PAGING PONCE DE LEON

Carly Simon is in my head a lot these days singing, “You’re So Vain”. After decades of seeming perpetual youth in my career as a reporter, the portrait in my attic has become an illusion. It’s something with which most people who work in the public eye must come to grips as time goes by.

First, it was my hair turning salt and pepper, then predominantly gray. And, then, oh horror! A bald patch atop my head which has crept ever forward. Mother of mercy!!

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As a TV news guy, I was on the air several times a day, five or six days a week. For 31 years. I remember walking into an electronics store and seeing myself on dozens of TV sets, surrounded by a throng of appreciative people. From an ego point of view, it just doesn’t get much better.

The hair crisis was paralleled by my body telling me I could no longer work such long hours, nor party with little sleep and questionable dietary habits.

Understand that I’ve been retired going on 15 years now but I’ve been very slow to accept that the guy I see in the pictures on our wall no longer exists. Last week, I visited my two younger brothers at our family home. Our mission? Prepare the 60-year-old house for sale. Huge cleanup. My body cried for relief the first day. My brothers were sympathetic. I was grateful but my ego took a hit.

Three brothers and a cousin

Three brothers and a cousin

The drive home from West Hempstead to Uxbridge was out of “The Twilight Zone”. Bumper to bumper from start to finish. More than five hours! I used to relish such trips, regardless of traffic. It was fun in those convertible days, top down, letting memories blur the idiotic, incompetent motorists around me.

My convertible days are history along, with my tolerance for long hours on the road.

Credence Clearwater Revival rode shotgun the final hour of the drive, keeping me alert as I finger tapped the steering wheel. “Midnight Special” played a half-dozen times, right into our driveway as I arrived home and allowed myself a long sigh. I slowly — very slowly — extracted myself from the car. I tried to stretch.

Oh, the dismay. The fear and trembling. Where the hell was Ponce De Leon when I needed him? Probably still in his eternal search for that elusive fountain of youth …

ODDBALLS OR LEFTOVERS? 2015 WEEK 35

CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE: 2015 WEEK 35

These days, there’s no real line between oddball and not oddball, only between pictures I’ve posted … and pictures I haven’t posted yet.

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Drought

Drought

Just a word about time passing. Once again, we are heading into autumn. I can’t believe that summer is ending. I can’t believe a year has passed … and I’m still here. Guess I’ll stick around for a while longer.

CONTEMPLATING AN ETERNITY OF YOUTH

Once again, WordPress is kindly offering to let me partake of a magical moment … in fact, magic itself. A drink from the very Fountain of Youth itself! What senior citizen could turn down such a great offer?

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I’m a little suspicious. I know I’ve gotten more than a bit cynical over the years, but offers like this … isn’t there some fine print I need to read? Isn’t this the kind of contract you make with a dark stranger at a crossroad in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night?

Bwahaha,” laughs old Scratch as he scurries away, paperwork in hand. “Snagged another old fool.”

If I’m to be forever young, able to drink from the frothy waters of that famed fountain, does it mean I have to also be forever stupid? I would have no objection to a young, resilient body. A back that bends, good skin, hair that stays on my head where it belongs. All these youthful things are, as we said in my real youth, groovy.

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A brain came with that package. Oy vay. Such a brain. It was filled with certitude based on books I’d read and some late night conversations with other undergrads. Mind you, I’m sure that’s how we have to be when we’re young. Otherwise, we would never have the courage to face our lives.

A certain brashness and belief that we can triumph no matter what is a prerequisite for getting on with life. I get that. I just don’t want to have to live in that head for even a little while, much less all eternity.

Actually, all eternity is a pretty daunting prospect and I’m not sure how I feel about it … but perhaps that’s another post for another Sunday morning.

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So if they are giving away drinks from the fountain of youth, I will accept my slurp — IF I get to keep my current brain with all its experience, cynicism, and hard-won lessons. And I want a codicil specifying that while I get to feel young for as long as I live, I don’t think I want to live forever.

Long, maybe, but forever? To watch all the world I know disappear and who knows what to follow? I think not.

