I picked up my phone here at work one Monday morning to check my messages. A very lovely lady in Arizona had left a lengthy message saying that she was missing my blog which has been on hiatus since November. Beth grew up here in Danbury and let me know how my recollections of, and research into, Danbury’s past really speak to her. I telephoned her back and one thing I found out was that she was among those who attended Danbury High School back when it was on White Street. I don’t know what year she graduated. I hope I land in the ballpark. I went back to try to recreate some of the things that might have been revolving around a high school kid in Danbury through time. I found some interesting websites about teens in general through certain eras, that I thought were worth sharing. I didn’t go to Danbury High myself. But through osmosis and/or virtue of others who lived near or in my own neighborhood, I knew what was happening and who the cool kids were at Danbury High. So, Danbury High School has always been central to growing up here. At that age, let’s face it: apart from school, studies and part-time jobs, our only responsibility was to come of age and have fun. Friends, music, social events, clothes, sports, in any order, are general topics of interest for teenagers and always will be.
This one’s for you, Beth! Your kindness and enthusiasm were very touching. (I have your message archived in my voice mail.)
THE EARLY YEARS
What would you remember if, say, you were at Danbury High School in the 40s or 50s? First of all, the school itself was on the campus of what is now Western Connecticut State University in White Hall. Built in 1925, the building was named in honor of Alexander White, a Danbury native and the school’s original benefactor. Shown on this postcard, The High School is at left (now White Hall). In center is Fairfield Hall, always has been a residence hall. And, at right, get this: In 1903, Danbury State Normal School is established for the purpose of preparing “teachers in the art of instructing and governing in the public schools of the State….”. How formal were we! This building is currently Old Main, and for a long time has been used for the business end of the university, ie.admissions, financial aid, registrar, student affairs…
The Class of 47 is still over 100 strong and had their 65th reunion a couple of years ago.They thought of themselves as a class of rebels who got Danbury Day at the fair reinstated with free passes. This class was also instrumental in helping build The War Memorial Rec Center by raising funds. The News-Times did a story on this feisty group a couple of years ago that you might enjoy. How many names do you recognize? http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Class-of-47-celebrates-65th-anniversary-3886034.php
Through movies, retro-television and other media, we all have an idea of what life was like if you were a teenager in the 1950s. The way we danced was changing and it was one of the freedoms kids felt they had. Rock and Roll was here to stay. And schoolkids of those days in Danbury are sure to remember being “rocked” by the hurricanes in August and October of ’55, and the great floods that were caused.
The following link is a good one that I found describing the advent of the 50s “teen-ager” http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/fifties.htm
SPORTS FANS, LISTEN UP:
Danbury High School football was huge in the 1950s. The Hatters, led by Copper Crotty, compiled a remarkable 72-9-4 record in the decade including four undefeated seasons. Some noted great players of the decade: Roger Schmiedel, George Radachowsky, Fred Morlock and Lonnie Young. Of all those who played
for Danbury during this “Golden Age” in the ‘50’s the leading rusher and scorer in the entire decade was 1957 graduate and New Haven Register All Stater Dick Gilliam. The three year starter led the team in rushing yards and TD’s in both the 1955 and 1956 seasons. Dick’s DHS career numbers to this day stand as 7th in career rushing yards with 1934 and 5th in career touchdowns with 34.Dick also achieved another even more historic milestone as he was the first African American to be elected President of his senior class in 1956. Another Hall of Fame inductee, Rudy Kuss, quarterbacked the DHS squads to an 8-1 record in 1957, a 7-2 record in 1958 and an undefeated 9-0 season in 1959. with a superb passing game. When Rudy graduated in 1960 he held DHS record that still hold 50 years later. . Rudy has kept his hand in coaching over the years, most recently coaching at Brookfield High School. He makes his home in New Milford where he has lived since 1985.
WHAT ABOUT THE 60s AND 70s?
So, in 1962, Danbury voted to build a new high school and White Hall was purchased by the university in 1964. Today, White Hall serves as a multi-purpose academic building and is also is home to the Office of the Dean of Professional Studies and Ives Concert Hall. (pic of new high school) (pic of white hall)
Racial riots there…
Civil and women’s rights, the Vietnam War.
Teenagers were becoming more independent, staging many protests against a variety of issues. These were very energetic times, of love and happiness, but also sadness. And drugs and their destruction became more prevalent. Heavy times for young minds. And music was everywhere.
Self-described as an Americanized English rock band, The Ravens from Danbury were hitting it pretty big, touring parts of CT, NY and NJ. They actually cut a few records, which were available for localized distribution. http://www.60sgaragebands.com/ravens.html1964
I am a huge Doors fan. But I have to admit, they sound pretty demonic in this video… . http://www.examiner.com/article/the-doors-play-danbury-high-school
There wasn’t much in the way of accessible recording technology of the day. Along with horrendous audio, was more crude technology in classrooms of the 60s and 70s. Male students were sent to some mysterious room to fetch things on wheeled carts like slide carousels, overhead projectors ( in your choice of opaque or transparency projection), 8 mm movie projectors with big clumsy roll-up screens on flimsy legs. It usually took longer for the setup of the equipment than the presentation itself. And while teachers and students alike were wrestling with tangled reels of life, Danbury kept growing. By 1970, we had a new public library, a new city hall, a new fire headquarters, and several additional schools.
AH, THE 70s… I REMEMBER THEM WELL.
Take a look at the 1972 yearbook to see where we were “at” stylistically. Do you recognize any of the people from the inside pages? We were laughing pretty hard at the fashions and “crops” of hair on some of the guys in the 70s not too long ago. But aren’t they looking kinda familiar now? Some of the styles of the 1970s are best forgotten. Take the formal high school prom attire for instance. Say you wanted a dress of natural fabrics, your choice was something out of Little House on the Prairie. Otherwise, you were wearing pure polyester, girlfriend, dancing your heart out to Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Aerosmith, and similar tunes, all of which you’d heard over and over and over and over again on the 8-track player. Drinking age in 1972 was at its lowest in CT history (18)… enough said.
Maybe that’s why we weren’t paying so much attention to fashion lol. Compare those dresses to the much more sophisticated examples here… Today’s dresses are gorgeous compared to the selection we had in the 70s. And (as it should be) guys don’t try to match the girls with tuxes of every pastel color as my class of ’77 felt it was important to do..
The 80s came, and I was off doing college and the New Wave thing, not giving much thought to Danbury High School right then. But I knew that big hair was IN, big shoulders, boomboxes, banana clips, Jordache, materialism, and good times. Kids had to deal with the end of The Danbury Fair in 1981, but gained the mall, and a new hangout, in 1986. The closing of the last hat factory in 1987 probably didn’t have much of an effect on the teens at DHS however.
The 90s saw the beginnings of dial-up internet, Pokemon, Seattle influences like coffee shops and grunge, For some pop music like Britney Spears gave way to darker music. Technology was booming and kids were understanding and using it at a much faster rate than many adults. This takes us up to the Internet Age where there is so much we can all find out about ANYTHING. We kids of yore could never have dreamed life would be like this.
My son was at DHS in the 2000s, leaving with honors, and lots of good memories.
NEW WINDOWS AT DHS
Danbury High School underwent some renovations a couple of years ago. And of course, we covered it here at The News-Times. This link will bring you almost up to date.
One of my nephews is now a junior at the high school, and just happens to be the top student in his class. No, really, number one… so proud.
And now, Beth, I’m going to wrap this up, and get it online before you think I fell off the face of the earth. Thanks again for your inspiration.
VIVA LA DHS!
Thanks for tuning in….