It’s the fall of 1962, a year before President John F. Kennedy would get shot and signal the end of a long period of innocence in American history. The first episode of the “Tonight Show” airs with host Johnny Carson, a gallon of gas costs about 25 cents, “Sherry” by the Four Seasons is number one on the charts, and a brand new high school is about to open its doors on Clinton Street. Hoboken High School is replacing the old Demarest High School on Garden Street (which Frank Sinatra attended).
Fifty years later, Hoboken High School is celebrating its golden anniversary, having seen many changes to the town and its student body.
In honor of the milestone, the alumni have scheduled events all this weekend, including an alumni assembly, a cocktail reception, and a block party.
“We chose a block party because it really represents Hoboken’s culture,” social studies teacher Chris Munoz said. “What’s more Hoboken than a block party?”
Proceeds from the block party and the cocktail reception will be put towards a brand new scholarship fund for deserving students in the class of 2013. The high school hopes to continually replenish the fund with alumni networking events held annually thereafter.
A look back in time
Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural call to service (hence the name of the school’s athletic stadium), Hoboken High School was erected in order to give the students a location that was modern and new. Demarest uniforms were still used for the HHS baseball team that year, so as not to waste them.
To accommodate for a baby boom, Hoboken High School was equipped for 1,500 students, and that was only for three grades – 10th, 11th, and 12th. In their first graduating year (1963), the high school held both a January and a June graduation due to the high enrollment.
In the 1963 yearbook, nearly every member of the class had a nickname like “Stick-Shift,” “Frenchie,” or “Moose.” Superlatives included “Biggest Hobokenite” and “Class Beatnik” (see sidebar).
“What’s more Hoboken than a block party?” – Social studies teacher Chris Munoz
A strict dress code was enforced including jackets and ties for the boys. Present day faculty members like English teacher Kathleen Kelly, a class of ’73 alumna, blamed the free-wheeling 1970s for the decline of the dress code.
Times have changed
The first thing built into the school was the 60-foot long pool, which is still used today for a variety of athletic programs. Forty-eight classrooms offered cutting edge programs of the time like mechanical drawing, stenography, and business machine training. Only one sewing machine remains of the home economics course that once was, though classes like cosmetology are making a comeback in today’s curriculum.
An all-male panel made up the Board of Education for decades to come.
Passing the torch
One of the unique things about Hoboken High School is the amount of students who grow up to be faculty. Vice Principal and football coach Ivan Ramos graduated in 1995 as one of the most highly recruited offensive line prospects in the country before suffering a knee injury. Ramos returned to Hoboken High to give back.
Many other teachers, coaches, aides, board members, and staff members returned to HHS for the same reason. Gifted and talented instructor and class of ’72 alumni Frances Cohen (Santoro) is another prime example.
“There is a lot of community involvement here,” Cohen said, “always was and always will be. People don’t leave Hoboken to go far. Anywhere you go, you can say [“Hoboken”] and someone will mention Biggie’s or Clam Broth. It’s a welcoming back kind of place.”
When asked if she feels today’s students have the same sense of community, Cohen said, “Not as much as I’d like to see. The ones who get involved and join groups or associations do still have that commitment to community, though.”
In the yearbook, former Principal Thomas Gaynor offered these words to the class of 1963, “The real value of a person consists of giving, not having.”
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senior Superlatives for 1963
The 1963 Hoboken High School yearbook lists some “senior superlatives” that are a sign of the times. They ranged from “Typical Hobokenites” to “Class Beatniks.” They only listed the students’ first names. Here they are, verbatim:
Class Pets – Linda and John
Class Cutest – Dottie and Billy
Most Talkative – Cathy and George
Most Likely to Succeed – Karen and Woody
Short and Tall – Marie and Harold
Perfect Date – Florence and Jimmy
Class Flirts – Linda and Jimmy
Class Personality – Marie and Billy
Most Versatile – Judy and Joe
Most Athletic – Janet and Bob
Class Pests – Caroline and Bruce
Shyest – Pat and Norman
Class Dancers – Renee and Billy
Class Actors – Fran and Tony
Most Talented – Ann and John
Class Aristocrats – Monika and Alan
Most Active – Rose Marie and Ralph
Class Intellects – Clara and Joe
Class Wits – Ronnie and Rocco
Most Popular – Lou Ann and Sal
Best Looking – Ann and Joe
Class Artists – Veta and Tony
Class Beatniks – Marie and Binky
Best Dressed – Rose Ann and Ralph
Class Sweethearts – Rose and Freddy
Class Laziest – Jo Ann and Joe
Class Dreamers – Fran and Vinny
Typical Hobokenite – Olivia and DeBe