Tag Archives: DeWitt Clinton High School

Reading My Parents’ Eighth Grade Autograph Books

4 Jan

It used to be when you graduated eighth grade, you had your friends and teachers sign your autograph book.  The idea was that you would keep this book forever to carry the memories of these friends, who you thought would always be your friends, with you wherever you went.

I remember my autograph book.  Most people wrote silly poems.  Some wrote true hearted messages.  The teachers would mainly sign their names.  And of course, our parents, siblings and grandparents would sign our books as well.

So imagine our wonder, when we cleaned out our parent’s apartment, to find both of our parents eighth-grade autograph books!  I recently spent an hour going through these books from the 1940s and thinking about the people who signed them.  Most have passed away.  Some I did not know.  But others bring a face and a memory and love to my mind.

img_7390

Dad’s autograph book.

My Dad’s book is green and torn.  It looks like it has been battered. My Dad graduated eighth grade in June 1943.  He was 14 years old, would turn 15 in a few months.  He attended Joseph Wade Junior High School in the Bronx.  I know that his next stop was DeWitt Clinton High School.

The messages that mean the most to me are from his Mom: “Hope you climb the ladder of success, Mother.”  I have seen her handwriting many times.  I wonder why she did not sign it with love.   From his Dad: “Good Luck and Happiness, From Father Harry.”

The most exciting note for me was from his grandmother, I have no knowledge of her handwriting.  She was born in Russia. The note itself was written by someone else: “To my grandson.  Congratulations on your graduation from Junior High. Best luck in your High Schooling.”  But the signature is my Great Grandma’s:  Ray Goldman!

There are notes from his brother and sister, a first cousin and his Aunt Minnie.    His brother’s note is a typical brother note: “Well, you finally graduated – Congratulations.”  His sister’s note was a silly poem, but then she was just 11 or 12 years old. “I never thought you would make it, “wrote his cousin David,” “but I am very glad I have to eat my words.”

The final note that has meaning to me, is a silly poem from Willard.  Willard, Willie, was Dad’s best friend.  They were bar mitzvah a few weeks apart and studied for their bar mitzvahs together.  They had many stories of how they misbehaved for the Rabbi or anywhere else. Willie and his wife were part of my parent’s lives, and so our lives, forever.  There was not a family event or special occasion without them with us.  My Dad’s 60th birthday party was at Willie’s house.  My ketubah, Jewish marriage license was signed by Willie as one of two witnesses.  This is a friend who stayed a friend forever.

img_7403

Mom’s autograph book.

My Mom’s book is different in style and condition than the book my Dad used.  Mom’s book is still in its box.  Its’ blue leather cover is immaculate, sort of like my Mom.  Even though she was six months younger than Dad, she graduated earlier.   Mom graduated from No. 4 school in West New York, New Jersey, in January 1943.  The school building she attended no longer exists as it was replaced with a new school.   She went on to attend Memorial High School in West New York.

The interesting part about Mom is that she actually taught in No. 4 school for many years before being transferred to No 2 school in West New York.  Mom taught in the West New York elementary schools for 30 years, from 1964 until 1994.

Mom’s book is different in another way.  My grandparents came from Europe.  She had only her Mom and Dad, and my grandfather never really wrote in English.  Her grandparents and many aunts and uncles were still in Europe, many of them did not survive the Shoah.  One of her grandfathers and one aunt had made it to the USA in 1936 through the efforts of my grandparents, but I believe by 1943 my great grandfather had already passed away.

img_7410

My grandmother wrote in the book:  Dear Frances, Luck and Success. Your Loving Mother.”  That was the only family member who wrote it in.  Her brother started to write something, but did not finish it.

But there are several names in the book that I know well.  The first is Doris Chesis. She wrote: “Work for the Character and after a while the Character will work for you.”    She and her family lived in the same building as my mother. They rented an apartment from my grandparents.  Her brother, Murray, also wrote in the book. He graduated with my Mom, and they actually dated in high school.

Although I never met Murray, I have seen photos of him.  As for Doris, I remember her from throughout my childhood.  Her oldest daughter and my brother were the same age.  Her son and I went through high school together. And her youngest daughter and my sister were about the same age.  I am still friends with Doris’ children on Facebook.  Shocking how long that friendship has lasted.

The final name is as important for my Mom as Willard was for my Dad.  Wini Anoff and my Mom were friends from kindergarten (see blogs below).  I do not know life without Wini!  Her daughter and I have been best friends forever.  And I mean that as we were born two months apart and do not know life without each other.  Our grandparents were friends. We spent every summer together in the Catskills.

So Wini, this is what you wrote in my Mom’s autograph book:  In the four corners of the page : For Get Me Not.  “Dear Frances,  Needles and Pins, Needles and Pins, When you get married your troubles begin. Your sister grad-u-8, Wini Anoff.”

