Friday Flashback #289

The other night, our Pic of the Day showed the Staples High School foyer. A large tile representation of the school seal greets everyone who walks through the front door. It’s pretty cool (and special).

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

It’s an intricate seal. Where does something like this come from? (The design, not the tiles.)

Scott Brodie — a 1970 graduate, now an ophthalmologist practicing in Manhattan — knows. He writes:

“As I remember it, the seal was created by Dieges & Clust, the jewelry firm that manufactured Staples class rings back in the 1960s. The rings featured a standing Minute Man on one side, reminiscent of the kneeling statue that had long been a Westport icon.

“This seal was on the other side.

“At one point, I think during the 1969-70 school year, Dieges & Clust provided principal Jim Calkins with a framed copy of the seal, and an explanation of the iconography.

“The grapevine (upper left) is taken from the Connecticut state seal and flag; the bridge over water (upper right) recalls the Saugatuck River. Together, these features localize the school in Westport.

“The chipped stone arrowhead (lower left) recalls the original Native American inhabitants of the region; the cannon and pile of cannonballs recall the town’s Revolutionary War heritage (as do the cannons at Compo Beach, which recall the the British landing preparatory to a march and raid that destroyed a Continental ammunition store in Danbury).

“The stylized letter ‘S’ in the center signifies the name of the school. The burning torch bears the flame of knowledge. The year 1885 was thought to represent the founding of the school.

“The motto ‘Respect for Life’ was conjured out of thin air by the jeweler’s designers. (At the time, with the Vietnam war raging, it conveyed a hint of anti-war sentiment.)

 

The 1969 Vietnam Moratorium protest on the Post Road downtown — during Scott Brodie’s senior year — included hundreds of Staples High School students. Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

“The design was never discussed or debated at the time, but was quickly adopted by the school and has been in use ever since.”

I have no idea how Scott knows the Dieges & Clust back story. But I do know this: The 1885 date is wrong.

Staples High School was founded in 1884. The cornerstone for the original building on Riverside Avenue was laid in April that year; classes began that fall in nearby National Hall, until the school was ready.

The first graduating class was 1886. It consisted of 6 girls. (The boys were off working on farms or in factories.)

So “1885” means nothing. Who will tell Diegs & Clust?

More importantly: Whatever happened to school rings? I haven’t seen one since 1885 1970.

(Photos/Scott Brodie)

14 responses to “Friday Flashback #289

  1. I curious do high schools no long do class rings? My boys had them from there schools in the 90’s. I wonder if they no longer have an interest in having them?

  2. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    This was very interesting Dan, thanks for sharing this. As far as class rings go it’s the only jewelry besides a wedding ring that I wear. I still have my Staples ring and a ring from my undergraduate and grad schools that I wear today (not at the same time).

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    With a mind like this is there any wonder that Scott is our class’s valedictorian? I propose that all in attendance kids his class ring at this year’s reunion.

  4. I graduated Staples with the class of 1953. We didn’t have class rings. But, I recall that some the girls (the Kool girls) had a special ring –not necessarily a “class” ring — but unique to Staples. And it was a big deal if she “gave” her ring to that special guy. Hmmm? I’ll have to look in my junque drawer.

  5. MICHAEL CALISE

    I have my Dad’s ring from 1932 and mine from 1958

    • Michael, what kind of seal, if any, was on those rings?

      Dan: re 1885, is it possible that refers to the year the official Staples High School building on Riverside opened for classes? (Or possibly the year of the first junior prom?…Just kidding,)

      • I doubt it, Fred. That’s a stretch.

        • William Strittmatter

          If it was founded in 1884, maybe the first graduating class was in the spring/summer of 1885? Or maybe that’s what the jeweler assumed – a high school that started in fall of 1884 with freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes, so the seniors would have graduated in 1885.

          • No, the first graduating class was 1886, as noted in my story above. Perhaps the jeweler assumed that, but it still makes little sense to put the first graduating class on the seal, rather than the opening of the school. I think someone at Staples just gave the them the wrong information.

  6. We moved from Westport before I got to go to Staples, but I had both my high school and undergrad college class rings. I wore them during senior year for both schools, but not after that. They have both long since been lost. Ii never had one in grad school.

  7. Carl Addison Swanson

    Believe it or not, I still have my old girl friend’s ring from ’66. It says 1885. After she dumped me like a bad habit following two years of courtship, she ain’t getting it back. Ever. Rings went out with the introduction of weed.

  8. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    “Respect for Life” (until the 2nd trimester)

    • Or until the state/Fed completes its capital punishment. That’s life too, but it never seems to bother the “prolife” crowd. Why is that?

  9. The motto “Respect for Life” did not carry an anti-abortion (or “Pro-Life” in the contemporary sense) connotation in 1970. The primary life-and-death “wedge issue” in contemporary politics was the Vietnam War. For example, the classic graphic “War is not healthy for children and other living things” was published by an anti-war women’s group, Another Mother for Peace, in 1967. Abortion was illegal everywhere in the US except for three Pacific coast states until it was legalized in New York in 1970; Roe v. Wade was not decided until 1973. The Griswold v. Connecticut decision establishing a constitutional “Right to Privacy” – on which Roe v. Wade was based in part – was only decided in1965.

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