Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Library at Glen School

Books - they can be so many things - a source of learning, fascination, escape. I wouldn't say books were always a part of my life - but gradually I came to books and was hooked. In fact, I almost always refuse to lend my books to anyone for fear of not getting them back or getting them back damaged!

Looking back to 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, books were an utter chore for me. I mean can you imagine? What are you even reading at that age (that is to say it should have been easy for me) - just didn't have the patience for them. There were small exceptions of course. When we went to the libray at school, I would always be drawn to books on sports, the military, picture books - a favorite was "PT-109" the story of John Kennedy's PT boat.

Then my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Prescott urged me to expand my reading habits - she made an attempt to get me to read fiction chapter books. Reluctantly I panned the shelves of our library and found such a book - "Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine" by Jay Williams. When I took it home and began reading it, I found I couldn't wait to see what happened in the next chapter - it would be the first time that I ever read at night in bed! Prescott had succeeded! I then started to read more books from the same series.

Above the first "real" book I ever read thanks to my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Prescott!

This all sounds like a great story right? - 8-9 year old kid discovers reading and..........Well I hate to admit this but it was very short-lived and back to the usual books I went. Later in junior high school and high school, I dreaded the Catcher in the Rye, The Good Earth, Of Mice and Men.

While books were a struggle for me in school (I messed around too much - I was having too much fun in high school!) I did however rediscover books in my twenties. History and non-fiction led the way for me though I occasionally read a novel or two. Today, I want to call my high school history teacher Miss Pinder and tell her - "I finally get it Miss Pinder - I finally love history! Thanks for trying so hard!"

Amazingly at this point in my life I'm discovering the wonder of poetry - I mean I've always admired people like Dylan and Lennon - their stories as told in song and poetry are incredible and are snapshots in time of how they felt about something in their lives. If you let it, poetry can seduce you - a few short verses can send you to another place and time, make you think and reflect  - so much of poetry is timeless and very relevant. It's not easy to write poetry - I can't. Its not always about the rhyme obviously. You need to feel it - to let yourself go.

John F. Kennedy once said: "When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths, which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment." Is that relevant or what?

Poetry by people like Jackie Kennedy (and obviously so many others) - of course not known to be a poet but a voracious lover of books and poetry - can give a rare look at what that person is feeling at a given time in their life. In 1939, when she was 10 years old - she penned the following poem:

Sea Joy

by Jacqueline Bouvier - 1939

When I go down by the sandy seashore
I can think of nothing I want more
Then to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter round about me

I can run about-when the tide is out
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh-to live by the sea is my only wish.

(The above poem is from Caroline Kennedy's "The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis")

What I like about a simple poem like that is how much the sea meant to her and that if at that young age of 10,  all she could achieve in life was to live by the sea, it would have made her life complete. My mom loved the sea too - she loved anywhere that was near water. Our family didn't have a lot of money, but my mom always dreamed of living by the sea. My mom was also a frustrated writer - she always mailed stories that she wrote to magazines like McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping - in the hope that one of them might get published. I recall her being hopeful whenever a large envelope from one of these magazines arrived in the mail. She loved books too - she loved the places a book could take her and they inspired her to write stories and keep a set of 4 journals that she would write in from about the late 1950's through the 70's. Sadly I do not know what became of the journals.

When you think of writers and authors you think of them as practicing their craft some time after college - you know in their 20's or early 30's. One of the 20th century's great books "The Greek Way", was written by Edith Hamilton - it was her first book and she was 62 years old when she wrote it! She would become the author of many books and be the ricipient of many awards later in her life. She died at the age of  96. Of this book, Robert F. Kennedy said that reading it after his brother John died, saved his life.

Above, one of the great books of the 20th century. Written by Edith Hamilton when she was 62 years old. It was her first book and she would go on to write many more.

My kids have become great readers and great jocks - my favorite combination! I'll always recall the looks and the questions from my kids as I read book after book to them - the thrill of dicovery at a young age is priceless!

Hey even reading some of my classmates poetry (available in our various yearbooks) - I'm struck at how clever and how well these were written at such young ages. (Please go back on the blog and type in poetry in the search box to read some samples).

