Tag Archives: North Bergen High School

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!

 

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.

 

 

 

http://www.planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm

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.

Having My Childhood Neighbor As My Physic Teacher Was a Challenge

5 Apr

In the Kansas City Star today there was an article about a man who has searched for some of his high school teachers to thank them for all they had done for him. This article made me think of one of my teachers. Not to thank him, but to ‘sort of’ apologize for a bit of misbehaving.   There was a reason! Imagine if your neighbor became your teacher!

My home from fourth gra

My home from fourth grade till I married.  Bobbie’s home is just past the parking area.

Growing up on 78th Street near Boulevard East, in North Bergen, we had wonderful neighbors. We knew all the children on the block, and we often played stickball in the street after school and on weekends. Everyone knew everyone else. It was a community.

Our next-door neighbor going up the hill was the DeSocio family. The son, Bobbie, was about six years older than I. So although he was part of the community, he really did not hang out with the kids on the street. But of course we all knew him.   And he was part of the teasing and kidding that went on daily.

When I was about 12, and he was 18, he helped my brother and his friend, Jack, put me upside down into a garbage can. Bobbie was raking leaves. And the three boys thought it would be funny to dump me in. I did not find it so amusing. From that point on, I saw Bobbie as an adversary instead of my friend. He had joined the boys!

The next fall Bobbie went on to college: Steven’s Institute of Technology, which was in Hoboken. Not far from home. I believe he earned both a BS and an MS in physics.

During these years, we really did not have much contact with him. My Dad and his Dad would talk. And we would hear about what he was doing at dinner. Sometimes he would come by and we would wave. My parents talked to him the most. I think my brother, who was a bit closer to his age, and two-years ahead of me in school also talked to him. My brother actually got his master’s at Steven’s Tech, years later.

But then life changed. I was a senior in North Bergen High School. I was a good student and active in many school activities but focusing on the school newspaper and yearbook. However I did take physics and I loved it.

When we returned from winter break something had changed. They had divided our physics class. Some of the students stayed with the original teacher and some of us were put into a class with a new teacher. Someone just starting out; someone named Mr. DeSocio. Yes BOBBIE! And guess whom he got in his first class? Yes, ME!

I cannot imagine how he felt when he saw me walk into his class. But I know how I felt. Bobbie is my teacher! Impossible. I really did not know what to do or how to act. So I acted with all the maturity of an 18 year old. I totally goofed off. I giggled. I laughed. I really could not take him seriously.

I do not know why he did not request that I be put into the other class. But he did not.

However, I do know what happened in my home. I think my Dad and his Dad had a little talk over the back yard fence. And I got the parental lecture. I was in BIG trouble.

I was to treat Bobbie with respect at school and I was to call him Mr. DeSocio. When he was over at the house, I could call him Bobbie. But at school I could not. I could not tell my friend’s any Bobbie stories. I had to treat him just like any other teacher.

The parent lecture worked. I started behaving. I listened in class. It took about a month for me to calm down. And yes, I believe I had an A in physics.

But years later, I taught high school journalism in a small private school. Although none of my students were my peers, many were the children of my friends. And later, some were friends of my daughter. It was a bit difficult. And I often thought back to North Bergen High School and Bobbie.

I wondered if Bobbie continued teaching. I know he did for a while because my younger sister attended North Bergen High School until 1976, and he was still there. In fact she also had him as her physic teacher. But since she was so much younger, there was not the same issues that I had faced. I also found a yearbook listing on line that showed he was still there in 1978. Did that semester having me in his class toughen him up for anything?

In reality, I was really not that bad. (Although my sister disagrees, she says I was terrible. ) In 1973 there was a decorum that had to be followed. I loved high school and I loved learning. I did learn physics from Bobbie. So in the end, I guess we worked it out to everyone’s advantage…. I hope. But I will say that having my neighbor as my physics teacher was a challenge!