Tag Archives: Mary Louise Cookman Schmerker

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.