When my father passed away - I spent 24 hours writing his euolgy - I wanted to capture what my dad was - few people in your life really know you - some friends included and there are few people that you're even willing to truly show yourself to - you know, sometimes when you show yourself, you end up alone (politics, etc). Anyway, I captured my dad's life in what I wrote telling those present about things they may not have known about him and I borrowed a verse from Robert F. Kennedy who borrowed it from Shakespeare when he spoke about his brother (JFK) at the 1964 democratic convention in Atlantic City, NJ - it's a verse from Romeo and Juliet that is so riveting:

"When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun."

It made me feel so good - I took my dad's passing hard at the time and that verse made me feel he would always be there. This verse made me feel that my dad was all around me - it was soothing. That is the power of the verse and the power of books.

But back to the main story. The library at Glen School became a special world for so many of us!! The library would be the first place for many of us to discover the books that helped us on the road to discovering ourselves.

One person that was always discovering was Art Brierley. Artie had the blessed gift of being able to be himself - no matter what. He - like myself - shared a tremendous affection for his friends, his past and the future. He was as they say and eternal optimist. Life was precious to Artie even before his illness and books and music contributed a lot to that. Artie was a big, strong jock of a guy but he loved nothing more than to reflect while he fished off a little boat. One of his favorite books he was reading before he passed away was: "The River Why" by David James Duncan.

The library would become a place that most of my classmates would truly enjoy.

Cara Worthington says this about the library and reading in general: "(The library was) my favorite spot. I got hooked on a series about otters and books by Edward Eager."

Above, a series of books by Edward Eager among others got Cara Worthington hooked on books! Cara has gone on to write her own thoughtful articles and has had some published as well.

When in first and second grade, Cara recalls recess - she preferred reading! "Miss Mercer gave me (an) S- in gym in second grade for not participating!"

Says Cara, "I could walk to and from school up East Glen - sometimes with a book in my hand!"

Karen Eide loved the library too! "I LOVED the library and I remember our first orientation there, storytime and being taught the D(ewey) D(ecimal) System. My love of books came from that library and my parents!"

Ken Merrill shared this about the library:  "You always had to be quiet, yet at times better to be there than in class!"

Katie Knight loved and discovered books here too! She shared this with me: "I LOVED taking out books from there! "Harriet the Spy" and the "Katie John" books, "The Yearling" and especially biographies. Oh and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". Even made a recipe from there. Reading was one of my favorite things to do."

Above, Katie got hooked on the "Katie John" series as well as others thanks to the Glen School Library!

Diana Wagner - well she actually worked in the library with Mrs. Ginsberg for one school year (1983-84)! She shared this: "I ended up working for Mrs. Ginsberg for 1 year in 1983-84. She retired at the end of the year. She hadn't changed .......since 1969. Talk about a time warp!"

Margaret Silvers had a funny typical elementary-school-kids memory! ".........about 6 of us were sitting in the reference area and Mitchell Purdue held up a picture from probably an encyclopedia showing an  anatomically correct naked man and woman, just standing there. He had this......grin on his face, held up the pictures and we all were mortified, but laughing..............! I think Mr. Monitick (6th grade teacher) actually "caught us" - too funny!"

I asked Judy Davies what she remembered. "I remember it (the library) being stuffed with lots of books and I remember the general layout. It was directly across the hall from my 4th grade class…Mrs. Prescott....."

Above is a newspaper photo of (from l to r): Kim Vukov, Patricia Breitweiser and Mitchell Perdue. They're listening to a story read to them by the librarian - probably Mrs. Ginsberg. Thanks Kim for sending that!

The library was also the place for quiet study. I remember learning how to use the encyclopedia for the first time there for the many reports we were required to do. Using the encyclopedia was fun and clearly enlightened me - what a great tool to write the likes of "The Indians" or "California" or "Michaelangelo" just to name a couple of the reports I did at Glen School. I must say while I was bad on tests I always got E's on my reports - the E was equivalent to an A today. I couldn't have done it without the help of reference books like the encyclopedia. Though my artistry could have used a little help - where was Eide when I needed her expertise!

Above, the "Michaelangelo" story by Ricky Flannery - found among my mom's papers. These reports would be researched in the library at Glen School using the various encyclopedias available in the reference section.

