August 13, 2010

Substitute teachers were at times harassed at Division Avenue; It was often cruel but 50 years later the residue is some wry humor

Frank Barning, 1960
Some of us guys were absolutely cruel to substitute teachers. It was an art form at Division Avenue High. One day, we had this prim and proper woman substituting in one of our classes. She was trying to hold a raucous group together and doing fairly well until Eddie Byrne started this slow, deep, penetrating laugh. He went on and on until the teacher, checking her class roster, politely asked, “Mr. Byrne, what is the problem?”

Without hesitation, Byrne replied, “Lady, you look just like an owl.”

The poor woman gathered her things together, put them in a briefcase, got up from her desk and started to cry. Also without hesitation, she opened the door and left the classroom. None of us ever saw her again at Division.

Byrne, known as Kookie (as in lend me your comb), a few years later went to prison for murdering his father in law in East Meadow. Maybe the owl lady got off easy.

I also remember the time that Bill Stanley raised his hand while a sub was teaching. "She looked at her chart of students and said, "Yes, Mr. Stanley." His reply, "It's 65 degrees in sunny WINS land." He was listening to a transistor radio and just had to share the news.

Tom Urban, 1960
I think most folks remember me as a cut-up/ buster in high school. I remember one very cute lady teacher (Ms. Duffy??) just out of college. She became a regular at DAHS.

I sat next to the windows on the Division Avenue (West) side of the building and they were open on a beautiful spring day. I noticed a pack of dogs chasing one female that was obviously in heat. I think there were three or four other wise guys near the window and we stood up and started clapping in unison and added a chant, Go! Go! Go! Go!

Our cute newbie teacher obviously was interested in all the fuss and walked back to the windows to check out the action ( two dogs locked in amorous embrace). She turned purple with embarrassment and with a slight tremble in her voice, asked us to sit down right now!

The class erupted.

Rich Humbert, 1960
One substitute calling attendance pronounced Raymond Wenz's name as Raymond can imagine how that was received.

Also a substitute called Mrs. Kling had similar control problems and lost it when someone wrote on the board "KLING KONG"

One more is Mrs. Fleckenstein who tolerated no foolishness in true Teutonic style. She just needed a helmet with horns. She was armed with a ruler she applied liberally.

We were cruel. I substitute taught high school math for a semester a few years back and in doing so got paybacks for my little cruelties.

Bob Castro, 1960
Since we had developed the reputation as being rather tough on substitutes in general, one time they sent Al Tarney, who was an English teacher by trade, but they knew that nobody would screw with him.

He assessed the situation and immediately gave everyone a study hall, but all those who didn't want one (basically all the guys) were invited to come up to the front of the room and talk football until the end of the period. I also remember going through two substitutes one time before the third finally got control of the situation.

Warren Zaretsky, 1960
There was this particularly nerdy substitute teacher and he was a pain in the ass monitoring us at lunch. At the table were Jim Healy ("the instigator"), Arnie Mark (Jim's co-conspirator), Tom Marshlevski, Pete Cybriwsky, Richie Glaski, Tom Paturzo and me. Jim and Arnie bet me $10 that I wouldn't hit the sub with a container of milk. I timed it perfectly to when he was in the doorway under the clock, tossed the container to hit the wall just above him, and splatt... it rained the milk down upon his head.

The entire table was taken to assistant principal Aiello's office. After much conversation, I thought I would be clever and said: "Well, Mr. Aiello, if what you need is a scapegoat, rather than punish all of us, I'll say that I did it." Whereupon, my thick-headed, slow-witted, save their own ass "friends" all chimed in with various versions of "that's right he did it" ... "glad you admitted it, Warren".

I got suspended for a day, Jim Healy got rich instigating people to invest in the stock market, I heard that Arnie Mark co-owns a bar, they still owe me the $10.

Pete Weiss, 1963
I don't have anything on substitute teachers, but I remember one incident with a student teacher. It was senior year and the class was "Cit. Ed." - American history - and the teacher was Richard Erbacher.

Erbacher was a good teacher, well-respected, but was not the most masculine in his mannerisms and voice. Some may have speculated about his orientation, but I don't remember it ever being discussed.

In one class during which the male student teacher (name not remembered) was present, at some point Erbacher must have brushed against the chalk shelf of the blackboard or dropped an eraser, as there was a large patch of chalk dust on one of the legs of his dark suit pants. One of the students said, "Mr. Erbacher, what's that on your pants?" Before he could reply, I shouted out, "He dropped his powder puff."

The class went nuts, the poor student teacher groaned and buried his face in his hands, while Erbacher came over to me, grabbed me by the shirt collar and marched me out into the hall. He backed me up against the lockers, kept poking his finger into my chest to punctuate his tirade, delivered in a loud stage whisper, about disrupting the class, especially with a student teacher present, etc. but - he was laughing the whole time.

The weird thing is I really liked Erbacher (no, not like THAT) and to this day don't know why I did what I did.

Jon Buller, 1961
Once, when we had gotten advance notice that a substitute teacher would be coming to one of our classes, I made it a point to get to the class as soon as I could. The sub was not yet there, and I drew a small picture on the blackboard of a sinking submarine. I think this served as a silent rallying cry for the class, and we were especially badly behaved.

At one point the sub got so irritated that she said, “Have you ever seen someone livid with rage?” This was met with a big outburst of laughter. Then she slowly turned towards the blackboard and looked at the sinking sub. “Oh, I get it!” she said.

Now I sometimes teach after-school classes in cartooning to kids. When they misbehave I sometimes feel that I am getting paid back for my sins when I was their age.

Cartoon by Jon Buller

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