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How the Parker Imperial Cause My Most Embarrassing Moment

16 Sep

Growing up I lived on a quiet street in North Bergen, NJ.  We lived one block from a wonderful park, now known as James J. Braddock North Hudson County Park.  Just three houses away from Boulevard East and its wonderful views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.

I especially loved our backyard!  We had three levels. Level one was the garage.  We never parked there as the driveway was too small. But it was a great place to play ball games.  I loved to play 7-up ball, where you throw the ball against the side of the house or the garage and do different activities.

I also loved the bottom level because my neighbor Rose often sat outside with her cat, Snowball.  I loved both of them.  I think I own cats because of Rose and her love of Snowball.  I can still hear her calling in my mind, “A coo A coo A coo…kitty, kitty, kitty,” to call Snowball back into the house.

There were five steps up to the next level: the garden.  There were roses and Lily of the Valleys, shrubs and a tree growing in the gardens.  My bedroom window opened to the garden, and I loved the smell of the Lilly of the Valley.  I have planted them at my house as well.

If you walked through the garden, you would see another set of stairs that led to the top of the garage. There was a railing around the roof, so it was a safe area.

When I was a teen it became my not so secret, secret place because it was a great place to sun bathe!   No one could see me from the street.  No one could see me from the other houses.  The trees and garden shielded me.  I would put on my bathing suit, get a towel and go to the top of the garage with a book and a drink and hang out.

It was great until I was a junior or senior in high school.  That spring my quiet place was destroyed by the building of the Parker Imperial apartment complex.

It was bad enough that the houses across the street were knocked down.  It was bad enough that my friend Regina’s house and yard was completely enclosed by a high retaining wall.  It was horrible that wood and bricks and tools would sometimes fall off the building on the street, and cars. Thank goodness no was ever hit.

But the absolute worse for me occurred to me that spring.  After school, on the days when I had no activities, or no work,  I would change into my swim suit.  I had many choices because my Dad was in the textile industry and one of his clients was Gottex, the swimsuit company.  Each season they would make up samples of the suits from different fabrics.  Since I was the model size, occasionally Dad would bring home the samples for me to wear.

One really pleasant day, I came home from school and decided to sun bathe.  Totally not thinking about the Parker Imperial.  Just going to my safe place on the roof of the garage.  It was the last time I ever did that.  I think it was the last time I ever sunbathed in my life. Just to sunbathe.

I climbed the steps, put down my towel and drink and book.  Took off my coverup and set about sunbathing in my not very revealing bikini.  I even remember the bathing suit, it was white with red hearts embroidered on it, a Gottex reject.

Within minutes, my relaxing read turned into a nightmare.  I heard catcalls.  I heard whistled. I kept reading, not realizing what was happening. Then I heard yelling.  I looked up. At least 50 construction workers on the Parker Imperial were staring down at me.  I was so angry and embarrassed. They had destroyed my private, relaxing time.

I quickly wrapped myself in the towel and left the roof.  All the time hearing them yell, “Don’t go!”  Really, they had to be kidding. They had wrecked my day.  Not uncommon in the 1970s for this type of behavior.  But to have it right in my own backyard made it worse!

I hated the Parker Imperial after that.  I still hate it.  For a while my parents considered moving to this horrendous building. They went over when it was completed and had a tour of some of the apartments.  But I insisted that they could never live in that building!

To this day, even though I live so far from North Bergen, and even though over 40 years have passed, I cannot think of the Parker Imperial without thinking about that horrible afternoon and one of my most embarrassing moments.

End of the School Year Has Me Bringing Out My Old Yearbooks

11 May

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With the end of the school year coming, I have an urge to look at old yearbooks.  I have every yearbook from high school through college, as well as ones I mentored as a teacher, and now ones from the school where I work in a non-teaching role.

It is strange to see me as I age from 14 to now.  But one thing stays consistent, I was on the newspaper and yearbook staffs of high school, college and my year studying overseas.

It is strange when I look back and see where I began my interest in journalism and writing, to where I am now.   When I first started working on my high school newspaper, “Paw Prints,” and yearbook, Prelude,” at North Bergen High School, I never intended to go into journalism.  I wanted to be a psychologist.   I just enjoyed being on the school newspaper and yearbook, moving up to become one of the editors, but never vying to be editor in chief.  Just happy in the role I had.  It was fun, but not my main interest.

