Friday Flashback #314

A new school year has begun. Middle school students have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.

But shop class is not one of them.

For many years, Westport boys took wood shop, metal shop and mechanical drawing. Girls studied home economics (cooking and sewing).

Classes went coed in the 1970s. Ninth graders moved to Staples High School in 1983; middle schools replaced junior highs, and shop and home ec fell out of favor.

This Saturday Evening Post cover — drawn by Stevan Dohanos — is one reminder of those days.

The Westport artist used local boys — and Bedford Junior High (now Saugatuck Elementary School) — as models.

(Illustration courtesy of Anthony Dohanos)

29 responses to “Friday Flashback #314

  1. Bonnie Erickson

    I remember having to get special permission to take Shop at Long Lots in the ’60s. I made a wooden cutting board for my mother in the shape of a whale (I have no reasonable explanation for that shape). I even learned how to use a router to create a juice groove around the perimeter. I took Shop at Staples as well as Auto Mechanics. I also took Home Ec at both schools. Half a century later I still use what I learned.

  2. Patricia Driscoll

    I always like to see a Dohanos image. I took metal shop at Staples with about four other girls in 1965-66. We made jewelry and etched pewter plates that we shaped and buffed.

  3. Bedford Jr. High School Shop class of 1955 or ’56.

    Boy sitting on stool in left front of picture is Taylor Bingham.
    Boy in back holding bird house is George Ruckert(?).
    Wish I could, but I can’t remember the names of the other guys.
    I was in the same Shop class, and that day Steve Dohanas took more pictures of some of us for a men’s sweater ad.

    Wynne Vaast

  4. I still use the woodshop and mechanical drawing skills I learned at Long Lots Jr. High in 1963.

  5. Clay Sellgen (sp?) and Tom Judge at BJHS…

  6. I took shop in the mid-sixties at Long Lots Junior High. The classes were in the basement with a classroom where mechanical drawing was taught and assorted machines occupied the rest of the basement. Gerald Weiderman was my teacher. I too remember making a serving tray with a whale on the end and something involving bending metal. Having lived my adult life in city apartments, I have never been able to use my shop skills (if I ever developed any) whereas cooking comes in handy.

  7. Clark Thiemann

    I took woodshop with Mr Judge and had home Ec in the 90s at Bedford. Remember add two tablespoons of baking powder to my cookie recipe versus using two teaspoons. They did not taste good.

  8. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    Dan I believe that the view out the window is from the old Staples High Building looking at the Bedford Jr High, now Saugatuck El Building. I remember football practice when I was there in the late 60’s watching the wrecking ball knocking down that building making way for addition that is now the Saugatuck auditorium and library.

  9. In the late1940s (!) I made a cutting board shaped like a pig (it wasn’t my idea) in Mr. Torno’s shop class, a six-week trial course. I probably have that pig board somewhere but better ones are in use. Mr. Torno went on to have a hardware and lumber store on the Post Road just a ways from Calise’s Market.

  10. Carl Addison Swanson, '66

    Well, with the shortage of tradesmen around, perhaps this is a signal. Only 40% of American young man now go to college, far out passed by women with 60%. That said, the most respected Anthony Dohanos was commissioned to do a painting for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He refused because there a “Negro” in the proposed drawing. It went to another Westport artist.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      C’mon CAS give him a break. Maybe he was out of black ink. Your heretofore little known revelation is going to decimate the Westport school’s art collection that everyone is so proud of (at least up until now). They’ll have to take down the famous magazine cover that hangs in the town hall.

    • Carl, that is not quite the way the story unfolded as covered in a previous “06880” story but, yes, there were indeed serious issues connected to a famous Saturday Evening Post that Stevan Dohanos created:

      • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

        My source is the same as Dan’s was back when and he tells a different saga. Regardless, the bigotry displayed is unacceptable back then, now or ever. It is time, especially in these turbulent times, to come up with better excuses for racism that “it was a sign of the times” while it is still prevalent today.

        • Carl, I was hardly making any excuses for the choice Dohanos made as reported in Dan’s earlier blog piece. I was simply pointing out what Dan reported according to his source at the time. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly that bigotry is unacceptable.

          • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

            But he didn’t rely on the “source” regarding the painting for Cooperstown. He relied on the attorney who spoke to the source who may or may not have interpreted it correctly? The source as a different story than the what is commented here or published in the 2001 blog. And it ain’t pretty.

          • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

            Dang the Briggs family was something else. Not only did Daddy have a pair of huge balls in refusing NOT to paint the Black into the Saturday Evening Post but son, Dave was in the Remains, and daughter, was Marilyn Chambers.

            • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

              Correction: Father Briggs refused to paint the cover of the magazine WITHOUT the Black Lady who was his beloved housekeeper.

            • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

              Wrong Briggs family CAS. Remains rock star was Bill Briggs, not Dave, father was an advertising man, Bill Sr I think and Mom was Ginny Briggs, Dr. Beinfield’s wonderful surgical nurse. Marilyn was a classmate and friend of mine her family didn’t have a racist bone in their body. I think since memories are so faint that it would make sense to put this whole half remembered “racist” story on ice we’re talking about people’s names and reputations and none of them are alive to defend themselves. But, this is an entertaining thread though probably mostly BS.

              • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

                I stand corrected. Actually my “source” told me the family tree. Blah. Thanks Buck.

                • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

                  CAS, I always enjoy your banter and your wit. It’s never been as much about the message as it is about the messenger. You leave me, as always, in awe. May continued vitality be yours old friend!!

                  • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

                    Come visit before we move to Bermuda. I thought you comment about Dohanos running out of Black ink was priceless.

                    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

                      What’s your intended departure for Bermuda from Wetspot? Is it permanent or just seasonal? My oldest is getting married in VA in about a month and we had considered an end run to Westport. Not many of the old guard left to visit.

                    • Carl Addison Swanson, '66

                      We are going through background checks, blah blah blah with Bermuda and the dog is an issue but nothing concrete to the first of the year. We will leave the light on for you. Where in VA?

                    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

                      The wedding is in Reston/Great Falls. Shoot me your email to so I can touch base. Our exact itinerary has not solidified but if I can get to Wetspot before you leave for Bermuda I’d love to spot you to your beverage of choice. Not sure where to do that any more in Wspt but I’m sure you can cover that base. Be well Bubba!!!

  11. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    I remember taking in Home-ec at Long Lots Jr. High. Part of the deal was at the end of the course we had to cook a meal and the guys in shop would come and eat it. I can’t figure how that all happened in 1 hour but it did. I am a great cook now but then, not so much. I made rice krispie treats. It was hands-down the favorite. Mrs. Parker was the teacher’s name. Very nice and gave me a good grade.

  12. Fairfield still has wood shop in the middle schools as well as auto shop in the high schools. Westport must be above the trades and feel it’s not necessary. It’s truly a shame.

  13. It’s unfortunate that Westport did away with its shops program — and unfortunate too that it’s a national trend:

  14. Andrea Harrison Botelho

    The redhead in the front is my brother, Steve Harrison (now deceased). The blond in the front is John Ware, whose mother “Mike” Ware, was also an accomplished artist in Westport back in the day.