Merrimack Valley Life

Looking Back

What’s in a name?

 

 

You’ve likely traveled Geremonty Drive between Main Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway many times, passing Salem High School and other town-centric facilities. Have you ever wondered about the origin of that street’s unusual name?

Over the years, I’ve heard a number of people refer to the road as Geometry Drive – like the math term. A logical misconception, I suppose, with the high school’s stately position at the top of the hill.

In 1925, Salem built its first high school with a $50,000 gift from Levi Woodbury – a Salem boy who made it big in business and owned the St. James Hotel at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street in Washington, D.C. Prior to this colossal new school building, which included seventh and eighth grades, Salem students either attended high schools in other towns or simply completed their educations at eighth grade.

In 1926, the town hired a 24-year-old history teacher and coach from Stoneham, Mass. The young, athletic Francis Geremonty led his football teams to very successful seasons, going undefeated in 1927. In those early years of Salem football, teams often consisted of just 11 members who played both offense and defense.

Francis Geremonty led Salem’s undefeated 1927 football team. Shown are (back, from left) Coach Geremonty, players Allard, Palmer, Bowyer and Higgins; (front) Harrison, Merrill, Morgan, French, Terpsten, Casey and Brown. Photo courtesy of Bob Berthel

Francis Geremonty led Salem’s undefeated 1927 football team. Shown are (back, from left) Coach Geremonty, players Allard, Palmer, Bowyer and Higgins; (front) Harrison, Merrill, Morgan, French, Terpsten, Casey and Brown. Photo courtesy of Bob Berthel

Francis H. “Gerry” Geremonty was born in Stoneham on Oct. 18, 1901, son of Alfred and Florence Geremonty. He married May Eckford in 1924. They had two children, neither of whom survived beyond infancy. He attended Stoneham public schools, graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1925 and earned his master’s degree in history there in 1930. He served during World War I with the 101st Division and was involved in several bitter campaigns. He earned the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Geremonty soon moved on, though, after just two years of employment in Salem and the 1940 Census shows him as a public school teacher living in Manchester. He returned to Salem later and, in October 1956, he became headmaster of Woodbury High School. He continued in that position until his untimely death in 1963.

Francis “Gerry” Geremonty was captured by yearbook staff in the doorway of his office at Woodbury High School in 1958. Originally hired as a 24-year-old teacher-coach for the newly built Woodbury High in 1926, he left Salem after two years but later returned and, in 1956, was elevated to the position of principal of Woodbury High. Photo from 1958 Woodbury yearbook

Francis “Gerry” Geremonty was captured by yearbook staff in the doorway of his office at Woodbury High School in 1958. Originally hired as a 24-year-old teacher-coach for the newly built Woodbury High in 1926, he left Salem after two years but later returned and, in 1956, was elevated to the position of principal of Woodbury High. Photo from 1958 Woodbury yearbook

His message to students in the 1962 high school yearbook, The Log, reflected the political times. He talked of nuclear tests, a race to the moon and closed with, “God grant that we will be spared the awful spector (sic) of another world conflict and that you will live out your lives in peace.”

He presided over Woodbury High School’s largest-ever senior class to that point — with 110 graduates rendering Woodbury’s Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium stage obsolete for graduation exercises.

“Strive to be the best in your chosen field. The best is always in demand,” he advised his students.

The man who led hundreds of our Baby Boomer students into the Space Age passed away just two years before the 1965 grand opening of the monstrous new Salem High School. Long called “the access road” to the new high school’s site, the connector road was named Geremonty Drive in his honor.

Geremonty, who passed away shortly before the opening of Salem High in 1965, was memorialized by the town by naming the new road between Main Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway after him.

Geremonty, who passed away shortly before the opening of Salem High in 1965, was memorialized by the town by naming the new road between Main Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway after him.

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