Saturday, May 28, 2005

Entering dangerous territory for a writer

Allan Winger, 1966
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It's one thing to put up photos of schools being taken down, but posting yearbook photos of individuals - and writing about them - is entering the neutral zone with lots of Klingon ships nearby.

But if this website is to rake up the memories and get people talking, well... so be it.

So hello Allan Winger.

Allan's picture should be on in the advertisements. Could he possibly look more like a 1966 high school graduate? The glasses, the hair, the skinny tie and that great Colgate smile. Jaysus. A poster boy for that time in the 20th century.

Allan has been emailing me with lots of information about our class, the school and most recently he sent me the obituraries for two teachers most of us shared classrooms with: Mr. Butler and Mr. Stark.

Mr. Butler died Friday! Mr. Stark about five years ago. I remember both very well and in fact think about how angry Mr. Stark got with me when I had failed Math 11 and re-took the class in summer school at Chautaqua with him up front glaring at me most of the summer. I whizzed through the Regents exam at the end of the summer and when I stepped out into the hall (the first one to finish) he stopped me and said, "If you didn't pass because to went too fast..." He didn't finish the sentence, and I'm glad I didn't have to find out what he was thinking.

I passed by one point.

Allan also found the obits for Mrs. Evelyn Sternburg (who was a fifth grade teacher in Lakewood) and Doris Barrows Schobeck who was the school nurse for Lakewood from 1949 until her retirement in 1972. She passed on in July of 2001 at the age of 97. I didn't spend much time in the nurse's office in elementary school. I didn't discover that scam until junior high and Mrs. McKay. She should get an entire blog entry all to herself.

Allan and I have been emailing about Vietnam, too. Allan's a Vietnam Vet and we are trying to figure if we lost any classmates in Vietnam.

That whole time was blur for me and probably many others. I was only sure about one thing: I had no interest in the military, I never have been very good at taking orders or structured sitations. (Ask any coach I played for in high school, if any of them are still with us.)

Allan is on the email list, but if your list is not handy, it's:

Allan L. Winger -

Friday, May 27, 2005

First, the Hideaway, then the Triangle bar...

LAKEWOOD, N.Y. - One more year! Couldn't they have waited one more year to tear down Lakewood Elementary?

But down it is coming, and as the photo with the blog attests, it's almost down.

Sue Guertin Chandler, who taught in the school for years, had her room still standing at the time these were shot May 24. But the wreckers are pretty efficient in the 21st century and it's doubtful there is much more than bricks and steel on the ground as you read this.

Lee Anderson said his sister Carin went by and picked up a brick as a memento, I might want one of those myself.

It's kind of hard to imagine that spot without the school. So many of the Class of '66 came through there on their way to the big junior school on the hill. After surviving Mr. Gugino's 5th grade, I landed in Robert Lamp's 6th grade classroom. Mr. Lamp was an ok guy, I remember, though when we misbehaved, he sported a pretty nasty temper for an elementary school teacher. We once toured the Lakewood Sewer Plant (not exactly Disneyland, eh?) and a group of the boys got a little bored, listening to the sewer plant operator droning about primary versus tertiary treatment and starting pushing each other. Mr. Lamp made us stand at attention, four feet apart while the rest of the class walked around. And he made us stand downwind of the sewage tanks.

He sometimes had a good sense of humor.

I remember Hawkeye taught 6th grade, too. (Oops, Mr. Hawkins.) But I don't remember any other 6th grade teachers, though I'm pretty sure there was at least one more.

But the school is gone!

Years ago - could it have been the 20th reunion? - I came home to Lakewood to find the Triangle Bar gone, torn down, vanished into the mist. Bud Hooper and I and Jim Carr and Bob Fulcher and John Rupp and God-knows-who-else dropped a lot of cash there, watching a lot of the Vukote locals fighting with their spouses as they got increasingly drunk, every night of the week.

In one memorable evening, one 'old woman' (she had to be 40 if she was a day, waaaaay old), was arguing with her husband about his dog. Actually, they weren't arguing. She was giving him a beer-laced, mostly incoherent lecture about how the dog smelled, the dog hair was everywhere, she hated the damned dog - and she ended her soliloquy with the kind of ultimatum you should never give.

Either the dog goes or I go!

I can still see the grin on the old guy's face as his wife stormed out of the bar. And I don't think she was going home to feed the dog.

I will always miss the Triangle, but I think I'm going to miss old Lakewood Elementary a lot more.