FIRST HINT OF AUTUMN

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I looked out the back door and realized the aspens are turning yellow. They are always the first trees to show color, and always bright yellow. Because they are the first, they are hard to miss … yellow gold in the sea of dark green oak leaves.

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But, if you look closely, the oak leaves are changing too. They never develop real color, not the way the maple, birch, and aspen do.

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Instead, they slowly change from light green in spring, to very dark green in late summer … and now, slowly, develop veins of bronze until sometime in late November, they leaves are all bronze. Almost red.

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By the time the oaks completely turn, all the other trees are bare, so they become the last remnants of the autumn. Sometimes, those leaves will cling to the oaks until well into the snows of winter.

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It’s the herald of things to come. The warning bell has rung. The last fuchsia are popping on the hanging pots, the roses are finally giving it up. And the ragweed is blooming.

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TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS II

Comedy Division, by Rich Paschall

This was a tough category to narrow down.  Even just considering comedies over the years you can compile a massive list.  There really have been quite a few good ones.  When tossing songs from consideration, I found I had to let go of some of those jingles that are more of a novelty than a good song. That would include things like Car 54 Where Are You? and The Beverly Hillbillies. For this same reason I eliminated a few of my favorites like Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed and The Addams Family.

Cartoon themes could easily have been a component here, but I liked too many of those and think I may have to produce a Top 10 list some day.  I will hand out an honorable mention to The Simpsons for this category, however.  The long running prime time series, soon to enter its 27th season, is known by just about everyone with a pulse.  So you certainly know the opening theme.

We can also give an honorable mention to a closing theme.  While the opening tune for All in the Family may be well-remembered, the closing had a completely different song, Remembering You.  The tune was written by Roger Kellaway with lyrics by the show’s star, Carroll O’Connor.  If you search You Tube, you can find a performance by O’Connor singing the song, and not as Archie Bunker.

10. WKRP theme.  The fictional radio station was quite a hit in the 1970’s, along with the theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.

9.  Making Our Dreams Come True, from Laverne and Shirley.  The Happy Days spin-off had a theme by the same pair that gave us the Happy Days theme, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

8.  I Love Lucy. The tune was not written by Desi Arnaz, although his orchestra played the famous theme. Eliot Daniel wrote the music but was not given credit at the time, since he was under exclusive contract to another studio. The lyric by Harold Adamson was only sung by Arnaz on the show one time.

7.  Movin’ On Up, from The Jeffersons. The All In The Family spin-off produced a great opening theme by Ja’net Du Boise.

6.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name, from Cheers. Yes, this popular tune makes the top of some lists. The song was performed by the composer, Gary Portnoy, and was so popular he recorded a longer version for release after the show began. It also earned him an Emmy nomination.

5.  The Muppet Show theme by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Sam Pottle.  The prime time puppet show was way beyond Sesame Street.  The little ones may not have gotten all the jokes, but the show was always fun to watch.  The openings varied each season, but the music was the same.

4.  The Andy Griffith Show theme by Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer and Everett Sloane.  It’s Hagen that is doing the famous whistling.  Sloane wrote words and Griffith later recorded that version, with him singing instead of the whistling.

3.  Welcome Back, Kotter by John Sebastian.  The former Lovin’ Spoonful singer did not have much of a solo career until this number 1 hit song in 1976.  The television series was a hit as well.

2.  Happy Days by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  The song perfectly fit the nostalgic TV series set in an earlier time.  The original opening was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley but was soon replaced by this original theme song.

1. Those Were The Days from All in the Family.  The tune by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse was so popular that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, the stars of the show, performed it for each studio audience.

VAMPIRES IN TORONTO — CANADA’S DARK UNDERBELLY

If I could have a sequel, this show would be a great candidate. I know — not a movie — but it was a great little show that ended too soon.

I first discovered Forever Knight when it was in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. It was showing around 2 in the morning. Garry was working the dawn patrol and had already left for work by the time the show came on. I was working from home, allowing me to sometimes see my husband before he was off to work … and indulge my taste for weird TV shows you can only see in the middle of the night.

