicholas Willard also had a lot to say about his high school career. He was president of his class, an active member of the college club, dance committee, prom committee, and also a member of the national honor society. But he did not stop there as he was a three season athlete playing football, basketball, and baseball, which were all the sports offered at that time. He also participated in several other clubs such as the glee club and projectors club. Obviously Mr. Willard took advantage of all the opportunities that Wayland High School presented him with.
Q: How many years did you go to Wayland high school for?
A: '53 to '57
Q: What activities did you participate in at the high school?
A: Well everything they had like student government, and the class government. There was French club, Latin club. There was a play I was in, and sports that I was in.
Q: So did a lot of students participate in the same activities like sports you did?
A: but the girls got the short string they weren't really taken seriously. Now basketball, you will love this, now basketball was played with three offensive players on that side of the court and three defensive players on the other side.
Q: I saw pictures and they had skirts on?
A: Yes and they weren't allowed to go over the center line. So if the defensive team got the ball they would have to throw it up to the offensive players. It was crazy.
Q: What was the glee club?
A: It was a chorus. The most fun thing I did was I got the chance to sing in the all state chorus and what that meant was I would go at that time Newton and stay with a family for three days and we practiced at symphony hall. And we practiced as a chorus with a professional chorus director. They basically taught you how to sing and then we sang at symphony hall with the all state orchestra. And symphony hall has the best acoustics out of any concert hall in America say out of two one in I think San Francisco. But its got fabulous fabulous acoustics.
Q: So you had like 40 43 kids in your class?
A: Yeah 43 students.
Q: So you had classes with like all the same kids?
A: Yeah everything was together with all the same kids.
Q: You didn't have college, intro, and honors courses?
A: No but there was something called shop and a lot of kids who would not be going to college would take shop. And at the time there was a very small percentage that would actually go on to college. So no there were no different classes. The competition was not as nearly as what it is today.
Q: Were all the grades divided in the building?
A: The 6th and 8th grades were down at one end. And the 9th through 12th is up at the other end. You would walk into the building from the parking lot in the front of the building and the principal's office was just to your right and the super attendant's office was around the corner. And down where the gym is that was added on when the 7th and 8th grade was added to the building. The gym is where the cafeteria was, and they had to put mats along the walls because if you went up for a layout somebody was bound to smash into the brick wall.
Q: I remember looking through the reflector and there was something about initiation?
A: I don't know if I remember that.
Q: I saw like guys in dresses?
A: Oh Yeah. I probably blacked that out.
Q: Were there cliques in your class?
A: No. There were no cliques the class size was too small for cliques.
Q: Are there any experiences that you remember from when you were in high school?
A: Yeah definitely when I was a junior. I was very in to sports. And junior year we won all but one football game and we won all but two basketball games. And when I was a senior we were undefeated in basketball and football. We were state champs in both. And I lived for sports. We were so crazy about basketball that we would break into the school. We would leave a window unlocked in the gym and we would break into the school Saturday and Sunday and we would play. And we would play at midnight. It was not unusual to go out and go bowling or go to a movie and come back and get together and play basketball because we just couldn't get enough of it. And the cops would see the lights on in the gym and no one would care they would just turn their heads.
Q: How do you get on the national honor society?
A: I believe it was a certain grade point average. Let's just put it this way if there was a character component I was not aware that it was part of the judging process.
Q: So it seems like there was not a lot of stress in high school?
A: Yes and No. I was stressed by geometry and algebra but I wasn't stressed by anything else. And I had plenty of time to see my girlfriend or play hockey at night. Normally I would play basketball in the afternoon come home, have dinner, do an hours worth of homework, and zip over to the pond and play hockey.
Q: An hours worth of homework?
A: more or less. You would be surprised the relaxed teaching of English. I don't think in high school I was actually required to read an original book all the way through and write a book report on it. Maybe a couple, max. To think about what you kids do today reading and trying to pull ideas out of it and writing an analysis it was just absolutely unheard of. By the way there was a consequence in freshman year of college, I just didn't know how to do stuff that kids should have known. Also getting back to sports we made everyone play football.
Q: Even the klutzy kids?
A: Yeah we were no exclusive. Everyone would play. There is actually a funny story which you would love. After practice one day we saw an ice cream truck outside. The truck was parked in the back of the school delivering ice cream for the next day. And one of the guys in the class ran out and stole a huge bucket of ice cream. And he brought it into the locker room, and we didn't have any spoons. So we dug into the bucket with our hands and ate as much as we could. Of course the kid was caught, and we were all forced to pay for the ice cream, and they just then turned their heads like nothing happened. It was a time when you could walk anywhere at any time of night and parents wouldn't worry.
Q: Do you remember anything from middle school?
A: No not really. I remember everything about the sports in high school. High school is the time I remember it was a very good experience.
Q: Was Weston the rival of the sports teams when you were in high school?
A: Oh yeah and Lincoln Sudbury too.
Q: Did you get an award for sports?
Q: What kind of clubs were you in?
A: Oh I don't remember. The clubs were mainly the teacher's ideas.
Q: Was the chatterbox the newspaper?
A: I believe it was.
Q: What did you do after school?
A: In high school I did a number of things like work on the farm where the high school is now. And I would do various things like pick berries. One summer my job was to walk over to the farm in the morning at 6 o'clock and take the big cans of milk and take them to the dairy farm. Also one summer in like July or august there were so many apples growing and picking them would break the branches. So our job was to climb up in the tree and shake a certain number of apples out of the tree. And then we picked peaches. And of course you have a bunch of teenage kids in a tree what do you think was going to happen? We would just start whipping the apples at each other from tree to tree in the orchard. So it wasn't all bad. If you were really lucky you got to work at the ice cream stands around town.
Q: Did you have to get a certain number of credits to graduate?
A: Yeah I think so. But I don't really remember, I wasn't really concerned about the credits or the grades. You take a certain number of courses and if you passed it was alright. I don't remember thinking to much about my grades.
Q: So college or grades was not really on people's minds in high school?
A: no not really. I mean half of the kids didn't even go to college. Not every one had the ambition to go off to college like kids do today. It is probably much more stressful for kids today then when I was in high school.
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: two sisters an older one and a younger one.
Q: Did they go to Wayland high school?
A: No one went to private school and the other one pretty much took care of herself. My older sister went to walnut hill school because she was the smart one in the family. She wasn't athletic she was theatrical. Today she would have a much better experience at the Wayland high school because there are more theatrical courses offered then when I was in school.
Miss Catherine Regan, a graduate of Wayland High School of 1956, was kind enough to send us a tremendous amount of information about her experiences at the Wayland High school through e-mail. She lived in Cochituate with a big family (16 kids!) and still lives in Wayland today. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet and talk with Miss Regan in person; we greatly appreciate her interest in our project and her effort to share her experiences.
"As the driver of the big yellow school bus drove into the parking lot at the junior high school, we saw how the upperclassmen were enjoying high school. The junior and high school kids were all housed in the same building. This is where the Town Building is today. The windows were opened on the top floor. Several boys were throwing chairs and tables out the windows. It was a free-for-all. The atmosphere at the so-called prestigious Wayland School System was frightening to witness on our first day of being educated as junior high school students. The concern for personal well being was strong, and remained strong throughout the years.