Another school year has begun. At Staples High, there\u2019s a familiar hum of activity. Dozens of courses, from Advanced Placement Environmental Studies and Mandarin to Advanced Culinary and Radio Production, take place each day. Athletes play fall sports; the Players\u2019 drama troupe rehearses the fall production of \u201cGuys and Dolls.\u201d It all seems so neat, so ordered, so traditional \u2013 exactly what someone would expect from a high-powered, high-achieving school. But Staples\u2019 path to 2022 was anything but foreordained. There were plenty of twists and turns to get to its place as one of the top public schools in the country. Newcomers may not realize the local high school\u2019s long history. Westporters who have lived here a long time \u2013 even (particularly?) current students \u2013 may not know the back story either. There\u2019s no way to capture Staples\u2019 138 years in 800 words. But here are a few highlights. The school was founded in 1884 by Horace Staples. (There\u2019s the answer to \u201cwhy is your school named for an office supply store?\u201d) He was 83, having been born when Thomas Jefferson was president. The town\u2019s wealthiest man \u2013 he owned stores, ships, an axe factory and a bank \u2013 got tired of watching boys and girls ride trolleys to schools in Norwalk and Bridgeport. In 1884 \u2013 after being turned down several times over 16 years by the town \u2013 he finally began building a school on land he owned near his Riverside Avenue home. (The original building was torn down in 1967; we know it today as the site of Saugatuck Elementary School.) The dedication ceremony was grand; the entire town shut down for the day, and the governor delivered an address. In the second year of operation, the principal was Wilbur Cross. He was just 22 years old; the job of principal was actually \u201cprincipal teacher\u201d (on a faculty of six). After a bargaining session over \u201chard cider\u201d with Horace Staples, Cross agreed to a salary of $700. The principal left the next year, for a long and notable career as a Yale University professor. In his 70s, he was elected governor of Connecticut (and had a parkway named after him).\u201cStaples\u2019 High School\u201d (with an apostrophe) included seventh through 12th graders. The first graduating class, in 1887, consisted of six girls. All the boys dropped out earlier, to work in factories or on farms. Horace Staples died in 1897, at the remarkable age of 95. Up to that time his birthday (Jan. 30) had been celebrated as Founders Day. He would visit the school, sit in on classes, and be the honored guest at an assembly. The tradition continued for a few years after his death. In 1903, the town of Westport took over the school. Until that time, students had paid tuition. Now Staples was a fully public high school. In 1907 the first fire drill was held. An athletic club \u2013 for boys only \u2013 was organized. Two years later the state Board of Education declared Staples to be one of the best high schools in Connecticut. The first yearbook was published in 1912. Five years later, a new group \u2013 the Parent Teacher Association \u2013 began. In 1918, in part because of that group\u2019s insistence \u2013 with America fighting in World War I \u2013 German language was dropped from the curriculum. A proposal to add Spanish to the foreign language department (which included only French and Latin) was voted down. There was little need, it was believed, for any students to learn to speak Spanish. 1923 was a banner year in Staples history. The first newspaper, called Inklings, was published, and a \u201clunch counter\u201d opened. Previously, students who lived nearby went home for lunch. Not everyone could do that, of course; they came from as far away as Weston and Wilton. Those students ate lunch in their classrooms, or headed into nearby downtown Westport or the village of Saugatuck. In 1925, Gladys Mansir was hired as an English teacher. She remained for 40 years. Her no-nonsense approached to grammar, literature and writing impacted generations of students. Four years later, Walter Stevenson began teaching math. He had a similar influence. The next year, a new building \u2013 part of what is now Saugatuck El \u2013 opened next to the wooden Staples\u00a0High (which was still used), to serve the growing school population. Bedford Junior High School opened for seventh through ninth graders, across the field from Staples. (That building is now Kings Highway Elementary.) Staples lacked an auditorium and gymnasium though, so high school students trooped over to BJHS to play basketball, and put on plays. In 1931 Inklings, the student newspaper, began. A \u201ccollege preparatory course\u201d began; those students were separated out from those in the commercial or general courses. Meanwhile, the Depression affected Staples. Enrollment surged, as parents were unable to pay tuition at the private schools many wealthier students had attended. World War II, and the post-war baby boom, helped turn Staples into a more modern school \u2013 much more akin to what it is today. Next week\u2019s \u201cWoog\u2019s World\u201d explores those years. Dan Woog is a Westport writer. His new column \u2018Calendar Close-up\u2019 appears each Friday and dives into one of the upcoming community events in Westport. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.