Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miss Mercer and 1st Grade - 1961-62!

Miss Mercer - mention that name and you immediately recall what that class was like. For me the first thing that comes to mind is doing "The Twist" at our desks in the morning after the Pledge and morning prayer! Miss Mercer would put "The Twist" on the bulky school record player and we would twist 'til our sides ached! It was great fun and always set the tone for the day - we were ready for anything!

This was also the time we were introduced to Dick & Jane! The Dick & Jane readers were instrumental in teaching us how to read and write at the time. Think & Do books were also a major part of our learning process. Of Dick & Jane Pat says: "Dick and Jane still rule but I used many books and my own imagination to keep you all connected and fascinated. Variety is the key."

Above is Karen Pursiano's "New Before We Read" workbook. Karen was a grade below us and is Linda's sister.

After Mrs. Janicke in kindergarten, Pat Mercer was our first full-time teacher. Bruce Meneghin, Melanie Teasley and I would walk to school together each morning. As I recall, I loved going to school each day as a direct result of Miss Mercer. She made learning fun, but I realized later in life that I probably started school a year too early - for the most part I was always a struggling student - always trying to catch up but loved every minute of school.

We had great parties too including our first big Valentine's Day party when we decorated this huge box where we would deposit all our valentine cards that we wrote to our classmates. At the afternoon party they were distributed to everyone. It was great fun and I remember always looking forward to the cards from the girls!

Above is an early Think & Do workbook similar to the kind we used.

We had a huge class - I mean huge - 32 kids! So Miss Mercer received help during the entire year from a woman name Grace Hensley who helped Pat get through the year - I can't imagine having 32 1st grade kids in one class! Pat recalls Grace warmly. She remained friends with her for several years until she moved from Ridgewood. Grace helped with all the paperwork and grading. She is now deceased but Pat says "I adored her!" Grace is pictured in our class photo.

Pat Mercer grew up in Margate City, NJ which is a Jersey Shore town. As she herself recalls, "It was a wonderful place to grow up and I still return often. Living in a resort town was lots of fun."

Above is a photo of Atlantic City High School where Pat graduated. It was built in 1922 but was torn down in the 1990's for something even better than a school - a parking lot! Kinda reminds you of that song by Joni Mitchell.

Pat was the 3rd of 4 children and all 4 attended and graduated Atlantic City High School. This historic and beautiful school was amazingly torn down about 15 years ago to make way for - are you ready - a casino parking lot! Sure they built a new school but ACHS was a memorable school, built in the gothic style. On a website I recentlly found this about the old ACHS: " As you walk through the halls and the rooms of these old buildings that are no longer in use, you sense a feeling of loss for the beauty that was held within these walls. Looking up at the ceilings and walls, one can find etchings that the new buildings are not graced with. These are art forms that are lost and are being destroyed all over.....". Soon, there will be a time when one looks at that parking lot and that person will never know that a high school was ever there. You could almost say that education took a back seat to gambling - sigh, but that's a debate for another blog!

Upon graduating high school, Pat attended Glassboro State College (shown in above photo) which has since been renamed Rowan University in New Jersey.

Pat relates that the first time she entered a classroom as a teacher she was hooked! She says, "I enjoyed a satisfying career. When I was student teaching, I asked my supervisor what the best school system in New Jersey was and he told me it was Ridgewood, NJ so I sent a letter of inquiry having no idea where it (Ridgewood) was and it turned out he was right. During the superintendents convention in Atlantic City I was interviewed and hired." This was February 1960. She was hired at a salary of $4,500 a year - of which she says "Yikes!"

Even at a young age, Pat Mercer was very much involved in teaching her classes - it wasn't simply a career - she took a special interest in shaping the class and trying to inspire each one of us. She recalls: "When you teach elementary school there is no such thing as typical - that is what makes it so exciting! Kids are very adaptable. When I felt the pulse of the room changing, I changed with kids were so bright and fun, I had a million tricks up my sleeve and needed every one of them. ..........keeping the kids stimulated and excited to learn was no easy task."