Bye Hawkeye!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Le Grand Fromage - our principal

SOUTHWESTERN CENTRAL, Main Office - Only once did I find myself sitting in front of Cloise Swearingen, Mr. Swearingen, Van Swearingen's dad and, to many of us, 'Cheese.'

I suppose we called him Cheese as a short form of Big Cheese, and I do remember the one bit of French I learned from Mme. Vandeberg - Le Grand Fromage. So for awhile, we called him Fromage for short. (I also learned 'merde' from Phil Parks in that same French class, and Bill Taylor and I came up with 'mangez le oiseaux.' I don't think the oiseaux reference cut across cultural lines, but we were easily amused.)

But there I go with another digression.

The power Cheese had was awesome looking back at it. While we certainly did some arguably outside-the-rules stuff, the last place we wanted to end up was in his office. I stood there once for a transgression that I can't recall (Honest!) and he did such a great managerial thing. He let me stand there for a good minute (scribbling on a notepad like Jon Stewart at the start of The Daily Show) before he looked up at me. Then, he didn't speak for what seemed like forever.

By the time he did start lecturing me, I would have confessed to stealing the Lindbergh baby, detonating the Hindenburg, and maybe starting the Korean War.

But those were simpler times. When people did bad things in school, they frequently ended up like political enemies of the regimes in some Central American countries - they just disappeared. Can you imagine for even a nanosecond what the penalty would have been at SWCS had someone carried a gun into the high school?

I got detention for turning in term papers late, for Godsakes.

Recently I went to a high school here in Sacramento and had to walk through two sets of metal detectors and then get patted down by a young female security guard before I was allowed into the educational maelstrom that passes for high school in California. (Ok, she wasn't that young but still...)

And when I needed to head to the bathroom (aka Boy's Room), I found out they are locked about 95 percent of the time, guaranteeing that when the bathrooms are opened, they are jammed with exhuberant, overflowing teenagers who understandably are less-than patient about who gets to the can first.

The school principal (definitely a non-fromage, who hides in his office, rarely seen) told me that the students are out of control and the bathrooms are a constant problem: fights, drug deals, kids smoking pot.

I suggested that he try holding his bladder for three or four hours and then tell me if he wouldn't want a toke or two.

Say what you want about Cheese, but he kept the bathrooms open.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ted Capella went to Erie - not California

ERIE, Penn. - The romantic in me really wanted Ted Capella to have ridden off in a convertible on his way to California when he left 5th grade.

But Mick Olson says he's sure that Ted headed to Erie, Pennsylvania and in fact visited him during our senior year. I hope I was right about the convertible anyway. If not, that would shatter my illusions completely.

Remembering what went on in high school (and before) is more than tricky, it's like trying to recover data from your Commodore 64 computer (referred to as either a Commode Door or a $100 doorstop). I had one of those beauties in the 1980s when I started my consulting business and it paid for itself. Well, for $100 bucks it didn't take long.

(Well, see, there goes my mind drifting instead of staying on task. I was talking about memory, wasn't I?)

I came to Lakewood in March of 1958, I believe, just in time to catch the last couple of months of Edna Anderson's 4th grade class where I met my first Lakewood buddy (Randy Carlson) who sat behind me and taught me how to draw an airplane. (I draw them the same way for my granddaughter, who thinks I'm an artist, but she's seven...)

The very first day of school we went out for recess - something I had never heard of. Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn didn't let kids loose for a minute during the school day. And when the whistle blew to go back in, well, I just kept swinging away, amazed that school could be fun.

But a tall teacher, angry looking like Sterling Hayden-with-a-hangover, one Mr. Hawkins, came over and took me by the arm up to my classroom (his squeeze really hurt) and I was in the doghouse with Edna for the rest of the day, my first day. Randy Carlson, the artist, had his own little run-in with Hawkins another day, sticking a hand puppet out the window of one of the buses as we were leaving to go home. He used the puppet to chime, 'Hello Hawkeye,' a nickname that Hawkeye (oops, Mr. Hawkins) didn't find amusing.

But we'll let Randy tell that tale of terror another time - or at the reunion.


The following song came via one of our classmates who said she was a little leary of actually sending it to everyone. But I think most of us can relate.
  • They both need IPods
  • Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Why did we write on our yearbook pictures?

    Barbara Bunce - 1966
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - I'm not sure what possessed us to write all over our own photos in the yearbook, I had to crop the heck out of Barbara Bunce's photo to post it here but she did leave most of her face in good stead.

    Randy Carlson, on the other hand scribbled so much you can't see him at all. Randy's photo we will save for a later post.

