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Item of the Week: The Bonacker Handbook, 1960-61

Thu, 09/14/2023 - 10:36

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

For many of us, no matter whether we are still in school or many years out of formal education, September calls to mind the beginning of the academic year. Compulsory education has existed nationwide only since 1918, but in that relatively short time things have changed a lot for students. This East Hampton High School Handbook from 1960 reveals how much has changed in just over 60 years.

A quick glance at the title page reveals it was prepared by the 10th-grade secretarial class. This course was offered in three sections, concluding with a course called Secretarial Practice, which included the study of “correct grooming, attitudes, social and work habits, and procedures to be followed in the business world.” Today it is difficult to imagine a senior-year Advanced Placement economics course including instruction on how to wear your hair.

Courses were offered based on the assumption that only some of the students would attend college, resulting in classes like English 9 Non-College, with a review of the eighth-grade curriculum “for the student who does not plan to continue his education beyond high school.”

The only other mention of college appears on page 26, where it is suggested that students should choose three colleges to apply to by the end of their junior year and should complete their applications by September of their senior year. By comparison, almost a full page is dedicated to the driver education program.

The last page of the handbook is devoted to school cheers, of which there were six to choose from, depending on the occasion.

As much as the curriculum may have changed over the years, report cards and fire drills, among other activities, have remained important in the day-to-day life of a high school student.

Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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