When asked about dancing at our desks Pat recalls: "It was my belief that music helps break the ice. 'The Twist' was the popular music at that time so it was natural for me to choose it. I have always - for 31 years - encouraged kids to dance and sing each day - it brings out the best in the kids and allows their fear and insecurity to fade. Of course I pretended not to watch them but in reality that is how I found out who they were."

Looking straight ahead in the photo above is the door to the kindergarten. To the left of the door is where our 1st grade class was. We had the cloak-room outside where we hung our winter clothes and rain gear which included those rubber buckle boots! My daughter Jennie actually took the photo from outside! Photo taken December, 2008.

Of the teachers at Glen School - which included Pat Prescott, Jeannette Janicke, Amy Beattie and Nancy Cook - Pat says: "The teachers were all very close to one another. We ate lunch in that room at the end of the hallway (near Miss Beattie's classroom). Some teachers would play cards, some would read, whatever. It was a social time and we all got along." Amy Beattie and Pat even shared an apartment together before Pat got married.

Pat nails it when she says the kids cannot remember what they are taught at that young age but indeed remember the teacher, what the class was like - how they felt in that class.

Pat loves that she is remembered so fondly - that she had a hand in helping children at a young age learn and be themselves.

I asked Pat about a man by the name of Mr. Kraft. While I attempt to avoid being negative about anything it is a difficult task when talking about Mr. Kraft. He was some sort of school psychologist. As I recall I was very put off by this man. I recall that in art class in first grade, I was asked to draw a picture of my family. There were 5 of us. Each member of my family wore glasses except for me. In the picture I had drawn glasses on each of us - including myself even though I didn't wear them. Well Mr. Kraft attempted to analize this - why would Ricky draw glasses on himself when he doesn't wear them? My mom was called in - it was absurd really. My mom put him in his place and that was that. Pat recalls Mr. Kraft in a similar way. "I remember Mr. Kraft. I had a class of 32 kids and he was telling me how to talk to each one of you individually - I don't think so. He also thought I should sit on the floor so I wouldn't be higher than the kids - no to that also - amen!"

I had asked Pat what the last day of school was like for her. She responded this way: "The last day of school (all the years) has always been a real tough day. I spent so much time with these little friends and really knew who they were."

I am trying desperately to gather information about our beloved principal Art Linden but it is a difficult task. About Art Linden Pat remembers him like this: "Art Linden was a fun person and we all loved him so. Art was a marvelous human being with a family he loved dearly. I was very close to his wife Mary and to him even after I left (Glen School) in 1964. Mary's death was a tragedy and in the end - it is my opinion - he (Art) died of a broken heart. The story is tragic and wonderful but I do not feel it is my place to tell his story....just to remember them and smile."

When we were promoted to 2nd grade, we had 2 classes - I was in Mrs. Cook's class and Pat taught a split 1st & 2nd grade class. Cara Worthington recalls learning diagram sentences from Pat in 2nd grade.

Pat also recalls how parents and teachers worked so well together. Ultimately - she says - the parents are teachers too and must have responsibility for their children's learning and behavior. Pat recalls fondly the relationships she had with many parents and the mutual respect for each other.

Leaving no doubt - her fondest memory of Glen School - of teaching - is by the far the kids - "It's always about the kids"!

Show & tells were always a big part of the school days at Glen School - a chance to tell about a trip you took or collection you had. Pat remembers one show & tell when Ricky Marsh told us all how he was a philatelist (one who collects and studies stamps) and how one day she cut up the organs inside a chicken and one of us called out "Miss Mercer you are deee-gusting!"

Above is our 1st grade class - all 32 of us! This class photo was provided by both Ricky Marsh and Art Brierley (at the same time) - thanks you guys!