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I became an addict. I needed my knightly fix. They were showing season two when I found the show. I didn’t see the first season until I bought the DVDs (used) on Amazon. We watched them last winter when the ice and snow locked us into the house. It proved a good antidote to cabin fever.

How cool can a cop show be? This one is extremely cool. A vampire, repenting of his formerly evil ways, joins the Toronto police department. How does he get around the whole “vampires can’t be in the sun” business? Not to mention they “only drink blood” thing?

He has this big old American car with a huge trunk in which he can hide in a “sun” emergency. Drinks cow’s blood. Works the night shift. Invents a massive allergy to the sun to explain his inability to work days.

Nick Knight is more than 800 years old. A vampire working homicide. He is trying (with the help of Natalie, a lovely young coroner) to regain his humanity. Knight is not his name, of course. He was an actual knight in the 13th century when he became a vampire.

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The show ran from 1992 to 1996, though the pilot ran in 1989. The DVDs divide into three seasons and no, I don’t understand how they count seasons. There are 22 shows in the first season, 26 in the second, 22 in the third for a total of 70 episodes.

The original broadcast channel in North America was CBS — May 5,1992 to May 17, 1996. The show also ran in Germany, England and Australia (I don’t know if it was ever shown in Canada). It has been rerun in several places since including the Sci Fi channel here. The DVD sets originated in the US and Germany. The sets are different in length, and how they were edited. The German versions are longer and sexier. Mine came in boxes that say made in USA, but the DVDs were pressed in Germany. This link (in Wikipedia) gives a full list of episodes.

A cop show with a vampire as the lead detective? It isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s a good show and ahead of its time. And last, but not least, it’s witty and clever.

Geraint Wyn Davies plays Detective Nick Knight. He also co-wrote and directed many of the shows. Nigel Bennett is Lucien LaCroix, Knight’s maker and the weirdest overnight DJ in radio history. Deborah Duchêne plays Janette DuCharme, Nick’s sexy vampire “sister” and sometimes lover. Catherine Disher is Natalie Lambert, the police coroner and Nick’s sort-of love interest.

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The acting is good. The scripts are coherent, thematic, often with a moral twist and some interesting philosophical speculations. And who would have guessed Toronto was crawling with vampires? Fortunately most of the show’s undead are surprisingly circumspect showing far more restraint than they have shown in their pasts, which are seen in flashback.

During the show’s final season, when the producers, director and cast knew they were not being renewed, they methodically kill off the entire cast. That third season is memorable. Fascinating. Unavailable.

Forever Knight Season 1 and Forever Knight Season 2 can be downloaded from Amazon Instant Video. Season 3 is available only on DVD (used), sometimes as a single season, but also as a set of all three seasons. I own the set, though I bought each season separately which saved me about $50. It also took two years to finally find a copy of that elusive third season.

As Garry and I binge-watched our way through the series, I think it may have been a bargain after all. It’s a lot of entertainment … a lot of bang for the bucks.

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It’s fun. Well-written. Original, Unique. Sexy. Creative. It won’t gross you out with gallons of blood and gore but I love it when Nick’s eyes glow orange or green, depending on circumstance. I like the music and Toronto is a lovely city.

I recommend Forever Knight, though I’m not sure what you will do about season three. You might have to come to my house and watch it with us.

STRANGER ENCOUNTERS

Two summer ago, we drove into Gettysburg on a return trip from Williamsburg. It was late afternoon, so we asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions since we were in a town we’d never visited. Finally, Richard announced “You have reached your destination!”

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Indeed we had, though not the one we had it mind for that night’s repose. As far as the eye could see, Richard had brought us to what must have been Gettysburg’s largest non-war related cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the motel.

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I’m a great traveler. I don’t like airports and hauling luggage, but I love everything else. It’s like a book I’ve just begun to read. Anything can happen and the surprises are what makes it fun.

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I habitually engage strangers in conversation. So does Garry. He does it because 40 years working as a reporter makes it natural for him to talk to people he’s just met. Me, because strangers are only strangers until you get to know them. After that, they may be odd, but they aren’t strangers.

