Grads, friends celebrate history of Kingston High School at exhibit

By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected]
Beth Bradley Gleim, right, shows Betsy Hughes Stankus a picture of her aunt-through-marriage, Ruth Kersteen Bennetto, that she found in the Kingston High School 1944 yearbook. The two women were among many guests attending a celebration of the history of Kingston High School, organized by the Kingston Historical Society. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Mary Zukosky, a former high-school clarinet player, looks at a photograph of the Kingston High School band from 1955. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Visitors examine the displays Thursday evening during an interactive exhibit that commemorated the history of Kingston High School. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Varsity letter sweaters and other memorabilia added to the atmosphere at a celebration of the history of the former Kingston High School. - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

KINGSTON —“It was just all-around fun,” Betsy Hughes Stankus said, looking back at a high-school career that included being voted “best looking” in the class of 1964, winning a Betty Crocker Homemaking Award and even finagling her way into the class she wanted.

“Mrs. Carey was a wonderful teacher,” Stankus said, explaining that whenever her official class schedule didn’t include that English teacher’s class, she would rewrite the schedule herself.

“Then I’d show it and say, ‘This is what is says on my schedule,’” Stankus said, re-creating her look of wide-eyed innocence.

That was just one of the memories dozens of Kingston High School graduates shared on Thursday evening as they mingled in the lobby of the Wyoming Valley West Middle School.

The large stone building served as Kingston High School from 1928 until the late 1960s, and last week it was the scene of an interactive exhibit members of the Kingston Historical Society set up to showcase the school’s 90-year history.

“It still looks the same,” Historical Society President Judi Nunemacher said of the building. “Except for the auditorium, that was redone after the fire in 1961.”

As a recording of the school’s alma mater played softly in the background, nostalgic graduates and other interested folks paged through yearbooks and examined displays.

“There we are, the three musketeers,” Mary Zukosky said, peering at a large photograph of the 1955 school band in which she saw herself — a young clarinet player — and her friends Joan Ertley and Gerry Adamchick, who were baton-twirling majorettes.

“That went by the wayside,” Zukosky said. “Now bands have flag-twirlers or dancers or something.”

Alongside such mementos as a football from the 1940s and a tribute to longtime coach Jim Fennell, visitors found a book on Kingston High School sports painstakingly compiled by Kingston graduate Jim Walsh, class of ‘43, who was in attendance.

“You can find all this at libraries,” said Walsh, explaining how he searched yearbooks and old newspapers to uncover such statistics as the Kingston football team’s 36-0 trouncing of Edwardsville and its 14-13 victory over Plains. Both games took place in 1918, when students went to class in a building that predated the Chester Street structure.

Despite his scholarly affection for history, Walsh admitted he didn’t enjoy school.

Other guests, meanwhile, had fonder memories.

“We wore casual shoes to the Friday-night dances,” said Diane Archard Snyder, class of ‘58. “Heels and ballerina-length dresses for the proms.”

“I liked typing, but not shorthand,” said Jean Nesbitt, class of ‘52, who brought her glee club pin as well as a yearbook that revealed she had been an athlete — volleyball, basketball and swimming — as well as a singer.

“Out in the schoolyard, that’s where we learned everything,” said William Grogan, class of ‘67, reminiscing about the way the football team trained outdoors and didn’t have such modern-day amenities as a weight room.

“If you were really lucky you and your girlfriends would go to the Top Hat for a hamburger,” Snyder said, explaining students used to be allowed to leave the building for lunch and sometimes went to that diner on Wyoming Avenue.

“My favorite teacher was Lottie Zebrowski. She was the epitome of a teacher. She demanded excellence and she got it,” said Sandra Sigismondi Touw, class of ‘63, who followed her teacher’s example into a career in education.

Another Thursday-night visitor, Beth Bradley Gleim, hadn’t attended Kingston High School but seemed to enjoy herself as much as the “Go, Huskies!” alums.

Pointing to a page in the 1944 yearbook, Gleim explained she had found a senior portrait of her aunt-through-marriage, the late Ruth Kersteen Bennetto; snapped a photo with her cell phone; and sent it to Bennetto’s five daughters in Arizona, who responded with messages of delight.

Looking around the room, organizer Nunemacher also was delighted — with the turnout.

Would the Kingston Historical Society arrange a similar event in the future?

“I think so,” she said.

Beth Bradley Gleim, right, shows Betsy Hughes Stankus a picture of her aunt-through-marriage, Ruth Kersteen Bennetto, that she found in the Kingston High School 1944 yearbook. The two women were among many guests attending a celebration of the history of Kingston High School, organized by the Kingston Historical Society.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_kingston1.jpgBeth Bradley Gleim, right, shows Betsy Hughes Stankus a picture of her aunt-through-marriage, Ruth Kersteen Bennetto, that she found in the Kingston High School 1944 yearbook. The two women were among many guests attending a celebration of the history of Kingston High School, organized by the Kingston Historical Society. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Mary Zukosky, a former high-school clarinet player, looks at a photograph of the Kingston High School band from 1955.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_kingston2.jpgMary Zukosky, a former high-school clarinet player, looks at a photograph of the Kingston High School band from 1955. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Visitors examine the displays Thursday evening during an interactive exhibit that commemorated the history of Kingston High School.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_kingston3.jpgVisitors examine the displays Thursday evening during an interactive exhibit that commemorated the history of Kingston High School. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Varsity letter sweaters and other memorabilia added to the atmosphere at a celebration of the history of the former Kingston High School.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_kingston4.jpgVarsity letter sweaters and other memorabilia added to the atmosphere at a celebration of the history of the former Kingston High School. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Kingston Historical Society arranges interactive display

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.