115 Years of Hilton High School graduations

By on June 30, 2014
Hilton High School in 1914.

Hilton High School in 1914.

by David Crumb
Village of Hilton Historian

While reviewing some old documents, the Fifteenth Anniversary Exercises of the Hilton High School, June 1914 surfaced. It occurred to me that this June 2014 would be the 115th Hilton High School Graduation, and that the document before me was now 100 years old.

In 1914, Hilton had 13 graduates.    Twelve of these graduates were girls along with one lone fellow, Arthur Morton Eller. The dozen girls were Elizabeth May Chamberlain, Mable Mary Coakley, Lelia Anna Crook, Harriet Olivia Curtis, Ruth Lois Curtis, Margaret Isabel Fraser, Violet Burritt Green, Naomi Balcom Jones, Laura Stevenson Lee, Ethel Mary Martin, Leona Belle Wilder, and Myrtle Frances Williams. Perhaps some of these 1914 graduates still have relatives residing in the locale.

The class colors were Old Rose and Silver, and the Class Motto was Nosce te ispum. This translates from Latin to English as “Know Thyself.”

Reverend Harry Greensmith of the First Baptist Church gave the Invocation and Reverend George E. Manter of the Freewill Baptist Church gave the Benediction. These graduates went on to lead interesting lives, raise families and contribute to their communities. Several of the graduates remained in Hilton their entire lives and were integral members of the community. Violet Green (later Wayne) whose father, Orange Green, owned and operated the local drugstore, was a popular and well known Hiltonite. She was educated at the University of Buffalo, and was one of the first women to earn a degree in Pharmacy. She travelled the world, and had the distinction of being Dick Clark’s godmother. That’s right, the famous Dick Clark of American Bandstand. His mother had been Vi’s roommate at the Emma Willard Finishing School in Schenectady, New York. Vi lived to be 100, and at her 100th birthday party she received flowers and a recording from her famous godson.

A page from the Graduation Program, 1914.

A page from the Graduation Program, 1914.

Margaret Fraser, later Margaret Culverhouse, was the assistant cashier at the State Bank of Hilton which her father had started. She served in that position for over 35 years before retiring. She also taught Sunday School at the Hilton Baptist Church for over 40 years. She knew just about everyone in town. Anyone who was in her Sunday School class always received a birthday card with a crisp $1.00 bill without fail. Leona Wilder (later DuColon) lived on her ancestral farm on the Wilder Road. She was a well known individual both in farming circles and in the village social community. Both of these ladies lived their long lives in the Hilton vicinity, and contributed to the betterment of the community each in their own special way.

One hundred years later things are very different. The 2014 Hilton High School graduating class is expected to be around 365 graduates made up of 197 boys and 168 girls. Most are planning on attending college. One hundred years ago women had about four choices: 1. Get married, become a housewife and raise a family; 2. Become a secretary or an office worker; 3. Become a nurse and get a job in a hospital or doctor’s office; 4. Enter the field of teaching. Today the opportunities for women are about the same as for men. Today both will have a number of different job experiences as well as the possibility of career change as their futures’ unfold. Their choices are many and their opportunities endless. Through education and acquiring specialized skills, the more able an individual becomes in their ability to fulfill their short and long term goals.

A few Hilton High School graduates from 100 years ago who have had interesting and noteworthy records of achievement are: Stanley Schoff who became President of Bloomingdale’s Department store in New York City; Sherman Meech who was instrumental in developing Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance; MacDonald G. Newcomb who rose from President of the State Bank of Hilton to President of the Federal Land Bank in Springfield, Massachusetts; Ruth Williams Ricci who, as a nurse-journalist, was the only American to cover Mussolini’s Italian Campaign in Ethiopia in the 1930s, and was the only American woman to enter the Italian Army. Maurice Burritt Sr. was New York State Public Service Commissioner under Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt; and Lloyd Tenny was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Harding, and later became the General Manager of the Merchandise Market in Chicago.

Hilton High School today.

Hilton High School today.

All good wishes for success and achievement are extended to the 2014 graduates of Hilton High School in this 115th graduation class.

Additional Note:   In between 1914 to present, students attended and graduated from the school on Henry Street which is now the Hilton Community Center. Opened in 1930, the Henry Street School cost $145,895 to build. That new school replaced the old 10 room Queen Anne style school house which had been built in 1895, replacing an even older structure which had been built in 1853 and consisted of four rooms -  two down and two upstairs. The 1853 building was moved in 1895 to make room for the Queen Anne style school house. It is still standing on East Avenue at the corner of Railroad Avenue and is remembered in recent times as Cicciotti’s Music Store. The Queen Anne style school house was torn down to make room for the new Henry Street High School.