AND CONTINUES ON...
You can listen to the selections the choir sang if you wish. I was tempted to import some grand huge choir versions, but instead just found some YouTube recordings of high school choirs. Probably not all that different from how we sounded.
HERE IT WAS - SIXTY YEARS AGO. THE INVITATION, THE PROGRAM, THE GRADUATES.
Strangely, the thing I remember most vividly about the ceremony is that the little fastener for the tassel on the inside of the mortorboard was pressing into my scalp and was very uncomfortable. I couldn't wait to get that thing off!
Gail Roosa told me a few years later, that she and Lou Rothbard (may they both rest in peace) were so nervous that they held hands for comfort during the whole ceremony.
It's odd, the things we remember.....
With that, let's continue with stories and memories....
Well, here is a unique remembrance for us from Peter and Fran Davidson, whose parallel experiences became important life events...
Peter starts off... I came to Chappaqua from Pleasantville in third grade. I was not a particularly dedicated student but managed to get through. I had a reserved seat in the principal's office, you might say. I did fortunately do quite a bit of self-directed reading.. In fact, Claire Damon, whom I do not recall ever having as a teacher noticed I had taken out and and was reading a Faulkner novel – I think it was 'As I Lay Dying'. In any event, she suggested and urged that it was not appropriate reading for me even though it had come out of the school’s library. I did not adhere to the suggestion. This all is not particularly important but it sort of sets the stage for the story below. One of my fond memories of Senior Year at Greeley...Ben Lewis, Steve Walsh and I usually had lunch together and there was much laughter and fun. One could call it silliness.
Then, it was, I believe, in our Senior Year and I was in Science Class and Ken Tice was the teacher; a nice man. The subject of the traditional Student Teacher came up. I think it was a vote of the students. It was conspiratorially agreed among the students that my name would be put forward, perhaps thinking I would take it as a lark, and I was elected to teach the class. Ken Tice probably had his doubts, but did not object. I am not sure how we arrived at the subject to be taught, but however it happened I was to teach the subject of Cancer, how it happens, types and treatments. Studied the data, got leaflets somewhere and handed them out and made a presentation on the points. It was a success and a surprise to my students and Mr. Tice who complimented me. It may have been life-changing in some respects. I know that in college interviews I mentioned it often as part of my important achievements. Along with several others from Greeley I accepted and enrolled in the University of Kansas. In retrospect I believe it was a standby school the Student Advisor, Dale Remaly, used as a backup school, as a few had applied and enrolled from the prior year class and the following class as well. Plus, my best friend, Peter Kennedy, was also heading to KU. And, he had relatives from the Kansas City, Ks. area who had attended KU. The short story is I did pretty well there and went onto KU Law, passed the Bar, went back to NY, and fortunately passed there as well.
I've asked my wife Frances Turner Davidson, Class of '62, to add her similar story of Student Teacher Day. We never knew each other while at Greeley, but after we were married, we discovered we'd had very similar experience as Greeley 'Teachers'. So, I will turn it over to Fran to share her version of the story...
Senior year, '62, I was voted by the class to teach Sylvia Kurson's English class. She was not a fan of that 'wasted day' and insisted that I had to continue to teach 'The Member of The Wedding' by Carson Mc Cullers. So, I did my due diligence and created a lesson plan and lively class discussion with her watching from the back. As I left class, she asked me to come see her after school. Later in Z lunch to my surprise the person posing as 'Mrs Freeman' (remember Dr. Miles' Secretary?) that day came whipping up to me. She recounted an earlier scene from the front office...She re-enacted Ms. Kurson flying into the office & loudly telling Don Miles (who sat reading the NYTimes and apparently knew how much she disdained teacher day) that she had completely changed her mind, that I had engaged people in the class who she didn’t think had 'half a brain', that she had sat in the back of her own class and learned a lot. So, I was now excited to show up after school for a little talk in her alcove. She told me the same things and encouraged me to become a teacher because I 'had the gift'. She mused about the kids who had never made a peep in class before and wondered aloud about what that said about her. I respectfully told her she was a pretty daunting presence and quite frankly they were afraid of her. The next day she took the time to tell the whole class how much she had learned the day before. She mentored me the rest of the year and would occasionally give unsolicited dating advise....'Why are you wasting your time with that one?'... I think most of us found at least one exceptional teacher, who left an indelible mark during our Greeley days. Mr. Barlow, Mr Gilson, Mr. Vion and Mr. Kluge were still impressing students when our kids got there in the '80s. We moved back to Chappaqua and bought Peter's family home from his mom. We have enjoyed hosting both our classes for reunion picnics over the years. We do hope Covid has spared all your families.
Frances Turner Davidson
I, Dave Williams, submit a favorite memory...
We came to Chappaqua in 1942 when I was about 6 months old. It was totally by chance. My dad worked for the New York Central Railroad and was assigned to be the station master there at Chappaqua. It could have been anywhere — Mt. Kisco, Brewster, Dover Plains, Elmsford, Mt. Vernon, and so on. I’m sure those are all good places, filled with good people, but I’m glad we came to Chappaqua. We lived in a series of rental houses until 1956, when my mom and dad were able to buy a house on Poillon Drive, two doors down from The Little Store. It was the first, and only, house they ever owned.
Like all of us, I have all sorts of warm and good memories about growing and living up in that sweet little town, but I often think about the summer of 1964. I had just graduated from Syracuse, gotten a commission in the Air Force and had a couple of months to wait until departing for my first duty station in South Carolina. It was an exciting time, a big crossroads in my life, and those two months were a good, bittersweet, fun, time.
I knew I would never live in Chappaqua again, and that I would miss it, so I savored that summer. Spent my days caddying at Mt. Kisco Country Club, just as I had the previous six years, and many evenings playing softball in the town men’s softball league for the Little Store team. We had a good team, with captain Bill Davis (John Davis’ older brother) Jerry Viscomi (Johnny’s brother), Lee Hoffarth (Mimi’s brother) and Charlie Deedee (Judy’s brother.) My dad, now 48, had played in this same league for years but didn’t play ball anymore. I had always gone as a kid, to watch him play, and now he and mom came to watch me. There were guys playing on some of the other teams that had actually played in that league with my dad, as well as guys I had played with back in little league, and the games were almost all on the fields there at the Bell School; the same fields where my dad had played, where I had played pickup games every summer at Camp Greeley, and one of the fields had actually been the site of Little League when we were kids. It was as if the summer encapsulated much of my life in Chappaqua, not just because the places and the people were so familiar, but also because there were so many memories right there. The fields were always fresh cut for the games, and the smell of that newly-mown grass, and the sights, the Bell School, the Greeley Woods, the backs of the stores on Greeley Avenue took me back in time during every game. Caddying and playing ball, I looked forward to every day, and I cherished that whole summer. When it came time to leave, on August the 5th, I was excited to start my new life, but sorry to say goodbye. I had to finish up in Chappaqua, and that summer was a good way to do it. I still treasure that magical time.
Marie Barkman Blue offers her memories of adjusting to life in Chappaqua. Hubby Steve Blue, will make an appeance later.
I came to Horace Greeley in my junior year when my mother married Alexander Joukovsky and we moved from Valhalla to Chappaqua. The transition from Greer School, a boarding school in Dutchess County, to Valhalla Jr. High to White Plains H.S. and finally Horace Greeley is all remembered as fairly uneventful. It was more of a change in grade school to move from Cheyenne, WY to New York City and thus the boarding school. In Chappaqua a step-father and step-brother were an adjustment with different rules and responsibilities, but school helped with homeroom being a good start to the day with Barkman, Bliss, Blue and Bogart lined up in the 1st and 2nd row.
I joined the twirling squad with Fran Orsenigo, Ann Hill, and the others and we started practicing to be ready for the Columbus Day parade with the band. This kept me busy after school with Mr. Davis, Miss Barry, Mr. Tice, Mr. Reinhart, and French class and Lab where it was possible to hypnotize yourself staring at the tape recorder. When the Junior Musical came along I sewed costumes due to instruction from my many home economics teachers along the way and restricted my singing to the youth choir at the Congregational Church.
Senior year brought Red Cross Life Saving classes with Bogart and Blue driving to the pool in the evenings and leading to my dating each of them and eventually going steady with Steve. So I guess eventually Horace Greeley influenced the rest of my life by introducing me to my future husband. We have had lots of adventures since and now enjoy our retirement south of Denver, Colorado and have had fun thinking back on the memories of Chappaqua as we knew it and the 2 reunions we have attended. It has been delightful to have Ann Hill Connolly Brockman, Ann Bliss (Mygatt), Reid Reynolds, Lydia Lockridge Morrongiello and Gay Mayer in the Denver area and be able to get together for Lydia’s organ playing and for other happy and sad occasions to renew our acquaintance, and reminisce.
Marie Blue class of ‘60.
