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The Lancer Case

Waterford High School, which opened in 1956, has gone through a series of changes over its history.

Initially, it only had 24 rooms and held grades 7-9. It became a four-year high school in 1959, three years after it was built.

More recently, the school underwent renovations in 2010, and re-opened for classes in 2013.

Waterford High School’s first graduating class was the class of 1960. They left an abundance of memories and milestones for the school.

The Lancer Case, which is located outside of the school library has been located there since renovations finished in 2013.

The case contains mostly memorabilia along with books and photos from the school’s history, primarily from the class of 1960.

Located in the top left corner of the case there is a collection of yearbooks.

There is also a variety of printed photos of the previous school buildings.

In addition to the photos there is a plethora of science-related instruments including a Hydrolysis of H20 Apparatus, which has a sticky note taped on it reading, “Ask Mike O’Connor if you want help with this. He used it alot.”

When asked, Mr. O’Connor vaguely remembered the item.

Some other random items within the case include chalk; an old camera; two bricks; a kitchen timer; an old school bell; two meter sticks; multiple National Geographic magazines from 1956; a plaque from Patricia Barn Hill from years 1941-1959; a book labeled “The Practice of Printing”; an old tape dispenser; trophies; multiple unidentified science apparatuses; a painted chair; unidentified keys with numbered tags; a red book labeled Poems of Byron Keats and Shelley; a “Poetry Unfolding” box, which contains nothing inside; a 1973 football; and an unidentified block of wood with three wheels.

The vast majority of items within the case appear to be miscellaneous items that were gathered from Mr. O’Connor and former assistant principal Gene Ryan.

When transferring from the old building, into the new building, the principal at the time, Mr. Macrino, wanted all furniture and belongings to be thrown out. This included all chairs, desks, and miscellaneous tools.

As a form of defiance to this order, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Ryan collected various items to save, many of which we now see displayed within the Lancer Case. This explains the variety of science-related apparatus.

In the Lancer Case are two beer steins which have a framed hand-written note behind them that reads, “ June 11, 2022. 41 years ago today I graduated WHS. I won this beer stein in a contest, when you find this please post a pic on the class of ‘81 FB page.”

The beer steins were found a few days before the graduation of class of 2022 on the field during a Unified PE class.

There are multiple memorabilia pieces pertaining to WHS’s first graduating class of 1960 including the commencement announcement from the class of 1960, with a full log of each student’s name and address.

There is also a realistic miniature kitchen display which contains a photo of Mr. Cheney in the window above the sink, though the picture was added in recent years.

The most interesting items within the Lancer Case are two coverless books which contain editions 1-6 of The Charter (WHS’s old newspaper) from November of 1956 and June of 1962.

Each book contains hundreds of pages relaying sports events, information on students and teachers, and important events that occurred both in the country and within the school between 1956 and 1962.

The following quotes all originate from The Charter’s released editions between the years of 1956 and 1962.

In the 1957 January edition a student relays her account of going through the cafeteria. She says, “At the door I paid 35 ¢ to the cashier for my lunch and asked why the price had been raised.”

In the same year a rabbi came to speak at the school: “Rabbi Leonard Goldstein, of the Beth-El Synagogue, demonstrates a part of the Hebrew alphabet for the students of Miss Burdick’s and Miss Bushley’s seventh grade classes.”

The age-old mystery of how Waterford High School became “The Lancers” was solved in the first 1960 edition of The Charter where they wrote, “The Student Council of Waterford High School asked the members of the varsity basketball team to select a suitable nickname for themselves and all future teams. The boys under Coach Sweeney selected the ‘“Lancers.’”

Each edition of The Charter contains a “I’ve Got a Question” section where a selected question is asked to different staff members and students. In the 1957 edition the question was, “What is the most important discovery in science and why?” which received answers such as “the airplane” from Mariam Tobey, “the telephone” from Pat Campagna, “the car” from Paul Vander Veer, “Tom Edison’s light bulb” from Carol Bracelli, and “the x-ray” from Harold Winslow.

In a featured teacher section from 1957, a photo of Mr. G. Rousseau is shown standing in front of a home that he built himself as his wife sits on the house steps in the background.

The question “Why can’t students smoke here” was asked a multitude of times in different editions over years including November of 1957, which gained this response from Principal Palmer: “Smoking is not now permitted at WHS because we are not as yet a full senior high school and the Board of Education has a ruling against smoking on the part of students.” The question was asked again in 1961, which provoked rallies amongst the students: “‘There will be rallies before both the NLHS and the St. Bernard’s football games,’”.

The early editions of The Charter also contained cheers that were scattered throughout the page.

As the result of a petition and discontent from many parents, in 1957, school times changed to begin at 8:10 and dismiss at 2:28. This was a contrast to the 7:40 start time and 1:58 dismissal that was in place before.

WHS went through multiple additions and improvements during its early years, which include an addition of classrooms to accommodate for a growing number of students, and a new gymnasium.

In an “I’ve Got a Question” section, a few male students were asked what they look for in a girl, to which Bruce Pritchard of Class of 1960 replied, “‘When I see a girl, I want to see a girl, not Miss Mustard Plaster of 1958.” Another student Arnold Holm of Class of 1960 responded, “‘…you wouldn’t want a girl that was always disagreeing with you or always wanting to do what she wants.’”And finally, the most interesting of the responses, Edward Rowe from the class of 1961 responds, “‘The most important thing is that she act human and normal.’”

In January of 1959 an article titled “Why I’m Not a Communist” was written and displays many anti-communist ideals such as “the communists mean to enslave the whole world” and “the communists have no belief in a creator-god”. This also included a student comment section which shared similar ideals.

In May of 1959 the yearbook was named the Excalibur, which is still the name of WHS’s yearbook. The name was selected from over a hundred suggestions and was submitted by Ann Kelley.

Another “I’ve Got a Question” section of The Charter from 1960 asked the question: “‘Should the voting age be lowered to 18 and why?’” Three out of the four students asked said the voting age should be lowered, using similar reasoning that if a person can be drafted at age 18, they should be able to vote at age 18. The one dissenting opinion stated, “At 18 the average person is not mature enough to give an opinion uninfluenced by the sentiments and prejudices of his elders,” said student Richard Green from the class of 1962.

In January of 1961, “Mid-year examinations” were given on January 20, 23, and 24, and, “will be worth one quarter of the semester grade.”

Similar to student’s sentiments today, a story was done on how students like to study at WHS which included: “They get more accomplished at home than in study halls” and “It takes time for them to get started at the task of studying.”

The Lancer Case contains both history and random memorabilia from WHS’s first years. Despite the lack of knowledge on it from students and staff it remains as a passing reminder of the school’s origins.

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About the Contributor
Marializ Diaz
Marializ Diaz, Reporter
Marializ Diaz is a senior at Waterford High School. She has lived in Waterford, Groton, and New London. She loves anything that has to do with sewing and crocheting. Marializ is the youngest of four girls and has one small dog. She is very excited for her journalism class!
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    Bill TracyMay 17, 2024 at 8:51 pm

    Maria Liz ; Someone sent your reporting on the old days at WHS, and I truly enjoyed your article and all the hair I had when I dug the first shovel for the palace, which it has become, as we had no pool or tennis courts etc. Yes, about 4 of us were in Fran Sweeney’s office one day, trying to come up with a school name, and lo and behold, the Lancers won ! Yea us. Anyway nice flashback to the 60s. Think you will do well in your future endeavors. William D. Tracy B/Gen (Ret) 1960