Remembering South Hadley High School: 1936-1956
An Oral History Project

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1953 Class Photo
 

This project was a collaboration of an anthropology class at Mount Holyoke College (Anthr 275: Doing Ethnography) and the South Hadley Historical Society in the spring of 2007. Special thanks go to Bob Judge and Ted Belsky of the historical society for their help developing and organizing this project.

The old South Hadley High School in South Hadley Falls functioned as a combined town hall and high school from its beginning in 1913 until 1956, when the new high school was built on Newton Street. The old building continues to function as town hall and a focus of memories for all those who attended it as students.

In total, 36 people were interviewed, with participants spread out between the graduating years 1936 to 1958. The South Hadley Historical Society developed a list of people willing to be interviewed. Students were assigned mostly in pairs to conduct interviews in March 2007 in the old high school building. Thanks go to Patricia Vinchesi and other South Hadley town officials for accommodating requests to use their space. During the course of interviewing, local newspapers covered the project. Full transcribed interviews will be donated to the South Hadley Historical Society, as well as the complete digital audio files.

This website is organized around audio clips excerpted from longer interviews. Students were asked to select several of the most interesting passages from the interviews they conducted. Later, a smaller group of students and Prof. Joshua H. Roth helped organize the audio clips into the sixteen categories listed on the left column of this site.

The collection of audio clips within each category at times reveal differences of opinion which raise questions about the subjectivity of recollection, the diversity of experience, and the probability that the school changed over the course of its history. Noteworthy differences of opinion arise in the categories "girls and pearls and girls' basketball," "Mason Dixon line," and "lunchtime." Was physical education offered girls each year, or only certain years? Did a cafeteria operate continuously in the 1940s and '50s? Did residential location and class background play a significant role in structuring student interactions? Some of these questions were resolved relatively easily with archival research. Images show that at least from 1940 to 1944, there were girls' basketball teams at South Hadley high school. The immediate question that arises is what impact the war had on athletics for women? Other questions relating residence and class relate to personal experience and socioeconomic factors that call for further oral histories, archival investigation, and sociological interpretation.

LITERATURE REVIEW
Click the following for one student's review of anthropological literature about high schools.

ARCHIVES
Members of the South Hadley Historical Society provided us with newspaper articles and photographs covering the initial construction on the old high school building in 1913, as well as the new building in 1956.

NOTE TO PARTICIPANTS ON SELECTION OF AUDIO CLIPS
Thanks go to all those who participated in this project. The interviews comprise dozens of hours of digital recording, yet the website contains a collection of short audio clips that represent only a small portion of what was recorded. Complete audio files and transcripts can be found at the Historical Society.

Although every interview included interesting material, participants are not represented by a uniform number of audio clips on the website. Certain people have as many as eight or nine clips on the website while others have just one or two. In the case of a couple of participants, no audio clips were included at all. This demands some explanation, for the representation does not suggest anything about the quality or interest of the recorded material so much as the differing sensibilities of the students tasked with the job of selecting audio clips. Students were all instructed to select four or five of the most interesting comments from each of the interviews that they conducted. Some selected a lot, while others were parsimonious in their selection and only included a few gems. In a couple of unfortunate cases, certain audio files themselves were corrupted and could not be retrieved. One student failed the class for not completing required work related to this project. I hope that you will understand that this was a student project for a class in which they were learning how to conduct research, not a project by a professional oral historian.

That said, most students did a great job, and I hope that you are happy with how the site has developed. There is a certain amount of repetition in some accounts. Lots of people had comments about Mr. Foley and Ms. Driscoll, and included similar characterizations of how stern yet respected they were. Audio clips were extracted from a fuller context of the interview, but hopefully do not misrepresent the intentions of the speaker. I took a certain amount of license in categorizing the clips into the eighteen categories that appear in the left hand column. Certain categories could be combined or split. Your feedback is most welcome.

Graduates of South Hadley High School who participated in this project:
Dorothea M. Connor Barry, June Miller Beattie, William Bennett, Mary O'Connor Boulais, Wayne Boulais, Cecilia M. Schaffer Charlebois, George Charlebois, John S. Croke, Jr., David Daly, Dolores Augusta Daly, Brian D. Duncan, Ruth L. Warner Ellison, Agnes Robillard Everson, Claudette Houle Finck, Beverly Smith Galusha, Joe Gaunt, Cecile Fournier Girard, Joan Clark Hazen, David Judge, Mary Miller Kates, Marian Purcell Kennedy, Carol M. Croke Kent, Doris Dansereau Kuzeja, Robert Lespara, Shirley Martin, Marion Fernandes McCormick, Edgar E. Noel, Joyce Gagne Roberts, Paul Robillard, William L. Schenker, Richard Scott, Charles V. Taugher, Faye Taugher Taylor, R. Michael Thornton, Ruth B. Henniquin Thornton, Josephine Burek Wojnarowski, Douglas Young, Linda Warner Young, and John R. Zebryk

Anthropology 275: “Doing Ethnography: Research Methods in Anthropology”
Faculty: Joshua H. Roth
Students: Charlina Ahn, Danielle Babcock, Caroline Bauer, Barbara Burns, Caralie Cahill, Rachelle Coleman, Tenzin Dolkar, Megan Durling, Brittany Estes-Gaudette, Cheyenne Gleason, Nafkote Gurmu, Leah Ingeno, Emily Korab, Erica Lehrer, Stephanie Maher, Sarah Mitchel, Alina Naujokaitis, Melissa Proulx, Sofia Redford, Lillian Smith, Alison Stoll, Heather Van Werkhooven, Megumi Yoshida, Thea Youngs, Susannah Zietz

Photo of meeting at Mount Holyoke College of some of the project participants, MHC students, and members of the Historical Society after all the data had been collected. At this meeting, we discussed idea for categorizing audio clips on the website. Photo by Dale Johnston.

 

PROJECT BACKGROUND

AUDIO FILES:

things were different then

the old school building

friends

getting to and from school

girls and pearls and girls' basketball

dances for every occasion

what is poor?

you want it, you work for it

mason dixon line

football, basketball, band and debating

lunchtime

study hall, classes, college, commercial, and general tracks

teachers

wartime

life after high school

the high school and Mt. Holyoke College

  Site constructed by Joshua H. Roth. Send comments or questions to jroth@mtholyoke.edu