September 1, 2010

Why did Mr. Graham have to be a Good Humor man in Levittown?

Dr. John Stalberg practices in California and is an expert on Doo Wop

By Dr. John Stalberg, 1962
Although my parents had little money, my father's family was all doctors and lawyers who went to the University of Pennsylvania. That's where I went. I doubt that guidance counselor Mr. Rogo ever heard of it. The depression, WWII and meeting my mother in England and having me, kept my father out of college until the 1960s.

The problem at Division Avenue High School was that richer districts could pay more money. I had Mr. Chenevey (great) for 8th grade math and he then left for Syosset,

A great experience for me was subbing at Division in several May- June school years, because medical school ended early. What an experience sitting in the faculty lounge 4-5 years after graduation. Compared to the 1960s, DAHS was as good as most private schools are now because public education has gone down the toilet.

And here is a memory of one of our teachers….
I had Mr Graham for homeroom in 8th grade. He was an English teacher, but not mine until years later. I was at my cousin Greg Donaldson's house on the south side, 2 Rock Lane. It was summer and we were sitting around bs-ing when I heard the ring of the Good Humor Man. I ran outside and waved him down. I could already taste the Coconut or Toasted Almond. Who got out of the truck with a cheery (until he saw me) "What do you want?"

It couldn't be, am I dreaming, my homeroom teacher Mr. Graham? No must be a look alike, teachers aren't ice cream men, are they? It was definitely the weirdest, freakiest bizarre feeling. Mr. Graham looked more uncomfortable than me. I told everyone in Greg's house what happened and they couldn't believe it either. It permanently changed how I felt about Mr. Graham and he always looked scared I might say something and blow the whistle. I never did, but he always was worried when I was around, or so I thought. He could have at least been a Good Humor man in East Meadow or Wantagh, I always thought.

In 7th grade math, I had a Mr. Spina. He was morbidly obese, huge-350-400 pounds. He did a lot of, literally huffing and puffing (Pickwickwian syndrome*), yelling, screaming, what else do you expect from a 400-pound 7th grade math teacher. He had all us little 7th graders scared shitless.

Well you know those little chairs that have wheels that were behind the teachers' desks? Yep, one day in the middle of a tirade, he kicked the chair out from behind the desk, and when he sat down, or plopped down to catch his breath, the chair collapsed, Spina was sprawled on the floor and broken pieces from the chair were propelled all around the room. Despite knowing the consequences, the class exploded in laughter while he scrambled to his feet, as if he did it fast enough we wouldn't notice. He was forever subdued and I don't recall seeing him at the school again, after the year ended. Boy, payback was so good then, even my parents cracked up, after the obligatory, "He's not
permanently injured is he?"
*Editor's note:
Pickwickian syndrome: The combination of obesity, somnolence (sleepiness), hypoventilation (underbreathing), and plethoric (red) face. The syndrome is so named because of the "fat and red-faced boy in a state of somnolency" that Charles Dickens described in his novel, The Pickwick Papers.

Photo of Dr. John Stalberg by Frank Barning

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