By Len Chapel
Special to The Dagger
Last winter I was looking through my 1962 NHHS Yearbook, The Aerie, and came to Dave DeRan’s drawing of a down-trodden duck…wearing a “State Champs” crown…and it brought back many memories of my time spent there. Dave DeRan, a well-known local artist who sketched the basketball-playing duck, was a member of NHHS’s Class of ’64, and as his rendition depicted, the ‘duck farmers’ did well.
March 1962, the NHHS basketball team won the Class B State Championship in Cole Field House at University of Maryland in College Park. Coach Robert Garbacik…having played his college ball at Franklin and Marshall…had taken over the reins when Coach Pat Hennessy transferred to Bel Air to coach basketball and football. Players on the team included Mac Lloyd (leading scorer in Harford Co. ’61-’62), Nick Whiteford, John Blaney, Dave Sanborn, Kirk Nevin, Dave DeRan, Bob Bonhage, etc. The school provided bus rides… for a fee… to the tournament games held in both Westminster and College Park, and I was fortunate enough to have attended them all.
Having moved from Bel Air to the upper end of Harford County in the spring of 1958, I finished the last two months of the sixth grade at Jarrettsville Elementary. I began attending North Harford that September. Well I’m here to tell you that being from Bel Air was not a good thing at either Jarrettsville or North Harford because there was a bitter rivalry between the two schools in those days, especially when it came to athletics or dating. I ended up in more than a couple tussles; winning some and losing some. And then when moving back to Bel Air for my last two years, my former classmates no considered me a ‘Duck Farmer’. I just couldn’t win; something I laugh about today.
In reality, I guess the duck farmer moniker was not far off line seeing North Harford did actually have a farm. That’s right, a county high school with a farm. Unlike the other county schools, being a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) meant time spent planting/harvesting crops and cleaning stables, not just reading about it from some book in the library.
Yes, the school had a farm, but it also had one of the best teaching staffs in the county, bar none! I can remember hearing people say that students from NHHS were doomed when going on to college due to the lack of education they received while in high school. Well, I’m here to tell you that that remark was bunk!
Many of the graduates not only went on to college, but many I knew went on to obtain graduate degrees, too. I can name several that became extremely prosperous business owners, doctors, lawyers, and, yes, some ended up owning farms…some very huge farms.
The Principal while I was attending was William H. “Bill” Pyle. He had been a teacher at Jarrettsville High School before becoming the NHHS Principal upon its opening in 1950. Mr. Pyle ran a taut ship, and by that I mean if a teacher didn’t tote the mark, he/she was soon history. He was also a stickler when it came to discipline, too. If anyone got into a fight, he took them to the gym, had them put on boxing gloves and duke it out. However, at the first sight of blood he would stop the fight. Rumor had it he was quite a boxer in his younger day. Maybe someone knows for sure.
NHHS had its own Court System with its Student Court and its Safety Court. You mess up at NHHS and your peers could wreck havoc on your day in short order. Run in the halls, get too noisy in class, get caught matching quarters, toss food in the cafeteria, etc., and you may just end up polishing a few brass door handles. It is to be noted that the school had hundreds of them, and I polished quite a few over my four years there.
The V-P was William Schreck. He had a highly-exaggerated swagger when he walked…sort of like a little banty rooster strutting around the hen house. I guess it made up for his being vertically challenged. And to be perfectly honest, he was not my favorite administrator at the school. Alden Halsey was another administrator at NHHS, was without a doubt, he was one of fairest men I ever met. He went on to become Deputy Superintendent of Schools for Harford Co.
High school in those days housed the sixth thru the twelfth grades, and unlike elementary school, all day was not spent with one teacher. The homeroom teacher was the ‘core teacher’…three hours for the seventh grade, two for the eighth grade and one for the ninth. The homeroom teachers for my four years at NHHS were Ruth Burkins, June Atkin, Joyce Pierce, and Ms. I. Ganarra.
Mrs. Burkins was a very nice lady…except for the time she had me write ‘Hogwash’ five hundred times after I used it in her classroom…after being told to not use it again. It was then I learned how to tape five pencils together to greatly shorten the given task.
June Atkin stood about four-foot-ten at best, but she wouldn’t back down from a grizzly bear if push came to shove. Of all the teachers I had at NHHS, she ranks among my top three. I’ve maintained some contact with her, and she is as nice now as she was then.
Joyce Pierce left one specific mark upon my memory, and that was her was of pronouncing ‘Chicago’. Her version was ‘Chicager’. I understand she was born and raised in NC, and I have many of my kin living in that state, but I’ve never heard any of them pronounce it that way. Other than that idiosyncrasy, she was a good teacher. On our class trip to New York City, a few of us cleaned her clock on the train ride back from the Big Apple when we taught her how to play poker.