In college, at Drew University, I had the same view.   College was a bit disjointed and strange for me.   I spent my sophomore year in Israel doing a year abroad.  Most people go during their junior year, after they have made an impression on their friends and professors.

I went a year early, because a friend of my parents was on the board of the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program.  As a college professor, he thought being gone junior year was a mistake, and pressed my parents to send me a year earlier.  In 1974, it was unusual for students to go overseas to study at all.  For my parents to even let me go, and to go a year earlier, I think they were brave.

In any case, I lost a year of making a name for myself at the school and connecting with friends.  When I got back, it was a bit awkward, as I had to reacquaint myself with everyone and sort of start again in the school atmosphere.  Also, I was changed by my year in Israel, arriving there less than a year after the Yom Kippur War.  The me who left Drew in 1974 was extremely different than the me who returned in 1975.  I was resolute, braver and knew myself!

While I was in Israel, I actually worked on the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program yearbook. I am listed as one of the eight students on the editorial board. I have vague memories of working on it.  Being in Israel at that time was so amazing, I honestly feel as if a different person was there, each memory more of a dream then a reality.

When I came back, I had to decide what to do next.  I had to declare a major.   I now knew that psychology was not for me.  I had taken a neuropsychology class at Hebrew University where we went to look at brains and studied brain damage and its impact on a person’s personality.  The professor and I clashed. He believed left handed people were left handed because of underlying brain damage.  I am left handed.  I still remember him stating: “Ten percent of the population has brain damage, ten percent are left handed.”  I told him his logic was totally off!  No matter, it left a bad taste in my mind for psychologists.

I came back to Drew and decided to become an English major, with a minor in political science.  Now I was really busy.  I had to take many of the sophomore English classes, as well as upper level courses, so I could graduate in time.  I was taking 18 credits a semester.  I guess I should say, in time, for me meant early.  I wanted out of college.  I set a plan of action to graduate in 3.5 years.  I had spent three semesters learning in Israel.  The entire summer I had studied at the Ulpan learning Hebrew. That provided me with 12 credits.  I decided that by graduating early, I could save my parents some money…which I did.

Upon my return, I joined the newspaper staff, “The Acorn,” and the yearbook staff, “Oak Leaves.”  I wrote stories, worked on layout, and made new friends.  I was busy with all my course work…lots of reading and writing… and I also became a research assistant for Professor Chapman. (See link to earlier blog below.)

I was on a roll.  Although I still did not have journalism on my mind.

In my senior year I became one of the layout editors for the yearbook.  I let them know in advance that I would be gone second semester. But all went well…for a while.  I still remember my first indignant protest as a woman.   I was out of town for the weekend when the editor in chief wanted my layout pages.  Why he needed them, I don’t know. But he got my RA to let him into my dorm room and search it till he found them.

I was incensed.  The invasion of privacy was outrageous.  I when to the Dean of Student Life, Elynor Erickson.  I had an earlier issue with her my junior year, so we knew each other.  I told her what had happened and how furious I was about someone going through my things when I was not there.  She agreed. The RA got in trouble.  As did the editor in chief at the time. It was so wrong!  It still bothers me. But I had to stand up for my rights!

In any case, I do not have an official photo in the yearbook. I think he got his revenge.  Although I am in a photo of the yearbook staff and I am still listed among the editors.  Of course, it could be that I just was not there during the time the official photos were taken.  I have to be honest.

During that fall semester I was trying to decide what to do next.  My Dad would joke that he had paid for an expensive finishing school with my degree in English literature.  Also,  I really did not have a career in mind.  But I thought about journalism, and when I applied to graduate school, I included a master’s in journalism on my list.  I still was not officially going into journalism as a career.

However, at Drew, there was a January-term program.  You could take a one-month class over winter break. That year there was a class in journalism, and I decided to take it. I loved it. I excelled at it.  This class marked the start of my career path.

I had applied to three graduate schools: Columbia University and University of Missouri-Columbia for journalism, and Hebrew University for a degree in Jewish American Literature.  I got accepted to all three. So now I had a great decision to make.

