Section III – Secondary School
Section III – Secondary School
I went to two different High schools:
a. High School Minor Seminary (SPX )- bus rides to another town for a year and and half
Why become priest?, Thy will be done, School routine, Writing Punishment, Joyful students and group action, Clowning, Window hurts, Hospital, Trouble with Chant Books, life learning, Beginning languages, Leaving St. Pius. Postponing Religious Life decisions, Jack at boarding school and monastery, uncles’ cautionary tales
b. Local Public High School (SHS) and working summer jobs
Class schedule, Basketball practice and bench warming, walking off the court, Stage, Drums, Humorous friends, Working at Jones Beach, Proms, Life guard test without sleep, green and white sports teams, Hungry for experience
a. - High School Minor Seminary - bus rides to another town for a year and half and amove to Fulton Avenue
Why think about being a Catholic Priest: – early inclinations. I had decided at a very early age to be a priest. It just seemed the simplest way. Everybody said it was good to be close to God and in the catholic theology as my child brain understood it, the priest was closest to God. And if you died trying to save someone – like a martyr in Africa you go right to heaven. So what could be simpler? And everybody seemed to be doing the church thing or synagogue thing every week so there must be something to it. And the adults seemed to get pretty serious about religion and God when anyone got sick or especially if someone died. So I wanted the most direct route to the goal (heaven and all it implied – no death, no illness or suffering, always happy and maybe even flying around a bit without a plane as I had sometimes in dreams). To be frank I just couldn’t understand why more people weren’t begging to get the opportunity. And why wait until you or loved ones were almost dead to find out? Seemed to be a disconnect between what people said they wanted and how much they were willing to invest in getting it. How come everyone didn’t go to mass every day if they really believed that was where Christ was and he was God? And how come you could only receive Holy Communion once a day? And lots of other questions that I sometimes didn’t speak because I somehow already knew this line of thinking was not a crowd pleaser. And I had to admit It wasn’t the only thing I was thinking about. I also liked to watch television and play baseball too. There were many times at the end of the mandatory Friday after noon benediction service in church at St Williams when I was so grateful when we started to sing “Holy God we Praise thy Name” together and we would file out. It was child bliss, inwardly flying without wings, to be out of there heading for the school buses and the WeekEND!
Planning to go to the seminary: For high school and college it seemed all set, I would be in the Seminary. I prepared for and took all the tests for catholic HS, I was recommended by the nuns and priests. Had done my share of altar boy and funeral services [I never had the Latin fully down so I had to look at the cards or just mumble convincingly] But all in all I thought I could eventually handle the job. I was a little worried about the counseling the sick, dying or grieving part. I tried not to think about that. Also that giving a talk that kept everybody awake each week seemed to be a tough one. I liked to tell and hear stories and my father was public speaker so I felt maybe I could just tell at least one good story each week and the rest would be forgiven. I noticed some of the priests didn’t get even one laugh in and people didn’t seem to mind too much. And there was also the option of the monastery where you only prayed a lot or worked as a missionary – with the hope you would go fast if it got too tough out there.
Thy will be done: I remember thinking about what would happen if I was not accepted to the Seminary while I was doing my paper rout one day. And I began really worrying about how bad it might be and suddenly I said to my self listen I did everything I could. Then if I really believe in Jesus then it's up to him to do something if I’d supposed to go. It was basically "let thy will be done" equivalent for the 11 year old. From there on it seemed all settled. I was accepted in to St. Pius the Tenth Preparatory Seminary for High School. I lasted a year and a half.
St. Pius Routine: It was exciting to go to another town for High School. As Seaford boys going to St Pius (Uniondale NY), we shared a town provided Bus with some other students form Seaford also going to catholic High Schools on Long Island: Chaminade High School (Mineola, NY) for some of the boys and Sacred Heart Academy (Hempstead, NY) for the Girls. I think since our parents paid our tuition cost t he Private HS and we didn’t go to the public school the school district was willing to pay for our transportation. I didn’t mind the bus ride for the first year, it was time to be with friends who had mostly been with us in St Williams and play card games. And sometimes we even did homework. Because of the bus ride home there was not much time to hang out after school. To participate in an athletic team one had to have all passing grades, which I didn’t in language. There was Mass each day, which I liked, and Gregorian chant or singing 2X a week which was ok. They had a brand new Library. I think I liked my English teachers the best (Fr. M. and M.) along with our Biology teacher. They somehow seemed the most mature and sensible. They projected a good sense of the world based on personal experience, were strong and yet modest. They really love their subject and never appeared bored or officious. The best for us was when we would get them to go a bit off topic and answer our questions about their lives before they started teaching at St Pius.
