Stepping Back in Time: Cedar Cliff's Debut Nearly 60 Years Ago

Some things may never change, but it is bittersweetly evident that schools have come very far in the past century. Jean Barclay Hare was part of Cedar Cliff’s first graduating class in 1960. She is very proud of being the 17th person to graduate from the school, and describes the occasion as a “thrilling experience.”

In Hare’s yearbook, a picture of the graduating ceremony, features a sea of girls and boys eager to take on the world. It was described to be a solemn departure. The occasion had speeches from the class president and from a Dickinson College member who preached on the importance of education. The theme was “ascending the heights,” and “our heritage.” There were also photos of a well-attended Baccalaureate and a baptism service. In Hare’s yearbook biography, she wrote about her dreams of becoming a famous poet and writer. Her goals shifted slightly, and instead she opened up a beauty salon after attending beauty school. She does not regret this decision as she is proud of the fact that she had chased after a career while balancing family life, which was extremely rare for women back then.

The first school day on September 2nd, 1959, at Cedar Cliff was an unusual scene. Normally, freshmen are the ones that are hopelessly lost in what seems to be a whole new world, but Hare said that everyone had no idea where to go, in what seemed to be an enormous school of about 400 students.

“Since our school was twice the size of our old school, I was a bit intimidated by the newness and the very modern feel.” She talked about how anything from water fountains to the latest education supplies were complete marvels. Also, there was a new and a seemingly progressive class called “family,” which was equivalent to health class today. The students could not believe that “family” was a co-ed class, and to many it seemed revolutionary. The increase in the number of students added competitiveness to the atmosphere, and at first Hare struggled with this. Although, this helped Hare to go after what she wanted and led her to much self-discovery. Luckily, she had her peers to help her get through the chaos, as she had known many of them from previous school years.

Even the years leading up to Cedar Cliff’s grand opening were filled with immense anticipation. The community eagerly voted on the school name, the school crest, and the school colors (which were blue, gold, and white instead of just blue and gold as they are today). They also voted on the mascot, the name of the school paper, yearbook, and more! There was even a design competition for the school ring, which was “absolutely thrilling,” Hare said.

As I flipped through the pages of Hare’s yearbook, pictures of kids just like me came alive. The yearbook contained 174 pages and a thousand more memories. There were photos of the beginnings of the construction of Cedar Cliff, which cost about $3 million. The surrounding area was quite bare compared to today, where now hundreds of buildings surround the area.

It was definitely a year of many firsts for the West Shore. There were pictures of the first cranes that arrived at Cedar Cliff, and the first scoop of dirt that orchestrated the construction of the school. A few citizens were presented the keys to Cedar Cliff, and in return were able to open up hundreds of adventures, lessons, and dreams to thousands of students. 

All of the seniors were given students’ names, and were tasked with writing descriptions about them that would later go in the yearbook. Some of the most amusing ones were “one of the lucky ones to have black naturally curly hair,” which was written for Lorna Jane Bender, and “girls are second only to cars,” which was said about Robert Baum. Hare was described to be “small but mighty; always scurrying somewhere.”

There was also a vote for the students who were the most popular, attractive, talented, studious, athletic, likely to succeed, cooperative, school spirited, bashful, etc. It is clear that popularity contests have existed for a very long time. There also appeared to be trends in the hairstyles for both girls and boys as everyone seemed to be nearly identical in many of the photos. For senior pictures all girls were required to wear dark sweaters with pearls. If one failed to do so, they were forced to reschedule their picture and would have to solemnly swear to follow the attire rules next time.

Many clubs and sports existed for both boys and girls at Cedar Cliff, such as the rifle, drill, gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, softball, baseball, cross country, track, and football team. There was also a drama club, chess club, Bible study, camera club, future nurses, teachers, farmers, pre-engineers, and homemakers club, debate club, marching band, needlework club, social graces club, library club, and many more. The first play was “The Man who Came to Dinner.” Girls were excluded from participating in many of these after-school programs.

Every girl was a part of the Tri-Hi-Y club, which focused on gaining stronger moral values through teachings connected to the YMCA (the boys belonged to a similar Hi-Y club, which would later become coed). Hare was a part of the Cedar Log editorial and business staff, which she said “was a blast, and I am not in any of those pictures in the yearbook. That is annoying to me even now.” She was also a part of the news club, which provided her with incredible experience with writing articles like journalists do, and if they wrote a good story it was published. Robert Edwards was the Cedar Cliff Sentinel Advisor at the time. Finally, Hare was a part of the prom committee, but ironically did not go to the dance. Prom and the after parties were a very special occasion. In 1960, students were pictured dreamingly, slow dancing to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Senior year for Hare was very similar to that of today’s students. “We had Senior Class Day in which we did skits and told silly stories and some of the kids sang or played instruments. Of course, I wrote a poem about being a Beatnik. It was silly fun.”

Her class even pulled senior pranks, and in fact, the students dedicated the yearbook to their vice principal in thanks for his patience with their mischief. “Once, after finals were over, almost our whole class cut school after lunch and went swimming. We had to go home and get our suits on, and I begged my mom to say I was sick, if the school called. She refused to lie for me, but she let me go. We were all a little scared about playing hooky, but since almost everybody did it, the principal never called anybody.” Hare did receive a slight punishment of a terrible sunburn but cherishes the innocence of that day. 

The high points of that year included “being on the paper and yearbook staffs, going to the Senior Ball, having scads of friends, and having my poetry and writing printed in the school paper, which was pretty wonderful.” Of course, these triumphs did not come without a few low points. Hare was often frustrated with never going “steady” with any boy, and she was not allowed to take driver training and, ultimately, she did not go to college, which proved to work out in the long run.

The “good old days,” Hare says, weren’t quite as glamorous as tv shows, such as Happy Days, makes them out to be, but there was a sense of magic to that time period. She says that it was a “sweeter place to grow up in and it was a lot less complicated to be alive and get by in the world. Everything was simpler, black or white. You always knew what the right thing was. The world was less complex in many ways.”

Those sweet days also contained much darkness. Cedar Cliff, and most schools’ early stages, excluded girls and even boys from many things. No females were allowed to take Tech Ed, nor were the males permitted to take Home Ec. Many girls heartbreakingly had to quit school at 16 to get married or even to have babies. Teen pregnancy was also a much bigger deal back then. “Teen pregnancy in the early 60s, was a terrible thing, and a disgrace. It was something that was not talked about, and was in fact lied about and denied.”

Sexism and racism were both, sadly intertwined into the school system and community. “Some neighborhoods had associations that banded together to keep out black people.” She says that sadly there was no diversity or any people in the minorities at Cedar Cliff or in her town besides a family of Mexicans. This family she describes as a “novelty, who were thankfully accepted by all.”

The 21st century may appear to be a different world compared to the 1960s, but for Hare and her classmates, the heart of their relationships have stayed the same. Hare’s peers are still in awe over the fact that they are now “old people.” Despite the years apart, many of them have kept in touch. Hare especially still talks to the original reunion committee. Reunions occur twice a year, and they consist of childlike memories. Her peers still talk about their past crushes and whether or not they are still cute. Hare truly shows that “best friends forever” exist, as she still goes out with her closest, childhood mates for birthdays and for other special events. She says that although time will continue to pass quicker than a blink of an eye, she looks forward to many more gatherings with people from her past. 

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