I will talk to strangers on a grocery line, on the ferry, or in a waiting lounge. Not so much on a train or plane, though. Too much noise to make conversation comfortable.

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Otherwise, I love meeting people — weird and otherwise. If you ask the right questions, they will tell you about their town, their family, their jobs. How they feel about the government, music, art and if you are lucky, will offer you useful information about great places to eat and visit.

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I love learning about local sights, customs, legends. I don’t care if no one speaks real English. As long as they don’t point a gun at me or physically assault me, I’m up for any kind of conversation. Especially if it might lead me to a good photograph.

Gettysburg Lane

You never learn anything about a new place if you only talk to the companions you’ve brought with you. If you don’t want to meet new people, to have encounters with those who are different from you, why travel?

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: FILLING THE FRAME IN MACRO

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: FILL THE FRAME

When I took these pictures the other day, I had no idea what I was going to do with them, except that I had done everything with these particular flowers except shoot them in macro.

So, I shot them in macro. These photographs absolutely fill the frame. That’s the thing about macro. When you shoot so close to your subject, it’s all about filling the frame!!

DOUBLE MINT, GRETCHEN ARCHER – A WITTY ROMP WITH DAVIS WAY

I have loved everything Gretchen Archer has written, from her first book “Double Whammy,” to this latest, greatest entry into the Davis Way caper novels.

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Davis is growing into herself. Still madcap, but madcap in a Sherlock Holmesian way. She knows what she’s doing. She knows why she’s doing it. She sees connections between seemingly random events. How they form a pattern. The problem is getting anyone else to see.

She and Bradley make a great team. They have that “thing” which makes husband-wife detective couples so much fun — the ability to communicate so cryptically no one else understands. But they “get” each other … and it may save a life or two.

It serves them well as the complex plot unrolls. Finding themselves living in the Bellissimo Casino itself (it’s temporary, isn’t it?), in the most hideous apartment imaginable. There’s a conference of bankers going on and Davis can’t get in. Not even for a quick security scan.

Why not? What’s really going on?

Bankers who have their own security people? Who look and act like thugs?  What’s going on with that super-secure vault? What does the apartment’s previous occupant and (shudder) designer, have to do with it? Has Fantasy gone nuts? Where is No Hair when you need him?

Mysteries within mysteries call for Davis’s clever mind and remarkable ability to see what no one else can see. Will anyone else believe her? Will they “get it” before it’s too late?

Welcome to another taut mystery and hilarious romp through the world of casino gambling, mysterious bankers, and sealed vaults. Not to mention gigantic heaps of money. Or something like it.

AVAILABLE IN KINDLE AND PAPERBACK.

Double Mint: Intelligently written with complex plot. Gretchen Archer never drops a stitch. It’s a marvelously witty detective tale you’ll love from start to finish — and wish it would never end.

TREES – BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE

CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE: TREES

Nice to have a challenge for which I am very well positioned, what with living in the middle of the woods and all.

I took some pictures of the wood yesterday because I noticed the first yellow leaves showing on the trees, but they are intended to show color, so it’s back to the archives.

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last snow bark winter

Natural black and white. Winter in New England IS monochrome. A few minor color accents, but otherwise, black and white.

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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN URBAN SCHOOL – JAMAICA HIGH SCHOOL

Why was Jamaica High School closed down?

1981.CREDITILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE (TOP-LEFT)

Jamaica High SchoolThe Jamaica High School building last year and, at right, in 1981.CREDITILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE (TOP-LEFT)


Jamaica High School, in Queens, was once the largest high school in the United States. For most of its history, it occupied a majestic Georgian Revival building on Gothic Drive, designed in the nineteen-twenties by William H. Gompert, who had begun his career at McKim, Mead & White. With east and west wings, granite columns, and an elaborate bell tower, the building looked like a state capitol that had been dropped into the middle of a residential neighborhood; it sat on the crest of a hill so imposing that planners would have been guilty of pretense had it housed anything other than a public institution.