Writing Punishment Discipline: The only real discipline I remember was if some one did something wrong, they were assigned extra papers to write. Depending on the offense - the number of words would be specified. The topic would be assigned at the end of the day (so you couldn’t write it in class)”. I figured out a way to work in some nonsense pages after the first 2 pages. I would then sit in class and pretend to be taking notes. The teacher would sometimes look over my shoulder and see that the things I had written down did pertain to the subject at hand. I would write up to a thousand words. Just following the narrative sense of what the teacher was saying or someone was reading. Then when the discipline topic came out at end of day I would write quite big and something on the topic and then say something like how I had people talking during the previous day about so many interesting topics that I would mention that didn’t have a lot to do with the subject but I believed they might be relevant. Then I would just tack on the extra pages I had previously written as notes for the class. If for some reason the punishment papers were not collected I was prepared for the next offense. I never had to do more than the first two pages. I figured if I ever got caught I would have to change my strategy. But I was correct in that the “prefect of discipline” barely had time or interest to read the first page and check off your name on the list he had. My papers were so boring with so many spelling and grammar mistakes that he couldn’t bear to go on to the next pages and just considered if it looked to have the amount of words require.
He also had the rule if you could come up with a new excuse – he would sometimes accept it on the grounds of he hadn’t heard that particular excuse before. But you couldn’t use it again. So I also felt that if he caught on I would use the first time offense escape clause - i never had to use that backup plan..
Brilliance displays Joy in Class There were some boys in the class that I was amazed at their quit brilliance and wit. One boy who seemed to be one of the brightest also had tremendous poise and could come back with a brilliant remark in almost any situation. I remember once in Latin you had to make up a silly every day phrase using fractured Latin (tenses didn’t have to be right etc. He came up something like “Ubi O ubi meum sub Ubi” (Where oh Where is my under wear”. When we figured out what he was saying we were beside ourselves with Glee. For 9th grade boys that made our day and would often cite that as the most important thing we remembered from the Latin Class even years later.
Early Group action: For most subjects at least for the first years I was there, all the students took the same subjects. The teachers changed classes between periods we didn’t except for a few classes like science Lab, Gym and Language Lab and chant in the chapel For some reason we got the idea –maybe it was April first or Halloween, but we decided to all move our desks to the back corner of the room and crowd into the corner before each new class. All sitting in our assigned seats, with the lights turned off, we took up only about a quarter of the room. Then we would wait to see what the next teacher would do. Some laughed. Some got up set, some got upset and pretended not to. Some taught the class just as were. Some waited for us to rearrange the desks. The most striking I think was a religion or Latin teacher who would not come into the room with the light off and I think went to get the prefect of disciple. By the time he arrived we of course had quickly put all the desks back in place and acted like nothing was wrong. When the prefect arrived, he just smiled and went back out. But we all cracked up as the original timid teacher entered and just began teaching like nothing had happed. We also did the usual things to this poor teacher like at a pre- agreed time (ten minutes into class) everybody would pick up their pen and put it down in the middle of the lesson or start at one end of the room at head of row with opening and closing the book and each boy in turn would do the same, or taking off and then 5 minutes later putting back on our sport jackets or loosening our ties. Success was when he would yell "Just stop it". Beginning observing / learning and enjoying community organization techniques?.
Clown in the hallways. In freshman year, I was a bit of a clown and found a number of the other boys were of the same mind. We would “roughhouse” lightly between classes, sneak in the odd push or punch if passing each other and had lots of laughter. We were able to go out side at lunch and there was big field so you could walk around a bit but not able to have the real roughhouse games we played in 8th grade at lunch time. So we did have a lot of pent up physical energy that couldn’t wait for the few scheduled Gym classes a week to be released.
Escaping from Punishment – but not pain: One day, as we were returning from class, I started to pass my friend C.D. In the line. He was sort of the certified biggest class clown. I said something or poked him and we both laughed. Then he began to push me and I lost my balance, as I tried to get out of the way without drawing attention from any teacher around. Instead of banging into the locker which was a foot away, I went backwards through a window that was right next to the class room door. I tried to break my fall when I realized I was going to the window and stretched out my arms wide. However my back hit with too much force and I landed inside the class room on my butt. We were both sort of laughing in the middle of the shock and I said out loud “I guess I am in trouble now.” Vaguely starting to think of how long of composition I would have to get for punishment with a topic of “safety in school” or something like that. Then one of the brighter boys in the class who was near us on the line said: “I wouldn’t worry about that - take a look at your arm.” Then I noticed I was bleeding lot from inside the left wrist and the back of the right arm. It seems they had been cut on the sharp broken glass as I tried to break my fall. The science / biology teacher I think came quickly and applied pressure while the staff scramble to see what to do. I told them my family doctor was nearby and after calling my mother we went in car to the Dr. office that was very close to the school. When the Dr. came out he told us to go on to the nearby hospital. I remember riding in the car with the teacher and the principal and that we had a pretty good conversation. I tried not to look at where the arm was cut.
