1970s female athletes recall their sports days at Livingston High School

All photos courtesy of the Livingston High School yearbook

By Steve Sears

Sherie (Berkowitz) Wolpert, an Epidemiologist and Coordinator of Public Health Preparedness for the Middlesex County Department of Public Safety and Health, played both field hockey and basketball for Livingston High School in the early 1970’s.

“I was taking a trip down memory lane,” she says after pulling her high school yearbook off a shelf. “I have not actually thought about this in so many years. I looked at pictures of me, and showing my kids the pictures of me were to contrast that my granddaughter currently plays several sports without any idea that there once had to be a Title IX.”  

Her former teammate, Mary E. Schalkoff, Ph.D., HCLD, is a recently retired clinical laboratory director who had worked in numerous infertility practices since 1986. Schalkoff says, “It was a wonderful experience all around. We were teammates, but we also grew to be close friends with each other. I think in a sense we were sort of groundbreaking, if you will. We did not know what Title IX was or what it was going to be. I am happy for women who have benefited from it, from not having to change in an extra small gym or a closet, or to not have nice uniforms or anything like that.”

Title IX, adopted in 1972, would have a significant effect on the future of women’s sports. As defined courtesy of www2.ed.gov, “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.” 

Livingston Life recently visited with Wolpert, Schalkoff, and several other Lancers female athletes to discuss their being trailblazers for women’s sports. Recognition was not high and not all sports programs were in existence over 50 years ago, but since then opportunities for women athletes has grown, as has the publicity they receive.

There was a comradery amongst those teammates that remains to this day, and the sports they played, they loved – and they played them very well. 

Pamela Clause McGroarty started coaching at Livingston High School during the 1971 – 72 school year. She coached basketball, field hockey, and tennis, and pitched in when track and field needed a coach. She also coached at Seton Hall University, and previously played field hockey, basketball, and softball at then Montclair State College. 


“Back then, women’s sports came under the auspices of what was known as the Girls Athletic Association,” McGroarty recalls. “I started coaching tennis and basketball then, and both sports had about eight contests per season. We did some good things, and I loved it. I loved every minute of it.” 


Celia Chen, MS, PhD Research Professor for the Department of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College, was co-captain of the girls’ swim team, and she also played tennis. She graduated from Livingston High School in 1974. “Being an athlete at Livingston was just such a community for girls,” she says. “I do remember we as women had to have the earlier practice times, so we had to be at the pool in the dark. That was brutal. I also swam at Dartmouth College, and the women always got the less than sufficient locker rooms and practice times. There was definitely no equity in those days, but I do know those years made me a stronger swimmer, for sure.”

 

Attorney Luanne Peterpaul played basketball for McGroarty, and also took part in club volleyball outside the school. “Women weren’t really encouraged at that time to be active in certain types of sports,” she says. “It just was an interesting time. And I think that once you hit junior high, it was okay, but once you were in high school, it was a different ballgame. I think female athletes were looked at quite differently depending upon the sport. It was not like it is now, where there was a hope that you are going to continue on into the future. The coaching staff and the teachers were phenomenal in terms of the encouragement; it just had not yet made it to the students.”

Wolpert adds, “Before Title IX, they actually had girls’ basketball before that, and they had girls’ tennis. Pam Clause was a great mentor, by the way; she played basketball at Montclair State College before 1972, so it was not the start of girls playing sports. It was just the start of being equal: the start of growth, having equal pay, equal facilities, and no discrimination.”

Schalkoff, who had quite a jump shot for McGroarty’s Lancers, adds, “Pam Clause was quite the coach.”

 

McGroarty, who retired in 2011 as principal of Livingston High School, says, “If it were not for Title IX, we would not be where we are today. And I had kids back between 1972 and 1974 that accomplished some good things.”

 

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