WILKES-BARRE — It was a clear, brisk morning in September 1964 and kids my age were gathering in front of the Plymouth Junior High School building, waiting to enter for their first day in the ninth grade.
Most of us were sort of used to the building, having spent seventh and eighth grade there. As we were about to take our first steps through the threshold of PHS Junior High, we were now being joined by kids from the Plymouth parochial schools, which only went up to the eighth grade. It was somewhat of an adjustment, but nothing for what loomed ahead for this ninth grade class.
We were entering high school as members of the freshman class of PHS. We were looking forward to four years of high school — both from an academic standpoint and from an athletic one. The next four years were going to be our years and before long, we would be the BKOC — Big Kids On Campus.
And oh, what a campus it was. If you drive down West Main Street in Plymouth these days, you can’t tell what once was. Gone are the two brick buildings — the PHS Junior High and the Ward P. Davenport High School — that were connected by a second-story walkway. Gone too is that campus — a tapestry of wide concrete sidewalks that were woven into the greenest grass and lined with the tallest of shade trees, giving PHS a postcard look from West Main Street.
It’s all gone now and so are those memories that were never created of walking the halls of those two beautiful buildings for four years. They are gone due to the consolidation of nine West Side towns into what became known as the Wyoming Valley West School District. And with that inevitable decision went our dreams of graduating from our hometown school, playing for our hometown teams and experiencing all that is good that comes from attending your hometown school.
I could go on and on about the pros and many, many cons about the big merger and “the monster” that was created, but what good would it do. The decision was made and that can never be changed. All the students who were forced into the merger became the first group of local high schoolers who had to ride a big yellow bus to school, who had to learn the names of teachers they had never had before and they had to try to fit in with their classmates — for the WVW Class of 1968, there were 692 members.
Think about that for a minute. Plymouth High School would have been lucky to have 100 in its senior class. Now, those kids were thrust into what had been Kingston High School and away they went. Whatever our senior year was, it wasn’t anything like we had hoped for when we stood at the bottom of the steps of Plymouth Junior High in 1964.
The WVW Class of 1968 was the second class to graduate from WVW — the first was 1967, when students attended three high schools — Plymouth Area (Plymouth, Larksville, Edwardsville), Forty Fort Area (Forty Fort, Swoyersville, Luzerne), and Kingston Area (Kingston Courtdale and Pringle). They had three schools and athletic teams in all sports from each school. In 1967-68, those three schools and their multiple teams became one — the aforementioned “monster.”
It was difficult, if not near-impossible, to instantly develop school spirit. In fact, I dare say after 50 years, Spartan spirit has yet to reach the levels of school spirit and loyalty that was found in each of the individual schools back in the day. I doubt I will ever truly understand why the district has never reached total unity and school spirit. Even 50 years later, some members of the WVW Class of 1968 still insist on stating on their Facebook pages that they graduated from Kingston High, or Plymouth High, or Forty Fort High.
The fact is they graduated from Wyoming Valley West. They even helped, with the Class of 1967, to select the newly minted school’s colors and nickname. I know, because I clearly remember filling out my ballot.
And 50 years later, as I serve on the reunion committee, I find it extremely disheartening that there isn’t a better, unified, school-spirited Wyoming Valley West High School. I am saddened there isn’t more of a celebratory mood when it comes to the school’s athletic teams. Where are the crowds?
And I’ll never know why the cheers I can still hear from the fans of the Shawnee Indians in that clear air of 1964 have never risen to the same level for the Spartans of WVW.