One evening in June of last year, Jamaica students wearing red and blue gowns gathered with their families and teachers and with members of the school staff at Antun’s, a catering hall in Queens Village, for the senior-class commencement ceremony. Accompanying the festivities was the traditional graduation boilerplate—about life transitions and rising to new challenges—but it carried a particular significance on this occasion, because it was as applicable to the faculty and the staff, some of whom had been at the school for nearly three decades, as it was to the students. After a hundred and twenty-two years, Jamaica High School was closing; the class of 2014, which had just twenty-four members, would be the last.

The New York City Department of Education had announced the closure three years earlier, citing persistent violence and a graduation rate of around fifty per cent. Accordingly, the department had begun to “co-locate” four newly created “small schools” in the old building. Advocates argue that small schools can best resolve many of the ills associated with urban education, but the reorganization produced a logistical problem. The schools tended to operate like siblings competing for bathroom time. Access to the building’s communal spaces was at a premium. Unable to secure the auditorium for a graduating class of two dozen, Jamaica High School found itself, both figuratively and literally, pushed out.

Underscoring the indignities that attended the school’s last days was a difficult irony: for much of its time, Jamaica was a gemstone of the city’s public-education system. In 1981, the schools chancellor, Frank Macchiarola, decided to take on the additional role of an interim high-school principal, in order to better appreciate the daily demands of school administration. He chose Jamaica, and was roundly criticized for picking such an easy school to lead. Four years later, the U.S. Department of Education named it one of the most outstanding public secondary schools in the nation. Alumni include Stephen Jay Gould, Attorney General John Mitchell, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Walter O’Malley, Paul Bowles, and three winners of the Pulitzer Prize: Gunther Schuller, Art Buchwald, and Alan Dugan. Bob Beamon, who set a world record for the long jump in the 1968 Olympics, graduated with the class of ’65. The school’s closure felt less like the shuttering of a perennial emblem of stagnation than like the erasure of a once great institution that had somehow ceased to be so.

Jamaica had become an institution of the type that has vexed city policymakers and educators: one charged with serving a majority-minority student body, most of whose members qualified as poor, and whose record was defined by chronic underachievement and academic failure. Even so, word of the school’s closure angered students and their families, the community, and alumni. I was among them—I graduated with the class of ’87—and for me, as for many former students, the school was a figment of recollection, frozen in its academic glory. George Vecsey, the former Times sports columnist and a member of the class of ’56, accused Joel Klein, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, of “cooking the books,” to make schools slated for closure appear worse than they were, and compared the Department of Education’s closure policies to the nihilism of Pol Pot. Vecsey later apologized for having slighted the suffering of Cambodia, but he held to his contention that Klein ruled by dictatorial fiat. He wrote, in a blog, “The city destroyed a piece of history because of its own failure.”

There are two broadly competing narratives about school closure. The one commonly told by teachers, students, and many parents at underperforming schools centers on a lack of financial and material resources, which insures that the schools will be unable to meet even minimum standards. Strongly connected to this version is a belief that closure functions as a kind of veiled union-busting: shutting a school allows reformers to sidestep contracts and remove long-term teachers.

Reformers view closure as a necessary corrective to what they see as bloated bureaucracies, inept teachers, and unaccountable unions. They argue that urban schools are often too large to give students the attention they need. In 2000, the Gates Foundation began funding education reform, with an emphasis on reducing school size. Nine years later, in an annual newsletter, the foundation reported that its efforts had not met with significant success, particularly with schools “that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum.” The foundation also said that it “had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.” The reform movement nationwide increasingly saw closure and the creation of new institutions—as opposed to funding and reorganizing existing schools—as the way forward.

During the nineteen-forties, in a series of landmark tests conducted around the country, the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark demonstrated that black children associated virtue and intelligence with whiteness, and had correspondingly internalized racist stereotypes of inferiority. Robert Carter, an attorney with the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund, heard of the Clarks’ work and brought it to the attention of Thurgood Marshall, who was then the legal fund’s director-counsel. Marshall made the Clarks’ findings central to the argument for school desegregation in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. The decision made Kenneth Clark famous (while largely overlooking his wife’s role in structuring the experiment). Clark, who had grown up in Harlem and was a professor at the City College of New York, then turned his attention to the city government, which, he charged, had fostered segregation in the schools.