Professor Joan Steiner, my advisor, as well as Professor Jacqueline Berke, who was my independent study advisor, seemed to think journalism was the best for me.   It also kept me in the country. They were routing for Columbia University. (Especially Professor Berke, as she was a Columbia graduate.) On another aside, I still have my independent study paper I wrote for my personal class with Professor Berke, “Alienation In th Novels of Saul Bellow.”  Originally I wanted to do Bernard Malamud as well, but that would have been a master’s thesis.

But I had another source of advice, Cecelia Whitehouse, my high school English and journalism teacher. (see link below.) She and I had kept in touch all through college. She was the one who had told me about the University of Missouri in the first place.  She thought getting out of the NYC area would be an eye-opening experience for me.  She was right!

The University of Missouri won out. I accepted their acceptance.

Eventually I taught high school journalism for a few years.  During those years, it was me who was the newspaper and yearbook teacher.  I often thought of Cecelia Whitehouse during those years.  I would think about how she handled issues with students. And I modeled my teaching on her.

I kept in touch with her and my college professor, Joan Steiner, for many years.  They both were positive and important role models!

My life was forever changed.  It started with school yearbooks and newspapers.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/12/remembering-my-college-during-graduation-season/

 

Outrage and Rebellion Over 1970s Dress Code

3 Jan

Recently I was reminded about my days at North Bergen High School.   For many of us born in the 1950s and 1960s, going to school meant dressing up.  Girls wore dresses or skirts, boys wore nice pants, shirts and ties every day.  When you got home from school you changed from school clothes to play clothes, when we got to put on polo shirts and dungarees, they were not called jeans then.

For girls, life was a challenge when we went to the playground.  Keeping a dress in a good condition and not losing dignity was difficult.  Boys could look up our dresses.  Which, personally, I hated.   I could not wait to get home to change.

But the worst was once I got to high school.  It was a long walk, at least a mile.  Not too bad in the spring and fall, but in the winter, it was horrendous.  Walking in the snow and cold in a dress was not fun at all.   We were allowed to wear pants under our dresses, but this meant we had to get to school early and change before going to class.  No pants were allowed in school for girls.  The boys had to wear shirts and ties, where was annoying, but not as bad as a dress.

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I saved my old high school newspapers, Paw Prints of November 11, 1971, and January 4, 1972, which had articles about the days of outrage and rebellion at my high school.   And I was in the midst of it, because I served on the new Student-Faculty Committee.

According to the November 11, 1971, Paw Prints, the students rebelled against the dress code!  A change had been approved by the School Board because students had been complaining about the strict dress code for a while. Girls were upset because the only changed that had been agreed on was girls wearing culottes, a sort of divided skirt; while boys no longer had to wear jackets. That was it.  The students were not accepting of these meager changes.

Although the student council president, Al, wanted to solve the problem civilly, according to the Paw Prints article, the students wanted the issue resolved.  The school board was standing firm.  The students wanted change.

Friday, October 22, 1971,  rebellion occurred. A student walkout was planned. But my memory is that it just happened.  We did not have social media then.  I remember people just having enough and wanting to protest because the adults did not listen to us!  It was a spontaneous episode.  Yes, some students had mentioned it.  But I do not think anyone thought it would really happen.

By fifth period that Friday,  about 300 students had walked out of school.   I was one of them.  Since I was on lunch break, I no problem to be honest. According to the article, parents arrived: some to tell their children to go back to classes; others to support their children’s peaceful civil disobedience.  Those of us who only left for lunch had no consequences.  Those who missed a class were given a 0 for the day.

The students’ complete rejection of the school board’s recommendations was evident.

Another rally was held that evening in Hudson County Park. At the rally, Mayor Mocco suggested that a town survey be completed to see what the community felt about the dress code. This option was accepted. The following Monday a survey of parents and residents was approved.

While we waited for the result of the survey, the school’s Student-Faculty Group, which was responsible for improving relations between students, faculty and administration, continued to meet.  We actually had discussed the dress code as well.  I say we, because I was one of the representatives on this committee.  There were nine students including the Student Council president and vice president, Al and Sue.