Our library was made up of round tables and chairs, lots of bookcases and a glass-enclosed office in the corner. The windows looked out onto the courtyard. Sometimes we would gather in a circle to hear stories. As we got older we would use the tables to research our reports. But regardless of our age, we couldn't wait to take out books for our own personal enjoyment.

Above, looking to the left as you walk in the door. Photo property of Rick Flannery - taken Nov 7, 2009.

Above, the general layout of the library with the glass-enclosed librarian's office in the corner.

Bea Blumquist's and Mrs. Ginsburg's office.

The library's first librarian when the school opened was a lady named Bea Blumquist - she was little and always cheerful and taught us how to use the Dewey Decimal System!

Glen School's first librarian - Bea Blumquist.

The second and probably the librarian with the most years at Glen School was Mrs. Ginsberg - though her name might be mis-spelled - its been spelled so many ways. She would retire after the 1983-84 school year. So there was one more librarian before the school closed its doors as an elementary school - anybody know who it was? Please let me know.

Above, Mrs. Ginsberg - longtime Glen School librarian - retired 1984. Photo cropped from a faculty photo.

Some of the later classes and faculty at Glen School would have their photos taken in the library - come to think of it I don't think there was a single location at Glen where a class photo wasn't taken.

Above, faculty photo from the 1970's taken in the libarary. Photo supplied by Zita Wilcox.

It was also a place where a teacher could have a quiet conversation with a student which was the case with Katie Knight. Katie shared the story with me which she says made an impact on her life. "Mr. Gauharou took me to the library for a one-on-one talk...........he asked me if I knew what a clique was. I said no. He said that it's when a group of people hang around only with each other and that it can cause a lot of hurt because others feel left out. He also said that he was sure that I didn't mean to exclude others on purpose but he wanted me to be aware. Truthfully, that discussion has stuck with me throughout my life and I've passed it on to my kids. My daughter was class high school......the principal told me she had the ability to cross over into a lot of different groups of kids. I attribute that to Mr. Gauharou's talk with me (in the Glen School library)." Pete Gauharou - was one of those teachers who took his role seriously - not only in teaching the 3 R's but in also helping to shape what a child might become.

Ridgewood was unusal at the time - we had 2 public libraries for many years - The Ridgewood Public Library and the George L. Pease Library. In addition we had a library in every single school! The Ridgewood Public Library was opened in 1962 and was beautifully renovated in 1998. I have been back on several occaisions for my research of this project and am indebted to Peggy Norris for many of the old images you see in the Ridgewood sections of this blog. The George L. Pease Library was opened in 1923 and remained a library until 1998 when it closed its doors. It is now office space.

Above is the old George L. Pease Library located at 131 North Maple Avenue Ridgewood, NJ. It opened in 1923 and closed in 1998.

Above is the Ridgewood Public Library located at 125 North Maple Avenue. It opened in 1962 and was beautifully renovated in 1998.

The Ridgewood Public Library as it appears today (from the back).

The tables where we sat would be used to reaserch our reports, have one-on-one discussions with our teachers and learn about the Dewey Decimal System.

All in all the library would be the first place where many of us discovered books - a place where you could take out any book you wanted. We'll remember the Glen School Library with great affection!

Monday, March 7, 2011

More From the Ege Family!

I can't thank Else Ege enough for sending me some great photos and mementoes from our past! Else recently sent me family photos and an article about Lis Ege-Halvorson's company which has been the official supplier to several Winter Olympics of Moen Bells from Norway and counting! Please visit this great website -


Above is Hans & Else Ege.

Above is Anne-Christine "Tina" Ege probably from a Ben Franklin Junior High class photo.

Above is (l t r) Lis & Tina Ege.

Above (l to r) Lis Ege-Halvorson, Else Ege and Margaret Silvers-Myatt at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Above is a newspaer photo from The Ridgewood News. Lis Halvorson is shown opening the New York Stock Exchange from the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics!

Awesome stuff - keep the photos coming everybody!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teachers - Glen School & Beyond - Commentary

Above is a photo taken by Joe Braun of an abandoned school in Detroit. There are scenes like this all over this country. There are sad images of many things in this world and this is certainly one of them. This didn't have to be. Not everything needs to be done with money - what are we doing to the future generations of this country? If we all banded together we could save things like this from happening to our schools - do we really need new sports stadiums when there are scenes like this?