Ms. Ganarra….well, I don’t believe she lasted too long, but I could be wrong. My most vivid memory of her was coming into class one Monday morning, pulling out her chair and sitting flat down on the floor. It was one of those OOPS moments.
The names of many fine instructors teachers come to mind when I think of NHHS…some I had and some I knew…Mr. Garbacik, Mrs. Kerr, Mr. Hanley, Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Pastelak, Mr. Fassett, etc. I remember one day in World History when some kid asked, very sarcastically, what the teacher, Mr. Hanley, knew about WWII. Mr. Hanley pulled up his shirt, exposing a badly scarred stomach, and replied, “That’s what I know about the war!” My understanding is he was shot up pretty badly in Germany. Hopefully someone reading this will know the facts on this matter.
In the 1950s and 1960s, NHHS was the only high school in the county to not have a football team, let alone a football field. The students sold magazine subscriptions every year to raise money for obtaining a field/team. All to no avail, especially after an audit showed some of the money had grown legs and disappeared. It was a black eye that the older alums can well remember, and we all know who may have done it.
If my memory serves me correctly, when Fallston High School was built in 1977, it was adorned with a beautiful football field. I believe it was shortly after that when the Bd of Ed was pressured into building a field at North Harford. With Fallston, I believe the field was a case of who you knew at the Bd of Ed.
There was one good thing that came from the lack of a football team at NHHS, and that was they were the only school in the county to have a soccer team. We played in a soccer league that included southern PA teams from the nearby counties of York and Adams. I played for two years, taking over Buddy Miller’s wing position when he was tragically killed in an auto accident the fall of ’61. The ’62 edition of The Aerie was dedicated to him. Buddy was the step-son of Mr. Hanley, a teacher at NHHS.
I also played two years of baseball for Coach John Yantz. Jiggs Woodcock was his assistant coach. I remember when we were having twice-a-day practices during spring vacation, and when we returned for the afternoon session…after spending our break at the Delta Quarrys…we all pretended to be asleep. When Jiggs arrived, he ‘woke’ us and told us practice was being called off for the day; Coach Yantz’s wife had just given birth to a stillborn. Later in life I had a personal experience of the pain that causes.
While I enjoyed playing sports, it was a choice that was came with a price. Mr. Pyle had a policy which permitted a student to participate in either music or sports, but not both. I had been playing the trumpet since the fourth grade, but that ceased in the ninth. Mr. Pastelak did his best to talk me out of giving up the trumpet, but to no avail. Today it would be no problem, but that is water under the bridge. Even so, with my contracting Eosinophilic Granuloma in 1964, my lungs went south and would have ended my playing days anyway. Several years ago I decided to take up an instrument that didn’t require a healthy set of lungs…the banjo…but arthritis put a quick end to that idea. Today I play the radio.
In 1961 NHHS had the smallest track team of any school in the county…one member. Yeppers, my brother, John, got permission from Mr. Pyle to represent NHHS at the County Meet being held at BAHS. John played basketball and soccer while at NHHS, and added track to his resume by competing in two track and one field events at the meet. He ran the 100 and 200 for his track events, and his field event was the broad jump…as it was called back then. Today it is the long jump. I forget how he did overall, but I do remember he finished second in the broad jump by a matter of inches to his main competition, John Walter from Bel Air.
NHHS also has the honor of having amongst its alumni a gentleman named Randy McMillian, a record setting running back at both HCC and Pitt. He went on to play for the Colts until a knee injury put a damper on his career, one that happened on a highway rather than a football field.
On a crisp fall morning in ’61, and after a bit of letter writing, Pan America permitted one of its aircraft to do a low-level circular pass after departing Friendship Airport (current day BWI) on its way to San Juan. The Captain later came to the school and spoke at an assembly explaining how he and his fellow pilots had noticed the school sitting in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. A model of the plane was presented to the school, but it probably grew legs, too.
While the school has morphed into a modern facility, I have many, many fond memories of the old ‘Green and Gold’, and I feel certain many others who walked the halls in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s do, too. My brother was a member of NHHS’s Class of ’61, and part of their 50th Anniversary Reunion was a tour of the ‘new’ school. Simply put, it is nothing like it once was. I guess progress has its price, but one thing that is for sure…old memories of NHHS were not changed by the new construction.
The building has changed, football was added, but the farm is still there, so the saying “Let them call us duck farmers” remains quite apropos. GO DUCKS!!!