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We’re amazed by how much education has changed in the last hundred years. Folks laugh now, but the “old-school” way was actually taught in school –- funny that. We gathered up a few images of student shop life that caught our attention from back in the day.

1. Harding Middle School in Philly circa 1925. I don’t think I would’ve made it doing woodwork in a suit and bowtie. Take a gander at the complete lack of power tools.

Click the page links for other scenes from shops of yesterday.

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10 Responses to Shop Class: Five Echoes Of The Past

  1. kif says:

    Do many high schools, and I don’t mean the vo-tech schools, still have woodshop class? Mine did in the 1980s, but it didn’t have metal or auto shop, even though there were something like 2600 students there. More and more of this cool stuff is available at the vo-tech schools only, meaning you get to choose between those activities and preparing for college.

    This is too bad, because the quality of the tools they had in my high school was outstanding, and with the course my life has taken, I will probably never work with such great machinery again. I have been searching for woodworking clubs, or places that let you work for a fee, but to no avail.

    I do remember, however that the University of Wisconsin had a craftshop http://www.union.wisc.edu/craftshop/ Maybe other universities do too. Also, most military installations have nice automotive and woodworking shops for members and dependents. So some toolmongers might have access to these.

  2. Greg says:

    Seeing pics like this allways begs the question…. Why can’t we do with less, more changeable tools?

    Cheers!

    Greg

  3. hjablomy says:

    I was lucky enough to have access to a good woodshop at my hs in the mid 90s, but the old teacher (who was awesome) left, and they replaced him with an over-safety-conscious doucheb*g. I woulda been one of those kids who took woodshop every semester, if not every year just to make some interesting projects. We had a metal shop, but I always wished they had an auto shop.

    I ended up getting a college degree, but am now working to get my journeyman wireman card instead since I can’t work in a damn office. Go figger.

  4. Old Coot says:

    I fondly remember my high school woodshop, especially the genourmous sawdust vacuum system plumbed with sheet metal pipes. Whenever our poor teacher turned his back, one (or more) of us would insert chunks of 2×4’s and listen to the cacophony for the seconds it took to travel thru the system. Great fun, thanks Mr. Turner, RIP.

  5. Coach James says:

    The school system I used to teach in has 12 high schools and all 12 have gotten rid of auto shop, wood shop and all other trade programs. Certain ethnic groups complained loudly that their kids were being pushed into “vocational” classes and kept out of college prep classes so the superintendent of the school system got rid of all the trade programs.

    I teach in a different system now and my high school has carpentry, auto mechanics, horticulture and masonry.

  6. Pat Zagorski says:

    When I was growing up you took wood shop in seventh grade and metal shop in eighth grade. All boys had to take those classes didnt matter if you were planing to go to college or go fix cars. I gave you an insight to working with your hands to fix things. These programs were killed with the votech movement.

  7. windycity says:

    my hs has a long history of technical training and when I attended in the late 90’s, they had electives in wood shop, sheet metal shop, machine shop, auto shop, print press shop and even cast metal/foundry shop. Machine and wood shop were the most fun and I remember seeing similar antique photos all the time within the school.

    But soon as I graduated, all but auto shop seemed to be phased out to make way for focus on computer based training…at least drafting still has a strong presence there.

    I remember an area of the school basement dedicated to wood storage for woodshop and let me tell you, it was like a lumber yard…other than the teachers, it was rarely seen by anyone else. bear in mind this is a public school in chicago with 4,200 kids…so thats a big basement. My teach said most of the wood was stockpiled decades ago and we’re talking heavy duty old growth stock you don’t see very often these days…

    I often wonder how i can be the lucky guy is that gets his hands on cool things like that whenever shop programs get phased out….

  8. Michael Pendleton says:

    When I was Junior HS, (mid-80s) all students had a mandatory rotation through a wood shop, a metal shop and a kitchen. We learned drafting, your basic assortment of power tools (I don’t recall a table saw, and dust collection was something that happened under the sofa), sheet metal, sandcasting, recipie reading, stove and oven cooking and sewing. Pretty well rounded, really, and since you went through the rotation with the same group of kids, everyone got a chance to shine.

    Personally, I think you can thank liability concerns for the lack of shop classes today. I would love to teach folks out of my shop, but there’s no way I could afford the insurance unless I did it full-time.

  9. Scott Dallesasse says:

    Wish I had shop classes in high school. I got most of my “shop” classes from my father and also by watching the DIY programs of the day. My father was an electrician and has a wide spectrum of knowledge besides electrical due to his time at Milwaukee Tech High School. It seems that if a high school is set up for college prep they discount the value of shop classes. In my opinion, shop classes or at least some class that cultivates mechanical abilities is neccesary, even if the student body is focused towards college education. How are our future engineers supposed to design structures, circuits, roads and most important TOOLS if they have no idea what it takes to build them?

  10. Dan says:

    Shop class is a piece of history that was before my time. What it has been replaced with is a joke.

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