Okay, I said I wasn't going to use this blog format to make commentary or express opinions but with the recent frontal assault on teachers in this country and since my wife is a school teacher I feel obligated to include my opinion with the rest of the world.

When I attended school (K-12) I - for the most part I looked forward to going. I wasn't the best student in my class to be sure - I mean I certainly was more than capable but I was young for my class and found focus to be difficult for me especially in my early years.

Thankfully for me I had some incredible teachers along the way - teachers from kindergarten to gym teachers to math teachers - all seemed to truly support me and make themselves available to me. I still got some tough grades (and deservingly so I might add) but my teachers were always about giving us the best they could give us - but part of the bargain ya know, was that we as students had to be part of the plan too in order to make it work - it couldn't be left to teachers alone.

As a baseball coach, I find special joy in seeing a child develop as a ballplayer and as a person. We've won recent championships and while I teach my players to play to win - we also teach our teams to play with respect to the game, their teammates, their coaches and especially their opponents. Despite the rewards and fun of coaching I marvel how teachers can take all that to the next level. Can you imagine teaching a  young child math, reading, science, thinking skills, etc - I mean my wife is a first grade teacher and arrives at school at 7am and leaves at 5pm. She'll spend her weeknights and weekends planning, grading and focusing on her students needs - both individually and as a group. I will emphasize here that my wife is not the only teacher to do this - not even close. Teaching is a profession - how on earth has the conversation become that teachers are freeloading, are greedy - have too much time off? Only 9 months of work? Really? Do you know any teachers in the public school system who call it a day June 1, head to the beach and return in September? While students may - depending on snow days - get out June 20th, our teachers here work until June 30 and return anytime between Aug 15 and Aug 20. This, of course is not to mention the many teachers in our town that teach summer school, tutor children in need, attend student activities, plan the upcoming year, etc. Only 9 months of work - really?

There have been circumstances that make teaching even more difficult than ever. Sadly the "No Child Left Behind Act" is one of them and has - well - left children behind. There's no getting around it - where we used to be able to focus on a child because of extenuating circumstances and needs - broken homes, mental challenges, disruptive for various reasons - we now have teachers spending so much time trying to keep order and losing the time allotted for lessons.

Teaching in our town - there are no special privledges for students that might be better academically - every child is on equal footing but there are children that have special needs and need more focused attention and this gets lost with "No Child Left Behind" - kind of ironic that a program called NCLB actually leaves more children behind than ever. The other part is that teachers are required to use at least a third or more of their time to teach to the state tests - the government falsely believing that a child's low score is attributed to the teacher and making districts pay the price by limiting education funding. There are so many things that could cause the low scores but more times than not it is not the teacher. As I said, when I was a young student, I wasn't focused and when I took our state tests when I was a child (they were called the Iowa Tests) - I did poorly - this was not because I had poor teachers.

Please let's give the teachers a break. Of course there are some teachers that should probably retire but most teachers are there for the non-monetary rewards they receive for seeing a child "get it" and move on and when that child returns years later to say "thanks"! They deserve their salaries however small, they deserve their right to bargain despite not always winning the negotiation. Despite all the talk about teachers being greedy, teachers here don't get raises and are willing to make concessions. Simply seek the facts, the truth.

This nation needs to continue to be great - we need - more than ever, to protect education funding wherever possible and provide the best to our children.

To those offended - accept my apologies but I needed to express myself about this issue.

I want to say thanks to all my own teachers - some were better than others - but to Miss Mercer, Miss Muster, Mr. McCutcheon, Miss Pinder, Mr. Honsinger and so many others - you made impacts on my life and your support for me up until the day I graduated my wonderful high school will never be forgotten. I mean when your 10th grade spanish teacher keeps tabs on you throughout your high school career and then comes to watch you graduate - well that just goes beyond what's required but it comes from wanting to see that student succeed, to see potential that the student does not even see and for me it wasn't until my twenties that I realized what these teachers did for me. Thanks...................................We must do all we can to save our teachers and our schools.