Bill Smith, who was with us until junior year tells a unique story, with a happy ending...
I am 80 years old as of May 17th.
I had a poor life in Chappaqua. I had to quit school in1959 and work for food for me and my mom.
We were kicked out from our apartment and then went to live two different places. Mom died and I went and lived in the woods on the hill above the Sawmill river. I would go down at night to town garbage bins to get food. One day a guy saw me and asked if I would like to work. I said yes and rented a room. I worked in Pleasantville for two years. Then the company moved to Stamford, CT and I lived there.
I went to night school, met my wife, got married to Laura. Moved to florida. Got two kids. Worked here 30 years at Seminole county, Florida, school board.
Lydia Lockridge Morrongiello reports on her current activities and sends a distinctive picture.
Having nver been quarantined before except for possibly childhood chicken pox and mumps, March 2020 was the start of an unfamiliar lifestyle: no socializing with friends, no choir rehearsals or church services, no gym, no ballroom dancing, no car rallies. Then planned activities cancelled one-by-one: the trip to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the annual “Ride the Pass” on Memorial Day to celebrate the seasonal opening of Independence Pass (CO), the annual Colorado Concours, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Aspen Institute among others.
On Saturday night, February 29, two of my friends held a Film Noir party. For many of us from the ballroom dance circuit, costumes and characters abound and often brings out a hidden personality. I appeared as Marlene Dietrich! In retrospect, this was the evening that unknowingly celebrated the end of life the way it was, yet none of us knew it. Did we?
Within a week, my positions in the two churches which I alternate weekly, dramatically changed. At St John’s Episcopal in Boulder, I am part of the choir. Suddenly church services were downsized into one “virtual” service via Zoom. St Thomas Episcopal in Denver where I am the organist, likewise became a virtual Zoom service. St John’s is fortunate to have a music director who is also a professional audio/visual engineer. Immediately each choir member learned the specific process to form a virtual choir of 30-40 voices. Fortunately for St Thomas, my Rodgers digitally interfaced pipe organ at home became significantly important. During this quarantine, there is plenty of time to experiment mixing the 119 digitally sampled pipe organ sounds plus the 2000+ sound palette from the MIDI interfaced Roland XV5050 sound box! I’m having a ball! It’s a digital “box of candy”! And the parishioners are enjoying a totally different blend of music. For example, last Sunday I recorded a background repeating 2 measure ostinato using the digital voices of “monks” chanting on “ah”. The vocalist superimposed his voice with words over each of the 4 vocal parts of the monks. Then we synced the vocal solo line plus the two solo instrumental tracks for a Pan Pipe and a Shakuhachi, both from the organ. The video added images. It was phenomenal! And the virtual coffee hour after the church service provides an opportunity for us musicians to explain to the viewers how we create these recordings and the enormous amount of time that it takes to record the resulting 4-5 minute musical video.
Simultaneous to all this work for the churches, I was contacted to record an organ sound track for a film to be released in December. Imagine… a movie debut!
So much new technology has been learned since March 11th! It is a thrilling new adventure in the advent of a new lifestyle!
Class President Allan Campbell recaps the senior year football season...
This reminiscence is in honor of our senior year football team that finished the year with a record of one win and six losses (or maybe it was one and seven). By most accounts, and most likely in the storied legacy of Coach H. Mark (“Whip”) Whittleton, the 1959-60 Quakers were one of the worst teams ever to take the field for Horace Greeley High School. But for those who played on that team, and particularly the seniors, it was our team. We had high hopes. It was a team that built our memories that we’ve carried with us for years. It taught us the value of playing a team sport. It forged friendships and created stories that lived on as if they happened just the other day. This account is for those of you who played on that team. Now I hope that you can come out from under all the bad memories and ignominy you’ve carried all these years and finally cherish what we had.
Greeley had a proud football tradition that, for us, started in the Tommy Gilburg years. Gilburg was probably the best football player who ever came out of Greeley. We were freshmen when he was a senior. I remember idolizing him. He was humble and he was nice to us younger players in the locker room. But as it turned out, his and his team’s accomplishments were a curse to us that followed. The Gilburg teams were so good that the Whip perhaps got a swelled head and scheduled a whole array of down-county teams from much bigger schools. In the post-Gilburg years, Greeley found itself playing the likes of Rye, Harrison, Lincoln (Yonkers), Pelham, Tuckahoe and Elmsford. No longer were we competing only with our Northern Westchester peers.
We had our share of good athletes on our senior year team. Probably the best pure football player on the team was Biff Fowler. Biff came to Greeley in sophomore year. He even looked like a football player and he soon caught the attention of the coaching staff. One of the drills in the hated two-a-day practices we had in the early fall was the brutal one-on-one tackling drill. We would pair up and then run at each other at full speed from about ten yards away, taking turns tackling each other. The unwritten custom among teammates was that if the coach wasn’t looking, each partner would take it easy on the other and only go hard if a coach was watching. On this particular day, as the drill was unfolding, everyone kept hearing a loud, regular crashing together of pads, at a noise level that was unfamiliar to all of us. This quickly caught the attention of the Whip, who blew his whistle and made everyone stop and watch this new kid to see how tackling really should be done. We all stood around and watched as Fowler absolutely creamed some poor guy time after time (I forget who the recipient was). I still feel sorry for the victim today.
We had a lot of good athletes on the team. Ben Lewis and Bruce Mygatt were the ends. Both were strong and tough and great leaders. The tackles were Steve Walsh and myself. Steve was an all-county basketball player who was a great shooter. If he could get to his spot, he was unstoppable. My main qualification was that I was big. The guards were Larry Johnson and Bob Burch. Both were experienced and raring to go at the beginning of the season. At center was Doug Gibson. He looked like a football player and was good at saying “huddle up” and was, as one who always wanted to go to West Point, adept at remembering the snap count. In the backfield was Will Risley at quarterback, Clem Lagala at fullback and Bif Fowler at halfback. I can’t remember who the fourth back was— maybe one of the underclassmen. We thought we were going to be pretty good with this lineup at the beginning of the season. The line was big and experienced. Risley was probably one of the smartest QBs to play in the league. Lagala was small but tough and hard to bring down. And Fowler was Fowler. Other seniors who added to our high hopes were Dick Howe, Jim Hands, Tom Eller and Bob Wallace.
With all this potential, what went wrong? First of all, we lacked one thing that differentiates teams at any level---- SPEED! With the possible exception of Fowler, we were a bunch of turtles. To win at any level, a team needs at least a few breakaway threats. That had been Jack Davidson (Pete’s brother), John Curtiss and Buster Trapani in the Gilburg era. That wouldn’t come again until a few years later in the Vredenburgh, Lambert, Beeson era. Secondly, a significant number of superior athletes in our class for whatever reasons, chose not to play football. Ken Nye, maybe the best athlete in the class, played only our freshman year and got hurt. He starred in basketball and baseball throughout high school. People who excelled in other sports—Jim Buschini in soccer and baseball, Don Harvey in baseball, Doug Hoeft in basketball, Johnny Davis in baseball—all would have been great additions to the football team. Also, a number of good athletes and football players who left our class to go to prep school--- Peter Berg, Peter Holmes, Dick Lynch, Duncan Kincaid, to name a few--- could have helped the cause. The biggest reason for our lack of success, however, was in my opinion, the loss of confidence in us by the Whip and his staff. This loss of confidence took its toll as the season progressed.
We lost our first game in a fairly close contest with Rye. In the next week of practice, a disturbing trend started. Instead of building on what we had done well in the game, we were berated for what we had done poorly. This trend intensified as the season went on. We won the next game against Lincoln High from Yonkers. As I recall, the game was pretty sloppy with a lot of mistakes on our part. But a win was a win, wasn’t it? Apparently, this win was not good enough not in the Whip’s eyes. In the week of practice that followed, a lot of time was devoted to punishing the team. I think most of us were expecting a little opportunity to celebrate the win and we were surprised at the coach’s reaction. The strong implication was that we were not trying hard enough; in the Whip’s lexicon, we were “dogging it.”
Most successful football coaches have a bit of the sadist in them. The rationale for this approach is that a football team has to be both mentally and physically tough and that drills bordering on torture achieve this state. Anyone who has played football will remember the most hated routine of all--- the dreaded scramble. If you’re unfamiliar with the scramble, try this: go out in your yard and pace off about fifty yards--- the width of a football field. Next, bend over and assume the downward-facing dog yoga position. Most everyone knows some yoga these days, but in case you don’t, you should now have your hands and feet on the ground and your butt sticking up in the air. When the whistle blows, proceed to move, crablike, as fast as you can for the fifty foot distance. As you’re scuttling along, imagine a chewed-up field with dust that you inhale and rocks that gouge into your hands. When you get to the other sideline, wait a few seconds for the whistle and repeat again and again and again...... get the idea? If someone were to dare to complain, it would only mean more reps. The routine was supposed to sharpen us, inspire us and give us the will to win. But all it did was breed a growing resentment which, in my case and I’m sure in the case of some others, bloomed into real hatred.
