Friday Flashback #63

2017-18 marks the 60th anniversary of the last classes to attend Staples High School for the full year.

In January 1959, students and staff moved from Riverside Avenue — Staples’ home since 1884 — to a sparkling new campus on North Avenue. Bedford Junior High relocated a few yards east into the now-“old” Staples; the former BJHS became Kings Highway Elementary School.

Staples High School on Riverside Avenue, as seen in the 1958 yearbook.

Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor was fascinated by a 1958 yearbook, from Staples’ final school year on the river. He sent along several interesting photos from it. Taken together, they prove how much Staples has changed in the past 6 decades.

And how much it hasn’t.

In the fall of 1957, coach Albie Loeffler fielded the 1st-ever Staples soccer club. The following year, it became an official sport. And what a sport: over the past 59 years, the Wreckers have qualified for the state tournament 58 times. In the photo below — with just 13 players –Loeffler stands at the far right. Per Haarr — a Norwegian exchange student who became a legendary track star, and may have been an Olympic decathlon champion had he not died in a tragic accident at 22 — stands 3rd from left.

Staples still has a soccer team, of course. But the rifle team — which by 1958 had become a club — is long gone. There were still plenty of members though (including at least 2 girls). The yearbook noted that the Rifle Club was part of the NRA.

The yearbook itself had a huge staff. With several cheerleaders, it looks like a very popular activity. (And check out the skirts!)

The yearbook featured writeups of every senior. Some still live here, like Mike Calise:

Some remain connected to Westport through frequent comments on “06880.” Here’s Mary Louise Cookman (now Schmerker):

Others went on to other kinds of fame. Here’s actor Christopher Lloyd — who also played a major role in creating Staples Players:

The yearbook also showed the results of the Class of 1958’s “favorites” poll. A few were serious. Many sound like inside jokes. But there was little doubt about their favorite actor;

Near the end of the yearbook, local businesses took out ads. (Today those yearbook pages are filled with parents’ ads, congratulating and praising their own children).

In 1958, Ike was nearing the end of his 2 terms in the White House. When JFK replaced him, America — and the world — suddenly changed.

The same thing happened with Staples. The move to North Avenue brought the school into the modern era.

Soon — like the rest of Westport education — those no-frills yearbooks grew more creative, fancy and high-tech.

You can’t stop progress. But it sure doesn’t hurt to slow down every once in a while and remember what life was like, 60 long/short years ago.

7 responses to “Friday Flashback #63

  1. Thanks for sharing. Fascinating!!

  2. A fun fact I like to share with people so they can understand how small a town Westport once was: It wasn’t until they built Staples on North Avenue that they bothered to number the house. Before then, there were no numbers.

  3. Dan, you did a very nice job of pulling together the material (and thanks for posting this).

    I have a question for “06880” readers from this era: what memories do you have, if any, of Per Haarr in general and of his athletic exploits in particular. When I was at Staples roughly a decade later, Per had this almost mythological stature. Thanks.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

      I remember Per Haarr but I don’t remember anything about his athletic ability. I’ll dig though some of my “stuff” because I think I remember a Newspaper article with a picture of him. If I find it I’ll send it to Dan. I’m sharing on Facebook. Perhaps some of the other members of the class of ’58 will see it and have more memories than I do.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

      Per Martin Haarr, according to the ’58 year book, among other things was listed as track 4 and the write up said: “Terrific at track.” I found the picture. It was taken at our Graduation ceremony. No way can I scan and send. The news paper picture is brittle with age and carefully pasted to the page. we are in white caps and gowns. Per is center front between Shari Jones and Nicki Miller with Eddie Jarmen on the far right. Cy Adler and Pat Lane are right behind him.

  4. Kathie Bennewitz

    ditto-fascinating!

  5. The class of ’58 is starting to plan our 60th reunion for summer of 2018. If you didn’t get an email it means we don’t have an updated email for you. Can get in touch with me on Facebook Anne Parnas Skandera .

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