I so wish she had written something more personal.  But Mom and Wini were both just 13.  They would be turning 14 in a few months.  Since Wini is still alive, I should ask her what she would write now, knowing all that has happened in the 77 years since she wrote this note.

For me, seeing someone’s handwriting brings them back to life.  The autograph books perhaps did not contain many signatures and notes from people who continued to be a part of my parents’ lives.  However, I get joy seeing names and signatures of the people I did know.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/08/11/mr-anoff-and-the-sardine-sandwich/

Thinking of My Dad on Memorial Day

29 May

A rose and a Snapple for my Dad. 2016.

My  Dad was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. During the Korean War, he was a forward observer, which meant he had the job of going in front of the front lines, laying the radio cable with which they communicated, and observed what the enemy was doing.   Sometimes he disappeared for a while, with no communications home to my Mom or to his Mother.

Before he left f or Korea, my Dad got engaged to my Mom, married her on his last leave, June 17, 1951, and spent time in California training. At first, I think because of his advanced age, he was almost 23, he taught map reading to new recruits. Dad loved to read maps. Honestly, I think GPS systems would have driven him crazy, as paper maps have almost vanished. For Dad a map was important.

His time as a instructor was limited. One day during exercises, an officer insulted my Dad, making anti-Semitic comments and making fun of the mezuzah he wore around his neck.   Dad was not a tall man, but he was a big man. He tackled the officer and broke his jaw.

Not a good thing to do at all. But Dad was from the Bronx. He learned at a young to defend himself. And perhaps going to an all boy high school, DeWitt Clinton, in NYC, made his sure of himself.  And he was not stupid.  He knew exactly what he was doing. But NO one was  going to make fun of him for being a Jew. (Okay, I will admit he dropped out of college, CCNY,  his biggest mistake,  he ended up in Korea instead of in a classroom.)

He was lucky, his commanding officer, a Captain, saw the incident. He and several others hustled Dad back to camp.   As far as anyone was concerned, Dad was not there when the Lieutenant had his jaw broken.   But Dad was demoted a grade and sent to Korea. He always said that the USA paid for his first cruise…to Japan and then to Korea.

Dad’s first Purple Heart came when they were going up a hill. His group was being bombarded.   The noise was horrendous. Years later when Dad saw “Saving Private Ryan,” he discussed that noise. The movie brought back his memories, as he was part of the amphibious landing in Lochi.  My Mom said he cried during the opening sequences.

He told us, They got everything right, even the sounds of the bullets hitting the sand, but they could not get the horrendous smell.”

Dad was injured on the hill. Shrapnel entered his legs. He was bleeding. His friends cried out, “Rosie! Get Down! You are wounded! Medic Medic!. “ He said he did not even feel the pain in the rush to get up the hill.   It was Dad’s first visit to a MASH unit.   Needless to say, Dad loved the television comedy M.A.S.H. The MASH doctors fixed Dad up and he went back to war.   Years later the shrapnel began to exit his legs, causing him much pain.

Besides being a forward observer, Dad was a radio man. He laid wires and fixed faulty wiring. He received a citation for bravery for fixing wiring at the base during a bombardment. He was up on a pole fixing it, while bombs fell around him.

His Bronze Star was a unit award. Quotes from my sister: “His unit got in during the Inchon incursion when the South Korean army units on the flanks bugged out and left his division holding the line against North Korean army until relief units arrived.”

My brother disagrees. He says yes it was a unit award, but was not for Inchon. They were actually in the mountains and were abandoned by the South Koreans. The unit got the Bronze  Star for this mission, for fighting their way back to their encampment and surviving.

His second Purple Heart got him the trip home. This time by plane to Hawaii and the big pink military hospital on the hill.   (I waved to it when I went to Hawaii 17 years ago.   Dad asked me to do that for him.) Then to California and one to Massachusetts, where Mom was able to meet up with him.

She always said that Dad was not the same person when he came home. She would say that he was not a human being. That it took a full year for the real Donald to come back.

Dad was the kindest, gentlest man. He loved people. He loved his family. But his time in the army changed him.   Certain noises would impact him.   Military movies made him cry.   He went to pay respects at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the one here in Kansas. At both he cried for those who did not come home.

2017 Remembering my Dad and Mom. Two roses.

On Memorial Day, I always think of my Dad, and all the others who served our country.  I go to the Korean War Memorial near my home and put roses on the stone I put in for my Dad.   Roses for Rosie….and I drink a diet peach Snapple, his  and my favorite drink.

Another Blog about my Dad:  https://wordpress.com/posts/zicharonot.wordpress.com?s=My+Dad+was+a+Proud+Veteran

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/museums-help-me-honor-our-relatives-who-served-on-veterans-day/