By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette — Many former and current residents of Niagara Falls received their formal and vocational education at Trott Vocation High School located at 11th Street between Ashland and Elmwood avenues. According to “Schools Bells Ring,” compiled and written by Patricia Wilson Rice, “Trott was dedicated on March 11, 1929 and named for James Fullerton Trott.” Mr. Trott was elected as a trustee of School District Number 2 of the Town of Niagara in 1848 and in 1856 he was elected as one of the six original members of the Board of Education to the Union Free School District. Following the incorporation of the City of Niagara Falls in 1892, Mayor Wright appointed Mr. Trott to the City Board of Education. His total of 56 years of service to education earned him the title “Father of our Schools.”
Another note of historical significance regarding James Trott relates to the Cataract House situated on Main Street on the banks of the Niagara River. Operated by Parkhurst Whitney from 1825 to 1845 and by his son Solon Whitney and sons-in-law James Trott and Dexter Jerauld from 1845 until the later 19th century and was one of the two largest hotels in Niagara Falls. You will recognize their names on street signs and other schools in the city. The Cataract House was destroyed by fire but has achieved its place in history as an employer of African American service staff who listed their birthplace as a southern state and helped slaves escape to freedom. One more moment in history refers to Mrs. Trott who has been given the status of naming the Niagara River steamer built in 1847 and dedicated at the landing below the ferry dock as the “The Maid of the Mist.”
Let’s move on to 1929 and the dedication of Trott Vocational School where Dr. Lewis A Wilson, assistant commissioner of Vocational Education stated “the school is organized to meet the educational need of the people of this city, who are interested in preparing for vocational services and to assist those employed in industry who need additional training.” He added, “it will prepare many boys and girls to meet the ever increasing demands of industry and commerce as well as “provide an aid to thousand of adults who must secure additional training to keep abreast of changing industrial conditions or those who wish to prepare for a better position in industry.”
The school itself was a three-story brick building with 43 classrooms, an auditorium and gymnasium and pool. Additional shop sections were added in 1960 making the total costs including land, building and equipment at $520,625.06. The first principal was Harmon L. Gregory. William Jack joined the teaching staff at Trott Vocational in 1930 as a business instructor and left in 1942 to become principal at Niagara Falls High School.
I discovered that in January of 1946, returning veterans attended Trott in a section on the top floor that was designated strictly for them with a separate curriculum from the high school downstairs to help them learn a trade and obtain employment. A Niagara Falls Gazette article stated more than 400 veterans from all over Niagara County took advantage of this opportunity. There were also classes held in the evening for 18-30 year olds who took advantage of apprenticeship training in various trades such as millwright skills, chemistry, drafting, welding electrical and others. Over the years, girls enrolled at Trott to study cosmetology and practical nursing. This certainly met Dr. Lewis Wilson’s original vision and mission as stated at the 1929 dedication.
Another Gazette article from 1947 noted the Trott baseball team, coached by Milt Krum, was left with only two experienced players that year: Steve Rogala, a pitcher and Bob Martin, an outfielder. Some new but inexperienced candidates under consideration for pitching staff to join this team to bring it back to full strength following graduations were Mario Capanola, Ralph Colangelo, Herb Force, John Manarino and Chet Majchrzak.
The 28th graduating class of Trott Vocational in 1957 numbered 103 seniors, including Dominic Gabriele, Valedic Toriun, Constantino Rosini and Salin Tatarium who were pictured in the Niagara Falls Gazette. On June 26, 1961 the 33rd graduating class included Honor Students, Joseph Rizzo, Gloria Rephart, Lea Ann Howarth, Michael Promowicz and Judy Viso who was also class president. Other graduates mentioned and pictured were Tim McCoy, Robert LePage, David Kinney, Fred Sawicki, Stan Sikora and Judith Kew.
The 50th anniversary attended by hundreds of alumni was held in December of 1978. A special historical slideshow was presented by veteran teachers Bernard Chekhov, Edward Hudspeth and John Kovach. Auto repair and food service had been added to the curriculum over the years which still included drafting and structural design and cosmetology. Attending this event pictured in another Niagara Gazette story were Edward Maday, Louis Morris, Fred Voutour, Matteo Anello (1967) and Marion Supsteiner (1930) and former Trott principal and graduate Stephen Polniak, along with hundreds of other alumni. More Trott highlights next time.Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.