As the season went on and we lost more and more, the punishment continued and even intensified. In the case of many, myself included, the objective became to survive and get the season over with. One might ask why I consider this team the best 1-6 team that ever played. It’s because despite the adversity, we were still a team. It’s because we were proud that we stuck together and made it through. It’s because we were friends and we cared for each other. We had a bond because we suffered together and came out fine on the other side. Outsiders might find it difficult to believe but I strongly feel that going through what we did gave us strength to meet challenges in our later lives. I look back on what we went through even a little bit fondly. When the memory of this experience begins to fade, all I have to do is look at the palms of my hands and see the scars from the cuts from that rocky field and it brings it all back. It was worth it.
Post script: I would love to hear from any classmates on their memories of that season or our time at Greeley in general. Are your recollections the same as mine? Email me at email@example.com. If I left anyone out of the above narrative, it wasn’t deliberate. I’m just having more and more “Senior moments.”
As promised, Steve Blue appears. Another input totally different from all others. Long, but well worth the time. Very interesting and entertaining stuff....
“So…Where Did You Go to School?”
(Steve Blue, HGHS ’60, May 2020)
Young people everywhere throw out this question as an opening challenge upon meeting a stranger who has intruded into their midst. Asking someone where they went to school is the slightly more polite and genteel version of “Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Who are you?” Young people are curious, uncertain, overconfident, impulsive – even apprehensive. What they are really asking is “Are you like me?” “School” is a good metaphor for the process of maturing and gaining knowledge and experience. It includes the structured, formal, instructional environment of the classroom under the guidance of teachers. And it includes the chaotic, experiential, spontaneous, informal environment we enjoy with our friends, families, social associations, neighborhoods and extended society. My main mission in life for the first 18 years was to grow up, to complete a childhood highlighted by multiple
moves between three continents and punctuated with incredible experiences, opportunities, life lessons and exciting times. My “School” came in a wide variety of settings and shapes, each distinctive and unique.
So…Here’s where I went to school.
I was born in Colville, Washington in April 1942. Why Colville? Because my Dad was working on a road project associated with Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, and that’s where my folks were when I showed up. World War II was barely five months old, as far as the United States was concerned, and the country was spinning its wheels trying to mobilize. My Dad was
29, married, with a kid, and certainly not draft eligible. But he was a Civil Engineer and a responsible citizen, the Navy needed talent, so he signed up for Navy Officer Candidate School, spent three months in Rhode Island, then shipped out to the Pacific with the 93rd Construction Battalion – Seabees. Spent the next two and one-half years island hopping across the South Pacific – Marines capture an island, Seabees come build a port and an airstrip, Army moves in with troops to hold the island and planes to bomb and strafe the other guys. Repeat. My Mom and I returned to Seattle, where both my parents were from, for the duration and I busied myself learning how to walk, then run, then fall down.
Dad returned at the end of 1945 and we moved to Napa, California, north of San Francisco. He worked for the US Soil Conservation Service, dealing with agricultural and soil surveys, irrigation water delivery and helping farmers improve their crop production. I worked on reducing my rate of falling down, but by the time I turned five I had over a dozen stiches on various parts of my young body. I had a cap pistol and a Red Ryder Daisy lever action BB rifle that was as long
as I was tall, and that I could barely cock. There was a happy gang of four to six-year-olds in the neighborhood; we played a lot of Cowboys and Indians, climbed the nearby hill, flew kites in the spring, bossed around our pet dogs, and generally were carefree kids. On reflection that sounds a lot better than my vision of today’s pre-school and kindergarten.
In 1948 Dad signed on with a US engineering consulting firm which had a project in Salta, Argentina. They needed someone with his skill set for a year long assignment, working with an Argentine engineering outfit and the Provincial public works authorities. So, we saddled up and headed for South America. But not until we completed a round of immunizations for various exotic diseases, obtained passports (was on my Mom’s passport) and tried to figure out what would be essential to take along.
In 1948 international travel was quite a bit more primitive than today. Aircraft were generally propeller driven, four-engine types like the DC-4 and DC-6; many airlines outside the US used DC-3’s (twin engine tail-draggers) for local service. The route from Napa to Salta included: San Francisco to Los Angeles, then to Mexico City, then Guatemala City, then Managua Nicaragua,
then Colon Panama. At each stop all the passengers unloaded into the local terminal, the crews gassed up the plane and stirred up the baggage, and finally we got back on board, minus a few folks and with a few new ones. We stayed overnight in Colon, just to get a decent meal and clean up a bit. Then onward, through Bogota Columbia; Quito Ecuador; Lima Peru, Santiago Chile, and over (actually, between the higher peaks of) the Andes Mountains, to Buenos Aires Argentina. All this adventure courtesy of Panagra – Pan American-Grace Airways, who ruled the skis in South America for years. In B-A we connected with Zonda Airlines, the Argentine domestic carrier who loaded us onto a DC-3 and headed north through Cordoba and Tucuman to Salta, Argentina.
Our home for the next year was the Hotel Salta. Salta was a graceful old Argentine city, nestled in a high plateau valley at the eastern base of the Andes, center of a farming and ranching region with the usual combination of Spanish influence, native culture, and seasoning by a range of European immigrants. Many Germans had settled in Argentina during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and there was a huge influx of Germans immediately after the War. Juan Peron was the President of Argentina and his wife Eva Duarte was at her zenith in influence (“Evita”). While we were in Salta there were only two revolutions – actually, provincial civil disorders or enthusiastic riots. Both were quashed in short order; the hotel management told us to stay away from the windows (stray gun fire) but otherwise they were non-events. I remember looking out from our balcony at troops and tanks in the plaza below, thinking “This is cool!” It was instead a window into the precarious state of Argentina’s economic and political situation under Peron’s very heavy thumb. From the early 1900’s Argentina has been a classic example of Paradise Wasted – so much potential, so few results, so many frustrations, so little progress.
Finally, I was old enough to go to a real school! There were two American families in Salta; Bussey’s had two kids. The three of us walked daily to and from Escuela Normal, the nearby elementary school. Billy and I were in primo grado, his sister two years ahead. We wore school uniforms – short sleeved white shirts with a gold embroidered Escuela Normal patch on the pocket, and blue short pants. Shoes were optional. The language barrier quickly fell – I soon spoke Spanish, complete with Argentine/Castilian accent, as well as many six-year-olds. I still have today (thanks to my Mom’s unfailing packrat instincts) a workbook from school – pages filled with written numbers, written letters, the numbers spelled out – “uno, dos, tres…” and short sentences. All in passable cursive. My Mom once asked me how I was able to understand the teacher so quickly. I told her “I don’t know what she’s saying, but I know what she means.”
In addition to school we would explore the city, visiting markets and stores, taking in the sights in the plazas and occasionally traveling out into the countryside. There was a stable at the edge of town where I launched my lifelong career in equestrian catastrophe. I’ve been thrown by some of the finest horses on the planet, and it all started in Salta. My horse was called Blanca (white) because she was – well, white from hoof to nose. She would generally behave, walking and trotting around the ring, occasionally paying attention to the reins, until she’d had enough. Then she would maneuver right up to the railing, trying to scrape me out of the saddle. After getting dumped a few times I learned how to bend my railing side leg back over her rump and lean down and hang on to the saddle horn. It wasn’t pretty or graceful, but I kept in the saddle. I have today on the wall of my study two braided rawhide quirts with which I tried to convince Blanca to behave. To little effect.
We returned to the States in 1949, to Salt Lake City, where my Dad worked for the US Bureau of Reclamation, doing more water resource development projects. We lived in one rental house for a short time, then moved to another, so I wound up attending two elementary schools. I remember little of them, other than they were within walking distance and were old, one-story brick buildings. Perhaps the most memorable activity then was Cub Scouts. I learned later in
life that Scouting is a Very Big Deal in the LDS church (for which Salt Lake City is ground zero). We attended an Episcopal church, and even it sponsored Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops. I took to Cub Scouts with a vengeance and soon was on my way to being awash in Goldand Silver arrowheads under my Wolf, Bear, Lion and Webelo’s badges.
The Salt Lake City episode lasted just one year. My Dad signed up with another engineering consulting firm for what was supposed to be a “short term” assignment in Greece. The outfit was Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton Engineers – TAMS - at 62 W 47th Street (later, 375 Park Avenue) in NYC. After the War, the US initiated a program of foreign assistance in Europe,
Africa and the Middle East designed to aid recovery from the damage of war. The Marshall Plan addressed physical, institutional, cultural and political aspects of recovery in several nations, evolving from assistance to overt influence to counterbalance the increasing reach of the Soviet Union as we transitioned from a shooting war to what became the Cold War and the USSR transitioned from ally to opponent. The initial Marshall Plan assignment in Greece focused on developing water storage and conveyance facilities to improve agricultural irrigation; what started as “short term” grew into several years and many more projects.