Emergency Room: When we go to the emergency room they took a look and cleaned up the cut and the hardest part was when they had to inject needles in the area to either stop the pain or stop the bleeding. The priest held my hand and I don’t think I cried out but just grunted when they put the needle in and the tears did come by themselves. They had do it a few times and just kept saying I was brave. I was happy when they said it would be the last one. Then there was no more real pain as they went into clean out the glass and look closer at what needed to be done. The operation to fix up the left wrist was that afternoon. The doctor said I was so lucky that it hadn’t cut through the main blood vessel but had torn up some tendons and other stuff which they needed to make another incision to fix. I was out of the hospital in a day and back to school in about a week. I remember thinking in the hospital that I would rather to be in hospital than be the one who had pushed someone through the window. I know that it was just blind luck that It had come out that way. I didn’t have to write any punishment exercise. But poor “C” who had pushed me did. It took a while to fix the window by our classroom and everyone would just walk through the window instead of the opening the door to enter. Except for “C” who always walked through the door and would make some dramatic effect about his conscience bothering him. We all laughed. I think I told him that I would rather get my hand cut than have to write one of those dreadful discipline compositions.
Replacing the windows: The school asked my parents if there was anything they could do to help out. My parents said the insurance covered most of it. But my mother said she had only one request: They replace all the fancy crinkle cut glass in the big window next to each classroom door with heavy safety plate windows. She said it was just a matter of time before another boy went through one and he might not be so lucky. All the glass in the windows next to the doors was replaced.
The Science and biology teacher took a personal interest in the healing of the wrist. He was fascinated in how they had sewn up the cut and had to attaché some tendons together in such a way that the skin on top didn’t move at one place. Even a year later he requested to look closely at the scar and how I could move my hand in all directions, which originally they were very concerned about.
Trouble from Writing in the Chant Books – There was an incident that became a minor scandal of the day. We would leave our chant books at our seats in front of the pew (church seat) we were usually assigned to and they were accessible to any one else who might go to the chapel at any time of day. But no one wanted to read someone else’s chant book. The trouble began innocently enough. Possibly when one of the boys was a bit bored in the Gregorian chant class. It probably was one of the good singers who was looking for something to distract their attention from the horrible noise there rest of us were making . It must have been torture for them to listen to us other singers repeat the same mistakes off key over and over. Or it could have been when we were waiting for the daily mass to start when the priest was late. But at some point, someone took another person’s book and wrote a fictions “love letter” on one of the back pages asking for a response and signed it something like “Mary Sue”. The book got passed around to a few people. Then the owner, when he found the original message wrote something similar in another book (who he most likely thought was connected with the note in his book). Well this went on for some time and got people reading other people’s chant book back pages. Innocent fun!. But I guess some of the “letters: were a bit specific as the exercise escalated and even said some nasty things about the person’s parents. Still not much problem with young boys used to “ranking each other out” in small groups.
- The problem began when one of the priests happen to be in the chapel praying and decided to read in a chant book. He found one of the notes and then began to look in others. (It was also speculated that one of the more devout students had actually complained or tipped off the Chaplin and this story of how it was located was concocted to protect the identity of the student who complained). Anyway, the Chaplin and some teachers were then involved and they went through all the chant books in the chapel. They had no easy way to know who the authors were. Only way the priests tried to know who did it was when they found something in a book, they asked the owners of the books (which had their name in the front). The owners said obviously they didn’t write in their book. Some had torn out the offending pages from their book or scratched trough the messages. (all sort of variations). Most didn’t want to “Rat” on their friends who they suspected and sometimes even knew for sure. If they were close to each other, they had probably had a good laugh about it. Sometimes there were three or four short imaginary notes back and forth in one book. So they just made a general announcement asked those who may have written in another person’s book to come forward. I suspect those who wrote the more risqué or outrageous notes in people’s books and especially if they weren’t that person’s friend, never came forward. The things I had written were pretty tame and I admitted what I did after I found someone had written in my book.
- I was a bit scared. Now it began to seem like this was something one could get kicked out of school for (and not be a Priest). It became a big topic of conversation and I felt guilty. I was asked about some other writing that I had not seen and said it was not me. I think my poor spelling and handwriting could confirm it. Each of us had to go and talk first to the Chaplin and then to the head of the school and it was very serious conversation about why we did it. When I had to meet with the principal, as an aside during the conversation he did ask how my wrist was doing from the year before when I went backwards through the window, and if I had full movement of the hand (which I did). He did remark that I had been very poised when I had been hurt. I think he even thanked me for being honest about the chant book. (that gave me some hope that we were not going to be judged on the one event)
- During the meetings there was discussion; of why we would be writing something like that in the chapel?; what was our attitude about woman?; and would we feel those thing were appropriate to be written about our mother? (that was a low blow). I remembered it years later when I heard the Bill Cosby line where the teacher insults the child’s mother” to get him to admit he is guilty. The upshot was they first finished all the individual meetings with each student that confessed and any boys who’s book had been written in. Then those who admitted writing in the books had to have their parents come to the school.