Arthur Levitt, then the president of the New York City Board of Education, responded that the schools merely reflected residential patterns: children who attended overwhelmingly black schools lived in overwhelmingly black neighborhoods. A Commission on Integration was set up to examine the issue, with Clark as one of the commissioners, and Levitt as co-chair, and it issued recommendations, which were never quite translated into policy. (Clark resigned, but continued to push for integration throughout his career.) In 1959, the Board of Education experimented by sending four hundred students from overcrowded black schools in Brooklyn to under-attended white schools in the Ridgewood and Glendale sections of Queens. The move was met with rancorous opposition and a brief boycott that anticipated the riotous response to busing in the seventies.

In 1949, John Ward, an African-American student whose family had migrated to New York from Virginia after the Second World War, enrolled at the school. Ward’s father was a bus mechanic, and his mother worked as a domestic; between them, they earned enough to buy a home in Jamaica. Ward recalls the area as a place where Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, African-Americans, and Jews lived in peaceful proximity. His house was not far from the grocery store that Mario Cuomo’s parents owned, and Ward, who played baseball as a boy, remembers the future governor from games in the neighborhood sandlots. The area had not yet entirely shaken its rural roots. “There were still people farming there,” Ward told me. “I remember seeing people butcher hogs on Linden Boulevard in the forties and fifties.”

Ward wanted to be a teacher, but Woodrow Wilson, the high school that most blacks in the area attended, was a vocational trade school. So he applied to Jamaica, which had acquired a reputation as one of the city’s strongest academic high schools. Ward initially found the rigor daunting. “My first semester, I failed about three major classes,” he told me. “My father said, ‘If you’re not going to work at school, you’ll have to get a job.’ ” Ward studied hard and spent an extra semester earning enough academic credits to apply to college. He played baseball well enough to be selected for the All-City team in 1954, his senior year. “I don’t really recall there being much racial tension,” he said of the school. “The blacks mostly hung out with other black students, but, being an athlete, I interacted with a lot more of the white students.” For a few years in the fifties, Jamaica’s integrated athletics teams, with their winning records, were a point of pride for the school. In 1954, Ward was elected the school’s first black class president.

He was accepted at Morgan State University, a historically black institution in Baltimore, but his family couldn’t afford the tuition, so he played D-League baseball for a few years, then applied to the New York City police academy, and, in 1960, became one of the first black members of the motorcycle corps. Of the more than three hundred graduates in Ward’s police-academy class, fewer than two dozen were African-American. In 1974, he was promoted to a plainclothes unit working out of the 114th Precinct. “Out of sixteen guys, I was the black on the street-crimes unit,” he told me. His career on the force was, at least demographically, a replay of his experiences at Jamaica, and Ward later credited the school with giving him not only an excellent education but also the skills that allowed him to navigate primarily white environments. “Jamaica being integrated in the fifties was something unusual,” he told me. “But it was also a place where I felt I belonged.”

South Jamaica’s black population continued to grow in the fifties and sixties, though not all of it was as economically stable as Ward’s family. In 1947, when the Olympian Bob Beamon was still a baby, his mother died, and he was eventually sent to live with a guardian in a rough part of the neighborhood. After a troubled childhood and a brush with juvenile court, which resulted in his being sent to a remedial, “600” school, Beamon became convinced that if he could get into Jamaica he could turn his life around. Four decades later, in a memoir, “The Man Who Could Fly,” he wrote of the school in nearly ecclesiastical terms:

Mr. Louis Schuker, the principal at Jamaica High, had a long talk with me and Coach Ellis. He said the odds of a 600 school student making it in a regular school environment were next to zero. His admonition to me was reminiscent of the one given by the judge who had sentenced me to the 600 school.

“Beamon, any trouble out of you and you are out of here,” Mr. Schuker said. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered firmly and clearly. I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere but Jamaica High. This was where I wanted to be. This was where I belonged.

