Niagara Gazette

July 8, 2013

HIGGS: One door closes, another opens

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Plans were brought to life for the May 6, 1988, open house at Trott Vocational High School. This was an idea of Lynn Weed Perry who graduated in 1972 and she formed a committee with Helen Kress as chairman. The event drew a crowd of former students and faculty and everyone shared memories. 600 balloons, 10 for each of the 60 years of Trott Vocational High School were sent aloft at the end of the evening by former students, faculty, administrators and friends of Trott.

The open house was followed by a dinner dance on July 31, 1988, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Trott Vocational. General chairman was Lynn Weed Perry with John Beltrano as program chairman and Roger Spurback, chairman of the program book. It was held at the American Legion Portage Post, where all important events geared to draw a large crowd were held. The evening began with cocktails followed by a possession to the head table of dignitaries and speakers. Nick Zawicki sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” and Weed Perry began with a welcome. City Councilman Anthony Quaranto was toastmaster and a moment of silence followed in memory of deceased Trott students and faculty. The Invocation was presented by Robert Bradley, Jr. from St. John A.M.E Church. Mayor Michael O’Laughlin read a city proclamation and John Beltrano read the Chronology of Trott. Remarks followed from William Sdao, superintendent of Schools. “Eventful Years” 60 Years of Memories were presented by Rodger Hailey, Donald MacKender, Arthur Calendrelli and Willie Cheeley. Past principals spoke about their years at Trott and the Benediction was followed by “Niagara on The Move” performed by Nick Zawicki. Dancing followed until midnight.

Credit is given to former Gazette reporter Mary Wozniak for her factual article dated June 5, 1988, for much of the information for the articles on Trott. James Trott’s building lives on with different kinds of community service now located inside but those who attended the vocational school will always think of it as “their school”.

I recently heard from Robert Game, a former Trott student who wrote how he was part of the structural drafting and design program. He said he was in over his head dealing with mathematics and by his junior year he hated the subject. Fortunately his homeroom teacher during his senior year was Robert Hall, a new young math instructor at Trott. Encouraged to take trigonometry and advanced algebra over again, Bob stated everything came into perspective through Robert Hall as he made math simple. Bob went on to NCCC, majored in math and eventually majored in civil/sanitary engineering at SUNYAB.

His drafting teachers at Trott were Edward Reichert and William Linton. Due to their diligence he gained a head start in structural design which led to the basic introductory engineering courses at UB. Following his graduation and degree he became the director of water and sewer utilities in both Niagara Falls and Shreveport, La. Bob is now retired but ended his career at the Paducah/McCracken Joint Sewer Agency in Kentucky and returned to head the newly formed Niagara Falls Water Board a few years ago. He credits his teachers at Trott Vocational for laying the groundwork and interest in pursuing a public utilities career.

His older brothers Paul and Bill Game also attended Trott and went on to successful business careers using the knowledge that began during their early education. Paul was in the millwright program and later owned his own construction company in Lewiston for 30 years building luxury homes during that time. Bill became a city fireman and also owned and operated the Ziebert Rustproofing franchise in Niagara Falls. Today they are the developers and builders of The Gardens at Oxbow, a traditional neighborhood housing development in Lewiston.

His sister Carol went to NFHS and married Trott graduate Fred Voutour who became the Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds for the Wilson Central School District. His family credits their formative education at Trott as a large part of the future successful careers. He said it was a shame Trott was not kept open or at least rejuvenated at another city location, especially in light of the shortage of skilled workers in today’s economy.

Many of us agree and have continued to persuade our elected leaders to pursue local vocational education again. The current BOCES School is located too far from the population that needs this type of education and training. It should be easier to access than other types of learning as it provides an opportunity for people with lower qualification levels to acquire new skills.

This type of education is more appealing to these groups than general education and one research article I came across stated “it is closer to the labor market and usually includes work based practical learning rather than classroom based theoretical studying.” This brings to mind the Isaiah 61 project currently under way in Niagara Falls where construction skills are taught “on the job” through a partnership with Orleans/Niagara BOCES, and local interests along with the City Community Development Dept.. This has already made its mark on some of those enrolled and six more houses will be rehabilitated in the future.

Not everyone is college material but vocational and technical courses are a way to instill an interest and pride in learning and the knowledge which can lead to additional education or a career in business. Who knows what the future holds for some of these young men currently learning these basic skills one house at a time.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.