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Two months later, the January 4, 1972, Paw Prints (exactly 46 years ago) reported the results of the survey in the school paper.  It was excellent for the students as 74 percent of the residents favored a change!!

The change was major!  Boys could wear dress shirts with or without a tie and knit polo shirts that had a collar.  Girls were now allowed to wear pants suits and dress slacks.  Specific guide lines were distributed.  The first 90 days were to iron out problems.  The biggest problem according to the article was that the girls were not following the guidelines.  The wording in Paw Prints said, “The Board has not been satisfied with student compliance with the new code and feels that many girls are breaking the limitations of the code.”   I say, “You go girls!!” The biggest problem was the definition of a ‘dress slack.’

Thus, the first rebellion and walk out at North Bergen High School ended peacefully with a win for the students.   The school quieted down and other issues were addressed by the Student Council and the School Board.

This was my first taste of rallying for a cause I believed in.   I admit as a high school junior, I was a bit nervous to walk out of school, even for lunch.  It was not something we did lightly in those days.   But I know that it gave me courage later in life to stand up for those issues I believe in!

 

House Seats Started My Love of Theater

6 Nov

This weekend my husband and I attended a benefit concert at our synagogue. It was great. A four-piece band led by Neal Berg and five fantastic Broadway singers. They were focusing on the top 100 songs from Hollywood, with much overlap to Broadway musicals.   I knew every song. I was “in heaven.”

Why do I know so many Broadway melodies?   I could say it was because I was raised in New Jersey, giving me the opportunity to see shows. But I have to be more specific I think.   We have the fortunate luck of having an Uncle who was involved with the Broadway theaters. It made it much easier for us to get tickets in the time before on-line purchases.

I am sure my parents got our show tickets from him, as we went as a family to see “Fiddler,” “Man of La Mancha,” The Rothschilds,” “Pippin,” among other shows.  My Dad loved going to shows. And thanks to my Uncle, we often had house seats. In fact, it never occurred to me as a child that you did not sit in house seats. These were seats reserved in the front center. My Uncle could get us the best seats. And if we were not in the center, we were always in the Orchestra section.

I remember the awe of watching the actors and actresses on stage, listening to the live music and hearing the lovely voices. It was magic. I still get that feeling when I see a play.

My Uncle also provided all of his nieces and nephews, as well as his own children, tickets for a Broadway show each Hanukkah. That was truly wonderful. We almost always had the best seats. Except one time, when we were in the top balcony. I remember as we kept walking up and up and up, I turned to my cousin and complained, “What happened?” We found out later that our grandmother did not want us too close to the stage….It was “Hair” and the actors disrobed.   Maybe she thought we would race to the stage.

My original Playbill from Hair as well as the flyer I picked up at the theater.

This memory came back to me on Saturday night when the musicians ended their performance with a rousing rendition of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine.”   I was moved back in time. It was December 1971. I was 16, a junior in high school,  and I was in the Biltmore Theater seeing “HAIR!” “Aquarius” was my lucky song growing up.   I was born under this astrological sign. So I believed whenever this song played, something good was about to happen. And yes, something I was hoping for did occur the next day.

When I met my husband, he had never been to a Broadway show. Makes sense, he was born and raised in the Midwest. But the first time he came East, when we were engaged, I changed his world.   I called my Uncle and asked if he could get us seats for “They’re Playing Our Song,” with Lucie Arnez and Robert Klein, at the Imperial Theater. It was the hottest show. My Uncle did it. I took Jay. But for the first time, I actually paid for the house seats. Ouch!!! But it was worth every penny! My husband loved it as well.

I am glad he caught the ‘bug.’ I love shows. We have season tickets for three different production companies. I used to have four, but gave up a summer series this year after 32 years, as we travel too much in the summers.   There are many shows I have seen a number of times. But I don’t care.   Most shows I don’t mind seeing several times.   There are just a few I am done with seeing. And only two that I never want to see again. I still try to see a show on Broadway at least once a year!
Seeing a show takes you away from the world for a few hours. Just like a book, it moves you across time and location into someone else’s world. I thank my parents and my Uncle for giving me the gift of musicals and drama.   I was glad that my husband and I passed this gift on to our children. The memory of sitting in House Seats with be with me forever.

