Sharing some nostalgia


It seems to me that the curriculum and skill training offered by the new county career center are a far cry from that back when my Sweetheart for Life and I attended high school more than 70 years ago.

Oh, yes, like the current local school system, our school system in the north-central part of the state was concerned with preparing graduates for life after graduation. The difference is that the world has changed considerably since those days and so have the education requirements. Anyway, just thought I might share a bit of nostalgia. Students had the option of choosing the college prep, vocational, or the general route to graduation.

Regardless of which avenue a student selected, all students were required to take “core” courses in such subjects as English (grammar, punctuation, writing, and such), American history, world history, civics (how our government works), and physical education.

The college prep approach was designed for those who were definitely planning to go on to college, and as such, laid out a program of courses that would assist in the student gaining admission to a college or university. Among these requirements were a minimum of two years of a foreign language (Latin, French, and Spanish were offered), English literature, speech, physics or chemistry, math, and possibly some others — neither of us went that route.

Next to the high school was a vocational building where what were known as trades were taught. These included carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. I think automotive maintenance and repair was also offered. Anyway, back then the trades had apprentice programs in which entrants could learn from the professionals and our graduates easily qualified as apprentices. What was of great importance, however, was what was known as machine shop, which featured training in entry level manufacturing processes and skills. These included learning about lathes, grinding and metal bending machines, welding, and a whole bunch of other devices that I couldn’t identify when I kind of peeked into the facility. Vocational students could take the core courses in the main building and then simply walk next door for their specialized training. Oh, yes, they also participated in our school’s extracurricular programs — some boys were great at football.

The general option was very broad and included lots of courses that helped prepare the student for post graduation. Many students in the general course of study took most of the same courses as in the college prep — that’s what both of us did. Our town had several very large manufacturing companies that employed thousands of folks in a wide variety of positions — and the multiple railroads serving our town employed many more. With several large department stores, a major telephone company, and many other employers, our town offered lots of jobs. Office-type skills were in great demand so our school offered such courses as bookkeeping (no computers), shorthand (what’s that?), and typing. Remember, the typewriters were the manual type, using hard-to-push-down keys, printing using inked ribbons, and requiring manual carriage returns and line feeds. Errors had to be physically erased and typed over — no delete keys. I was the only boy in my typing class and those girls sure outdid me. Regardless, I managed to pass and typing has proven to be one of the most useful of my high school courses.

There were also journalism classes where students learned to gather and write up stories and news features for our weekly newspaper which was printed by the guys taking print shop using real printing techniques and machines — not copiers. They learned how to set type — something that most folks today never heard of but was quite a desirable skill back then. Home economics courses in housekeeping skills such as meal planning and preparation, were very popular — with no microwaves, freezers, or prepackaged meals, meal planning and preparation took time and effort. Sewing skills, including both basic and advanced techniques to make or mend something were also important. Have to remember, back then many, if not most girls were looking forward to getting married and having families — in that order. A quaint concept.

Well, there you have it — a very limited nostalgic overview at how times change as do the educational requirements for our young people. You know, while some of those education needs of yesteryear may have modern counterparts, today’s world is so different that any similarity is almost hidden.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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