Niagara Gazette

June 24, 2013

HIGGS: Trott Vocational lesson continues

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Another historical fact has sprouted up from one of my friends, Joel Paradise, who found out that James Trott served as treasurer of the Board of Directors at the Oakwood Cemetery Association in 1892. Busy guy!

At the June 27, 1958, Trott Vocational graduation, Dr. William J. Small who was retiring as the superintendent of schools, told the 94 graduating students: “The vocational school is more sensitive to the economic and social conditions of the country.” Other courses offered during this time were labor relations, automotive mechanics, blueprint reading, machine shop, engine repair, industrial mathematics, electronics and cable splicing. In 1958, a contract was let to the V. J. Licata Construction Co. for a shop addition. In 1961, the Vocational Advisory Committee recommended a change in the curriculum that would “give the technical students “every academic and scholastic advantage” and recommended “adhering to reasonably high entrance requirements” for the first two levels. They also suggested adding more academic mathematics and science courses and the offering of electives such as foreign language and other humanities. Trott Vocational was to become a “full service” school.

In 1966 a new three-year food service program was added. Anthony Gugino of the “Round The Clock Restaurant” family was the instructor and it was noted by Paul Brucato, school guidance counselor, that at least 15 to 20 percent of the students taking pre-training courses for work in industry decided not to go on to college. In the late 1960s a proposal to turn the program over to BOCES was rejected by the board.

During 1970 the first student newspaper was born. A contest was held to find a name and “The Informer” was born. Today it might be called “The Whistleblower.” Floyd Freeman submitted the winning name from 200 entries. A contest was held each year to name the Penny King and Queen to raise money for the Red Cross. Students voted with pennies and could vote for their choice as many times as they contributed. James Zawadski and Angela Monaco were chosen in 1970.

Roger Spurback attended Trott as a full-time student and served as correspondent. He wrote in 1970: “This year we discovered that Trott Vocational High School is becoming quite popular in this area. This is evidenced by the overflow of enrollment into vocational programs at Trott.” Roger studied the mandatory curriculum plus three hours of Welding Shop. Welding students competed in national competitions, submitting their projects for evaluation and judging. Since he lived on Linwood and 15th at the time, walking to school each day was not as far for him as some of the others. He found employment in the welding field and later joined the Marine Corps. The following year, a Gazette reporter Cecil Farrell stated that “Most students here sum up their reasons for attending the school in a few words “I’d rather have a job than a college degree.” By 1964, gender differences were no longer apparent as Sam Dexter was in the practical nursing program and Lori Porter was in auto mechanics. By 1977 Trott’s 65 industrial apprentices received journeyman papers, making this the largest graduating class in this field in its 50 year history. Carl Chapman was the first male to enroll in the cosmetology course in 1978.

I saw James Marasco at a Community Development meeting recently and afterward we talked a little about Trott. He attended the evening shop classes during 1973-74 while he was a full-time student at Niagara Falls High School where he studied the regular mandatory school curriculum. He also went two nights a week to the Electrical Shop under the tutelage of a Mr. Meyer and two nights a week in the carpenter Shop with Mr. Korsch. That did not leave much time for Facebook (I know it wasn’t around then — just generalizing) and hanging out, but he feels today it was time well spent as he has used the knowledge he gained many, many times over the years in his job capacity at Community Development and certainly in his own home maintenance. MaryAnn Colangelo, another staffer said her husband Greg and his brother David also attended Trott and are grateful for the learning experience they had, especially with household repairs. David has made maintenance a career with his employment at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority. Although Greg serves with the Niagara Falls Fire Department, MaryAnn sounded happy he was able to be Mr. Fix It around the house.

In 1977, Gazette reporter Paul Westmore wrote that “Trott had become the most elite high in the city.” Over 710 students had registered but only 600 could be accepted. “So we only take the best” he added.

Trott kept adding courses such as appliance servicing, horticulture, millwrights and others retaining the popular carpentry, practical nursing, and cosmetology and auto body repairs among others. Increased tourism added to the enrollment in the food service courses. Mandatory curriculum was also provided for the physically handicapped and other special needs students. Earth Day was celebrated each April and during May students were allowed to eat lunch outside on the lawn. Windows were replaced during 1970 giving the school a more modern look.

Fear began emerging; some calling Trott “a factory” and students worried about the BOCES threat as they took pride in their school and praised the small student-teacher ratio. Next time we look at the 1980s which included some dark days and the end of an era.

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