The Academy Building was built in 1881 as the Central High School. When the new high school was built on Depot Hill, circa 1911, the Central became a graded school. When Chester Elementary was built, the Central became Chester Junior High School.
Years ago I heard it said that the Central was built from recycled bricks from the original Chester Academy. This probably isn’t true. Chester Academy was built in 1814 of soft brick. The current Academy Building is built of hard brick. But up in the attic of the Academy Building are ancient hand-hewn timbers.
Well before 1881 hewing timbers had been replaced with sawmills. These are large timbers maybe 8-by-8 inches. What was recycled from Chester Academy was these old timbers.
In my day this school was the Junior High School. I have many memories of both teachers and happenings here.
Mr. Clough, pronounced like “rough,” was our science teacher. Mr. Clough was different. I remember a parent saying he probably should be teaching college not grade schoolers. He often began class reading poetry to us. We hated it, but Mr. Clough was going to learn us. Sometimes he got teary-eyed as he read to us.
I remember Mr. Clough teaching us about reproduction. You know body fluids etc. Some of us kids knew he was talking about sex. One kid asked, “How do body fluids pass from one body to another?” We knew we just wanted to put him on the spot. Mr. Clough replied, “Through body contact.”
Mr. Clough really had bad breath. He often said you didn’t need toothpaste; baking soda worked just fine. Believe me this isn’t true. He pronounced electricity as “electwicity.”
Mrs. Stocker taught French, music, and math. She was a lively teacher and well liked. One day in 1964 I got in trouble. I don’t remember now what crime I had committed, but I was guilty. I ran down into the boys’ bathroom to escape her pursuit.
When she followed me into the boys’ bathroom, I said to her, “You can’t come in here.” To which she replied, “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.” Curses foiled again.
I didn’t like Mr. Richardson. I thought he was a little dictator. In June of 1965 I graduated Chester Junior High School. We were all looking forward to going to Chester High School with the big kids.
My last class that year was upstairs in Richardson’s class. A neat store for us kids was Ruth’s Gifts. Ruth sold all kinds of novelties. Do you remember the buzzer you held in your hand? When you shook someone’s hand, they got a good jolt. This is where I bought the party popper.
“Anyhoo,” as my mother used to say, us kids went running down the stairs for the last time. In my pocket was the party popper. Party poppers looked like a miniature bottle of champagne with a little ripcord. As I started down the stairs, I pulled the ripcord. There was a loud pop and confetti flew.
Richardson grabbed me and dragged me back upstairs into the office for punishment. He stormed in the office with me in tow exclaiming, “This boy lit off a firecracker!” Lucky for me, Arnold had no problem with my criminal activity.
In my day we walked down to the elementary school for hot lunch. We were not escorted. Some of us kids skipped across the street to Pember Hazen’s drug store. Here we spent our lunchtime sitting at the soda fountain. This was a lot of fun. Pember never liked me.
Another memory is when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in Mrs. Griffith’s room upstairs. We were all sent home from school early that day. I remember walking home trying to understand what happened.
And there was the day Bud Nadeau jumped out of the second story window. We had a substitute teacher that day. Bud stood up and said, “I’ve had enough of this,” and jumped out the window. Bud knew he would land on the fire escape. The teacher turned white as a ghost. Soon Bud came up the fire escape and entered the room. God those days were fun.
The photo with this article is in the 2021 Chester Historical Society calendar. They are available at Blair Books & More, Chester Hardware, Framery of Vermont, Stone House Antiques Center, Town Hall, and Smitty’s Chester Market.
This week’s old saying my mother used: “The bigger your kids get the bigger your problems get.”