Old School Holyoke High

Emily McGuinness looks back at the Holyoke High School of the 1950s!

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Hundreds of students attend Holyoke High School every year. Over the years, Holyoke High has drastically changed. Harold Brunault, Holyoke High school class of 1952, takes The Herald back to what the life of a knight was like when he attended Holyoke High from 1949 to 1952.

FullSizeRender (1)In the 1950s, Holyoke High school was located on the corner of Beech Street and Hampshire Street where the senior center is located today. It was not until 1964 that Holyoke High School moved to its current location, 500 Beech Street. The building had an annex with a pool, gym, a shop area, and a few class rooms in it. The building was also home to Holyoke Junior College. Holyoke High school students would attend school during the day. At night from 4:00 – 9:00pm it functioned as Holyoke Junior College. The annex was used by the high school and Holyoke Junior College.

Harold Brunault went to Holyoke Junior College after graduating from Holyoke High. He attended school in the same building for six years. “It was great going to school in the same location for junior college. I did not have to learn a new building. I liked attending the junior college because I could work during the day at Holyoke Sporting Goods and go to school in the evening,” said Mr. Brunault. On January 4th 1968 the older building burned in a fire. This was just three years after Holyoke High School changed locations. While the building was no longer functioning as Holyoke High School, it was still functioning as Holyoke Junior College. The college was rebuilt where it is today, and is more commonly known nowadays as Holyoke Community College

We currently have many different options for classes at Holyoke High School. In the 1950s, many of the same classes were offered but there were also classes offered that we do not have today. For example, shop would be offered. Wood working would be offered and girls could take sewing classes and home economics. Typing classes would also be offered. Instead of typing on a computer, the typing was done on type writers. Mr.Brunault’s favorite teacher was his art teacher, Miss Shea.FullSizeRender (3)

Being a public school, Holyoke High has no uniforms. The same held true when Mr. Brunault attended the school in the early 1950s. “I can remember wearing jeans to school was something you would never do. Guys would wear a decent shirt and a nice pair of pants,” Harold said. Girls would mostly wear dresses. Also, you would never wear shorts.

Many of the clubs we have today have always been around at Holyoke High School such as the drama club. Mr. Brunault performed in Holyoke High’s productions of O’Henry and The Man who Came to Dinner. Hazel Hornsbee (Bresnahan) would put on the productions. “We would always put on great shows that would sell out,” Mr. Brunault said.

The Herald, choir, and yearbook were also some of the extracurricular activities that exist today and existed in the 1950s. Some of the extracurricular that existed in the 1950s that no longer exist today are the lunch committee, a cappella choir, glee club, the forum club, and the stamp club which would collect and trade postage stamps.

Sports are a big part of high school life. This was true in the 1940s and 1950s. Football, basketball, and baseball were some of the very popular sports, as well was soccer which was a fairly new sport to the school. Mr. Brunault played varsity soccer and they had a very good team his freshman year and finished the season with only two or three losses.

The school’s football team also excelled on the field. In 1952, the Knights made it to the prestigious Peanut Bowl. This intersectional competition was very popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The knights were able to travel to Georgia to take part in the tournament but lost the game to Rockmart, GA 19-14. As racial tensions escalated between the north and the south in the 1950s, the Peanut Bowl, which did not allow black players, came under fire and the northern teams, including Holyoke, stopped participating in the tournament.FullSizeRender (2)

Looking back at the past can be a fun way to see how things have changed. Steffi Ragoonanan, Holyoke High class of ’18, told The Herald, “I think looking back at Holyoke High’s many experiences is very important. It’s interesting to see how far we have come.”

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