Stoughton High Graduations of Years Past

The Stoughton High School Class of 1886, 1911, 1936, 1961 and 1986 -- A look back at the former graduating classes on the 125th, 100th, 75th, 50th and 25th anniversary of their commencement from SHS.

As a Stoughton historian I now feel more connected to the past realizing that my graduation from in 1987 is nearly a quarter century ago. 

The years do go by fast, and my own daughter, Brenda Lambert, will be graduating from SHS in the class of 2014.

This past week was the graduation of the . This was not the first Class from SHS to bear the '11 year for its graduation. 

I thought you might enjoy a little glimpse of the SHS Classes that graduated in 1886, 1911, 1936, 1961 and 1986. These are the classes that graduated 125, 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago, respectively. This will allow you to see some difference on location of the graduation and the classes sizes as far back as the late 1800s.

1886 – The graduation of the Senior class of Stoughton High School in June of 1886 was held in the auditorium of the .  During the 19th and early 20th century many of the school proms and graduations took place under the roof of this building. 

In 1886 the town hall was a mere five years old, and a practically new facility.  The following description from the Stoughton Sentinel on June 26, 1886 sets the stage for the graduation: 

The exercises were held one week in advance of the usual time for the purpose of allowing the Stoughton Orchestra to be present. The hall was filled with the people of the town, friends of the graduates and persons interested in the work of the school.  The hall presented a beautiful appearance, the stage being very nearly decorated for the occasion. On either side of the platform were arranged pyramids of flowers and pot plants [note: this is referring to potted plants not marijuana] in rich profusion. Over the arch was the class motto, worked in large gothic letters in field daises “Little by Little”.  Under this was suspended a large floral horseshoe, and on either side were the class figures 1882, 1886, in daises.

The SHS class of 1886 entered into the hall at 8 o’clock.  The first to enter the hall was not the graduates but the other members of Stoughton High.  After that the graduates marched into the hall followed by the school committee, the teachers and invited guests.

You might think a graduation would have a hard time taking place comfortably in the Town Hall?  Not really a problem in 1886 with only four graduates in the class, all females. Nellie Maud Hall, Minnie S. Hussey, Helen Clare Rogers and Edith G. Southworth made up the entire class of 1886.

1911 – Twenty five years later, and a century ago this month, the original class of '11 took the stage once again at the Town Hall.  The following description from the Stoughton Sentinel on June 24, 1911 gives an idea of the evening:

Every seat in the large hall was taken and the audience was a very attractive one, the ladies in the their summer costumes, the children in their white dresses making an effective setting for the beautifully decorated stage and the bank of seats arranged on the platform for the graduates and the students of the School.  It was one of the prettiest and best graduations we have attended for years in this town and when it was over the teachers and scholars were showered with congratulations on the success they had attained.  The evening was most cool and delightful.

During the graduation ceremonies of 2011, the list of those receiving scholarships was a long. This was a bit shorter back in 1911 with the following awards: The Jabez Talbot Prize of $15 in gold to be given to the girl making the greatest improvement was awarded to Miss Stella Hart; the $10 Jabez Talbot 2nd prize was given to Miss Isabel Kennedy.

The total number of graduates was now twelve (three times the amount a quarter century before). Those who graduated in 1911 from Stoughton High were: Alice W. Toomey, Florence A. MacCombie, Fred E. Snell (all taking the Classical Course of study), Alice T. Murphy, Forrest E. Burnham, Annie Rodman, Frank E. Drake, and Lewis Stoyle (taking the Academic Course of study), Ruth G. Howard, Celia Greenwald, Grace W. McDermott, and John Dykeman (taking the Commercial course of Study). 

In all seven girls and five boys.  Must have been good odds for the boys at the prom that year to find a date.

1936 – The site of the graduation for the class of 1936 was a place of local entertainment, and seventy five years later is in the news as a place some hope to have restored. 

A good amount of graduations for SHS actually occurred at the old on Washington Street. The following description from the Stoughton News-Sentinel on June 25, 1936 gives a glimpse into the event that evening at the theatre: 

The graduating exercise of the Stoughton High School class of 1936 took place in the State Theatre last Friday evening in a stage setting that won the admiration of about 900 parents and friends of the graduates.  These boys and girls looked their best, the boys with their dark coats and light pants, and the girls in their white linen suits and green ties.  The program opened with an overture, “Bridal Rose,” by Lavallee, played by the High School orchestra. The address was given by Warren B. Lyman, superintendent of schools. The High School orchestra played “On Wings of Song” by Mendelssohn.

The SHS class of 1936 graduated 83 Seniors that evening in June at the State Theatre.  The class officers were Joseph Coppello (president); Dorothea MacDonald (vice president); Alice Dunkerly (secretary); and Walter Gorday (treasurer).  The class gift to the High School was a large silk American flag and standard for the High School Assembly hall.

1961 – The ninety fifth commencement for Stoughton High took place June 9, 1961.  Nearly double the size of the class of 1936, the class of 1961 saw 160 diplomas handed out to the Senior class.  The following from the Stoughton Chronicle & News-Sentinel on June 15, 1961 sets the stage:

The program opened with the selection, “Prelude in G. Minor,” by the High School band.  The processional was impressive with the boys in blue and the girls in white cap and gowns.  The invocation was given by Rev. Robert C. Morgan, pastor of the Faith Baptist Church.  Following the “Star Spangled Banner” and the pledge of allegiance to the flag, Principal Thomas J. Whalen welcomed parents and guests.

The SHS Class of 1961 class officers were: Raymond P. Beless (president); Cynthia A. Wales (vice president), Kathleen Williams (secretary), and John F. Kilroy (treasurer).

1986 – Now history comes into my realm of memory.  I was a junior at SHS when many of my friends graduated in the Senior Class in June 1986.  Reading through the list of 300-plus graduates now is a roll call of old familiar names for me. 

The MTV generation, with our Sony cassette Walkman’s, guys and girls with feathered hair, were also a group of students with no idea what the Internet and DVD’s were and how they could be an aide with homework. 

The Class officers of SHS 1986: Ronald DiMatteo (president); Shelia Jackson (vice president); Tina Doucette (secretary); and Jennifer Marotta (treasurer). The class advisor was Mr. Edward Weiner. 


I would like to personally dedicate this article of historical facts and trivia to the Class of 2011, for they now are a part of Stoughton High School history.  As an alumni and member of the Stoughton High School Academic Hall of Fame, I wish them all the success and happiness in the world.

Hope to all your dreams come true.

David Allen Lambert June 06, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I was trying to find a class picture for 1911. If you have one I would love to get a copy. Delighted to be able to remember your grandmother. Mine graduated from Milton High School Class of 1914. And my eldest daughter will be graduating one hundred years later in 2014 from SHS.
Dwight Mac Kerron June 06, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Great article and pictures David! As you well know, but some Patch readers may not, the Stoughton Historical Society has a great collection of old yearbooks, hundreds of pictures of schools and students, and recently republished booklets on the history of education in Stoughton. We also have many pictures of the old State Theater and the interior and exterior of Town Hall, back when it had "the Great Hall, in which that 1911 graduation was held. That Great Hall was much larger in total space than the current one.
mom2qts June 06, 2011 at 12:34 PM
What a great article. It's amazing to see how things have changed
David Allen Lambert June 06, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Thanks for your comment! It is amazing how education has changed over the years. From Blackboards to Computers. What will the next 125 years bring?
Roseanne June 06, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Hard to believe that the people in the first photo are only 18. They look about 40!


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