- That was the worst part for me. I was really a bit afraid of that. My parents had a lot on their plate at the time with 8 other children and my father was often traveling during the week for his job. After the meeting at the school for my parents, I think my father only said something to me like “don’t write in other people books”. He said nothing about the content. Later I found out he thought the whole thing was ridiculous and said: “What did you expect from 14 year old boys? How much of the staff’s time and parents time was taken up with this?”.
- After the meetings we were all just warned sternly if anything like this happened again we would be in big trouble. I think there was not anything else that could be done. Because: 1). they didn’t know who started it; 2). The worst offenders had not come forward; 3). There was too many of the “good” students involved that they would have to punish; 4). If it got out much beyond the school, many people might have the same reaction that my father did that it was ridiculous; or 5). Some would alternatively think the place was going to the dogs; and 6) It might reflect poorly on the teachers and 7) after the first days and the dust settled some of the teachers or their superiors may have felt the whole thing was overblown.
Learning about Life: Somehow I thought at the minor seminary we would learn more about the deep meaning of “life” or more importantly the inner life and how to be “holy”. Some of the subjects on days of “retreats” were quite interesting. I especially liked when the leader of the retreat would tell stories from their own experience. I was a bit disappointed to be told that meditation and contemplation would come later, I was hoping there was some concrete steps we could begin to do right away and see some progress. The only time I remember meditation being spoken about was in the context of not paying attention in class. It was sometimes said “meditation is to be done at home”. It seemed a mysterious subject reserved for highly advanced people or the saints. But I was only at St. Pius for a year and a half and maybe in the later years they covered this more..
Beginning Languages: I loved languages I just didn’t have much natural ability. Latin and French were too much for me. We had a very enthusiastic teacher for one year in Latin, but he was using an experimental method. He was trying to get us to speak the language and there was some resistance since we believed nobody else spoke it. Unlike math, history or sciences, I couldn’t figure out how people learned this type of foreign language subject. I really was enchanted with the idea of being able to understand another culture via the language. But in learning a language, there seemed to be more exceptions than rules. I couldn’t figure out a way to make it stick in my brain. I didn’t do much better in those subjects in SHS but I didn’t feel so bad about it and I didn’t have to travel by bus an extra two hours a day. By my third year in High School I had given up on languages for the time being and I never failed another subject. And I still loved the idea of someday knowing other languages
Yet the little Latin and French in HS and one semester of Spanish in college and a few French courses at the UN helped give me confidence to get directions and food on the street in Spanish or French cultures during travel. It even helped me when I made a concerted effort to study Russian (another story) two decades later. I would also use Spanish tapes for Mexico and Venezuela; French tapes and UN Accelerated and Regular classes for a year, Arabic tapes for Egypt and Jordan, Danish tapes for when I was in Copenhagen for UNICEF and German tapes on a number of occasions when I was going to cities with others interested in mediation and Peace concerts. I found just knowing the simple phrases of greeting as well as basic numbers was very helpful. And just a few words used correctly gave me spontaneous joy. Even using them incorrectly gave me often times compassionate smiles for my effort.
Leaving St. Pius X: When I decided to leave St. Pius, I didn’t discuss it before hand with my parents. I just began checking my grades with my teachers and figured out I wouldn’t pass French and Latin the next semester and I would either be asked to leave at halfway or at end of the year be given the option of repeating the grade. Since I felt I was falling behind each week there seemed no way I could catch up. And I didn’t want to repeat a year just for the languages. I was so discouraged with the courses, I also wasn’t convinced that I could even pass the Latin and French with another year. The previous year when I was only taking Latin, I had barely passed it in summer school. So one day I just went to the head of the school and said I was leaving because of my grades. Then I took the public bus home. My mother was surprised to see me mid morning but was supportive of my decision. I confided I was a bit afraid of what my father might say since I felt he would be disappointed by my decision. She told me not to worry about that. I found out later he was concerned about the grades but not that I left the seminary. He thought I was too young to make that sort of commitment but had not wanted to discourage me since I had my heart set on it from an early age. He also had many friends who were priests or with religious orders. He for many years had worked as fund raiser for Catholic Schools and Churches and other institutions in many parts of the country and had to work directly with many bishops etc. Some of the ones he respected the most suggested it would be better for a child to wait until at least after high school to make such a life commitment.
Postpone Religious life decisions But now it looked like I could put off thinking about all this “religious stuff” for now and what I would do with my life if I couldn’t get the “express lane” to heaven. I figured after High school would be soon enough.
For some of the remaining High School I would still go to local Parish confraternity classes one evening a week some times. I began to use the little I did learn in St Pious to phrase the questions. But some of my questions were not always well received. Sometimes I was just showing off that I had read the whole of the gospel. But other times I was asking some sincere questions that sometimes the confraternity teacher did not really have a good answer for.