Note: I just finished reading Wilfred McClay’s “The Great American Story: Land of Hope” and heartily commend it to your appraisal. It covers American history from pre-Columbian days up through the current administration, at an admitted overview level of detail, but sufficient to bring events to life. There is a cliché – “History begins the day you were born.” This captures the attitude of some that past events are largely irrelevant and what really matters is what is happening NOW. I of course disagree – understanding the past is essential. As I read the last several chapters, beginning with World War II, I found myself literally saying aloud “I remember that!” I was no longer just reading history; I was reviewing events in which I participated – if only to a minuscule extent. I mention this because by the time we went to Greece, I was eight years old and could remember what went on and was aware of the historical significance of some events.
Heading for Greece entailed many of the same challenges as did heading for Salta. More inoculations, passport updates, travel plans. Now we would be flying across the Atlantic, so the aircraft was upgraded to the venerable Lockheed Constellation – a four engine aluminum tube with a triple tail and a droopy nose and a very narrow cabin into which they squeezed many, many six-seat rows. The route of travel was equally convoluted. We left New York’s Idlewild Airport on TWA (“Travel With Angels”) bound first for Gander, Newfoundland, then Shannon, Ireland, then the milk run of London, Paris, Rome, Athens (our destination) and finally Beirut.
The foreign community consisted of diplomatic corps folks, various military types, and expatriate civilians like us. Americans, Brits, French, Swiss, Belgians, a few Scandinavians. The Yanks and Brits had already set up a school system – the Anglo-American School – which was staffed by a veritable Commonwealth of talent. There were actually two school facilities – the elementary school (1-5) in the village of Psychiko and the secondary school (6-12) in Kifisia. In the elementary school we all attended one home room, with one teacher who covered the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic. Many of the parents ferried their kids to school, but the
AAS also provided a bus system of sorts – comprised of a fleet of British Army troop carriers –
olive green, with wooden benches along the sides and a gate door in the rear, driven by a
British Army soldier. The challenge was to commandeer the front passenger seat – the one that could be raised and the hatch above it opened to expose the machine gun mount (sans machine gun). We tried in vain to enforce a “boys-only” rule for this seat – didn’t work.
Life at the elementary school was pretty laid back – I don’t remember any particular challenges on the academic side. We had plenty of outside time – two recesses and lunch break – and time for games, soccer, playground equipment like swings with wooden seats hung on chains, teeter-totters with splintered wood seats, merry-go-rounds with steel pipe handles and slick
metal surfaces (none of which would pass safety muster today). Marbles was a big thing among the boys; the girls did jacks. Several of the boys worked to perfect their mumblety-peg skills – virtually every kid had a jack-knife in his pocket. One day, for no reason I can remember, I got into a scuffle with another kid in the playground. He was way taller than me, so it took a while to get him down onto the ground, where I proceeded to straddle him and punch the dog- stuffing out of him – until a teacher hoisted me high into the air and I swear, was ready to toss me over the fence. The dust settled, we both grudgingly apologized to each other and shook hands and that was the end of it. I thought. Turns out the kid’s parents found out what had happened, and his old man wanted revenge. And it turned out the old man was the United States Counsel, second dude to the Ambassador – a genuine big shot. The principal convened a full assembly in the cafeteria, and I had to stand up in front of the whole crew and sincerely, publicly apologize. Man! Did that chap my _ _ _!
It was also an object lesson in the class and caste system in place there. The Americans and the Brits were primus inter pares, with the remaining Europeans relegated to “other” status. And within the alpha group, the CD’s (Corps Diplomatique) and the military were first in line, and the rest of us were just expats. The blessed ones enjoyed a commissary, a military exchange and a military hospital; the rest of us foraged on the economy. But we did very well. Some
interesting facts of life at the time:
• We had running water. Usually for four hours, two or three days a week. Each house had a large tank on the roof, which we filled when the water came on, then did laundry, bathed, boiled water and put it into bottles for drinking, and accomplished other chores needing water. Flush only when absolutely necessary.
• Heating the house was via hot water running through radiators, with the water heated by a coal furnace. Every couple months the coal truck came, dumped a load in the street and I got to shovel and wheelbarrow it into the coal bin beside the house. Then I got to fetch periodic scuttles full of coal and feed the furnace.
• The stove had a glass cannister that fed kerosene through tubes to each burner – an asbestos ring with a lever mechanism that raised or lowered it into a pool of kerosene. Kerosene came in large cans; it was definitely an outdoor project to punch a hole in the can, tilt it to fill the glass cannister, then take that inside and invert it into its stand at the back of the stove.
• The most popular form of local conveyance was the horse-drawn carriage, similar to the carriages people pay large bucks to ride in Central Park (at least they used to). As kids our gambit was to dart out onto the street as a carriage rolled by, run up behind it, and hop onto the rear axle. Done properly and with finesse, the carriage driver didn’t know you were there. But land too hard or have him catch a glance of you out of the corner
of his eye and expect the tip of the whip to come flying over the back of the carriage.
After a couple years I graduated to the upper school in Kifisia. The school was close enough to our house that I could ride my bike to and from. Here we had separate teachers and classrooms for different subjects, and the intellectual rigor ramped up significantly. Mister David King was the headmaster, a Brit with a neatly trimmed mustache given to wearing vests with his coat and tie. Science teacher was Graham Bruce, a young bachelor New Zealander who drove a 1936 Bugatti roadster – one of only six of that model made. Mrs. Dickey, an American, taught music for those inclined to instruments and music appreciation to the rest of us. Mrs. Papadopoulos, a Greek, taught math. There were others whose names and expertise escape me now, but overall, I was impressed by the quality and dedication of our teachers. There was never any question of classroom discipline – no one dared misbehave and risk getting sent to Mister King!
The school also sponsored the Scouts, so I was able to graduate from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts and continue learning all kinds of useful skills. We had a summer camp each year, went on overnight camping outings into the nearby countryside, and undertook various projects at our after-school Troop meetings.
Most of my friends were classmates from school but I did become friends with a few Greek kids who lived nearby; generally their fathers worked in some role with the expats so they had a little skill in English and understood why we were there. These friendships and the fact that we spent a lot of time our in the local environment interacting with the population resulted in my achieving a fairly high level of fluency in Greek. It has served me well over the years in encounters in Greek restaurants – drop a few select phrases with the owner
and often the meal would be comped and the ouzo flow freely.
There were two interludes in the six years we spent in Greece. The first of these was in
1954 when my Mom had a severe back problem requiring surgery, so we all flew back to
Seattle where we had family to assist in this exercise. On the way back to the States we
took a side trip through Africa, visiting Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda on a motor safari around Mt. Kilamanjaro and to Victoria Falls. Stayed overnight in Treetops, the bush hotel in which Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip had stayed and where they received word of George VI’s passing in 1952. Then on to Johannesburg for a short tour of South Africa.
Dad returned to Athens and for about half a school year I attended Nathan Eckstein Junior High School (he was a local businessman and school board member) and got another taste of a “real American” school. I have two memories of the place. First, it had an excellent music program; I got signed up for coronet, sat in my first class, was fiddling with the piece of shiny brass, raised it to my lips and in a moment of bad judgement let loose a toot. The instructor stopped in mid-sentence, stared at me, pronounced: “Well, you seem ready to take over this class. Why don’t you come down here and teach us all how to play?” That
was the end of my music career. Second, I took Spanish as an elective. And I aced that class
– it was unfair to the rest of them, but I never admitted to my year in Salta at Escuela Normal. Mom’s operation was successful, and we returned to Athens. The return flight was scheduled for Coos Bay, Labrador, then Shannon etc. but half-way there we were
diverted by storms to the Azores. Sat there for hours then returned to the original itinerary
– wound up spending 36 hours in planes and airports on that trip.
The second interlude occurred about a year later when Dad had to go to Lebanon on a short project assignment. Mom and I set up a home study program with my teachers, and I attended the elementary school associated with the American University in Beirut. We
were there for about three months and between the AU school and my home study program, I returned to AAS in Greece well ahead of the game. At the time, early to mid-
1950’s, Beirut was considered the Jewel of the Mediterranean. It was as cosmopolitan as Paris, with a history extending back at least five thousand years to Phoenician times. Again, we camped out at a hotel for convenience, and were able to take in many historic sites both in and around Beirut and in the interior, such as Baalbek, a gem of ancient Greek and
Roman civilizations. To remember what Beirut was, and to see what it has become today, is tragic. Sadly, this destruction has been repeated throughout the Middle East. So much culture and antiquity and history wantonly destroyed. For nothing.