Front Row l to r: unidentified, unidentified, Melanie Teasley, Jan Potdevin, Karen Eide, Linda Pursiano

Second Row l to r: Betsy Kline, Barbara Durheimer, Ellen ?, Kara DeGraw, Jill Neandross, Lisa Faeth, Cara Worthington, Pam Bennett

Third Row l to r: Robbie Whittemore, Bruce Meneghin, Ricky Flannery, Ricky Marsh, David Clay, Art Brierley, Gary Vukov, Chic Voorhis, Greg Rehe, Danny Wagner, Carl Vrabel

Back Row l to r: Corey Duvall, Richie Spell, Tim Dekoker (sorry if misspelled), Paul Vaccari, unidentified, Doug Brown, Bruce Cunneen

Back-to-School night was always a big deal - especially for us kids. I remember how exciting it was to clean my desk and leave out good papers and artwork so when my parents came to class that night they would be proud. I remember writing a note and getting a note back from my mom and dad which I would find the next morning. Pat recalls Back-to-School night as fun too. "I remember being reminded to be able to answer questions on the topic of the time "Why Johnny Can't Read" - Dr. Voorhis (Chic's dad) asked the question (about that topic) and I gave a great answer - my career was on track! Parents were so lovely and respectful."

Above is a picture of Bruce Cuneen from our kindergarten photo.

In kindergarten through 2nd grade, there was a boy in our class named Bruce Cuneen. He was an incredibly happy kid and I remember him fondly though I didn't fully understand his affliction. Isn't it amazing how a child - knowing they are terminally sick can smile and be so happy? He suffered from Cystic Fibrosis. He fought to be included in everything and was always so carefree. Pat remembers this about Bruce: "He was a strong-willed little boy. He had Cystic Fibrosis - the life expectancy was 7 in 1960. He had wonderful parents who wanted him to have as normal a life as possible knowing it would not be a long life. He was a great little kid - just like all the others - no special anything - just one of the boys. They moved away at the end of the year." June Cuneen was involved at Glen School right through 1962 and was both a castmember and a member of a committee for the 1962 Glen production of "No Space Like Home". Pat continues, "He (Bruce) died soon after and his funeral was in Ridgewood. I went to his funeral and there was the darling child lying in a casket in a Cub Scout was a difficult time for all."

As kids we all have memories of the JFK assassination - I was in Miss Beattie's class at the time (see her profile in this blog). I asked Pat what she remembers about that history-changing day.

"The Kennedy Assassination was a day I will never forget. I was reading to the kids after they returned from lunch. Mr. Linden came in and whispered "Do not tell the kids, but the president has been shot." We had one little tv in the entire school - I could not believe what I was hearing. I waited a bit but then burst across the courtyard to find out what was happening. The kids could sense something awful had happened so against my instructions, I decided I needed to tell the kids the truth as I knew it at that moment. It was a Friday and I knew that once the kids got out of school they would enter a world of chaos so I sat them all down and told them the story. Life was never the same again. The kids knew me well and could clearly see that I was rattled and possibly even crying. I knew that people would be so stunned they would not have time or the words needed to convey what was happening so I told the truth as I knew it but more importantly, I assured them that their life would go on as they knew it."

In 1962, the entire school - just about every parent - put on an extravagant musical called "No Space Like Home". This show was produced by Hank Henckler's mom Muriel. Hank was 4 grades ahead of me! Several teachers along with a slew of parents participated in the show (including my dad). The teachers included Amy Beattie, Pete Gauharou, Barbara Zink, Charlotte Nash, Art Linden AND Pat Mercer. Pat, as it turns out was a dancing girl! She remembers it this way: "I remember the teachers were in a musical at night. I was a dancer and the theme was the moon. I was humiliated to death to appear in the outfit - not my thing!" The show was memorable simply beacuse of the sheer effort of it and the participation of practically everybody! Pat says "the parents were soooo much fun!"

Pat Mercer (center) and mom's as part of the dancing chorus from the show "No Space Like Home"!

Pat was married on June 29, 1963 and became Pat DiLauro. She recalls many of her students actually went down to Margate City to watch the ceremony! She met her husband Renato - affectionately known as "Rennie" - through her sisters who had met him at a wedding - they gave Rennie Pat's number and the rest is history! Sadly, Rennie passed away in 1996.

Pat and Rennie raised 3 children - JoAnne, John and Andrew. She has 3 grandchildren and a foster child who feels the love of the DiLauro clan! Pat still lives in the same house she has called home for over 40 years! (I love that!)

