JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Shorpy members who are Patreon contributors get an ad-free experience! (Mostly -- there's still an ad above the comments.) Sign up or learn more.

Forest Brook: 1956

Forest Brook: 1956

November 8, 1956. "Forest Brook Elementary School, Hauppauge, Long Island. Classroom and teacher." For those of a certain demographic, this may strike a chord. Large-format negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Love this photo but makes me sad

I was born just a couple of months before this was taken in 1956 but the style and atmosphere of this classroom really hit me in a few ways. I'm going to leave out concern about "the Russians." Look at the condition of the room, the bright and spacious surroundings, and a couple dozen or so kids who are there, at attention, ready and willing to learn. The world of "Leave It To Beaver" was real, it existed, and these kids (like many others) lived it.

I can't help but believe that most schools these days pale in comparison and that with all the social / cultural distractions being shoved at our kids, education today is far less than the kids in the photo were receiving. I'm 62 as I type this yet I have a 7-year-old son. He attends a parochial school and it's likely as close to this experience as one can get today.

[You need to get out more. - Dave]

We never did that.

I grew up in the suburbs around Akron, Ohio, and we never had a bomb drill or duck-and-cover drill ever. All of my peers that grew up in other places had those drills, which has led me to a couple of possible theories. One, that we had some sort of pacifists in our local administration that refused to take part in the Cold War(unlikely). Or two, that we were so close to potential industrial targets that there was simply no point in hoping for survival... Better to go out in the first flash.

[Never had them in my grade school years 1952-1960 in Larkspur, California, either, nor was I aware at the time that they were going on anywhere. -tterrace]

I grew up in that town!

I didn't go to this school, but grew up in Smithtown--where this school actually was; not Hauppauge. I was in elementary from 1990-1995, when times were much different. As a teacher I love seeing how it was then.

Green Thumb

The teacher has quite a spartan setup, but I love the line of flowers along the windowsill! What a lovely touch that would be in a classroom.

This was a fun photo and I enjoyed the comments. My parents were born in 1954 and I really like seeing and reading about what that might have been like.

Fast Forward

Twenty years later I attended a school built in the early 1940s. This reminds me of those old classrooms in some respects with the desks all lined up in rows, large windows and undoubtedly a large slate chalkboard just out of view. I notice that the teacher's chair is a sturdy wooden straight back chair - no comfortable office chairs here! Also, only a two drawer filing cabinet? I don't think I've ever seen one that small in a classroom. I teach school now and while this brings back memories (even the light fixtures), it's amazingly different today.

Bayou View School

This reminds me of Mrs Powell's 2nd grade class at Bayou View School in Gulfport, Ms, c.1955.


Grade school in Alexandria, Louisiana. Very familiar classrooms, with the good Nun up front to keep [or try to keep] us on the right path.

The Joys of childhood

I would have been 9 years old when this photo was taken. I was attending "Summer Avenue School" at that time. It was an old three story brick building. We had the kind of desks that bolted to the floor so they couldn't be moved even if you wanted to do so. The seat was actually part of the desk behind you and folded up automatically when you stood up. The top of the desk was hinged at the front so that you could lift it up and put you books and such inside. Oh Yes, they had the obligatory inkwell hole in them as well, but never any ink.

Summer Avenue School still stands but is now known as Roberto Clemente Elementary School.

Yes, the Memories!

I would have been right in this age range, near as I can tell from looking at the kids. That would have made it my first year out of parochial school, escaped from 4th grade under the rule(r)Sister Rita Jean, she who was Evil Incarnate.

Best memory was teacher telling me, "David! Stop moving your desk around. It makes me think we're having an earthqu... Everyone - outside!!"



I can sympathize with jimmylee42. I broke a front tooth in much the same way at my school in the fourth grade. It was the winter of '63-'64.

