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Before the ‘Big Top’

[Click any image to enlarge. ]

[Saviano] Staples on Riverside Ave.


The milestones of our school days were the various school graduations we took part in, in preparation for moving on to junior high, senior high, college or just plain Real Life. [Or… was the French Foreign Legion still policing north Africa…?]

Here were the schools we attended back in the day, and for which grades:

Our Schools
School Grades Serving…
Bedford Elementary 1 – 6 Westport
Bedford Junior High 7 – 9 Westport
Gilbert & Bennett School 7 – 9 Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton
Green’s Farms Elementary 1 – 6 Green’s Farms
Horace C. Hurlbutt, Jr. 1 – 9 Weston
Saugatuck Elementary 1 – 6 Saugatuck
Staples 10 – 12 Weston, Westport, Wilton
Wilton Center School 1 – 6 Wilton

[I still may not have this right. Please comment if so.]

Thanks to Shirley Rice Hyman for hanging onto a dog-eared, typewritten “Commencement Progam” from Greens Farms Elementary School (class of 1949) featuring “An original operetta presented by the Pupils of Grade Six”. Of course, Shirley played the leading lady in that production. Thanks, Mike, for sharing it with us.

Thanks, also, to Deanna for preserving the “Commencement Exercises” program from 1955 at Staples. Who can forget You’ll Never Walk Alone by the entire graduating class (were the tone-deaf taught to lip-sync? I’ve always wondered…). Only a Mr. John O’Hanian could pull something as musically ambitious as that off. (Talk about “making a difference”, here was a guy whose devotion to teaching young goofs like me [speaking for myself, only] something useful has been a lifelong source of amazement to me…)

We have class photos posted, now, of all but the Wilton Central elementary school. Be nice if one of the graduates could locate same (if they were taken—that’s a thought) and forward to me for posting. And a copy of the commencement program if there were one, as well.

Finally, if there were a program for the Bedford Junior High commencement program (funny how the celebration of something completed bears the name “commencement”) and someone could locate it, I’d be happy to scan and post that also. (Was that the occasion where Geoff Bullard sang a One Little Candle solo? (Btw that impressed the hell out of me. An accomplished voice not yet in high school…!)

A Westport School History

[Excerpted from p. 4 of the Bedford Bugle, class of 1950.]

Do you know that one of the first things the budding community of Westport did in 1835 was to establish a school system? After Daniel Nash’s petition had been approved by the state legislature and Westport had become a township, Ye Olde Towne of Westport was divided into districts, each division having a one or two-room schoolhouse. The East and West Long Lots schools had one teacher, while the schools in the Compo, East and West Saugatuck, and Greens Farms areas were honored with two masters. Most of these early schools burned down within twenty years, and the few which remained have either been torn down or converted into dwellings.

The school masters, who taught during the winter term, received from nine to twelve dol-lars, quite low, as this was their monthly salary! Between four and six dollars was paid to the summer-teaching school marms.

According to a tabulation taken in 1876, 282 students studied during the winter months, while 333 preferred to absorb their knowledge in summer school. Possibly the schools were inaccessible in the winter.

1894 saw 1,484 children in the entire Westport school system, which only went up to the ninth grade. Aside from reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, the boys and girls studied history, philosophy, physiology, simple science and recitation.

Of course, boys will be boys, and don’t think the strictness of the masters suppressed pranksters. One of the notorious troublemakers was a boy named William Henery. Bill attended West Saugatuck School. The master of this fine establishment, Mr. Richards, owned a few geese, which he let roam over the school grounds. One spring afternoon, Bill smuggled a fish line and …

Unfortunately, this suspense-filled tale—as well as the remainder of this fine history—must come to a halt as pages 5 and 6 are missing from this copy of the Bugle. If someone can provide…