The Bonacker Handbook, 1960-61

Item of the Week From the East Hampton Library Long Island Collection

While in pursuit of a minimal lifestyle, you might contemplate whether something “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo, the Japanese organization guru, would suggest. As you rummage through your basement, attic, or spare bedroom, however, please consider donating or lending items to the Long Island Collection. Even if something appears to be of little consequence, you never know what kind of value it might hold for the community.

Such is the case with the student handbook seen here, The Bonacker, which was published for the 1960-61 school year at East Hampton High School. On the surface, a student handbook isn’t very exciting. It normally contains contact information, school policies, and time schedules. It’s not sentimental like a yearbook, but can reveal information we might not have appreciated before.

For example, do you remember the school song? Perhaps you sang it at football games, graduation, or other special gatherings. Displayed toward the front of the book, the song begins, “East Hampton High is marching / Follow the lead / Firm friends and classmates / We will ever be. . . .”

A listing of the school’s teachers is also provided. It reveals much about their expertise and schooling, as well as their personal hobbies and interests (the inclusion of which would be unheard of today). For instance, a blurb for one English teacher said she had attended three universities, managed a motel in Montauk with her husband, and enjoyed reading, cooking, and golf in her spare time.

Class descriptions are also given with multiple offerings. A student could take an English class at a “non-college” or “college entrance” level — even “secretarial English,” which was college entrance level but with more of a focus on spelling, grammar, and letter writing. Citizenship education was taught instead of social studies, French was the only foreign language course offered, and homemaking was made available at 11 different levels, including marriage preparation, child care, home nursing, and community health.

In looking at the latest East Hampton High School Student/Parent Handbook available online, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. It shows how the community has changed over time and what is deemed necessary and important in the educational needs of our children.

Gina Piastuck is the department head of the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.