High School Double Sessions


By Don Browne, Harding Class of 1962



Whenever I talk about the high school experience with non-Bridgeporters, I have to explain about "double sessions". Most comment that they perceive double sessions as an factor that reduces the value of the high school educational experience.

I point out that double sessions schools, like Warren Harding until 1967-1968, had no less percentage of students accepted at Ivy League colleges, many with scholarships.

The true distinction of having the entire afternoon free becomes important when the student becomes sixteen; the age that "working papers" were issued in Connecticut.

Many students had "part-time" jobs each day after "morning school."

Those who worked in "family-owned" businesses may have started several years before reaching the age of sixteen.

Those who were in courses other than "college-prep", usually worked in order to afford the purchase of that first automobile. Many worked an eight-hour day, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., while attending high school full-time, from 7:50 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The "college-prep" crowd usually worked in order to afford the tuition of that important freshman year at college. The plan was to work "full-time" during the college summer break.

My first "part-time" jobs, during my junior year at Harding, were in the two major department stores of the city, "Read's" and "Holland's". They didn't last very long.

I especially remember my "part-time" job during my senior year (and senior summer).

Each day after class, I would board the "special" CR&L bus parked on Central Avenue along side Hedges' Memorial Stadium...the bus that would follow the traditional route of #9 - East Main Street. The bus would depart at 12:40 p.m., and I would eat my bag lunch on the bus, while in transit. My daily peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich.

I would exit at Main & Fairfield, and walk to Fairway Market (formerly Mohegan Market), at 56 Fairfield Avenue. It was there that I worked in the grocery department from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturday. Gratefully, the store was closed on Sundays. (Remember the Connecticut "blue laws" of the period)

I looked with envy at the students who worked "next door", at Rudy Frank's Record Store, 52 Fairfield Avenue. A customer would select a vinyl record to be "previewed", and the record store clerk would play the single or album into a sound-proofed "listening booth"!

Imagine...being paid to play records!

Fellow students in my curriculum also worked "part-time", but not one every talked about it.

Almost like a disgrace for not being a member of the "leisure class".

I particularly remember two students, with whom I attended every course, including "gym".

The late Harold Bumberg worked in a drug store/deli counter on East Main Street, near Ohio Avenue.  I remember that he sliced off the tip of one of his fingers on a cold-cuts slicing machine!

And the other, Ted Skiba, had what I considered to be "The Dream Job".

He was a chemical technician (with lab smock and everything) at the Columbia Records Pressing Plant, at 50 Ridgefield Avenue, at Ridgefield and Barnum Avenues.

His mother worked "full-time" at Columbia Records in a secretarial capacity.

In the morning, she would "drop" Ted at Harding, and drive to the "plant".

At 12:30 p.m., Ted would walk four blocks to the "plant".

And at 5 p.m., Ted and his mother would drive home. What a situation! A "technical job" somewhat related to your future career aspirations...and convenient transportation as well!

(Historical Note: A vinyl collectors site on the internet stated that the Columbia Records Bridgeport vinyl pressing plant closed in 1964).

But most of the student "part-time" jobs were not as glamorous...mostly "clerks" in grocery stores.

From the memory of Don Browne (Harding Class of '62)

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