 

My Time As A Candy Striper

16 Apr

My 45 year old Candy Striper cap.

I still have the red and white searsucker cap that I wore as a Candy Striper at Hudson County Hospital, New Jersey, in the 1970s. I am proud of the time I volunteered to cheer up patients and help the nurses.

Our job then was pretty easy to do, we did whatever the nurses asked us based on the rules issued by the office of volunteers. For me it was important to help others, and visit the sick.

Several days a week, after I finished my classes at North Bergen High School, I would go home and change into my white and red pinafore and take the bus along Park Avenue to the hospital.  Once there I would check in to the volunteer office and get my day’s assignment. I usually worked for two hours. That was perfect as my Dad would pick me up on his way home from work.

My favorite assignment was to go and visit with the children who were in the hospital.  I knew how to create creatures from paper having learned the art of origami when I was 10.  I often brought some square origami paper with me.  When I ran out the nurses would find colored paper for me to use with the children. It was two hours of fun for all of us!

I tried to visit every room with children. In those days visiting hours were restricted. Parents could only be with their children for several hours a day.   I knew from my own stay in the hospital how sad and lonely it can be.

Making origami figures

 

It made me happy to bring a bit of joy to a younger child and leave behind a little gift of a bird or box or frog.

But I did not always get assigned to the children’s ward. To be honest I did not like having to help in the adult rooms.  You never knew what you would see, especially on Mondays.  Often on Mondays, the results of a weekend of carousing were evident in hospital beds filled with adults who had been in car accidents.  I really did not like to see people in traction and stitched up.  I would get a little sick to my stomach when ever I entered a room. But since, in those days I wanted to be a nurse, I did whatever I was asked. So into a room I would go carrying the sheets or other items as requested.

My time as a Candy Striper lasted not quite two years. It was on a Monday…accident day… that it ended.  I remember entering a room,  then waking up in the volunteer office and seeing my Dad talking to the director.  It was my last day.

I did not do anything wrong. Just walked into a room, as I was told to, and ended up being there just as a man died.  I passed out. I am not proud of that, nor of the fact that I did not go back. But the sight of blood and death did not make a positive impression. I realized then I would never be a nurse.

It made it difficult, years later, when I married a medical student.  While others would visit their spouses when they were on call, I did my best to avoid the hospital. For me heading over to the hospital for a chat was just not my idea of fun.

As the years pass, I learned to let go of my discomfort in hospitals.  I no longer get a sick feeling in my stomach when I enter a hospital. I am aware of the good aspects along with with difficult ones.

Overall I have good memories of my time volunteering as a Candy Striper at Hudson County Hospital. I believe that the time I spent with the children and helping others were the part of my upbringing that enhanced my belief in the importance of volunteering. My time as a Candy Striper made a positive impact on my life.

Oh Canada: My love of Canada Was Nurtured in High School

23 Jan

I have been fascinated with Canada ever since I read my first “Anne of Green Gables” book. The books made me want to see Prince Edward Island and the people of the island, and I loved the character of Anne Shirley. But it wasn’t till I was in my junior or senior year at North Bergen High School that I was able to really learn something about modern Canada.

At school, the administration decided to have these little one-quarter classes. You had a choice to take one or two each semester. Among the classes offered was one about Canada by Ann-Ruth Enowitz, a history/social studies teacher. For me she brought Canada to life. And my desire to see Canada and learn more about it intensified.

I loved her class. I liked her as well. We learned about the provinces, the history with England, France and the United States. We even learned to sing the Canadian national anthem, “O Canada!”. There were just a few of us in the class. I think we met in a conference room in the library.

Although I had not been to Canada, I knew that many Canadians came down to New York. It was so close to travel and visit. Many had families in both countries. But for me, the closest I came to Canada was the Canadian exhibit at Disney World’s Epcot Center. But I wanted the real thing!

The class only piqued my interest!

My first trip was to Montreal for a family wedding. My plane was late, of course, and I could not remember the name of the hotel. But luckily I had the address of the party I was supposed to go to that night. By the time the taxi got me there, the party was over. But my mom and dad were sitting on the stoop waiting for me. In the time before cell phones, they were worried and could only hope and wait for me.