It’s easy to wax idealist about the happy spaces of one’s childhood, but in Beamon’s case the assessment can’t be so easily dismissed. He traced his desire to compete in the Olympics to a visit that the track-and-field star Wilma Rudolph, a triple gold medalist in the 1960 Games, paid to Jamaica during his sophomore year. The school was a place where someone like him, who grew up poor in a crime-plagued neighborhood, stood a chance of encountering someone like Rudolph.

Jamaica High School

Read the entire article via Scoop.it from: www.newyorker.com


Notes from a graduate of Jamaica High:

I attended Jamaica High School, graduating from it in 1963. Those were probably the last peak years of the school. It had issues of racial non-integration. Despite the author’s statement, in the years I attended it was anything but racially homogeneous. Kids ran with kids like themselves, more or less divided down the lines of ethnicity and race.

There was little active hostility between the groups and a surprising amount of cross-pollination and dating. The school was far from perfect, but there existed a cadre of talented and dedicated teachers who made themselves available to those who wanted to learn, or who needed help.

Was it a model for the future? There were standardized tests — Regents exams — but these were based on what we learned in school, not on some bureaucrats notion of what we should “know.” Most of us came out better than we went in. And that’s saying a lot, especially these days.

On a lighter note, it was the only high school of which I’ve ever heard to cancel the senior prom (1963) due to lack of interest.


 

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About the Author

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

Jelani Cobb has been a contributor to The New Yorker and newyorker.com since 2013, writing frequently about race, politics, history, and culture.

WHICH WAY — AUGUST DOG DAYS

CEE’S WHICH WAY CHALLENGE 2015 WEEK #34

Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge. This challenge is about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, we move from one place to another on.

I keep my eyes open for entries to Cee’s great challenges. This is “downtown” Uxbridge in August. There are two pictures taken along Route 122 (Main Street) and a third on Route 16 (Mendon Road, at least for this short stretch). These are the only roads that go through town.

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SHARING MY WORLD – 2015, WEEK 34

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #34

Was school easy or difficult for you? How so?

I was always good at memorizing information for short periods. I was one of those kids that could not go to class all year, cram the night before the test, then ace it. Until I bumped into hard sciences and mathematics. At which point, I learned humility in a hurry.

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But over all, since I wasn’t a math or science major, school was easy. I worked very hard in classes that interested me, barely bothered to do anything if I it didn’t grab my interest. I got a lot out of college, more on the job after getting my B.A.

School is where you begin your education. Life is where you earn advanced degrees.

What is your favorite animal?

As in to own? As a pet? Dogs, with cats and ferrets a close second. I like parrots, too.

dogs with bishop and gar

But in the greater world of animals, I love elephants and lions and tigers and rhinoceroses. Deer and moose. Bears. Wild birds and wolves. I love them all and mourn every loss.

If you had to have your vision corrected would you rather: glasses or contacts?

I can’t wear contacts, so it’s a moot point for me. I will wear glasses … three different strengths … because I can’t see without them.

List:  Name at least five television shows (past or present) you enjoyed?

At my age, I have loved a great many shows. So. Let’s limit this to the shows we currently watch and love. Otherwise, it simply gets way out of hand.

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NCIS, Castle, House Of Cards, Bosch, Firefly, Star Trek (all permutations). There are so many more.

BW TV cameras

Original and in reruns, I have seen the evolution of television from relatively primitive to today. I’m sure I’ll live to see interactive TV where in addition to annoying advertisements, there will be annoying requirements I answer questions or input other information. I can hardly wait.

SWEET, SORT OF, SIXTEEN

I know I was sixteen once upon a time because I have a picture. Just one picture.

1963. I'm in the front, in the middle, arm on my knee.

1963. I’m in the front, in the middle, arm on my knee.

I had  a raging case of hormones. This was the summer after I graduated high school. I would be in college a month later. That’s what you get for skipping years in school.

As for what I was like? I vaguely remember what I did — nothing to be proud of — but I have no memory of what I was thinking. I’m not sure I was thinking at all. It was 52 years ago. Almost exactly.

That’s a long time and the details do get fuzzy.