Brother leaves home for Boarding school My older brother J. went to a boarding school in Road Island for a year since my father knew the religious who ran it. It seemed to be a way to somewhat control the personable but headstrong and rebellious J. It didn’t exactly work out after he found out how to sneak into town with the new friends he met there. - but more detail on that will have to be J’s story. So after a year he was back in Seaford. I had missed J very much that year. But I was able to bond more with my younger brother T while J was away as we continued the tradition of going early to serve mass, boy scouts etc. We were excited when we went to visit J. or he was returning on holiday. We loved his stories from the “boarding school”. (I was very interested in his French Language Book when he came home for a break and was intrigued to learn that some of the words were similar to English. For some reason the fact that “crayon” in French was “Pencil” in English made an impression on me. I mistakenly thought this may be an indication that French might be easier than memorizing Latin prayers had been.),
J at the monastery: Later J also then left Seaford for a year to join a working monastery in the south USA. The religious bent and following his own star was always strong with j. But he found out that the monastery at that age too was not what he wanted – but I again pumped him for any detail he could remember about the experience when he returned home. He had left the monastery after he returned from his summer break in Seaford. While he was away something had “happened” to his farm pets at the monastery. I think they felt he was too attached to them. It seems he also missed some of his friends back in Seaford that he had become re acquainted with during the break. I think years later he would remark that he did appreciated the time at the monastery and that it was one of the most peaceful and happy periods of his life.
Fulton Avenue, Seaford Mannor (artists view)
We moved from Alan Drive to Fulton Ave in the same town (Seaford) during my second year of High School. It was a much bigger house which had been on the market for some time. The the 9 Children were all growing and with all the friends etc, it was getting a bit crowded in the 4 bedrooms at Alan Drive.
The new place with 6 bedrooms and 2 and 1/2 baths seem palatial to us. It was a big "fixer upper" and we all gained some valuable lessons watching the house be transformed over many years. It was also much closer to Seaford High School where I would soon transfer that first year after we moved.
.*3 - Local Public High School and working summer jobs
Returning to Seaford Public School: When I Switched back to Seaford High School, my older brother was already there. But he had lost a year of school at the monastery and had few less credits because of his year in Rhode Island .So when I joined Seaford High School we were in the same home room (the first class of the day where attendance ws taken etc). This had some advantages. He introduced and sort of looked out for me. He warned me about not standing up when the teacher walked in the room. And not saying “yes sister or father” by mistake in answering a question. He also told me about some of the guys who could give you a problem and some of the different types of groups of kids and what they liked. I was a little more into sports than him or his crowd and a bit more interested in going to college.
A lucky break for my older brother
My Brother later shared with me that he really disliked school. The whole structure seemed to make no sense to him of what one really wanted to learn about. Much seemed to be just organized stupidity. He was pretty discouraged by the experience.
It began in grammar sch0ol when at the time some of the teachers seemed to think he would end up in jail.
The only bright spots he remembers fondly was the times with friends and especially the girl who was to become his wife who he met in High School. He considered it a lucky break to be with her at the time and to have her encouragement when he really needed it. 40 years later he feels the same way. He is also feels fortunate that he got to live out his dream of living in the country in upstate NY after he left the Police force on Long Island.
And with his own place he doesn't get in trouble for liking animals or walking in the country...
However, since he was already in the same school when I transferred, I got the inside scoop on what was going on with at least part of the school he knew. Other than a 15 year olds awkwardness about being kind of thin it was a fairly smooth entry. In grammar school we didn’t socialize too much with the girls but they were in classes with us. Seventh and eighth grade it started to change a bit . But in St Pious it was all boys and the NY humor was quick, sarcastic and not the best preparation for a co-ed environment. I quickly learned it was different game and it took me some time to figure out the social rules. I liked eating big lunches so I would bring many sandwiches and carrots, celery as well as buy lunch some days. We weren’t supposed to go out for lunch so we were basically stuck in the lunch room for the whole period. So I enjoyed being quiet at first observing everything during that time period while I snacked or “grazed” on the food I liked to happily consume in those days.
Rearranging a class On the first day I was going to my assigned class for History and another teacher who had been my Scoutmaster saw me and asked me what I was doing there. He intervened with the History teacher I was supposed to be with and arranged for me to be in his class, since he also taught 10th grade history. After class he gave me a little lecture about being a good student that he knew I could be. He didn’t know why I had left the private school but did know J had also gone for a year away to Rhode Island and that our family cared much about us and our education. I did well in History.
Courses I liked, English with Ms. R and Mr. Mac, All the history, Mathematics with Ms. G., Biology with Mr.K and Physics with Mr.B.. And the most useful was probably the half year of typing. I liked the very compassionate Latin teacher and my very tolerant and encouraging class mates but my retention ability was sorely tested (I gave up after level 2 summer school). I was shocked at what a hard time some of the teachers who weren’t strong ware given. Substitute teachers sometimes really had a lot to deal with.