Once that emergency passed, I had a great time. We went on tours around Montreal. I loved the old town by the river and visiting all the French sites. We enjoyed the wedding, and my love of Canada continued.

My next trip to a Canadian city occurred when my husband and I were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a hop and a skip to get to Windsor, Canada. Many people went shopping there because the dollar bought more. My friend Ginny and took a trip there to shop. I will admit I almost caused a big problem at the border, but we finally got through.

My husband and I went back for a week’s vacation, driving through Canada; negotiating the weird signs. The signs don’t say, ‘merge’; they say ‘squeeze.’ Or they did. We went to Stafford and saw a Shakespearean play.   We drove to Toronto…just missing the traffic for the Pope. We got there the day after he left, but all the barricades were still around. It was September 1984.

We made our way all the way to Niagara Falls and spent a day and night there: taking the boat ride to the falls, walking along the Canadian side. We drove back along a southern route, but stayed in Canada. We stopped at Alexander Graham Bell’s’ home and the Royal Botanical Gardens. I loved that trip.

Ms. Enowitz’ class so many years before helped me on all these trips. She had spent much time on Toronto, Montreal and Niagara Falls, discussing border issues, and the wars between the French and English, as well as the US and Canada. Who knew that we once went to war with Canada!!! But her history lessons came to life as we visited forts and cities along the way.

Houseboats Vancouver

Some of the houseboats we saw as we walked to Stanley Park.

Many years later I went to Vancouver.  My husband was there for a meeting, and I was there to see the sites. But he had some time off and we took long walks and visited Stanley Park together and looked at all the houseboats along the way. I went to museums and Granville Island with a friend.

It was just two years after 9/11 and security was very tight. There were talks of terrorist trying to get over the border from Canada to the USA. So perhaps it was not the smartest move on our part to fly home on September 11. But it was my Dad’s birthday. And my parents were staying with our children. I promised my Dad he would be off duty for his birthday.

For some reason, security focused on my husband. They checked him at least three times. And even when I went down the walkway to the plane, I noticed he was gone. I walked back and there at the entrance they made take off his shoes and were checking him again.

But we still loved Vancouver. I always thought we would take our children there, but never did; just a pass through on the way to Alaska.

Another trip to Canada with my husband took us to Montreal as we started a cruise up the St. Lawrence Seaway. We spent several days first just walking around Montreal. The first stop on the cruise was a day in Quebec City. I loved it there so much, a few years later we travel to Quebec City and spent a week there. This French and English town is so interesting. Like being in Europe, but staying in North America.

We also went to Halifax, where several important battles were fought, and the survivors and victims of the Titanic were taken to after their recovery.

However, most important part of the cruise was finally making my way to Prince Edward Island and visiting all the sites made famous by Lucy Maud Montgomery (LMM) and her Ann of Green Gables books. I told my husband in advance that we had to do the Ultimate Green Gables tour. He agreed. And my favorite part of the cruise occurred on this tour.

Green Gables

Green Gables, the Anne Shirley home!

My husband was not an Anne Shirley fan. He knew nothing about her, nor about Lucy Maud Montgomery. Needless to say he was not as excited as the other 50 or so mainly women on the bus. So when we got to Green Gables, the house owned by LMM’s aunt and uncle that the house in the stories was based on, my husband was not that impressed.

Anne Shirley's room

Anne Shirley’s “room,” at the top of the stairs.

And when we went up the tiny staircase to the second floor, the tour guide said as you get up the stairs look to you left and you will see Anne Shirley’s room. I was so excited; I exited the staircase, with my camera ready and started taking photos. My husband said, “You know, Anne Shirley was just a fictional character and that is not her room.”

I turned to say something back to him so he would understand my joy and not undercut it! But I did not need to say anything; the woman behind him said, “You know you could just go back to the bus.”

From that point on my husband was silent. He just enjoyed the rest of the tour realizing he was with a bunch of Anne Shirley fanatics. And I had pure joy.

I thought that was it. I had satisfied my Canadian obsession. But then my daughter became engaged to a Canadian. I now learned that you can put maple syrup on everything you eat and there are such things as maple syrup lollipops.

