Ozzie And Harriet, Smoking In The Boys Room

Jessie Thompson Humberty recalls her Staples High School Class of 1952 as “very Ozzie and Harriet.”

There was football, cheerleading, after-school clubs — “a very idyllic 3 years,” she says.

And, she stresses, “it’s not just looking back from a distance. We felt it was a great time even back then.”

Staples cheerleaders, 1950’s style.

There were 130 students in her graduating class. On the weekend of August 24-26, 70 will return for their 60th reunion. (That includes members of the “older” Class of ’51; they’re invited too.)

They were the last Wilton students to attend Staples, before a high school opened there. Jessie remembers Frank, the bus driver, picking up 40 students all over Wilton, then driving down Riverside Avenue to the high school (now Saugatuck Elementary). The original building — dating back to 1884 — was still in use too (where the auditorium now stands).

Jessie and her classmates — now pushing 80 — still recall English teachers like V. Louise Higgins and Gladys Mansir; social studies instructor Eli Burton, and Bob Dowling of the math department.

They remember ski club trips to newly opened Mohawk Mountain. And much more.

And if they’ve forgotten some things — well, here’s my chapter on those years, from my book Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education.


In 1951, 21 students completed Staples’ 1st driver education course. Two classes were held each week; the other 2 periods were used for practice, and group and individual projects. The Department of Motor Vehicles sent an instructor to test the new drivers, using the school’s dual control car.

Meanwhile, Staples adopted a student government and constitution that was among the most far-reaching in the country. Called the Staples Student Organization (SSO), its innovations included an executive branch (with both a Senate and General Assembly) and a judicial branch (student court).

Other school news included an appearance by students Joy Young and Wendy Ayearst on Kate Smith’s television show. Two questions were asked: “Should high school girls smoke?” and “Are cliques undesirable in high school?” The girls answered yes to both, while noting that cliques are unavoidable.

Inklings – Staples’ highly regarded student newspaper – ran a story describing the devastation an atomic bomb could do to Westport.

The high school on Riverside Avenue (shown here from a yearbook, with the alma mater) was getting crowded in 1952…

Yet just as powerful – and as real a threat as an atomic bomb — was the growing realization that the Staples High School the town had known for nearly 70 years was inadequate for the modern era. A tsunami of post-war students would soon wash over Westport. In 1951 the town fathers knew they needed a new high school.

In January 1952, the RTM appointed a building committee to examine construction of what the Westporter-Herald called “the so-called North Avenue school.”

On November 29, 1951, a rap from Chief Justice Hope Collier’s gavel opened the first session of the first Student Court in Staples history. Seventy people – nearly one-sixth of the school – crowded into Harold Allen’s room. Six justices – three seniors, two juniors and a sophomore – sat in a semicircle at the front of the room, with a court clerk on one side and Lyle Hayes, lawyer for the defense, on the other.

…even as the original building, built in 1884, was still in use.

The first defendant, Tom Acquino, was accused of violating a new rule prohibiting smoking in Staples from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or on Staples grounds from 8:40 to 2:51.

He pleaded not guilty, but Senate President Tiny Young told the court that several days earlier he had caught Tom smoking in the boys room. When Tiny could not answer Lyle’s question about the exact day in question, Tom blurted out “It was Tuesday you caught me.”

Witness Dick Banner testified that he was in the boys room, and saw smoke inside. After 5 minutes Chief Justice Collins pronounced Tom guilty. He was put on probation, and told he would be severely punished for another offense.

Principal Douglas Young pronounced himself pleased that student proctors had begun policing the no-smoking law. If their watchfulness continued, he said, there was no reason students could not also assume responsibility for corridor and traffic control.

10 responses to “Ozzie And Harriet, Smoking In The Boys Room

  1. Charlie Tayloe

    Great story…class of ’51 laid the foundation for all of us to follow…kudos..Class of ’61 also played all of our home football games at the Riverside field…I don,t remember a score board….

  2. Was Tom Acquino the same who later became Sup of Ed in Weston?

  3. Don Willmott

    Dan, in other reunion news, the class of 1982 is still buzzing about the epic 14-minute video created by Soreyrith Um ’82 for the 30th reunion party. It features his own amazing photo archive plus actual film footage. Not sure if you can see it at this link if you’re not registered, but give it a try. Lots and lots of tube socks.

  4. Perfect timing Dan. I just reconnected (3 days ago) with Ray ’51 & Carol Maddock who live most of the time in OH not too far away. Ray was telling me about the combined 50/51 reunion, what a great idea!

  5. A. David Wunsch

    There were still kids from Wilton in my Staples class when I graduated in 1956. So, the date given in the posting about the last group to come from Wilton is evidently wrong.
    Another small correction: the kindly math teacher was Robert Downing, not Dowling

    Regarding smoking: Mr. Arciola, my English teacher, told a class that when he was hired at Staples in the 1940’s he was informed that he should not be seen smoking in public. I suspect that a new hire now might be told the same thing–the cyclical nature of mores and custom.
    A. David Wunsch

  6. Jessie, you bugger. I talk to you all the time & you never mentioned a word about putting this on 06880. At least it was about legal processes. I wouldn’t dare put in the other things we did like picking up somes ones VW from the parking lot & putting into the hall (Howard Burling & friends?) The pic is in our year book. Too many numerous other things that we pulled but what heck of a time we had. Jess, why didn’t you put a pic of our cheerleaders then? You were the one that took all the pics. I am one of your best friends & I was a CHEERLEADER!!!!!

  7. Jack Whittle

    ’52 happens to be one of the Staples yearbooks I have in my collection – a great group with names that mean something to most Townies – Avery (Doug), Burr (Aretta), Coley (Fred), Gault (Bill), Izzo (Peter), Manere (Bob), Romano (Tom), Sturges (Diane), the Tedescos . . . the list goes on. The oddest thing is that, while I spot seniors who would go on to be my teachers in the Westport school system, there are also quite a few teachers who were still there at Staples 30 years later when I hit Staples myself (78 – 81) – Atkins, Arciola, Friess amount them.

    Great looking group!

  8. Jack Whittle

    And Bev (head cheerleader, actually, and quite a dish) I could probably send Dan a scan of the cheerleaders photo in the yearbook to put up here

  9. Jack, you’re just too much! You remember everyone in my era & probably then some. Those were the times everyone knew everyone plus their parents & every store keeper. Thank you for the compliment. If you go into facebook you can see what I look like 60 yrs later!!!! Oh my how things change!