Our six-month short-term assignment to Greece had extended over six years. The work opportunities for TAMS – and many other competitors- continued to expand. From the initial beachhead in Athens TAMS had ventured into Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia and Iraq. Finally, in 1956 the workload in Iraq demanded more full-time resident staff, so Dad was tapped as office manager there, and we prepared for another move. We, and a couple other families from the Athens operation, packed up and hauled our caravan east to Baghdad, on the Tigris River, in the heart of ancient Mesopotamia.
If Greece had been rustic, Baghdad was downright primitive. Same deal with water – tank on the roof, service a couple times a week. Kerosene stove. No central heating; grab a sweater. In Iraq – throughout the Middle East – if you planned on building a house step one was to hire a Bedouin to camp on the property and guard it. Step two was to build a wall (broken glass shards on top) and install gates. Then you could start working on the house. We rented a house that came with a wall and a Bedouin family that lived just outside the back wall – they were included in the rent.
There was an entrepreneurial Lebanese in Baghdad by the name of C. John Halkias. He had, among his many irons in the fire, a furniture rental business so we had John’s crew deliver the necessities – living and dining room furniture, a stove, a refrigerator, beds, lamps, some floor rugs. We had brought over our 1950 Chevrolet to Greece and it followed us to Iraq. Dad could drive, Mom could not (oh, she was capable – in fact a very good driver. But in Iraq in 1956 women didn’t drive. Period). The office maintained a small fleet of 1955
Plymouth Belvedere’s with Iraqi drivers; these were available for shuttle service.
Most of the expat community sent their kids to boarding schools in England, Switzerland or France. The local expat school served grades 9 – 12 and operated out of a small building near the American Embassy within walking distance of our house. The faculty consisted of one teacher, a genuinely nice and personable and dedicated young lady whose name escapes me. The student body consisted of sixteen kids – one senior, three juniors, five sophomores and seven freshmen, including me. Our teaching tools were individual packets of instructional material tailored to the appropriate grade level – a senior pack, some junior packs, etc. These were put together by an educational group at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, who had a contract with the US Government to provide remote learning support
– the paper and pencil and mail pouch equivalent of what is today called “distance learning”
and which has recently become quite popular.
In a nod towards structure we all tackled the same basic subjects – math, English, social studies, science – at the same time each day. Other than that, you were on your own. The packets contained reading material, assigned writing material, quizzes, comprehensive tests. Each covered about two weeks of class time, at the end of which you bundled up your material and turned it in. Teacher consolidated these and sent them off to U of Nebraska where each submittal was reviewed and evaluated – graded, with comments and suggestions. These were packed up and returned to us. The turnaround time, even using the Embassy diplomatic “pouch” instead of international mail service, was about three or four weeks. To summarize: complete module N; submit for review; start module N+1, complete module N+1; submit for review; start module N+2, receive comments and
feedback on module N; try to figure out what they are saying and why and what it has to do with what you are working on now; complete module N+2; submit for review; and so forth.
One of my classmates was a junior girl who kept a horse at a local stable. After I dropped several not-to-subtle hints she invited me to go riding. We would head out from the stable to a nearby levee, which had a wide flat dirt top, and use that as an equestrian trail. Ride out a short distance, then return. Switch riders. Repeat. It was fun. I headed out one day, on the third or fourth cycle, and when I tried to turn back the nag decided to get frisky. Took off in the wrong direction, at a dead run. I shortly lost the right stirrup, strap and all
(English saddle) so I was askew in the saddle, right leg flailing, as we reached a sharp turn in the level Frisky charged down the slope, encountered a creek at the bottom, leapt across with head lowered, and launched Steve into space, landing in a heap. I awoke several minutes later lying on some blankets inside a mud hut, with several Bedouin women clucking over me, one dabbing a wet rag on my face. Sounds outside – voices in Arabic and English – my pickup crew had arrived. Relieved. Another chapter in my riding career.
That was my freshman year in high school. Although some of it had to have rubbed off my folks (to whom I am eternally grateful!!) decided this U of Nebraska program was not going to deliver what they expected of me. My Dad negotiated a reassignment to the TAMS New York office, and in July 1957 we left Baghdad. Since there was a whole office full of folks who lived in New York there was no lack of suggestions and recommendations for where to live. Eventually they led to Chappaqua, and then to Seven Bridges, and then to 33 Ludlow Drive, a story-and-a-half brick and frame house with a large triangular lot, front and back lawn, white picket fence, some large trees, running water all the time, electricity that stayed on, a forced air furnace, an electric stove with an oven, telephones that worked, and –
television. I had not been exposed to this cutting-edge technology and quickly became a big fan. Up to this point my most exciting entertainment had been coaxing a short wave radio into delivering a signal from the American Radio Relay Base in Tangiers, streaming down the Mediterranean, with episodes of the Lone Ranger, the Shadow, the Count of Monte Christo, Straight Arrow, Tom Mix, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, and Fibber McGee and Molly. And now here was Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, Sugarfoot, the Rifleman, Dragnet, Sunrise Semester, Wagon Train and much, much more.
In the fall I started my sophomore year at Horace Greeley. Initially I rode the yellow bus that came by each morning and dropped me off each afternoon at the intersection of Ludlow Drive and Seven Bridges Road. Within a year I graduated to my fire engine red Model A, then to the Pontiac tornado. It took a while to adjust to this new environment but the more complicated and challenging classes became the more satisfying it was to study and learn. I soon discovered I enjoyed high school. And then, in a flash, it was over.
When I pause to reflect on the years 1957 to 1960, they were filled with experience and learning and knowledge, the value of which I would not come to realize until many years later. A few of the many folks who influenced my life over the next 60 years:
• Dotti Tippa, head cashier at the A&P store in Mt Kisco, who taught me that I never, ever, wanted to be a union slug in a dead-end grocery store job (say, produce clerk)
• Harold Bischoff, Ken Tice, Clarence Houmiel who introduced me to mathematics and science and the potential of engineering to improve lives
• Sylvia Kurson, who introduced me to the beauty of the spoken and written language and its power to influence, persuade, guide, intimidate, coax and nurture others
Their guidance, and that of many others, will be the subject of another essay. Or two. Or more. I have many more adventures to share, many more continents and countries to report on, and many more horse tails to tell.
A brief post-script. As the senior representative of TAMS in Baghdad my Dad entertained several Iraqi and other dignitaries at our house. Most travel in town was by chauffeured private car or taxi. He had prepared a brass plaque on which was inscribed “John W Blue” and the Arabic phonetic translation. This was mounted on the wall outside our house so drivers could see they were at the proper destination. When we settled in at 33 Ludlow Drive, he mounted the plaque on the post by the entry gate holding the mailbox – just for the heck of it, why not? Well. The locals saw the plaque. The locals didn’t know the difference between Arabic and Hebrew script, except they all looked like a lot of squiggles. This is 1957 and Seven Bridges and WASP central – my God! Did we make a terrible mistake? Letting these folks in? Our next-door neighbor casually – too casually – corralled my Dad that weekend. “So, Jack – very interesting plaque on your mailbox. Tell me about it.” So, he did. “Arabic, huh? Not Hebrew?” “Yep.” And Seven Bridges breathed a huge sigh of relief. Case closed when we started attending St Mary’s Episcopal Church in the village. It was a revealing and consciousness-raising introduction to being back in the United States after living for years in societies made up of every conceivable race, religion, ethnicity and political persuasion one could imagine.
A brief note and nice picture from Tom Eller...
Here is a picture of Ellen and me at The Big Timber Lodge Raspberry Island, near Kodiak Island, Alaska, August 2019.
We are fine. Ellen and I will be celebrating our 56th this year. Along with making many trips, 6 last year: Las Vegas; Mexico; Alaska; Maui; Portu= gal;& Carmel, CA, we also visit our daughter in Evansville IN with her 14 year old triplets and our son with his family, including 2 daughters 14 & 11, who live on Maui.
Plus, I am still a big Giants fan, from Polo Grounds to Oracle Park in San Francisco.
Growing up in Chappaqua
Reid T. Reynolds
May 18, 2020
I didn’t actually grow up in Chappaqua. As a young child I learned that we lived in Ossining. Our mailing address was Ossining. Our telephone number was Ossining 2-2242R (it was a party line, the R was for Reynolds). My father took the train from Ossining and that’s where we did our grocery shopping.
As a result of a fortunate gerrymander (or just because the line had to be drawn somewhere) we (the Allanachs, the Fils, and the Reynolds) went to school in Chappaqua. Steve, across the street, and Richie, just down the road went to school in Ossining. Kids a mile the other way went to school in Yorktown Heights. School buses that served this far west end of the Chappaqua school district drove up Pines Bridge Road, turned around just past our house and then picked us up. Sometimes we were the first on or last off the bus. If long bus rides have been detrimental to some children’s education, the opposite was true for me. I got to go to the wonderful Chappaqua schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
Once I began attending school our Chappaqua orientation grew. We joined the Congregational church, my mother joined the Chappaqua Garden Club, my father became active in town affairs -- Planning Board, Town Council (multiple terms), unsuccessful bid to become Town Supervisor – and I joined Chappaqua’s Boy Scout Troop 1. I began to consider Chappaqua, not Ossining, my hometown.