To this day I think of Ms. Enowitz whenever I travel to Canada. It was a very brief class, but one I always remember.

 

 

What I Learned in My High School Typing Class Has Helped Throughout My Life

24 Sep

When I attended North Bergen High School in the 1970s, I took both a typing class and a short hand class. I did not want to. Typing and short hand classes were for the students who were not going on to college. And I knew that I would go to college. But my Mom made me take them.

“You never know when you might take a job that requires typing,” she said, and added: “These are good skills to learn.” I argued back, but obviously I lost.

My MOM insisted. So I took those two classes when I was a freshman in high school. I think one of the teachers was Miss Wirt. It was not the most exciting class for me, but by the end of the semester, I could touch type to the required words per minute without too many errors.  Being in class with good typists was a bit intimidating (As my friend Shashi reminded me). I will remind everyone that typing on a typewriter was much different than typing on a computer keyboard.  First there was the click clack of the keyboard.  You could tell how fast someone was typing by how quickly the clicks and clacks came together.

I did use these typing skills when I was on the staff of Paw Prints, the school’s newspaper. We had to type all of the stories into columns for them to be put into the layout and then copied and printed. I learned out to measure the space and fit the letters/words into the space correctly. A skill that came in handy much later in my life.

I have to say that my Mom was right. I will tell you that the skills I learned in the typing class have stayed with me forever. It is almost as if my Mom had telepathy and knew that eventually typing would be a much appreciated and required skill for college students.

Thanks to my typing classes, I excelled in my college and graduate school classes in the sense that my typed papers had very few typos and/or needed corrections. While I had friends who often had to hire someone to type their papers, I was set with my little typewriter.

In fact, only once in all of my undergraduate college career did someone type a paper for me. But there was a reason. My very last college paper at Drew University was due when I had an accident involving one of my eyes. After a long visit in an emergency room, I realized I could not type this paper since I had a large patch over my eye. Luckily for me, I had a great friend, Shari, who lived in the same dorm and was my savior. She typed the entire paper that evening in time for my morning class.

Later when I went on to graduate school, for journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, my parents bought me the most wonderful gift, a self-correcting typewriter. This was the best typewriter available with a second ribbon of white out, so you could just back up, lower the white-out ribbon, and then cover the error and then retype. Amazing what was wonderful in the days before word processors and computers.

My typing class made it possible for me to complete my master’s degree exam in plenty of time. We had to answer four questions and had one hour to write the answer essays. They had to be typed. So as we thought out our answer, we had to actually type instead of write. I came to the exam with my typewriter and ribbons and succeeded.

This typewriter was also an important part of my Master’s Thesis, as I could easily correct mistakes.     Writing a thesis before computers was a nightmare. You had to estimate how much space to leave for footnotes. Getting everything perfect took experience and spatial coordination. As I said earlier, many people had to hire someone to type their thesis. But not me, as I knew how to type and I knew how to make words fit. Thank you Miss Wirt! Thank you Mrs. Whitehouse and my Paw Prints work!

The short hand class taught me the basics of taking quick notes using some symbols. Knowing a few of these symbols came in handy when I did an interview. I could write quickly by not writing all the words and using short hand instead.   Thanks to my Mom insisting that I take this class, my interviews as a grad student in journalism were always accurate. Yes I had a tape recorder as well. But some people did not like to be recorded. So accurate note taking was important.

I will admit that I have forgotten most of these symbols. And when I look at short hand symbols today they look like hieroglyphics. But when I was in graduate school I was so happy that I had an advantage.

Although I do not use the short hand, my touch typing skills are something I use every day for work and for pleasure. I am using those skills as I type and write this blog!

With the advent of computers, everyone needs to know how to use a keyboard.   Today touch typing, or as it is now known – keyboarding — is a skill that children are taught in elementary school. If you cannot type, you cannot use a computer successfully. Although probably in a few years, people will just talk to their computers and to have their thoughts put down, just as we talk to our smart phones to type a short message to someone.

It is amazing what a good teacher can help a student learn. I went into my typing class with a chip on my shoulder, not wanting to take it. I came out with a skill that has been with me for over 40 years. What I learned in typing class has helped me throughout my life.