GORHAM — Recent talk of a facelift for Gorham High School, which opened 59 years ago come September, stirred some memories this week among the original alumni.
The high school was built on a baseball field and opened with 368 students.
Ken Knapton, 1963 class president, was a freshman when the school opened in September 1959.
“It was a happy experience to go into a new school. Brand new furniture, new gym,” said Knapton of Westbrook.
New were 14 classrooms, three science rooms, a home economic suite, library, hot lunches in a cafeteria and a full-sized gymnasium, according to the town report. Its cost was $457,850.
Linda Treworgy Faatz of Gorham was a junior then. Students were proud and “very respectful” of the new school, she said. “We took good care of it.”
Faatz’s father, Audway Treworgy, was chairman of the School Board in those days. “My father was so positive about education,” she said.
Charles Delano was the high school principal.
Susan Weston Sommers of Gorham, a junior in 1959, described Delano as “such a nice man” and also a “big disciplinarian.”
Discipline could come swiftly in those days, she said.
She recalled when a male student once made rude remarks to Delano’s secretary. Delano, overhearing from within his office, quickly exited the office and with two hands grabbed the front of the student’s shirt and laid him horizontal on a countertop, she said.
Before the new high school opened, physical education classes and the basketball teams played in Robie Gym on South Street. Knapton recalled the old wooden backboards in Robie Gym. The court was so short that fast breaks didn’t happen.
Building of the new high school erased double sessions in the old building, when students were dismissed at noon and junior high convened. When the new high school opend it served as a junior high until it was converted into the municipal center.
Joe Wyman liked those old double sessions. It was convenient for him to be dismissed at noon. He said this week that at the old school he could begin working a job at 1 p.m. and appreciated the extra time to earn money. “At the new school, I didn’t start work until 3 p.m.,” said Wyman, who owns Wyman’s Auto Body.
Wilma Gould Johnson, now of Eliot, was a sophomore when the new GHS opened. It was not handicapped accessible, she recalled, or equipped with an elevator. “One student who was confined to a wheelchair was carried up and down stairs by fellow classmates,” Johnson said.
Johnson provided a newspaper article, likely in the Portland Evening Express, that reported Mrs. Linwood Brofee, chairman of the School Building Committee, “chose 27 different color combinations to decorate rooms and corridors.”
The first-floor lobby featured a garden and Faatz recalled the Gorham Garden Club caring for the plants.
There was a smoking area behind the new school for students and teachers. No one wore jeans, then called dungarees, to school. Boys wore chino trousers and warm-up jackets in school colors, while girls, Sommers said, opted for plaid skirts, sweater sets, popcorn socks and saddle shoes. Cheerleaders like Sommers wore flat suede shoes.
“We were much more dressed than kids today,” Sommers said. “Those were the days.”
Gorham today is one of the state’s fastest growing communities, which hasn’t changed since the first students entered the new high school. “Gorham is still faced with a rapidly growing school population,” the town report for 1960 says.
Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A news clipping shows Gorham High School when it opened in 1959.