Though I lived far from most of my classmates I did not lack for neighborhood playmates. John Fils (next door) and Steve Cohn (across the street) were my age; Bill Allanach (the other next door) was just a year older. There was usually someone to explore the woods and fields behind our homes, ride bikes with or practice the sport of the season – throwing or kicking a football, shooting baskets, pickup hockey on Steve’s pond, catch and fungo during baseball season. I played one or two seasons of little league baseball and football, but ninety-plus percent of the time I spent on these “team sports” was with two or three of my neighbors. In Denver today it is rare to see middle class kids kicking a soccer ball outside of an organized youth soccer league – uniforms, coaches, officials and lots of parent-spectators. What a difference! To be fair, Bill played on the HGHS football team and Steve played on the Ossining hockey team. How could the school that had everything not have a team for the one sport I was more or less good at: ice hockey?
Growing up far from Chappaqua was more about other outdoor activities than shooting baskets and playing catch. It was about exploring the woods (we routinely ignored the rare no trespassing signs we encountered) and riding bikes along the dirt roads that followed the shoreline of Croton Reservoir. My mother worried when I was gone for hours at a time, but by age nine or ten we were allowed to camp out overnight in the woods behind my house and by twelve or thirteen a bike ride of ten or more miles from home went unchallenged.
Real camping out didn’t begin until I joined the Boy Scouts. Typical troop campouts required a backpack, tents and a short hike to a campsite where we would build a fire and cook our meals. We even had winter campouts, something that could result in charges of child abuse today. (For the record, I never experienced nor was I aware of any sexual abuse during my time in the Boy Scouts – seven years in Troop 1, three summers as a camper and three summers as a counselor at Camp Read.)
Growing up in Chappaqua gave me an education that few kids of my class background had in the 1950s, to say nothing of today. Growing up outside of Chappaqua gave me a love of the outdoors that I still cherish today. (I’ve recently retired from sleeping on the ground. This was written in the back of my truck camper, parked along the North Platte River, where I just caught my personal best brown trout – 22 inches, 4 pounds.)
Jack Duncan sends nice memories..
We moved to Chappaqua mainly for dad’s business and commute, and to get into a larger place.
My introduction to HG was after going to two previous schools. Englewood School for Boys in Englewood, NJ for Grades 9 and 10. Class was 21 kids. They came from all over. Many were offspring of parents for whom my grandparents , Irish immigrants, had been servants to I did not fit in (in my mind), but it was a good education.
When we knew we were going to move, I was sent to the local high school, a huge school, knowing no-one. Left for Chappaqua after 3 months.
Came to HG about Thanksgiving, again a shy kid into a new school. The teachers I had then were all great. Miss Kurson for homeroom and English, Mr. Cahill for geometry, Mr. Renhack for French (had to look in my yearbook for that one), and Mr. Barlow for Physics. I unfortunately sat in the back row, where “Blackie” paced and dictated. Sweat much? Oh yeah! I do have good vibes about HG, for sure.
Being shy, I did not move into many good friendships, save for our lunch group - Dave Williams, Steve Blue and others. I did not get into many school activities, save for chorus and track, during my senior year.
Many of my Chappaqua friends were in the class behind us, as I was dating a gal from ’61, and hung out with her buds more often.
Dick Quinn and I became friends because his family moved in next-door to us. ( I saw Dick maybe a year or so ago, and I just talked to him a few days ago.)
John Fils and Jeff Field both went to U Maine when I did. Saw them on campus once in a while. They both passed away from sporting accidents while we were at Maine.
Anyway, I do have good memories of Greeley, but maybe not as deep as those who grew up in town or spent more of their educational years in Chappaqua schools.
When I lived in Sherman, Connecticut we found out at church coffee hour that Anita Lindholm, now Anita Smith, and I were HG classmates! It was a wonderful revelation for Barb and me and Anita and her husband Ed. And, Ed and I both worked for a Reader’s Digest. Small world.
A nice letter from John Viscomi, who also gives us the background on the iconic Twin Diner his family owned and operated.
We are doing o k. Three years ago we left Monroe GA to come back to CT. We thought the South might be nice having spent thirteen years in NH. All that snow and freezing cold was tolerable when we were younger but as we got older not so. Patty’s brother lived in GA for about 25 years and so we thought it might be nice to live there too. But, very hot and humid except for January/February. We just couldn’t handle that very well either. So after two years we applied for Senior Housing here in Stafford Springs CT. It took a while but when accepted we left GA and here we are.
I am still very much involved with Ham Radio and have joined a real nice club here. I am not allowed any kind of antenna outside but that’s o k. I use an indoor thing that I invented and it works pretty good. I’ve been in the hobby for about sixteen years now and was not about to give it up so I do what I can to keep it up. This club I joined do a lot of things for our community and are recognized and accepted. We offer emergency communications when needed and can pass information when no one else can. We can also pass information for families to other countries in cases of emergencies.
These past few months have been a real test of senior patience. Our apartment is 805 square feet and seems to close in on us from time to time. The good news is that here in CT where it is not uncommon to have the highest gas prices in the Northeast, but these days a gallon of gas is under $2.00. So, we pack a lunch and off we go in the car for a couple hours.
One more thing Dave, our Grandson K J (Patty’s daughters son) and wife had the most beautiful little girl in January 2019, so we are now Great Grand Parents. Wow, where did the years go?
Lastly, we both are in very good health and count our blessings everyday.
That’s about it from here. Stay well and stay safe and best regards to all.
Regarding the Twin Diner, I guess to start I should say that I wasn’t even born when my father bought the diner. But I can remember way back when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old running around in the diner after my father closed. In the beginning dad was open from 6 am to midnight Monday to Saturday. Those were some very long hours. I don’t remember those days so they must have been before I could remember. I do remember when he opened at 6am and was closing at 9 pm, that I remember. Still, very long days and very hard work. You don’t just close and go home. You need to clean and prepare for the next day. I remember doing dishes at a very early age and at 8 or 9 at night.
I also remember when we were closed on Sunday and five or six police officers like Bob Burns, Frank Comitto, George, Doug Hunter and others would eat with us at our dining room table in the little apartment that we had attached to the back of the diner. My mother and father welcomed them to eat with us because there was no place else in our little town to eat on a Sunday. Back in those days that was not frowned upon like it would be today. A great bunch of guys and Frank Comitto became Chief of Police some years later.
One more thing and not too many would remember this. The name Twin Diner came from the fact that way back in the early 1950s the original diner was two diners put together as one. One side was the counter area and the other was the dinning room with the tables and chairs. Frank Kieper, Charlie Taylor, Ed Stark and others would come in after school and have unlimited coffee, a Danish maybe a plate of spaghetti, correct some papers, talk politics with dad and some stayed like Frank Keeper, until dad would close. Frank and dad were very good friends
My brother Tony won a trip from GE to go to Europe. He and his wife took my mom and dad with them and at some point left the GE group and went to Italy to see my father’s only brother and two sisters. My dad had been here in the US for 52 years. Dad came to the US when he was 17. He was in his hometown for just four days and died in the same house and the very same room he had been born in 69 years earlier.
My three other brothers and I were fortunate to have passports and went to Suverato, Italy the next morning. We quickly determined that this had to be what my father had wanted. He was buried next to his mother and father the next day.
When we came home from Italy my brother Sal tried to run the business that my father had for some thirty years. After a few months decided it was jus t too much for him to handle and the Twin Diner was closed.
It took several months to sell the property and finally William Weber from Pleasantville bought it and cleared the lot of the Twin Diner and opened the William Weber Florist Shop.
Sad but each of us were well on our way in our careers. Greg had Carmel Ford, Tony had Ancar Electronics, Frank had Westchester Electronics, I had Fairfield Electronics. The property had been sold and it was the only alternative at the time.
Hope this answers some of the questions as to what happened to a Chappaqua Icon.
Will Risley with extensive memories and stories, all well-told.
