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South turns 50

October 21, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN - Asked to share an anecdote about his first year at South Hagerstown High School - 1956, the year the school opened - Bob Cianelli paused and pondered for a moment.

"Let me think of stuff you can print," he said.

One of the many people who gathered Friday night at South High for a 50th anniversary tailgate party, Cianelli came up with a story involving the school's principal at the time, Carl Beer.

Cianelli and other seniors had planned a senior skip - or, as he called it, a "hook" - day, but Beer intervened.

"We were going to hook all day and he negotiated with us," Cianelli said, saying a compromise was reached in which seniors agreed to attend an assembly in the morning, then skip in the afternoon to go swimming in the Potomac River.

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Members of the class of 1957 spent their first 11 years of school together, but then half were made to attend South High for their final, senior year.

That initial bond remains intact, however; to this day they still celebrate reunions together, Cianelli said.

As Cianelli remembers it, students who planned to focus on "shop" classes had to stay at what then was Hagerstown High School on Potomac Street because the shops at South High were not finished. The gym also was not ready when the school opened in the fall of 1956, Cianelli said.

Only one football team was in existence that year, but a sports rivalry was born soon afterward when basketball began because each school had a team.

Those two basketball teams met in a playoff game at then-Shepherd College that year.

Nick Carter played in that game as a guard and remembers scoring 14 points.

"Everybody was upbeat," Carter said. But everyone also was determined to win.

South High ended up being victorious.

Terry Gossard remembered another amusing story from the school's first year, emanating from a chemistry lab.

"We had a girl accidentally dump chemicals in the drain that caused a reaction that produced chlorine gas and we had to evacuate the school," Gossard said.

Several people commented on walkways at the school that once connected its three buildings. The walkways - also called breezeways or "freezeways" - were covered, but otherwise open to the elements.

"The only downside in the winter was those walkways," Cianelli said.

The breezeways later were enclosed as part of a renovation project.

Dick Martin, a former student, vice principal and principal at South High, helped plan the 50th anniversary event, along with co-chair Jimmy Winters.

As well as the tailgate party Friday, a sock hop dance also was held.

In the old days, Martin said with a chuckle, after the homecoming football game, students filed into the gymnasium for a dance. Dressed casually to attend the game, tradition called for students to toss their shoes into corners and dance in their socks.

Wearing clean socks with no holes was essential, said Martin, who graduated from South High in 1963.

He said he remembers that when the school first opened, its appearance was vastly different from the other high schools in the county, all of which were "big, red-brick boxes," Martin said.

South High was constructed with bricks, glass, stone and steel.

"Can a school actually look like this? That was the reaction when this place first opened," Martin said.

Now that novelty has worn off as the school celebrates its five decades of existence.

"That 50 years went, oh boy, did it ever go (fast)," Cianelli said.

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