Monday, December 03, 2018

Parade and Pageant Faces, 1958
These three photos are from the Children’s Parade and Pageant on Friday, May 23, 1958, a major part of Ridgefield’s 250th anniversary celebration that year. Three adults are identified, but does anyone recognize any of the young faces?
The upper two photos are children from Veterans Park School; at top, the picture includes. at left, Principal Isabel O’Shea (for whom O’Shea Auditorium at East Ridge Middle School is named), and teacher Lucile Nicholas. The middle shot shows kids, waiting to join the line of march, at the top of Prospect Street — that’s the library in the background. 
The bottom picture shows two St. Mary’s pupils dressed as Indians,  standing at a microphone as they announce the beginning of the big historical pageant at the East Ridge school baseball field. (That’s assistant RHS principal Charles D. “Chad” Crouchley, chairman of the day’s program, seated at left).
Back then, there were only two elementary schools in town: Veterans Park and St. Mary’s. All the rest of the public school grades were housed at the East Ridge school, a building later taken over entirely by Ridgefield High School and now the Richard E. Venus Municipal Municipal Building.
Parents — no doubt mostly moms — created colonial garb for their kids, following predetermined patterns.
Some of the St. Mary’s kids were outfitted as American Indians, leading a contingent of pupils dressed in their school’s blue uniforms.
At Veterans Park School, “little girls and their female teachers wore Colonial costumes of white crepe-paper mob caps, long skirts, and blue crepe-paper frilled aprons,” said a contemporary account in The Press. “The boys and their male teachers wore Colonial hats and jerkins over their other clothes, with buckles on their shoes.”
The older East Ridge school kids “were dressed in Colonial costume like that of Veterans Park children, but brown instead of blue. Several of the older boys were dressed in Revolutionary war outfits and other boys were attired in Victorian full dress, with tails and derby hats.”
The accounts says nothing of what the non-Colonial girls wore.
The students all marched along Main Street and up Governor Street to the East Ridge baseball field where they staged a historical pageant, complete with bands for music. More than 1,500 people crowded the field and its surroundings.
“Life of children in early Ridgefield was shown by Veterans Park children, with scenes in a Colonial home, a school, and a church,” the 1958 account said. “East Ridge children showed other scenes of Colonial life, including someone in the stocks, a house-raising, figures of the past such as Sam Keeler, Peter Parley, and the Rev. Thomas Hawley, concluding with Colonial square-sets, for which Elisha Keeler of South Salem was the caller.
“Junior high students depicted scenes of the town’s early government, paying a school teacher, binding over an orphan girl to a farmer, and the dispute over the ‘Oblong.’
“The final scene showed General David Wooster, mortally wounded, being carried on a litter.”
“Backdrops for the pageant all made by the students with the help of various teachers, included a church, school, whipping post, house and Indian wigwam.”

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