When the weather was exceptionally cold, they would open the gym for the early kids to come inside before classes started. Although the details are vague now, someone said I was tripped by a bully while I was running around. In a family of four siblings my folks couldn't afford to get my missing tooth capped for years. So one of my nicknames throughout grade school was "Snaggletooth"... not one of my fonder memories. I finally got a white tooth cap just before I started senior high after we moved to Florida.

I wonder how my Alabama classmates would remember me now?

Few years later

I was in the first grade in a Catholic school in NYC. We had fire drills but no under the desk kiss your butt goodbye stuff. Nuns ruled the roost in those days. Midget Gestapo agents all in black with a yardstick bigger than them which was used to get you back in line if you misbehaved. I remember the first day of 2nd grade while us kids were waiting for school to open and my mom approached me to wipe my nose and the nun smacked her hand saying "he belongs to us now!" Ah memories...

Patty Duke, Ben Gazzara, Gene Hackman were some of the actors who lived in the area, Kips Bay, and might have even attended my school at one time.

Reminds me of...

Sutton Elementary School, southwest Houston, 1971 to 1973. The building was built in the late 50s and had those same big windows, but by that time we had the one piece metal desks with the big opening beneath for your books.

Not non-conformism. Safety!

I've worked at a school for years and even though I'm not much of a rebel, I've always backed into the parking space. The logic is simple: you have to back up when you arrive or when you leave, and it's safer to back *in* to a space when there are few or no children around (an hour or two before school starts) than to back *out* of a space when children are running all around at the end of the school day (of course, one should triple-check either time). I often back into shopping center parking spaces using the same reasoning: if there's no one around when I arrive, it's safer to back up then than later when there might be a lot of people about. I knew a man many years ago who fatally backed over his 4-year-old daughter in their driveway and that tragedy changed my thinking on this permanently.

Several years later

I was attending a Catholic school in a much older building further west on Long Island -- still vividly remember our "duck & cover" drills as I was the smart-alack who asked how a wooden desk would keep us from burning to a cinder.

As for the cafeteria, no hot lunch then; if you forgot your brown bag (no lunch money; you were not permitted to leave the premises) you might have been lucky enough to be escorted across the street to the convent for a PB&J sandwich.

The uniforms were ghastly -- white shirt, dark maroon tie with the school shield on it, and dark grey slacks with black piping down the outside seam. Girls wore a white blouse with a snap tie, grey plaid skirt (that was always rolled up at the waist after leaving the house, and a matching bolero. Once out of sixth grade boys wore a blue plaid tie & girls could wear a -- *gasp* -- blouse of color.

Reminds me of another picture here of young girls wearing skirts in the dead of winter; evil little Catholic boys that we were, we'd spend the lunch hour in the schoolyard assaulting the bare-legged victims by snapping rubber-bands on their frozen legs.

Old School, New School

I started the first grade in 1954 in rural Kansas. We were in a building that had been built in 1911 and only housed six grades. The 7th and 8th grades were in the high school. The bathrooms, the lunchroom, and the art room were all in the basement, and we had music in a one-teacher school building that had been moved into town and put behind the school. The 1911 building was probably a horrible firetrap, although there was a metal fire escape on the back from the second floor down. The district built a new school in 1956, and we moved in in February 1957, when I was in the third grade. It looked much like the one in the photo, except that we had metal desks. No dress code--nearly all the boys wore jeans. That 1956 building is still in use, along with the 1923 high school. Of ocurse, they house far fewer kids than they did then.

4th grade for me

Decatur Street elementary. I think the building was probably built at the turn of the last century. And probably the teachers. We had the well worn student desks that you find in the antique shops now for a pretty penny. The one with the ink well and indentation for a pencil with the seat back and foldup seat on the front of your desk. We had 12' ceilings, oiled wood floors that the janitor put sawdust down on daily to use his pushbroom on, kept the dust down.

The furthest corners

Ah, those desks. In the later grades of elementary school we ate our lunches in the classroom, and the kid in front of me used to stuff the parts of his lunch he didn’t want into the deepest recesses, behind books and other trash. It got very ripe, and one day the teacher followed her nose to Robert G.’s desk and made him excavate the smelly mess. I will leave the rest to everyone’s imaginations.