The Risleys (four, then) moved to the Chappaqua area (our town address in Lawrence Farms East was actually Mt. Kisco) in 1947 when I was five. I was born in New York City, in northern Manhattan, where my parents lived in an idyllic apartment on tiny Chittenden Avenue, above the Henry Hudson Parkway. The view was amazing. Look left: The George Washington Bridge and Grant’s Tomb. Look right: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters. And everywhere, the Hudson River. The war had ended in ’45 and I still recall at age 5 seeing warships heading upriver to be mothballed. But Dad decided we’d move to “the country,” Westchester. He bought not a small ranch house—too easy---but instead the Coach House of the old Moses Taylor Estate, whose mansion was at the top of the Taylor Road hill and in ruin, occasionally inhabited by tramps. We had four stone buildings around an unpaved courtyard, all fairly well trashed: broken windows, etc. Dad rented and installed us in the nice brick “Gate House” at the junction of Taylor and Armonk Roads (later lived in by Jack, Pete and Janet Corbino) while he designed and had built living quarters in the front building of the four, whose ground floor was horse stalls; the other buildings were a garage with four sliding wooden doors, for coaches; a kennel building with little doggy doors, and a rear building, just like the front one, which had a low-ceiling, ratty sort of gymnasium in it. Check page 56 of “A Bicentennial History of the Town of New Castle, 1791-1991” (N.C. Historical Society, 1991) to see me at age five standing in front of the huge doors of the main building, amid all sorts of broken glass, on a dirt driveway. Eventually the carpenters and plumbers completed the installation of our “house” (we still had two horse stalls downstairs), we moved in, and I cannot imagine a more wonderful place to grow up. Our picture window looked across the valley to the stately home of my boyhood good friend, Lou Rothbard. When we sold our place in 1996 our head carpenter, whose father, a mason, had immigrated from Italy, told me: “Riz, you know that the only guys who could work on your stone here, are either in Italy or they’re dead.” Eventually our side of Lawrence Farms had the Corbinos and Jeff Henschel, while the other side, near the Reader’s Digest, had Sally Holland, Ann Schmidt and---many years later--- Bill Holmes.
Though a two-town guy, I liked Chappaqua best. It had Squires, starring Larry Caso, plus the Colony Shop, Cartisano’s shoe store, the Greedy House (my mom’s term, due to the Greeley House’s high prices) and good food places: John Viscomi’s family’s diner, Darlington’s diner, and the popular King’s Corners (opposite the Central Bar), where Mike Cooper sold burgers for 25 cents and fruit-flavored rickeys and fizzes for a dime. Though not in Chappaqua or Mt. Kisco yet, McDonald’s was growing and pushing out Howard Johnson’s by charging 15 cents per mystery-meat burger and 12 cents for fries---you could get stuffed and ill for only a dollar. So King’s Corners was a real deal. (Of course, no burger was comparable to those at McClaren’s in Armonk. The coaches thought that in-season athletes went there for a secret beer or two, but no, it was for the burgers.) And what fun we had during our year of double sessions downtown while the new high school was being built. The overcrowding led to a huge feeling of freedom: for once we could go off school grounds for lunch! The deli at the corner of S. Greeley Avenue and the entrance road to the railroad station always had a long line to buy its delicious “wedges” of ham and swiss or cheddar, loaded with mayo or mustard.
Because pre-IBM-world-headquarters Armonk had over a dozen bars and one church, it was sometimes called “Barmonk.”
When we were still downtown in the old H.S., that great building (now Bell Middle School), the Chappaqua Public Library faced the Fire House on the way in. It was a good place to study due to the absolute quiet demanded by the stern, authoritarian librarian, Miss Hanley. The only revenge possible for the students to take on her appeared on the inside of the stall #2 door in the men’s bathroom. Sitters were treated to a fine drawing of a TV camera facing them, with the message: “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera,” and at the top of the door, a horizontal line captioned “If you can pee above this line, the Fire Department needs you.”
Al Campbell, Pete Heerwagen and I were sort of The Three Amigos during a few years. Instead of playing sports we smoked during the winter. None of us made the basketball teams; there was no gymnastics team, thank goodness, as our coaches were clueless teaching that sport; and though Al did wrestling one year, Pete and I avoided both the superb physical conditioning it demanded and having our faces shoved into all those pubic hairs lying on the mats we used in gym classes. We just hung out, often in the Heerwagens’ barn, and had a good time together.
I was never prouder of anyone or anything than I was of Clem Lagala when he played the lead in the Junior Musical, Bayou Flute. He was superb. I was a mere stagehand who watched from the wings in amazement and admiration and thought, “That guy was our fullback in football and our catcher in baseball, two gutsy positions, and always a great guy. And now here’s an entirely unforeseen dimension of him: he has the courage to act and sing before the whole town. Wow.” In all, the musical was probably the best collective experience our class had in high school.
And maybe the worst one for me was football senior year, a massive disappointment from which I still at age 77 have not recovered fully. Our class had played football together downtown on the rec field between the old high school and the RR station since sixth grade—the Grasshopper League, with two teams, Army and Navy--- and then in 7th and 8th grades, the Poison Ivy League, with four: Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Cornell, whose colorful jerseys we wore with reverence. We had so many talented players that I thought we’d be the Second Coming of the magnificent undefeated and untied Class of ‘57 team (e.g. Tommy Gilburg, who went on to play for Syracuse U. with Ernie Davis and then for the Baltimore Colts). We were loaded with talent, we played together on the Junior Varsity, and our best guy, versatile Pete Corbino, played Varsity as a sophomore. I imagined that as seniors we’d be undefeated. Then suddenly, POOF, half our guys’ parents sent them off to prep schools (where some, freshly on campus, were elected team captains, a very rare feat). We lost Dick Lynch, Peter Holmes, Carlos Ballantyne, Tom Stephens, Duncan Kincaid, Jeff Henschel , Stuart “Moose” Finlayson, and, sadly, Pete Corbino, to name only a few. Thank goodness Bif Fowler had transferred in from Buffalo. Moreover, our best remaining footballer, our gifted quarterback whom I considered the best athlete in our class (and maybe the best guy), Ken Nye, injured his back and could not play football senior year. (Happily he could still do basketball.) So a slow, mediocre halfback/quarterback and half-decent linebacker, yours truly, had to stand in. It was an awful season, we won one game (against Lincoln High of Yonkers) and lost seven, and Coach Mark “The Whip” Whittleton , whom we all admired, kept stressing our inferiority by saying he was 48 and 8 in his first eight years; he was so ashamed of us that (I suspect) he got the Yearbook to omit our games’ scores and total record, which all previous yearbooks I’d seen had always included. Years later Don Hess confessed to me that Coach did not handle our situation well nor fairly.
Another minor bad memory was the unbelievably dank men’s locker room at the new high school: smelly, badly (or un-) ventilated, windowless---a real hole where nothing ever really dried out. Our football equipment was kept in wire cages. So if I arrived late to practice due to a G.O. meeting to find my still-wet T-shirt and jock had been stolen by someone, I had to locate someone else’s and wear it. Yuck. Since during a no-contact practice day we stood around, in our wet undergarments, learning plays, I recall staring with great envy at the brand-new fledgling soccer team (Heerwagen, Jim Buschini, Don Harvey) happily running around in shorts, getting actual exercise, and having a ball as they faced zero expectations.
The best feature of our senior football season was the postseason banquet. Just as our proximity to N.Y. City got us Broadway veterans Jimmy Leyden and Lee Benjamin, composers of three junior musicals, it brought us banquet speakers from the N.Y. Giants football team (which was very good then, having Tom Landry as the defense coach and Vince Lombardi as the offense one [“coordinator” was not yet in the lingo]; there will never be another assistant coach duo like that). Our junior year we heard famous middle linebacker Sam Huff describe the Giants’ strong defense. Senior year we heard unfamous fullback but very colorful speaker Phil King narrate his first encounter with all-pro and later Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts defensive end, ferocious Gino Marchetti. Unable to block such a relentless pass rusher, Phil held him illegally, but the refs missed it. Phil saw Marchetti coming toward him after the play. “I made sure my chinstrap was on tight and closed my eyes. He roared, ‘Rookie, if you EVER hold me again, it’ll be the last thing you do!’ I said, ‘Mr. Marchetti, sir, I will NEVER hold you again, sir!”
Teachers I remember fondly were Messrs. Gilson, Meredith and Thrasher (History), Miss Kurson (English), Sra. Galas (Spanish), Mr. Kluge (Shop), Mr. Visca (Music), Mr. Taylor (our noble class advisor) , Mr. Anderson (Biology) and Miss Gorman (Home Ec; she forgave my torched brownies). Gilson also coached JV football and authored this memorable statement in World History: “How did Julius Caesar die?” (No answers). “Well, contrary to what you’ve heard, he died of a VERY bad cold—caused by the wind blowing through the many stab wounds in his chest administered by his close friends.” Mr. Visca inspired us boys to be in the chorus, because he was such a nice man and … because he had played baseball in the Yankees’ farm system. Mr. Meredith invented an excellent course in Latin American History and fomented great in-class discussion. Mr. Thrasher was extremely knowledgeable and interesting. Mr. Kluge proved that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Driving a van way before vans and trucks were common, he was run into from behind several times by Chappaqua drivers. Frustrated, he split a railroad tie in half lengthwise and mounted the halves as bumpers on his van, covering each with a long piece of hard rubber. Thus protected (armored?) he felt safe, but unfortunately later evolved to a phase where he began to jam on his brakes suddenly to deliberately be hit from behind. No damage to HIS vehicle, lots to the victim’s.