By senior year I felt pretty much at home. By the time I had my driving license in Senior year; I think I also knew I had been accepted to college so all was good for the last few months.
Basketball: The first year in Seaford HS I was offered to be on the JV basketball team starting right away in mid season (maybe because of my former scoutmaster’s influence and I was obviously tall). But somehow it seemed wrong to just walk in halfway and get a spot so I said I wasn’t ready. I wondered how the others who had tried out but not made the team would feel. But next year I tried out and loved the whole thing, I liked the practices more; there was too much tension during the games. Years later I was fascinated when Sri Chinmoy answered a relted question fomr a world class athlete. See foot note: 1
As my brother J had been my introduction to the older class, Ted G. who I met playing on the team was the link to the class right behind me. We would talk for hours after practice in the shower room and walking home about everything under the sun.
- Put me/ Don’t put me in: For Senior year FS. and I [maybe someone else too] were the backup centers. We would mostly get to go in if P.K. fouled out. I hated that. Because if he fouled out it was a close game and we all knew we could not play like him. We had a joke on the bench with a few of us 2nd string that if we were up and winning by a bunch when the coach looked down we were all trying to stick our head out looking back down the row so he could see to “pick me”. When it was close and the end of the game we would all be leaning back not wanted in to go in to be the butt if something went wrong. I liked the comradely bus rides to the away games and the warm up sessions because at least I could use my height to dunk in the warm up.
- Walking off the court: I remember one time my senior year when I was by then on the Varsity, we were losing by about 20 points with 5 minutes to go and we all wanted to go in. The Varsity coach decided that it would show lack of confidence in the first string to replace any of them. When it got to one minute to go and we were all upset that none of us would get any playing time again, I just got up and walked off the bench to the shower room in disgust. “What are we chicken liver”. That caused some mini fireworks when the coach after the game was asked by others in stands why he had asked me to leave or I had left. He hadn’t noticed. I was called in to speak with the coach and asked to leave the team and I didn’t really care too much. I just joined the local church league. Something must have happened behind the scenes and I was invited back to watch a practice. The Junior Varsity coach, who I really liked from playing on his team the previous year may have been one of the ones who said something on my behalf. A few days before the invitation to return came; he had asked me for my side of the story, (what was I thinking and feeling when I left the court during the game). I had a second meeting with the Varsity coach and then given a warning not to do it again. It was then that the coach told me that he felt I was good for the team even if I wasn’t a great player. He said he liked the fact that even after a hard practice, when he had tried to work us to exhaustion, I would still be fooling around trying to block Eliot C’s practice foul shots [by goal tending] and laughing. I didn’t know what it all meant but was happy to be back on the bus with the end of the bench crew.
On SHS Stage. I remember the Senior play when I got my first and only time on SHS stage, I was in a scene with Jim H and maybe Frank S. and Biff A. where we road in on little three wheel children's bikes as part of “leader of the pack” skit. It was ridiculous and fun. Good training for later guerilla street theater. And it made me feel closer to some of the others in the class who were on other teams or classes that I didn’t really know till we were rehearsing or watching the practice together. Watching someone else who was obviously nervous and still got up there and performed makes it easier to identify and see something in them you may have missed before.
Special people and humor: My older brother Jack really liked Jack b. from our class. So I noticed him early on. He made us all laugh a lot by his unique take on the world. If you know either of these two Jacks you know that outrageous laugh. My brother Jack later became a police officer [now retired] And though Jacks B bio suggests he had some “avoidance” with the men in blues org, I’m sure he still makes many people laugh.
Drums: I always wanted to play drums when I was in grammar school. And with the money I made from my paper route I wanted to get a drum set. I didn’t ask for many things but that was one request that my mother would not grant.
(Dec 1961 - Wanda, Jack and 9 Children : Jackie, Adhiratha [Kevin], Tim., Elizabeth, Donna, George, Moira, Michael and Mark at 2064 Alan Drive Seaford NY)
There were 9 kids for god’s sake! And she understandably couldn’t take a drum set too in the little house on Alan drive. So when I years later sat next to Allan K. in study hall or Home room or basketball I noticed he was always drumming on something. Sometimes he would have his drum sticks with him. So he taught me a few beats and it made us laugh because it was like language was for me in that I loved music but I didn’t have very much natural ability and little training, In Catholic grammar school we didn’t have many music lessons except for the May pageant and the seasonal plays. [But Charlie K was amazing when he sang]. In St Pius it was mostly Gregorian Chant. But I enjoyed the few beats Mark taught me at SHS and I have been drumming them ever since. My enthusiasm for those few beats used to make him shake his head and laugh again. I think it was him or Eliot that first graphically pointed out that if my ability ever matched my enthusiasm I would have something and they would have to watch out for me.