Summing up Glen School she has this to say:

"I loved every minute - Glen School was my first job. I adored Art Linden and Glen School - it was magic! I remember all of you - every detail. I have a candle that Gary Vukov's grandfather made. Being a teacher is a gift. You all taught me as much as I taught you!"

Aside from Gary Vukov, Ricky Marsh and Bruce Cuneen she recalls speaking to Kara DeGraw in the early 90's. She has been friends with Cara Worthington "forever" and recently mentioned Linda Pursiano this way: "Linda was an adorable little girl! I remember her well....also her mom who I used to see at the A&P when it was on Route 17."

Many students recall Pat fondly including Ken deGruchy and Ricky Marsh who recently told me "Miss Mercer was one of my favorite teachers - ever!" Ricky recalls fondly playing with Jill Neandross (one of the first girls he ever played with). He also remembers Jan Potdevin who attended Bucknell University with Ricky in the 1970's. Ricky's neighbor? "Frankie Petrucci but we were never in the same class." Ricky is known today as Rick Marsh. Chic Voorhis - and obviously several others - were fortunate to have had Pat as a teacher twice!

When Pat emailed me in January, I was thrilled! The connection - just like with old friends - is always there. Thanks to Cara Worthington for pointing out the blog to her!

Please click on all pictures to enlarge.

The memories are many and if you have any memories of this class or any class please share it with me at .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Glen Kids - Cara

Cara Worthington - when you think of her - remember her - you think of many things. She certainly is and was one of the most intelligent people I ever knew - as a student I was absolutely intimidated with her brain-power! She's also one of the nicest people you could have known. When someone says that somebody is an all-around person, that would easily describe Cara. (The above photo of Cara is from 1967).

A piece like this would probably embarrass Cara but so be it. I for one always admired her approach to everything. It is pretty cool to witness the successes of former classmates, especially when you genuinely like them!

Cara was destined for the Ivy League - even at Glen School. She deserved the best but more than that, the Ivy League - Yale in particular - is better off having accepted her back in 1973.

Like several of my Glen School classmates - Art Brierley, Gary Vukov, Kara DeGraw, Karen Eide, Bruce Meneghin (to name a few) - we all attended school together for 13 years! Myself along with many others are not surprised by what Cara has accomplished or that she commands the respect she does from the education community. Cara currently teaches history at the prestigious Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ. In our high school yearbook we were asked to quote ourselves - you know, say something profound or funny even. Cara's was perfect: "Look around!"

Back in 2001 Cara wrote this thoughtful letter that was published in the Yale Alumni Magazine. Here is that letter in its entirety.

"Out of the Blue - My Life as a Person"

by Cara Worthington Fekula Hyson Yale Class of '77 (November 2001)

"I have never forgotten one of the arguments made by Yale alumni against coeducation: It had always been expected that Yale would produce 1,000 leaders a year. How could this tradition continue if women were admitted? So here I am 25 years out, wondering if those traditionalists were right. Have I and the Yale alumni of my vintage lived up to Yale's expectations? And perhaps more important, have I lived up to my own?

When I decided to go to Yale at 18, I am sure that I did not realize that Yale would expect anything of me. I just wanted to go to a college where I could study Russian and environmental science, and as one of my friends reasoned, "If you don't like it, it is easy to transfer down." I even remember saying to someone who was impressed that I had graduated from Yale, "How can you be impressed by something I did for less than four years?" However, whether I like it or not, I am a product of Yale, and its expectations of its graduates haunt and inspire me. I know that I am not the only graduate to ask if I measure up against my classmates and against the expectations of a group of Yale alumni who really weren't sure I should be there in the first place.

I have to admit, though, that I am puzzled and amused by some of the entries in the "Alumni Notes," passages like this: "I am the CEO of a major corporation and travel throughout the word on a regular basis, my husband is the chief of surgery at a major medical facility, but the true joy of our lives is our three children ages 6, 8, and 10." Is this what those Yale alumni had in mind? Something is missing here. Raising kids and working full-time is harrowing and challenging for the husbands, wives, and the kids.While some alumni are taking this path, others are divorcing, and fighting for custody, and there are others who have lost their jobs, and others who will never have children. This is our reality. Sometimes it seems to me that we are afraid of telling the truth, and for those who were trained to seek Lux and Veritas this is strange indeed.

