NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Air raid drills have given way to bomb threat drills. Chalkboards are gone, computers are everywhere, all classes are co-ed and the sewing class is now known as “fabric arts.” But for New Providence High School’s class of 1960, seeing their high school again was a step back in time.
The class had its 50th reunion Oct 15-17, and more than 30 of their 88 members came from all over the country to see each other, tour the school, and share memories. The class of 1960 has a special place in the annals of New Providence High: they were the school’s first graduating class. While that honor gives them a place of distinction, it also is a key part of the reason one of the class members said they were a very tight-knit group.
The school was under construction during the mid 1950s, and the class of 1960 had no place to go to school. None of the surrounding towns wanted them added to their high schools until finally Chatham agreed to take them in.
“But the students at Chatham weren’t interested in getting to know us, because they knew we’d be leaving as soon as our school was open,” said Delia Morrish Chang, who now lives in Hawaii. “After being rejected so many times by other schools, and not forming any real friendships in Chatham, we got very close as a class. We went through life with our backs together and our claws out.”
New Providence High School opened in 1958, and the class of 1960 finally had a home. It didn’t take long for them to establish themselves in their new school: the principal asked them to choose the school colors (green and white with gold), they established the school paper, and penned the school song.
And this weekend, they walked through the halls of their alma mater again, lead by Principal Paul Casarico, laughing at how familiar some of it was, and how different it is in other ways. The school has undergone several expansions, but even those who hadn’t been back since they graduated were able to point to where the original building stopped, and where certain rooms were. The “senior lounge,” which was another innovation of their class, has been removed and the spot it once occupied is now a trophy case.
Stepping into some of the classrooms elicited strong memories and comments, as class members reminded each other of the quirks of certain teachers, and what the classes themselves had been like. Men laughed as they remembered the views the drawing room class offered of the girls’ gym class. Women shuddered as they remembered dissecting frogs in biology.
Casarico talked about some of the changes that have taken place since the class of 1960 graduated. Desks are now clustered together instead of placed in rows, so students can learn in a more interactive way. White boards have replaced blackboards since chalk dust is bad for the classroom computers. But some of the classrooms haven’t changed much. The wood shop, the home economics cooking class (now called “Foods”), the drawing class are largely unchanged.
The class of 1960 erupted into applause when Casarico said that 99 percent of New Providence High School graduates go on to college, and the school hasn’t had a dropout in 10 years.
“The whole atmosphere of this school is so warm and positive,” said Carol Christian Helmar, who now lives in California. “It always was, and I can see that hasn’t changed.”
Ten years ago, the class of 1960 established a scholarship fund in memory of Walter M. McCarthy and Edward H. Lieder. McCarthy was the first principal of New Providence High School and was a math teacher at the junior high. Lieder was the school district’s first athletic director.
Each year, the class of 1960 recognizes a graduating New Providence senior who has demonstrated a commitment to community service. This year’s recipient is Rachel Brust, who was honored during reunion events on Saturday.