The desks

Starting I guess in the late 40s that blonde style of wood came very much into vogue for furniture. Notice, they're the first generation of school desk withOUT a hole for an inkwell. We had ball point pens by then, no more dipping a nub into india ink. And no more opportunities for dunking the pigtail of the little girl in front of you into the ink!

Blue Jeans?

I was in 5th grade at the time, in a far western suburb of Chicago. What I remember was the enormous spending on shiny new schools back then. My mom was a teacher, back when teaching was a respected profession, teachers were proud of what they did for a living and grateful for the $6,000 a year they were paid.

That and the rule against blue jeans. Strictly verboten in my school system. They looked "hoo-dy", pronounced with "hoo" as the first syllable, and were a a well known precursor for the dreaded juvenile delinquency during adolescence and a life of crime and depravity later on. Without that rule, thank goodness and a vigilant school board, I probably would have a criminal record by now.

Fond Memories

I was in 1st grade at that time and our classroom in suburban Chicago looked very much like this one. Someone mentioned getting called down to the office. There was nothing worse than hearing your name on the PA system to report to the principal. Every kid in school knew you were probably in deep doo doo. As for the non-conformist staff member who backed into his spot, these types have always been around and still are today. They'd rather waste extra time and endure the hassle of backing into a parking spot just so they can pull out with ease at the end of the day. Never understood that logic.

Good Ol' '56

I was in third grade in Hempstead, Long Island then. Ike was president and the world 'champeen' Brooklyn Dodgers would win another pennant only to lose once more to the Yanks. Anybody who wore dungarees (as jeans were called then) in my school district would have been sent home to change to proper attire and an open shirt would catch you a stiff reprimand. Nobody knew what a school bus was and schools were not in the restaurant business for anybody. There was a lot to like about those days.

"Silver Tooth"

I was in the ninth grade in fall of 56. All of the new schools I attended in the late 40's and 50's had those windows and the 9 inch floor tiles. I believe the teacher's desk was in that position only for this pic. One memory came to me in a flash when I saw the tiles. In the 4th grade on the last day of school as I was swinging between desks I did a face plant on the green floor tiles. The impact broke off two of my front teeth below the nerves and the family dentist fixed them with silver caps that stayed that way until I turned 21.


I'm exactly the right age for these memories, but except for a few very early instances that were termed "air raid," all our drills were of the fire kind. No duck, no cover - and this just north of San Francisco, with its own battery of Nike missiles by the Golden Gate - in plain view if you took a spin along the Marin Headlands. We all just marched outside. The only time we had to put our practice to use was for a 1957 earthquake centered just south of SF but sharp enough in Larkspur to get us squealing in our fifth grade classroom before the alarm sounded and we made our orderly exit.

My First Year of School

1956 was my first year of school in Houston. Would have loved to have been able to wear blue jeans and shirt tails out but HISD rules at the time (and almost all the way through my HS years) said no blue jeans, no t-shirts, no shirt tails out for boys and skirts/dresses only for girls.
Hard to believe especially since the schools weren't air conditioned in HISD except for offices and a few other classrooms (science for one)until after I graduated in 1968.

No duck and cover drills for us until the Cuban missile crisis when we were told Houston would be a first strike target due the refineries throughout the Houston area. We had an air raid siren right next to the window in my 5th grade class that went off each Friday at noon. I also thought to myself that if the Russians were smart they would attack at noon on Friday!

Beautiful Schools but the Russians are coming!

