Surrounded by flowers and plants, a large gold-plated sculpture sits serenely along the main walkway near the entrance to Southdown Primary School. It’s been there for more than 40 years, but few, if any, of the hundreds who pass it by each day have any idea of who it honors or why it’s there.
Since 48 leading citizens came together in 1793 and pledged the funds needed to erect a school building devoted to providing the young people of the community with a classical high school education, Huntington has been on the cutting edge of classroom instruction and has been sending its graduates to the top colleges in the country and into every career field imaginable.
Sensing the need to add another elementary school to meet the needs of a growing community, the Huntington School District purchased an eight acre tract of land on Oakwood Road more than 56 years ago and in 1961-62 erected what would later be named Jefferson School, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Huntington schools have been known to close for snow storms, ice storms, hurricanes and similar calamities, but because of a beached whale? It happened; it really happened.
Frank DeGraff was an affable fellow who students and faculty colleagues took a liking to. After serving a stretch as a math teacher, he spent the last 19 years of his career as the assistant principal at J. Taylor Finley Junior High School before retiring in June 1984. He recently passed away at 90 years old.
One of Huntington High School’s greatest coaches ever passed away suddenly last week. Aaron Littman, who taught physical education over parts of five decades and won three Suffolk titles and the 1975 Long Island championship as head coach of the Blue Devil boys’ lacrosse team was 79 years old.
Sometimes the folks that manage the Huntington School District’s website have to play detective to ferret out information. This was one of those times.
Retired Huntington School District teacher and principal Edward Abrahamson passed away on November 15. He was 86.
Nearly three dozen former Jefferson School colleagues recently held a reunion, bringing back many fond memories for members of the group.
Huntington, like the rest of Long Island and the world, was a very different place in the 1930’s. It was the era of the Great Depression, of legions of unemployed, of storm clouds forming over Europe and of bread lines even on Main Street. It was also a simpler time when the local high school was the center of the universe for many teenagers and their families. It was a time of Friday night bonfires in Heckscher Park, social events in the school cafeteria and auditorium and an annual five-day senior trip to Washington, D.C.
It’s certainly a startling photo when viewed today. Huntington High School students and their faculty advisor on the front steps of the building holding rifles.
Roosevelt Elementary School and its predecessor might be gone, but the building will never be forgotten, as least if the Huntington School District’s Heritage Museum has its way.
The School Heritage Museum was established in December 1985 to serve as the official depository of the Huntington School District’s traditions and history. Beginning with eight cartons of assorted pieces of memorabilia, the collection has grown to include thousands of artifacts, photos, documents and pieces of school lore. Among the items are school illustrations from 1794, science equipment from 1898, gymnasium benches from 1910, building plaques and cornerstones dating to 1910 and even 1920’s era drinking fountains and the bell that rang out from the original high school, which stood from 1857 to 1909 on Main Street at the site of the current town hall.
The Heritage Museum, which is located in Huntington High School’s room 140, has effectively chronicled 350 years of public education in the community. Artifacts include a complete set of school yearbooks since the first one was published in 1930 and annual bulletins from prior years, decades of district newsletters and newspaper clippings detailing school milestones, 19th century diplomas, historic athletic award banners, trophies and cups, distinguished alumni displays and quirky items such as the letters that once spelled out the name Robert K. Toaz Junior High School high atop the first junior high built in Suffolk and the megaphone used at the 1939 homecoming festivities.
Individuals, community and school groups are welcome to visit the facility and learn more about the history of the district and the students and staff who studied and worked here through the years. Customized tours can be arranged by calling the curator at 673-2048.
Brian Hansen assumed the post of School Heritage Museum curator on July 1, 2012. He is only the second curator to lead the museum, having taken over from the institution’s founder, Jack Abrams.
Mr. Hansen obtained an undergraduate degree in communications (radio and television) at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and earned two graduate degrees in early childhood education/special education and English as a second language at St. John’s University.
The current curator interacted with Mr. Abrams in the time leading up to his appointment and Mr. Hansen received the founding curator’s imprimatur. He has worked as a substitute teacher in Huntington, as a full-time teacher in the New York City public schools and as a private tutor.
Mr. Hansen has been a freelance producer and writer for many years, including work as a coordinating producer/segment producer, story coordinator and associate producer for various VH1 productions. He also gives guitar lessons.
The curator’s personal interests include writing children’s books, writing and playing music, coaching sports, technology and computer production.