Last year, a women's singing group from Yale came to the school where I work to perform for an assembly. Looking at this group of self-assured, talented, and attractive women, I was struck by one sense -- heartache. Who was going to prepare them for what was ahead? Did they know it wasn't a clear shot to the top? Did they realize that life is full of heartaches? Did they have any idea of what would bring the greatest joys? Did they realize how many personal decisions and compromises would influence that career they were preparing for? Were they prepared to face the personal and professional challenges? And I asked myself: Why didn't I feel the same way about the Yale men in the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus when they performed the year before? Perhaps I should have.

I am a college counselor at a private school, and in that capacity I meet many college admissions representatives. Two years ago, I had the chance to have a long discussion with a representative from Mount Holyoke. My personal experience with all-women's colleges is limited. The closest I came to one of them was when my own high school guidance counselor said that she "could just see me at Smith." As one of the only girls in AP chemistry and calculus, I took that as an insult. Hadn't I already proven that I could compete against and sometimes even beat the boys? Why would I consider an all-girls' school? Yet, talking about the programs and focus at Mount Holyoke, I realized that they were hitting the complex problems and roles of women today head-on. And then I began to wonder if Yale makes the same effort to prepare its alumni for their futures, balancing ambitions, dreams, professions, and families.

I am only a history teacher and college counselor. I stayed at home for seven years with my first three children, and I was widowed 12 years ago at age 34. I was a single parent for six years, and then I remarried. I am now a full-time working mother of five. I am not a leader of anything, but I would like to lead a discussion. I am worried about school violence, about children of all ages left unsupervised. I am concerned about children who go home to empty houses and parents who are stressed out. I am worried about the quality of child care for most working parents. I am concerned about intelligent, talented women who are told, as one of my classmates was, that if they aren't willing to work full-time, there isn't a place for them. I am worried about mothers feeling trapped and frustrated at home. I am worried about children without fathers, and about fathers who are separated from their children. I am less concerned about our professions as Yale alumni, and much more concerned about the quality of our lives, and the quality of life of those people we have the power to affect, whether it be our families, our colleagues, or our employees.

Have we Yale alumni lived up to our potential as leaders? I am not so sure. When I read some of the "Alumni Notes" entries I shudder, for it seems that many are still trying to impress us with their achievements, as if still trying to live up to the expectations of that group of Yale alumni determined to produce 1,000 male leaders. Perhaps it is too much to ask for an assessment of the quality of someone's life in two lines or less, but there does need to be some acknowledgement that it isn't that easy or simple to define a life worth living. And this message needs to be clearly communicated to those who need to hear it most -- the undergraduates at Yale.

Maybe it is time for such a discussion on the campus. What are some of the conflicts and problems that Yale alumni and alumnae have encountered as they have tried to live full personal and professional lives? Why not gather those CEOs, partners, diplomats, doctors, professors, and all the rest of us, and ask: How is it going? What can we do better -- for ourselves, and for those whose lives we influence? And maybe, it just might make those Old Blues proud."

As Cara once said, "Look around!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Spring Sing - 1967 w/ Mrs. Jamieson!

The above Spring 1967 program was designed by Theresa Merrill and "dittoed" by Agnes Larsen!

Choir - we all tried out for it. Amazingly I made it and was a soprano! When you tried out you had to sing by yourself while Mrs. Jamieson played the piano - ugh was that embarrassing! It was both humiliating if you didn't make it and gratifying if you did!

I recall we did a Christmas concert and a Spring concert in 5th and 6th grades each year. The concerts would include both grades.

I recently unearthed the May 24, 1967 Spring concert program (my mom had saved it - it was copied on Mrs. Larsen's ditto machine!) To have these old programs is great because it not only shows you what songs you sung but also who was part of the choir with you, who was in the orchestra and who directed you. Now I will be the first to admit that I was - at the time - torn between being happy to be picked for choir and not happy because there was debate on whether it was "cool" to be part of it - but I was there nonetheless! I - like a bunch of others - put baseball high on my list and comparing baseball to choir - well, just no comparison at the time!

