The Williston Junior School was a semi-autonomous branch of Williston Seminary and Williston Academy, offering a boarding program for students in grades 5-8. Founded in 1918, it shared facilities with the Upper School, but had its own Headmaster and faculty. Originally operating out of Payson Hall on the Old Campus, it eventually relocated to four buildings on Main Street. Present-day alumni will recognize the “Main St. Quadrangle,” or Clare House, Swan Cottage, Conant House (a.k.a. Williston Cottage), and Sawyer House.
We’ve reproduced a Junior School viewbook from 1944 – largely without comment, because the often charming images speak for themselves. It was a different time. (Copies of the viewbook are from donations by Ellis Baker ’51 and Peter Stevens ’60) Please click on any image to enlarge it.Continue reading →
It is sung, with varying degrees of solemnity and competence, at solemn events like graduations and hockey games. If “Hail to Williston Northampton” is our recently adopted Alma Mater, then surely the much more venerable “Sammy” qualifies as our Alma Aviam. (That’s “Beloved Grandmother.” Don’t you regret not having taken Latin? But I digress.) At least one former Head of School thought the song and its associated traditions puerile and tried, without success, to suppress it. “Sammy” remains the Song that Would Not Go Away.
Venerable Williston Lore tells us that “Sammy,” our “stand-up song,” was written by Paul “Pitt” Johnson, class of 1905. This appears to be accurate, although it seems that the memory briefly slipped Johnson’s mind after he graduated. But in 1939, Alumni Secretary Howard Boardman asked for Johnson’s recollection. Pitt wrote back,
“Although there might have been in my mind a slight doubt of the authorship, nevertheless, it was instantly removed after singing the first two measures. I instantly recognized it as my work, which was one of the many songs I wrote during my years at the old school.” [The full letter is reproduced at right; please click on the image to enlarge it.]
Johnson continued, “It so clearly comes to mind now how Dr. Sawyer [Headmaster Joseph H. Sawyer], upon hearing the song on the campus, called me to his office and suggested that theretofore the name Samuel had never lost its dignity and couldn’t I rewrite the song using Samuel instead of Sammy. I remember how three or four of us tried it out but it sounded a bit brummy and didn’t cut the mustard so the song continued to refer to the founder of Williston as Sammy and I cannot recall a single instance of where Samuel Williston haunted me from the tomb because of it.”
It is perhaps ironic that Johnson knew “Sammy” as his own when he heard the first two measures, since that is the one portion of the tune that he most certainly did not write. Fans of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas will recognize the phrase as having been lifted, note for note, from the Bridesmaids’ Chorus in Trial by Jury, at the words “Wear the flowers ’til they fade.” The show was wildly popular at the time Johnson “borrowed” the tune – and the cribbing was probably unconscious. As for the lyrics that so bothered Joseph Sawyer, it is likely that having written “Sammy, my Sammy, my heart yearns for thee,” Johnson needed a rhyme, and settled on “and your old elm tree.” Nothing we know of Samuel Williston suggests that he ever took an interest in trees, elm or otherwise. Yet, as has been detailed elsewhere, from this bit of doggerel entire school traditions have risen. (See “The Brand,” particularly toward the end of the article.) Continue reading →
Visitors to the lower level of Williston Northampton’s Sabina Cain Family Athletic Center may already be familiar with some of these photographs. William Rittase (1894-1968) was an American photographer based in Philadelphia. His work is now prized by collectors. Rittase frequently specialized in railroad and industrial subjects, but on several occasions in the 1930s and ’40s, he was hired by both Williston Academy and Northampton School for Girls to produce catalog photography, thereby giving a distinctive look to the schools’ marketing materials of the time.
Rittase’s work is often characterized by dramatic lighting and high contrast between light and shadow. Billowing clouds are one of his signatures. Most of the Archives’ Rittase photographs survive as gallery prints in which the image measures 13.75″ x 10.”
But Rittase was not above a measure of artistic chicanery. Former Williston photography teacher Bob Couch ’50 has observed that the same clouds appear in multiple photographs. And consider the preceding photograph — by any standard, a brilliant action shot. But think about the vantage point. To get this angle, Rittase would have had to to have been standing on a ladder in the infield.And no, Rittase wasn’t using a telephoto lens. In fact, he favored a large-format camera, that used 4 x 5″ film or larger, had a fixed lens, and weighed many pounds. So the wonderful photo above was, in fact, staged, even choreographed. The photographer is apparently sitting on the ground just a few feet from the blockers’ knees. Continue reading →
This is adapted from an article that originally appeared in the January 1999 Williston Northampton Bulletin. At that time Doug Stark was Librarian and Archivist at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Today he is Museum Director at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI. He is the author of The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011) and coauthor of Tennis and the Newport Casino (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2011).
On a cold, wintery northeast night in 1898, a group of five Williston Seminary students “lined up for the first time . . . in a regular game, and defeated their opponents, the Y.M.C.A. of Northampton, by a score of 12-10.” The Jan. 29, 1898 Willistonian reported that Williston’s first basketball game “excited much interest in the school. The fellows turned out to a man, also several members of the faculty were present, as well as a representation of townspeople” to witness first hand this “new and intriguing game.”
In 1898, basketball was still in its infancy, having been created just seven years earlier at the School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in Springfield, MA. In the winter of 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a recent graduate of McGill University, enrolled as a student-instructor in a school that trained YMCA general secretaries and physical education instructors. Asked to create a game to occupy a class of “incorrigibles” between the football and baseball seasons, Naismith invented basketball. After hanging two peach baskets at both ends of the gymnasium balcony and dividing the 18-man class into two nine-man teams, Naismith put the first ball, a soccer ball, into play. Legend has it that only one basket was scored in that game.
Almost immediately, the game took off and spread quickly through the YMCAs. Within a few years, the game was being played in 15 different countries and in colleges from the East to West Coasts. Due to the rough play associated with the early game and the growing need for more court time, the YMCA banned basketball from its gyms in 1898. Later that year, basketball was introduced at Williston Seminary, one of the first high schools in the country to embrace the game. Continue reading →