My three favorites were Mr. Meredith, Sra. Galas and the incomparable Miss Kurson. Mrs. Galas brought us Spanish in our junior year; previously we’d had Latin, French, German and---recently, due to Sputnik---Russian. Russian? Enlightened citizens suggested to the School Board that, in case they hadn’t noticed, there were 19 countries south of the USA which spoke Spanish, and so maybe we could add it? Personable Mrs. Galas was the very best way to do so. Miss Kurson, tough but fair, taught us how to write English. To receive from her a B+ was exciting, an A- remarkable, a rare A, ecstasy. In my first course at Dartmouth, Freshman English, we were terrified by the rumor that everyone failed his first composition, to give us the word that the College was serious. When my professor came in toting our batch, his first words were, “Is there a Mr. Risley in this class?” Full of trepidation but unable to find a crack in the floor large enough to dive into, I stood up and said “Yes, Sir, I’m Risley.” He said, “Risley, who was your best high school English teacher?” “That was Miss Sylvia Kurson, sir, from Chappaqua, NY.” He said, “That’s what I thought. You are very fortunate. She has sent us a number of well-prepared students who can write quite decent English. Congratulations, your theme was solid and promising, which I cannot say about the rest of these.” My grade: B-.
I also recall some weird moments with teachers. Since I was the only student in Mr. Brightbill’s Driver Ed “class” during one of the daily periods, he instructed me to go to study hall if for some reason he did not show up. He never showed up. He did contact me near the end of the semester, saying that since I was woefully behind in my actual number of driving hours, he’d pick me up on Saturday morning and I’d drive him around the county for several hours. We went all over Westchester, seeing churches and monasteries which fascinated him (and me), and it was a very pleasant experience, despite all my driving practice occurring on one and the same day.
A colorful episode was my thermite demonstration in Chemistry class with Mr. Houmiel. My lab partner was the very bright, nice, fun-loving Danny Gildesgame. You ignite a mixture of aluminum powder and iron oxide via a magnesium strip lit with a match, and cause a small but spectacular flash explosion which produces big smoke and a tiny iron ball about the size of a pea. Danny and I decided to improve the experiment by doubling the ingredients (he figured out the right proportions). Result: a not small explosion which blackened and wrecked two ceiling tiles in the lab and yielded an iron ball about the size of a marble. It was sensational, though Mr. Houmiel was not pleased. (We felt he deserved this for being grumpy in homeroom all year and for occasionally saying bizarre things. E.g. he liked the Colorado summer climate because “it’s a dry heat: when it’s 106 degrees you don’t even notice it, it’s so comfortable.” Bruce Mygatt replied: “Mr. Houmiel, if I were in 106-degree heat in Colorado, I really think I’d notice it.”)
We also once left our iodine makers going in the small glassed cubicle in the Chem Lab at the end of the day (homeroom) and filled it with purple smoke, which everyone but Mr. H. saw because he was facing us. When someone pointed to it, he opened the door and we all had to evacuate.
Latin for my first two years (two are required for the Regents exam) was not as successful/enjoyable as it might have been. First Year was taught by Mr. Sullivan, a man who enjoyed a glass now and then, who was fired at year’s end. In class, to avoid working, he would ask Tom McCarthy if he had done the assigned homework. Tom would politely reply “No” (which later became “Of course not”) and Mr. Sullivan would then spend most of the class period drawing, say, a magnificent pirate ship with himself as Captain, walking Tom off the plank. Truly he could draw well. Unfortunately
we covered very little material, and Second Year was taught by Mr. Dean Gould, who basically had to cover two years of Latin in one, the poor man. Though very competent, he became a nervous wreck under such pressure. I can still see him, dashing at period’s end back into the glass cubicle and chain-smoking at least one cigarette if not two before his next class. That entire small room was a cloud of smoke after a few minutes.
My favorite classroom moment occurred in my junior year physics class with the legendary, unique Mr. Edwin “Blackie” Barlow. [Our classmates who attended our excellent 40th reunion in Chappaqua at Peter Davidson’s house heard this story there, but I repeat it for those who did not and might enjoy it.] Back story: Mr. Barlow had been much spoiled by his beloved class of 1957 physics group, in which Bill Miller and Tim Mygatt, for a science fair, had invented a clever hand which hung limp on a vertical piece of wood until it’s motor was switched on, at which point it slowly and eerily came to life, moved slowly upward to the switch, turned itself off, and then went back to being limp. Thus Barlow did not appreciate our inferior- to- 1957 group, despite its having some very bright people, e.g. Tom Duquette ’59.
Now, Mr. Barlow was intimidating and domineering in class, asking questions directly to a student, and he also would occasionally switch gears to embarrass or trick us. He said to our friend Peter, “Mr.Heerwagen, can you divide one into three halves?” Pete, knowing that mathematically you can divide any number into another, said “Yes.” Barlow: “Mr. Heerwagen, can you divide one orange into three halves?” Pete: “No, sir, you can only divide one orange into two halves.” Barlow: “Then if you can divide one into THREE halves, what happened to the other half?” Pete, in a great moment: “I ate it!” This was so unexpected and hilarious in our repressed, uptight class, that we all burst out laughing, even with a few guffaws. Mr. Barlow turned red as a beet, fuming, so angry he could not speak for a bit. He then ordered: “Everyone but Mr. Heerwagen take out pencil and paper and write 200 times ‘I ate the other half of the orange.’ Mr. Heerwagen is excused from this exercise because he merely UTTERED a stupidity. But you all APPLAUDED his stupidity.” Despite the punishment, this moment was worth its weight in gold. (It also suggested to a stunned audience that Mr. Barlow’s eccentricities could border on a dark mental zone. And at the end of the course we had not covered all the main Physics units required for the Regents exam, so that we were again bawled out for not doing well on it.)
Finally, did any Greeley class ever have a valedictorian brighter, nicer and more fun to chat with than our genius Archie Allen? Doubtful. When he passed away too early, his obituary revealed an amazingly rich, creative and well-traveled life. And if any further evidence of Archie’s brilliance is needed, look at the great wisdom he showed in whom he married. Great choice on your part too, Betty Rowland Allen!
Anita Lindholm Smith wraps up these memories for us with a message that resonates...
Sitting in my home here in Sherman, Connecticut…..my mind wanders back to Horace Greeley Days. Was it really so long ago or just yesterday?
I appreciate this opportunity to say many thanks for the education, the music, and friendships that I gained from those Greeley days.
I transferred to Horace Greeley from Ossining High School in 1958, and if I had any left over feelings from being a new comer by 1959….. well that all completely ended
with the Junior Musical! Within just a few weeks of intense rehearsing our class pulled off (under the direction and creativity of Jimmy Leyden and Lee Benjamin) a musical that
was, for us, a “touch of Broadway”. We thought we were the “tops” and we were!. I felt happily pulled into a new family of friends. We all were striving towards
a similar goal…that of making this a wonderful show for everyone!
Early on, in my sophomore year, I met music teacher Mr. Joseph Visca. Under his direction, in his many choral groups and in music theory classes my respect for him deepened. Later I studied voice with Mrs. Visca, and sang in his church Choir in The Lutheran Church in Pleasantville.. Many years later when he and Mrs. Visca retired to a senior living complex in Millbrook, New York he wrote me a nice note telling me how much he enjoyed his time teaching at Horace Greeley High School and how rewarding an experience it was.
My classmate Kristina Olsson (Sachs) and I have had a lasting friendship since Greeley days. We found a commonality in so many ways and benefited from each other’s strong points. Years later after college I was honored to be one of her bridesmaids and soloist at her marriage to Dr. David Sachs.. A forever Horace Greeley friend for sure!
Reminiscing some more about my changing high schools….. Ossining was old, large and gothic-like. Climbing high up to a classroom in the tower, then down into a basement classroom wasn’t that unusual. The school had high ceilings, large rooms with hot radiators. Horace Greeley, on the other hand was a cluster of one story buildings, modern, gravel walkways, moderate size classrooms with large picture windows. Ossining High School was usually very hot, and Horace Greeley High School trended to be cold (due maybe to those large windows), not to mention having to walk outside to reach your next classroom.
After my family purchased our new home our realtor drove us to Horace Greeley for me to see my new high school ….. well, in contrast, Greeley reminded me of a country club, and I wondered where the pool was! I never did find the pool, but later on didn’t care. Greeley had other more lasting gifts for me. Change can make us stronger. That’s what I found. I adapted, and grew and now look back and say good for me.
Thank you Greeley.
And, like Anita, I say " Thank you Greeley" too. And, "Thank you Chappaqua," and I think we can all say to our classmates,
"Thank you, Class of '60."
Well, now there is even a page 4. Just click HERE and be transported there, as if by magic...