    I've been getting some great emails from people, with lots of memories. Barb Bunce's was great, and I was going to pull sections of it for the web page, but I note that she sent it out to the entire list, so I won't take up any bytes here again.

    Barbara and I were in 5th grade together at Lakewood Elementary School, our teacher one Mr. Augustine Gugino, who had a bad ulcer and had to eat brown-bag lunches that were even more disgusting than what was served in the cafeteria. Sally Smith and Carol Wright were in that class, too. I remember clearly, because that was the year that the boys all started looking slightly different at the girls - and vice-versa.

    There was also a fellow in that class named Douglas Brandow, who disappeared from our ranks about sophomore year. I heard that he ended up doing a stretch in prison, but I'm not sure.

    I do remember - more vividly than I would like to - the day he showed up for P.E. without his gym clothes (about 9th grade) and was forced (as in wrestled to the floor) to wear a girl's gymsuit for gym class. He was also pushed through the door separating the gyms and made to have P.E. with the girls that morning.

    Can you imagine that today? He would've ended up owning the school district from a lawsuit. And I would've testified in his behalf. Well, ok, maybe not then. But suppose that happened to one of your kids? Or grandkids?


    A much nicer story coming out of that same 5th grade era is about a fellow named Ted Capella, who left our 5th grade class and moved away. As a newly arrived-from-Brooklyn kid, I had a lot of sympathy for his emotional parting.

    I believe he moved to California, leaving school one sunny day in the back of his parents' convertible, the top down, of course.

    That was a class act, Ted, wherever you ended up.

    TODAY'S CLASS OF '66 SONG: Tossin' and Turnin' by Bobby Lewis

    I couldn't sleep at all last night,
    just a thinkin' of you,
    cause I was tossin' and turnin,'
    turnin' and tossin' all night...

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    Young guys, drinking beer (?) at our 20th


    (I just heard from Shirley Adams who says this is from the 20th reunion... Everybody looks so young... And obviously, my comments need some adjusting.)

    - I really wish I had made it to the 10th reunion, although at 10 years, it didn't seem all that long since I had been out of SWCS.

    A couple of years at Villanova (undistinguished, except for the beer drinking and general carousing), two years back in Lakewood (more drinking, more carousing), marriage in December 1969 and then on to Califoria, a bachelor's degree, two kids and a newspaper writing job.

    OK, I guess a lot did happen. But it would have been nice to see what happened to other folks.

    In this photo - which is a tad fuzzy - Bob Fulcher is with Jim Carr and from the look on Bob's face, not exactly excited that someone took the shot. Jim wasn't too many years out of the U.S. Navy, and Bob? Well, Bob might still have been in the U.S. Air Force at that time. He retired before he was 40 and took up some other profession. Anyone know what it was?

    I got into an awful lot of trouble with those two guys during our high school years, never quite getting arrested, largely due to the Barney Fife police forces we had to contend with, not our skill at evading capture.

    There was one episode where we ended up at a SWCS football game, quite intoxicated on Colt .45 malt liquor and Southern Comfort. We climbed up into the bleachers and, well, I think I'll save those details for our 40th reunion and the tome I'm trying to write.

    We have 31 people on the email list and I seem to be picking up one or two more every day. Keep them coming - and please, please, send some photos, too, either of the reunion, some party you went to in high school (The Gorge? The Prom?), and/or something current.

    Hell, if I can post my yearbook photo on this website (Isn't that a piece of photography?), then a current shot of you won't break any computer screens.

    TODAY'S CLASS OF '66 SONG: Dead Man's Curve by Jan & Dean

    "I was cruisin' in my Stingray late one night,
    when an XKE pulled up on my right..."

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    Issue of photographic quality is a good one

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I've received several requests to make the photos here bigger, sharper, more focused, etc... It's not just your old eyes that can't handle it.

    Most of the photos I have received are relatively low resolution (or slightly out of focus)the combination of which makes for some pretty fuzzy looking shots. The yearbook copies I was making (and will make when I get my new camera) were higher resolution.

    As we get older as the vision goes, everything seems to have that soft focus.

    The photo today comes from Shirley Adams' collection from the 10th reunion. And it should have a caption under it explaining that it is Barbara Pilkey in the center with JoAnn Harp off to the left. And the guy hanging onto Barbara? Got me? I'll guess her husband or boyfriend. Any clues out there?

    If the caption is not there, I'm going to have to have words with my photo hosting service which is getting as erratic as I am.