Now, I have loved music since I was playing my sisters' Beatle's records. Even today I love bands like Green Day, Coldplay and The Ramones and yet - with equal appreciation - I luv Yo-Yo Ma and Sinatra too! I say this because in the same hour I can listen to The Clash and The Stones and then put on a song like "Simple Gifts" by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Kraus. Why do I bring that up? Well to me "Simple Gifts" is one of the most beautiful songs - beautiful in its melody and utter simplicity AND "Simple Gifts" was one of the songs we sang that Spring in 1967! It is here - sung in children's voices so you can get the feel of maybe what we sounded like! The lyrics are simple but wonderful! Simply click play on the photo below - quality isn't great but that was the song we sang. (You may have to adjust your volume).

Hit play on the picture below to hear the song!

The story of the song "Simple Gifts" goes back more than 150 years to 1848 when the song was written by Elder Joseph - a member of the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. Incredibly, this renown and simple song has only one verse but had been known as an uplifting "Dancing Song" at the time.

For the most part the song was unknown outside the Shaker community until 1944 when Aaron Copland scored the song for use in the ballet "Appalachian Spring". He used "Simple Gifts" a second time for a compliation of songs in 1950. Even the band Weezer has used variations of the song on their 2nd album as the introduction to the song "Across the Sea" and in a song on their "Red Album" titled "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)".

The song was more recently used in Barack Obama's inagauration - but to me the most beautiful rendition of the song is Yo-Yo Ma with Alison Krauss (if you've never heard Alison Krauss - her voice is beautiful).

Here are the lyrics as they were in 1848 and as we probably sung them:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight,

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come out right.

Talk to any former Glen School student and you'll find reactions to the Choir "thing". Here are a few responses from Glen "kids":

Tim Daly: "What's up with the choir thing? I made it and I DIDN'T want to be in it so I could be playing baseball!"

Rob Silvers: ".......I was asked not to be on the Glen School Chorus! That was a real blow to my self esteem and I have been in therapy since!"

Bob Daly: "I guess there is a pattern here. I didn't make the choir at all and I was the only one in my grade. I still can't sing!"

Trisha Daly-Hernandez: ".....I was also asked not to participate in the 5th and 6th grade choir! I had forgotten about that. It was quite devastating at the time because it was me and a few of the delinquent boys in class who I was then left alone with in the classroom while everyone else went to choir practice! I recall that they were not very nice to me at all! My mother was very annoyed that I was not allowed to join, even though I really wanted to................ I believe my mom went to the school to complain (which was not her style at all), to no avail. I remember the music teacher.....terrified me by making us sing all alone at the tryouts!"

Steven Breitkruz: "Well, I can relate to that as well. I was actually included in the 5th grade choir but then did not make the 6th grade (choir). I guess my musical talents have been diminishing ever since!"

Judy Wilson Davies: "I played flute for a short while in 6th grade."

Cynthia Wagner-Boseski: "Played the clarinet. I remember Mr. Grimm telling my mother that I showed promise when I didn't continue........"

Diana Wagner-Casey: "I played the violin 1 year and hated it. Sang in the choir as an alto.....most of the boys were sopranos. Still remember a lot of the songs we sang. To name a few: Waltzing Matilda, Oklahoma, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella."

Margaret Silvers: "Concerts were okay, only because I didn't "make" choir in 4th grade and I was mortified. I never told my parents when concerts were. I made it in 5th and 6th but I think only cause they felt sorry for me!"

Katie Knight: "I played flute. I sang in the choir at church and we did singing assemblies at school." (Orchestra and choir did the concerts together)

Beth Daly: "I was in choir and I remember learning to sing the song "Let There Be Peace On Earth" - it is still a favorite of mine, and I still remember all the words."

Ann Rimmer: "Sang in the choir and played clarinet. I do remember singing in the Christmas concerts ( I think Cara Worthington and I led the 12 Days of Christmas), also a clarinet solo and duet with the band leader (don’t remember his name). If memory serves me I played some Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass song." (The musical director at the time was Mr. Grimm)