Team Photo is Startling When Viewed Today

Huntington's first rifle team in 1930.

August 10, 2016

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.

The photo, which can be found on page 53 of the 1930 edition of the Huntingtonian, the high school yearbook, is obviously out of place by 2016 standards. Members of the rifle team and teacher Fred Bedford displayed their weapons outside the building facing Main Street. This was during the era when the high school was located on the site now used as town hall.

Huntington High School’s long history includes a rifle team. The squad was in existence over parts of four decades. Members practiced their skills in a firing range built in the basement of the school. Meets were held with other Suffolk and Nassau high schools that also sponsored similar teams.

The 1930 yearbook lays out the history of Huntington’s rifle program:

“At the instigation of a number of students interested in target shooting, a high school rifle team was finally organized late last fall. An indoor range was built by members of the team and shortly after the close of the football season, practice began. About twenty men turned out for the team, but this was soon whittled down to about half that number.

“Weekly practices were held throughout the winter, culminating in a meet with Far Rockaway High School late in May.

“The rifle team is the only sport now being carried on in high school in which a minor “H” is awarded.

“The Blue and White varsity sextet, comprised of Arthur May, Romney Wheeler, Dave Duncan, Cottrell Sammis, Bob Strickland and Jean Wagner competed at the Far Rockaway range. The result was a victory for Huntington by 138 points, 855-717.

“No return meet with the South Shore school could be arranged.

“In May, the team received its charter as a member of the National Rifle Association.”

The 1931 girls' rifle team

Mr. Wheeler was president of Huntington’s Class of 1930 and as such he surely played an integral role in the establishment of the rifle team. Although only a teenager, Mr. May served as the team’s coach. He was also the senior class representative to the GO’s Executive Council. A graduate of Houghton College, Mr. Bedford taught math at Huntington High School. He was pressed into service as the rifle team’s faculty advisor by the squad’s members.

The team immediately thrived. The 1931 yearbook told the tale:

“This year the rifle team was organized not only as a team for competition, but also as a club to which anyone interested in shooting could belong and be taught the principles of a good marksman. To carry out this plan the club joined the National Rifle Association Junior Division and competed against the entire United States in weekly matches. When the results were turned in, Huntington High School stood in seventh place, which was a very good standing for so new an organization.

A rare 1942 photo showing Huntington High School
and the Main Street School at right.

“The team itself was composed of Cottrell Sammis, David Duncan, President Robert Strickland, Jean Wagner and Richard Falk also made a good standing in interscholastic meets of which they entered three. The first two meets were with Far Rockaway High School and the Blue came out victorious in both of the meets. The third meet, however, was less successful and the Blue and White riflemen were defeated by Richmond Hill. A return match was planned with Richmond Hill, but the outcome of the meet was not known when the yearbook went to press.”

The 1931 yearbook contains still another startling photo. A girls’ rifle team had apparently been formed and its members were pictured holding guns outside the building.

The boys’ rifle team photo is included in the 1932 yearbook, but it appears the girls’ team had folded by then since no photo of that squad is in the book.

The team continued to function through the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War period. But, it couldn’t survive the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In the aftermath of November 22, 1963, the Huntington School District community came to believe that a rifle team didn’t belong in the school and students shouldn’t be discharging firearms on the grounds. So the team was discontinued and disappeared into the district’s history, never to be resurrected and offered to students again.

Huntington's 1931 rifle team on the steps of the school.
Huntington's 1932 rifle team.
Huntington's first rifle team in 1930.
The 1931 girls' rifle team outside Huntington High School.