I began my second semester of kindergarden in January of 1953 in newly built grade school on the west side of Detroit. We immediately began having fire and air raid drills. For air raids we descended into the basement of the school which was actually the main tunnel of the air circulation system. Some times when we went down the stairs during a drill, the big fan would still be rotating after being shut down. We had to sit along the walls and cover our heads. To condition us further the lights would be turned off for a short period of time. I switched to a newly built parochial grade school for the fourth grade on. No basement, so we sat in the main hallway between the class rooms and covered our heads. Both schools had class rooms identical to Forest Brook. To add to the tension, the nearby Rouge Park had a Nike missile battery. The missiles were normally hidden behind a high earth berm, but they were visible when frequently pointed skyward for testing. The AM radio frequencies of 640 and 1240 were permanently etched into our memory.

And a decade later

I started public school a decade later, in a building constructed in 1961. And it was exactly like this, light fixtures, desks, and all. Most of the teachers were young then (and exactly one man, who I got in fifth grade) but I started out with Mrs. Lord, the white-haired wife of the principal, who could have stepped out of any 1910 school administrator picture with naught more than a change of collar. However in my day the fellow with the open shirt front there would have been made to neaten himself up.

Sturdy Desks and the "Good Old Days"

Those sturdy desks are perfect for the inevitable "Flash Drills" of the era, in which the principal would come into the room unannounced and write "FLASH" on the blackboard, causing all of us students to "duck and cover" to avoid instant nuclear incineration. I'm not sure how much good it would have done in a real attack, but it was the only tool in the drawer.

Also, I'm surprised the windows don't have the standard heavy blackout curtains, which were handy not only for viewing nmovies but to keep enemy bombers from spotting stray lights at night.

1956 Rebel

Alright, who's the non-conformist on staff who just had to park facing the wrong way?

Star pupils or problem children?

Teacher has all that space in front of the classroom for her desk but it's right up close to those pupils at the far end of the classroom. Even with the photographer present, the kids appear to be gazing out the window. Maybe she needed to be that close to keep their attention for any length of time. I wonder if modern medicine is overused in favor of such simple solutions.

Maybe I'll send the first grade picture (1960) from my Catholic school in New Jersey. It's a bright, clean classroom like the one shown here but it's packed tight with baby boomers, all in navy blue and white uniforms, with Sister in her black and white habit up front.

Reading Material

Most of the children have notebooks, many children seem to have the Spell and Write workbook, and the young man in the lower left (just behind the girl in the foreground) has the Air Raid Instruction booklet on his desk.

Let there be photons

My elementary school (Horace Mann in Burbank, Calif.) had the same light fixtures, although we had four to a room. Each contained one ≈500 watt bulb; the bottom of the bulb was obscured by a silver coating. When a bulb was nearing the end of its service life, it would usually emit a high-pitched squeal. The teacher would then cycle the light switch off and on several times, killing the bulb and throttling the distracting squeal.

X marks the spot

I'm not sure if it looked that way in 1956, but Forest Brook today has a strange shape, what you might get if Picasso or Dali had been asked to draw the letter X.

Hauppague today is a densely populated community, home to most of Suffolk County's government (though Riverhead is the actual county seat) and a huge industrial park, but back in 1956 it was on the frontier of suburbanization. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the students in this picture were the children of farmers.

Smelementary School

Those wooden desks were washed and cleaned before classes three months ago, and the floors are waxed weekly.

All the girls are in skirts or dresses, and the boys are well groomed and always polite. After all, no one wants to get called down to the school office!

Plus, there's a great lineup of cars out the window, in case a little daydreaming is in order, but only for a few seconds at a time. By the way, you can smell today's newfangled hot lunch almost ready to serve, down the hall.

You will not leave this house dressed like that

It would be three years before I entered first grade about 20 miles west of Hauppauge. The New York City Board of Education had a much less relaxed dress code. Boys from first grade on had to wear ties. Jeans and sneakers were not permitted. On school assembly day everyone was required to wear a white shirt or blouse and the boys had to wear red ties. Of course by the time we were graduating from high school there were still strict dress standards, but they only applied to the teachers.

Lighting fixtures

We had very similar fixtures in my Elementary School about ten years after this, ours had a large bulb with the bottom painted silver sticking through the center though.

They were probably ancient even in 1966.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2022 Shorpy Inc.