Niagara Gazette

May 27, 2013

HIGGS: Historical high school moments up to 1951

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Researching history of any subject or time period is an exhausting, time-consuming project but I find it most rewarding and am grateful for the time Stan Horab spent to outline the history of the “new” Niagara Falls High School for his classmates who graduated from the 1950-51 school years.

During 1938-39 William Sdao was a member of the Chronicle staff and lo and behold the school council decided to replace Wing Collar Day with a new holiday. It kind of took the “starch” out of things but they felt it was time to let go. The following year the school had a poor football season. Many organizations appeared in the yearbook, both old and new: Student Council, Athletic Advisory Committee, Social Committee, and the Corridor Patrol which was formed on Nov. 24, 1936 to protect the property of the NFHS students — 75 students applied the first day. Others included were the Forensic Society, the Debate Team, Photography Club, Visual-Audio Club, Chemistry Club, Chatterboxes, the Latin league, Dramatic Club, Stage Crew, Senior Girl Scouts, and more. Pan-Hellenic was formed with two representatives from each sorority and fraternity. The Chronicle (NFHS newspaper) was rated second in Western New York by the interscholastic Press Association. Graduation was held on two nights to accommodate the large number of students in the senior class.

During 1940-41 the class motto was “Learners today – leaders tomorrow.” The war years brought defense classes at Trott and Whitney Avenue School where more than 100 students attended during 1941-42 to learn how to rivet, weld, mix chemicals and learn how to build airplanes. The following year’s activities reflected the war also; there were War Bond and War Stamps Campaigns, Civilian Defense groups were formed; air raid drills were held. The yearbook was not called the “Niagarian” that year. Instead it was called “Salute” for 1942-43. Patriotism continued into 1943-44 when the NFHS students assisted with rationing in the elementary schools. Several high school students and teachers received “their wings” as plane spotters.

During the Second World War, the government established a network of civilian airplane spotters whose duty it was to thwart any Axis sneak attack such as had befallen us at Pearl Harbor. From lonely observation posts throughout the coastal defense areas, the Army Air Forces Ground Observer Corps, numbering about 1,500,000 volunteers, maintained a vigilant and continuous watch on the skies over America to see that no hostile planes approached unnoticed. Everyone from high school students to senior citizens made up the cadre that manned these observation posts around the clock. Spotters usually worked in pairs, two to four hours a week, and relayed observations by special telephone to the Army Information Center. Both men and women quite often played cards. There were decks of cards that featured all sorts of aircraft, both Allied and Axis that were studied until they were committed to memory.

Plans were made to produce a yearbook despite the war. Students had to have permits to be in the halls. Franchot Tone, a movie star, appeared at an assembly at NFHS to encourage buying War Bonds. He was born as Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone in Niagara Falls, the youngest son of Dr. Frank Jerome Tone, the wealthy president of the Carborundum Company, and his socially-prominent wife, Gertrude Van Vrancken Franchot. The family lived on Buffalo Avenue.

During 1944-45 Senorita Miller reminder students that in Spanish, there is no word for gum. She collected fines from those who were caught chewing and by October she had $6 which she used to buy a picture for the classroom. Class officers were Canturbury Coleman, Anthony Cassano and Frances Sirianni. Principal Lyndon Strough left to be superintendent of schools in Rome, N.Y. About $7,000 worth of war bonds and stamps were sold at the school store. The yearbook theme was “Flashbacks.” The next year students published a handbook “The Signal” to help incoming freshmen. Six veterans returned to NFHS to complete their schooling. Mr. Pearl, the principal held an assembly to criticize the poor conduct of the boys. Tardiness to school and to class was a serious problem.

1946-47 brought a new youth group entitled Modern Youth Council. Students asked to have a jukebox in the cafeteria. During 1947 three students assisted in the rescue of a LaSalle student from the tracks in the Niagara Gorge. Only North Junior students advanced to the high school for their 10th year of study. In 1949 The Key Club sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Niagara Falls was formed and the Chronicle celebrated its 70th birthday. Homerooms took the names of states and their representatives were governors or lieutenant governors. Principal Clark J. Peet retired in June and the NFHS won the city track meet.

William F. Jack became the new principal. The board of education was appointed by the mayor for a five-year period. The coal shortage closed NFHS and the students continued their studies at Gaskill on split session. Lucy Massimillian was class advisor. In June 1950, NFHS took possession of the Lt. Tom Savage Memorial Trophy given in recognition of the school having the best varsity sports record.

During Stan Horab’s senior year, the auditorium was painted and new draperies were purchased at a cost of $12,500. The Class of 1950 donated a new flag and the Key Club donated a United Nations flag. New activities were formed; Pallette and Brush, Rotaro Club, Loquators’ Club, DeMolay among others. The yearbook was dedicated to Miss Mabel Eshelman for 45 years of service to the students at NFHS.

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