Working at Jones beach from fifteen to college. Gave me a whole other experience by being with other young people of different ages and working together for days. It was broadening and useful to see how quickly one could become friends with people from different towns.
It also gave some knowledge of how to get "Seaman’s Papers" in order to travel around the world, by the experience of some one older who had also worked at the beach and had just done it the season previously. [later on that]
Bagels or pastery: One time, towards the beginning of season some of us who had worked the previous summer, would begin to work more on weekends around Easter time. I was working the hamburger station with one of my buddies from another town. He was Jewish and had not had “hot cross buns” and I don’t think I had had a bagel yet. So we both brought in something for the other and exchanged. Other stories to consider adding..
An early prom experience was memorable. In junior year I had been requested by family friends to attend one at north shore town that I really didn’t want to do. The request was for a young lady that was their babysitter who had become their close family friend. These people were like aunt and uncle to us. He was best friend of my father's younger brother who had passed away. DM had also helped my parents get the mortgage for their first house by using his GI bill loan money and had one time been a monk. He also traveled to Japan and brought me back a Japanese yen note that I kept for years. They had warned me the girl was a bit heavy. Any way I eventually said yes - but it was more embarrassing than I expected. And I was also ashamed about being embarrassed since she was obviously a very nice person who everyone liked very much. Since I was so tall and thin I was very conscious that she was not. I wanted to think it didn’t matter but obviously it did or I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable. One of the adults who understood my predicament, assured me it was good to build character. But I was glad to have it over with. .At any rate it helped me know more of myself and inner conflicts. But I didn’t really want any more “prom” experience for a while. I was queried about attending some ones senior prom in Seaford the same year who was quite nice. But I was not so gracious in finding out what was required so it didn’t happen. I think I said to her sister who had inquired that I would be happy to but I didn’t want to pay for it.
The SHS prom a year later was much better – but still a bit formal for me. The partner was beautiful and the other couples were all friends but I felt “awkward”. I felt ok about doing things together with people but was a little leery of anything that seemed like dating rituals. Partly it seemed like too much effort to figure out what was supposed to happen in advance. Everything around the event seemed a bit like a big play and I hadn't learned my part (which I later realized it was and that it was still OK - Life on the road is a good part ad libing). And I think I hadn’t danced that much since those eighth grade St. Willies lessons in grammar school as the nuns had prepared us to graduate..
Life guard test without sleep: The morning right after the Prom I was scheduled to take the Jones Beach Life Guard Test and I was nervous about it since I had only swam once since the last summer. The last training I had in Lifesaving was in Boy scouts about 5 years earlier. And during that scouting test the victim (instructor) grabbed me from the back and hung on, he almost pulled me to the bottom. I think I weighed about a hundred pounds and he seemed twice that. There were some initial moves one was supposed to try first to break the instructors grip. If this wasn't successful or we weren't strong enough, we had been told if we were going to start kicking the victim in the groin to escape the grasp (which you would do in real life) them to pound on his leg and the instructor would let you go. I almost pounded his leg off.
The Jones Beach test consisted of 3 parts in 1965: Pool Swim; Ocean Swim; and then I think the lifesaving later. After the Prom, I was afraid to go to sleep in case I would miss the test. The guys all assured me they would get me to the pool, no matter what. They wanted to see the show. I think the joke was that nobody had seen a drowning during the test before! I almost feel asleep standing in line at the beach to turn my papers to register for the test. I think it was my first all nighter [preview for the many in college] and I was feeling very sick. Some were suggesting I skip the test but I had yet to learn “discretion is the better part of valor”. My Uncle Frank had been Jones beach Lifeguard, and I had worked at the beach since I was fifteen in the concessions so it seemed like the thing to try next. However I had only gone once to practice at little pool a few towns over that spring. For the first part there were 4 or 5 lanes and each participant had to first swim one or two laps in the pool up and down. When it came my time, I hit the water and began to swim like a mad man arms moving quickly but not pulling much water, It was OK for about twenty meters and then I noticed everyone else go ahead of me, as I ran out of breath. About half way through I noticed the guard watching the race on the high board looking like he may come in to save me. That helped my pride come forward. I remember saying to myself, I may not pass the test but being saved would be too much. I breathed deeply and tried to sprint, I finished and was not the last one in my heat so it was good, Until I tried to get out of the pool and almost passed out. In the locker room I had to sleep some on the flat bench since I was seeing stars and starting to black out. When people came to see what was going on with me I made a good show of it and went out to the waterfront to see about the ocean test. I just gave up on that when I saw the waves that day and how some of these big guys who seemed to be real swimmers were having trouble and were getting pulled in by the experienced lifeguards with buoys and ropes.
