Niagara Gazette

May 20, 2013

HIGGS: Still in high school

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Local Architect Clinton Brown recently described the style of the 168,000-square-foot building housing the Niagara Falls High School at the corner of Portage Road and Pine Avenue as “a three-story structure with concrete and steel structure, cut stone and masonry façade and classical inspired details. These include the hierarchical and symmetrical main and secondary facades, a central porch with six two-story engaged columns and the balustrade main staircase to the front doors and upper porch. The original four-over-four hung windows have been replaced with shorter aluminum sliding windows with solid infill panels above.”

Most of the following information was found in the Class of 1950 60th reunion book for their function in September of 2010. They meet every second Wednesday at the Jet Port for lunch. Stan Horab was responsible for the directory, serving as reporter, editor and publisher. I will share some of his findings with you.

The members of the senior class of 1924 were the first to graduate from this new building. They were the freshmen who were housed at the Fifth Street School I mentioned last week. As sophomores, they were sent to Maple Avenue School on that split schedule and rode the street cars to school. As juniors they went to South Junior in 1923 and they began their senior year in September 1924. These students had been in five to nine buildings during the years of the construction as sports, science and other classes were held in various places. During the first year at this school, the Girls’ Choral Club and the Boys Glee Club were formed and Wing Collar Day began on April 1. Boys wore wing collars and the girls wore hair ribbons.

The wing-collar was named as such because of the two ‘wings’ at the front and was popular at the turn of the century. They were usually worn with more formal attire, such as “white tie” but were also popular everyday collars. Starch was heavily used in the ironing process and the collar stayed stiff in the hottest weather. This is sort of the opposite of “casual Fridays” I guess.

The following school years, 1925-26, summer school was initiated, the senior play “Zaraqueta” was a roaring success and the students planted ivy, rather than a tree, on Junior-Senior Day. The Usher Squad began in 1926 and on May 1 an old-fashioned May Day celebration was introduced, including a May Pole, choosing a May Queen from the senior girls, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, archers, chimney sweeps, garland girls and the whole nine yards. Later the next year, Miss Emma Hulen, the vice-principal, helped establish the school store. The senior play was “Intimate Strangers.”

During the year 1929-30 the yearbook was born. No longer associated with the Chronicle, the school newspaper, it took on the name “the Niagarian.” It was dedicated to Lyndon H. Strough, the new principal and to Miss Mabel E. Eshelman the first advisor of the NFHS senior publication. The time-honored sports of football, basketball and baseball dominated the following school year with recent additions of swimming and tennis added to the mix. Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pinafore” was performed that year.

The 1931-32 school-years had 1,671 students attending NFHS; the largest registration ever recorded in a Niagara Falls school. The first Alumni Day was held on Dec. 23 featuring a Christmas Assembly, a basketball game between the alumni and the high school squad and a dance held by the Block N Club. The oldest alumnus was

A. Gow Brownell. Wing Collar Day replaced Junior-Senior Day, taking place the day before Easter Vacation and April 1 became the annual student celebration. For the first time, the “Niagarian” had a hard cover and a Greek theme was chosen for the yearbook. All unnecessary expenses were cut — this was the Great Depression after all.

Moving ahead the Athletic Advisory Committee was formed in 1933 and the board of education mandated that secondary school students were to be in continuous session from the time they entered in the morning until the time they left in the afternoon. This meant that no secondary school student would be allowed to leave the building to go to lunch. Let’s bring that back. During 1934, Newcomb Prozeller, who was the mantle orator, bestowed the Mantle of Red and Gray upon the president of the junior class. The Wing Collar Day issue of the Chronicle was printed in red on gray paper.

Some familiar names are starting to appear in Stan Horab’s research of 1935- 36 as it was noted that Maglie and O’Laughlin were high scorers for the NFHS Red and Gray basketball Team with a 48-12 win over LaSalle. NFHS Principal Lyndon Strough and Earl Sharp, principal of Trott exchanged hats at the Trott-Niagara game. Trott lost and NFHS won the City Championship.

The following year, NFHS adopted an official school ring and the basketball team won the City Championship for the third consecutive time. 1938 was a banner year as the high school celebrated its 50th graduating class. The year book was dedicated to the 49 preceding classes and to the seven graduates of the first class in 1889. On Wing Collar Day (still going strong it appears) the seniors won the 1926 trophy in the annual contest between seniors and juniors.

I hope you find all this interesting as we have one more week of it.

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