First BRHS Teachers Remember Time There Fondly
Former teacher reflects on the open campus, intelligent faculty and exceptional students.
He remembers when the board of education and teachers had a better relationship, when people were still getting used to the campus-style high school and much more—and now former teacher Art Goldsworthy is pleased to celebrate the 50th reunion of the Bridgewater-Raritan High School Class of 1962.
“I remember a lot of the students in the class, and I’m looking forward to saying hello to them very much,” said Goldsworthy, who will be attending the reunion Saturday. “It was 40 years I taught there.”
The 50th high school reunion for the Class of 1962 is being held Saturday evening with a dinner, as well as a few other events both Friday and Saturday. A total of six of the invited 14 teachers are planning to attend.
Goldsworthy, now of Hillsborough, was originally teaching on Long Island when he heard that a new high school was opening in Bridgewater.
“I am from New Jersey, and I graduated from Dover High School,” he said. “I kept traveling back a lot to my parents because there was a lot of illness at that time, and when I heard of Bridgewater-Raritan High School opening, I thought I would like to go back to New Jersey.”
There, Goldsworthy said, he started teaching business education, then became a guidance counselor.
Goldsworthy said there was a lot of excitement among the students and staff with the opening of the new school. But, he said, it took a while for everyone to get used to the open campus, it being a California-type school.
“A lot of us taught in other schools, and had never taught in a campus-style before,” he said. “When you’re there every day, eventually you get the kinks out and get used to it. Some people didn’t like it, going outdoors between each class along a central ramp.”
“The school was initially designed as a California-type school, and it didn’t have a great deal of air circulation because they didn’t have air conditioning,” he added. “But some people loved it, myself included, because we were going out and getting fresh air.”
Wilson Bethard, who will be not be attending the reunion but was the emcee for the 45th, said he was glad to be part of the creation of so many policies and much more for the new school.
"Having the opportunity to be part of establishing a new school's curriculum, policies, reputation, athletic programs, music programs and all the activity that is part of an outstanding school program [were the high points]," said Bethard, who became vice principal of the high school in 1965 after teaching there, and also served in other principal ships throughout his career. "For me personally, having a part in establishing the science program that was at the cutting edge of science education and starting the first BRHS Cross Country team [were highlights]."
"The key challenge was to get everything started at the high level so that BRHS would be viewed as the very best in secondary education," he added.
One of the things he also treasured about those early years in the school, Goldsworthy said, was the special relationship the teachers shared with the board of education.
“The board of education was excellent, and at that point it was before there were bargaining agreements between the NJEA and board of education,” he said. “We did our own bargaining directly with the board, and had a great relationship. The board was outstanding.”
“It was a very unique situation, it was a unique relationship,” he added. “Later on, when the unions came, it changed.”
As for the faculty itself, Goldsworthy said, the principal at the time recruited everyone, and many of them became principals and superintendents in the district in later years.
“I think they really got an outstanding faculty to start that school, and that made a big difference,” he said. “A high school principal and the superintendent after Harmon Wade all came from members of the first faculty.”
One of those was Murray Tart, who was a social studies teacher, and became assistant superintendent of schools in the district in the 1992-1993 school year.
In a survey sent to all teachers, Tart, who is attending the reunion, said he loved being part of the staff at BRHS, and is proud of the work the students did.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “There was a terrific sense of camaraderie among the new young staff. We had the opportunity to set and shape policies and traditions.”
“We, the staff, had very high hopes for the class of 1962,” he added. “And you did not disappoint us.”
Another of those teacher-to-superintendent educators was Joseph McGarry, who spend his 36-year educational career in Bridgewater-Raritan, teaching science at the high school and then serving as superintendent.
"Teaching the senior girls in med lab was quite a challenge for my first year of teaching, but a great experience," he said of his memories of the class. "You were the first and best in spirit. A great class and some lifelong friends."
Thomas Sheehan, who is not attending the reunion but sent back the survey, said he was proud to be part of the first faculty of BRHS, and he remained on staff for 34 years in the math department before being named science chairman a few years before his retirement in 1993.
The students were also very disciplined, Goldsworthy said, a very good group.
“There were some outstanding leaders, and they set a good tone for the underclassman,” he said.
James Decicco, who aside from teaching also served as principal of Bridgewater-Raritan High School East, said the Class of 1962 was superb and cemented the accomplishments of the students to come.
"The success and accomplishment of this class set the standards for all succeeding classes," he said. "The Class of '62 set the bar so high that all other classes knew they had to perform at the max to meet these standards."
Decicco said he believes the first class set the rules for everyone to come, and that future classes have taken the best from those students.
And, Decicco said, he is looking forward to speaking with many of these students at the reunion.
"I will share my thoughts with many of you as we reminisce about our days at BRHS from '60 to '62, laugh about all the funny things that happened and also take a few moments to reflect upon both staff and students who are no longer with us," he said.
Goldsworthy said he remembers the sports teams as well, because he coached basketball and softball while he was there. When the school first opened, the Golden Falcon was the original mascot, creating a connection with the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs because of the school’s open campus.
When the high school split into two, the new school was the Minutemen, and when they rejoined, they became the Panthers.
“They thought to start something new,” he said. “It was better when going back to one school to change the mascot and make it a brand new thing.”
Goldsworthy said he is looking forward to the reunion and seeing how many teachers and students return.
“A lot of people who may not have come before tend to come to the 50th,” he said. “It is an important reunion, and it will be interesting to see how many faculty members come.”
For more information on the reunion, visit the reunion website at brhs62.com.