After my first year of university, I was invited to the 66 SHS prom by a friend who was a senior and it was much more relaxed this time (at least for me). It added some perspective to how formal occasions don't have to be stresfull. It was just regular people in formal clothes....And maybe it was because by that time I was comfortable with dancing, had learned from the experiences of the first two events. Also that same year 1966 February I made a special trip back from UD to Seaford to be the best man at my brothers wedding and had fun.
After graduation I really enjoyed the summer, working days at the beach at East Bath House as a NY state employee and still some nights switching off driving the truck with a friend LS at for local drug stores,
The one day a week I was off from JB work and we would take the big old shared surf board to West Gilgo beach and hang out for the day. Some of my most early remembered nature mystical like experiences were when I was out on the board by myself with the storm coming in.
Green and White – Sports teams: Ted G. during our long talks had told me some of what he knew of the Girls White – Green team rivalry and how it would cumulate in big event once a year. I would hear these references to the teams and wondered what that was all about since I came to the public school later than most. It was only after time when I became friendlier with the former captains of the white and green teams of our classes that I heard the stories of all the work and some intrigue that went into that operation. I was fascinated. It was not any information I could use in any practical way, but it reinforced that there were full worlds of relationships and connections that one didn’t see or understand unless you were directly involved.
Hungry for experience: I was beginning to be like a sponge in that I was soaking up experiences and stories about how people related and why, But mostly the first summer after graduation I was in a hurry to have fun. I felt so care free and energetic. I just wanted to laugh and dance all night and many times we did. On the day off, we piled as many people in the station wagon as would fit. Make sandwiches and lots of soda and goooooooooo for it. At night after Thrifty Drug closed and our driving duties finished we would sometimes meet at a party, JBH or PJs. If it got too serious with deadly talk over beer I would leave or dance. I learned early after one or two beers switch to ginger ale you could last much longer and have a higher quotient of fun. By the next summer, after completing a year at the University, I was being drawn heavily into philosophy. I was beginning to try to figure out just what was this “contraption” that we were all caught in called life as my brain began to dance with the same intensity as my arms and legs had the year before.
May add something about typing class, Math Class, English Class _m, Practice, summer school
Drinking and uncles cautionary tales– Our Great Uncles and Grandfather served a cautionary tales of reasons to avoid Drinking. My father experience of deciding to stop drinking and keeping with his decision for many decades was illuminating and inspiring.
-Great Uncle Benny (on my Father's side) was reported to be brilliant, if some one gave him a math problem verbally to him he could work it out in his head without using paper and pen (or calculator) and quickly throw the answer back almost instantaneously. But he had a problem with the bottle. I think died of cirrhosis of the liver. My Grandmother used to say since he was a happy or “pleasant drunk” that he never hurt anybody but himself. We felt a bit cheated since we never got to meet him because he died so young. Another great Uncle had similarly passed away form the same cause.
Grandfather Stanley (on my mother’s side) also liked to drink a bit. One time he was out and let his partner drive them home. Unfortunately the designated driver had also been drinking and not in much better shape. Their truck was struck by a train and my grandfather never quite recovered. The driver might have died.
Father Early Stops Drinking: When my father was in college he was very strong. After he had been drinking, he once took someone’s keys to their car and wanted to drive. Other friends could not get them back. He got in the car but it was a tight parking space and because of his condition he could not maneuver getting the car out. He was just moving forward and backward in the space. The next morning he didn’t remember that he had tried to drive the car. When a number of friends confirmed it was true, he was very upset by his own behavior and the fact that he could have hurt someone and not even known what he was doing. He stopped drinking then and never did again. This story and his many years follow-up commitment made an impression.
By this time I had some positive beginning life experiences, in a protective family and community environment, that had reinforced a fairly happy expression of spirit and energy that I had been blessed with.
It also served as some protection and inner safety net as well as cautionary tales for what as to follow: "the second Formative years" the university + ...when the guardian angels had to really keep on their toes..
Here is composit photo of some attendees of the 1964-66 Seaford High School Class reunion that tool place on 19 October 1991
All grown up....
- 1. Question from Greg Meyer - (USA, Winner of the 1983 Boston marathon in 2:09; US record holder for 15km and 20km)
Question: Why do I get more satisfaction from training than from running?
Sri Chinmoy: You get more satisfaction from your training than from your racing because when you train, you have more oneness with your inner life, which embodies infinite satisfaction. When you race, you are competing with the others because you want to defeat them. The challenging spirit that comes in competition quite often suffers from anxiety, worry, doubt, hesitation and despair. When you are just practising, however, you are performing before the most intimate "members" of your family: body, vital, mind, heart, and soul. In fact, these intimate members of your own being are practising with you. It is totally a family entertainment. While practising, you are consciously working to transcend your capacities. At that time, you are listening to the message of the ever-transcending Beyond, and the message itself is complete satisfaction. But when you compete against others, you are more concerned with victory than self-transcendence. So naturally hesitation, anxiety and doubt have free access to your heart and mind and you do not and cannot have satisfaction. http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/RS-1