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A trip down  Academy Road

Appleton Academy: New Ipswich high school classes, from 1937 to 1968, reunite

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Almost 250 Appleton Academy graduates flocked to Hampshire Hills in Milford on Saturday to attend a reunion of all the students who graduated from the school, dating from 1937 through 1968, when the last class graduated from the academy. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

It was a simpler time, recalled Ralph Kangas of New Ipswich. It was a time when no one cared about peanut allergies, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a lunch-room norm. And students walking two miles to school wasn’t a joke made by scolding grandparents, but an everyday reality. When not every home had a television set, and the place you got your news from was the same place you got your education — high school. And more specifically, for those who grew up in the New Ipswich area prior to the 1970s, Appleton Academy.

On Saturday, 248 people traveled from all over the country to visit with their old schoolmates, and reminisce, in a reunion of every graduating Appleton Academy class between 1937 and 1968 at Hampshire Hills in Milford.

Not much has changed over the years, said Ruth Vaananen of Belcherton, Mass, who graduated from Appleton Academy in 1937. Her high school memories are pretty typical, she said. Her favorite teacher was Hjalmar Maki, who later went on to be the principal at Appleton, and her favorite subject was math. She remembered sharing lunches with her best friend, Virginia Mansfield, and being in the first class to graduate from the newly built gym.

But there were some differences, such as the fact that in 1937 the senior class consisted of only 19 students, meaning everyone took all of their classes together.

At one table, members of the class on 1958 chuckle over one nostalgic photo, featuring Glen Somero of New Ipswich, sitting in a busted-up and cut-down Model T Ford that he had purchased from a cousin for $7. The vehicle didn’t run, but that didn’t stop Somero from hauling it to the school, and attempting to get it up and running. That did not thrill Hjalmar Maki, who by that time had become the principal, Somero recalled with a laugh, and he was told that when the last day of school and graduation came, to make sure the car went with him.

Well, the last day of class came around, and that Model T was indeed running well enough to give everyone in the class a ride around the diamond-shaped road around Appleton. And the last person to take a ride was Mr. Maki, Somero recalls with a grin.

“He told me it was the best ride he ever took in a car,” Somero said. “It was the highlight of the school year.”

For others, Saturday’s reunion was a time to recall old triumphs. Members of the 1949 girl’s varsity basketball team hadn’t forgotten that they were undefeated in their regular season and that they went on to become regional champions. “That was back before girls played full-court basketball,” recalled Mary Nutting of Temple. “We only had half the court.”

Mildred Henault of New Ipswich, who graduated in 1941, was also a basketball player, but her team never made the championships, she noted ruefully — though they did the year after she left school. But her class had a different claim to fame, she said.

On Jan. 23, 1941, about half an hour after the 9 p.m. curfew bell rang, the night came alive with the clanging of a different kind of alarm: Ones caused by the Greenville and New Ipswich fire trucks, as they rushed toward a red glow in the western sky. Appleton Academy was on fire.

The gym and woodshop were spared, but the school itself wasn’t fit to hold classes in, and the students had to take their lessons at the Union Hall and the Lee House. That year, there was no annual trip made by the senior class. Instead of going to Washington, D.C., as planned, the class decided to donate the funds they’d raised to the building fund.

And public high school continued at the academy — which first opened in 1789 under the name New Ipswich Academy — until the late ’60s, when elementary school students moved in and Mascenic Regional High School opened.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

Good article, Ashley.

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