January 15, 2011

Part 2 of Dewain Lanfear's Levittown memories

By Dewain Lanfear

There was a lot about high school that I enjoyed other than baseball. Mostly I liked the people I was in class with. Most of my class time was spent with the honors group students. We were so diverse: liberal and conservative, various faiths, outspoken and quiet, shy and confident. We were all friends and classes were lively. When I taught, I always wanted and usually was assigned to teach honors classes. A lot of teachers found them difficult, but I really liked them and saw them as our own group.

Probably the high school experience that has had the most lasting effect on me happened way at the end when I was chosen Most Likely to Succeed. Despite kidding from friends to this day, I have reflected on this honor at times of distress and found comfort and strength in knowing that people from that time had a good opinion of me. With my teaching and my family I feel I have succeeded, but in a class that has had so many successful people I know I'm not the most successful, and that's not important. So thank you for your faith in me.

Why did I choose Boston College? Because my guidance counselor told me to. Seriously, I never saw the school until I had my suitcase in hand walking to the freshman dorms. In those days there weren't the endless campus visits that kids go through today. I heard a rumor that the school had a good reputation and they gave me a scholarship and that was enough for me.

I received a good education there, but was shocked that just about everyone else there was in the top 10 percent of their class too. I worked pretty hard (well, sometimes) to keep a B average. I learned what it was like not to be so hot. I played freshman baseball and wrestled my junior year when they started the program, but a shoulder dislocation my senior year marked the end of my athletic "career". I graduated with an ROTC commission in the Army. I stayed at BC for a year of graduate work and then substituted at Division for a year and a half.

While I was substituting, and learning to teach I coached junior high wrestling and was advisor on a senior project, a full length spy movie "For Whom the Torch Burns". The movie, the brainchild of Kerry MacDonald ('67) was filmed in and around New York City during week days and weekends. It was a blast for me and the kids. While this was happening, I started dating Miss Gold (appearing later as my wife) and the Army said "It's time to go".

Since this is not a biography, I'll skip the details of the early days of our courtship and marriage except to say that we were together for about four months of our first two-plus years together, thanks to timing and the Army. I was a Company Commander in Fort Polk, LA for the first year, was promoted to Captain and sent to Pleiku, Viet Nam for my second and last year in the Army.

I value my time in the Army for teaching me many lessons including how to write clearly and that my loyalty is to those under me, not to those above me. Some people reverse these loyalties - they are called successful. Me, I stuck up for my men and my students first. I was never sorry.

When I came home, I taught at Division for 15 years. A number of my students were children of classmates and that was fun. Working with Jimmy Amen, Jerry Jewell and Gene Aiello was a real kick. Knowing them as coworkers and golf partners after knowing them as my teachers was a great experience.

After a while I was transferred to MacArthur, Wisdom Lane, Salk Middle School (as English Department chairman) and finally back to MacArthur, where I finished up. There are so many teaching highlights - some of them still happen as when I get an e mail from a former student who just found me on Facebook, but the best, maybe, was the group of honors students I had as freshmen, sophomores, and seniors. I had always wanted a class like that and it was as good an experience as I'd imagined. The interaction in the classroom was electric and we were like friends discussing a book or poem, not like a class. The cherry on top was they chose me as teacher of the year when they graduated.

As I mentioned, my wife Marti and I were married as I started my military service and when I got out in '69 we bought a house in Baldwin and started our family three years later. I was just back from Viet Nam in August '69 when my classmate Artie Kornfeld had his little gig in Woodstock, and we were ready to go until I heard the traffic report and thought otherwise. Sorry, Artie, I've regretted that decision ever since.

We moved to Oak Beach in '73, almost next door to Division Avenue teacher Dave Peyton, who moved there the same time we did. Our daughter Wendy knew him as "Uncle Dave" and we shared many good times together. I had been his paper boy when I was 12. Go figure. Marti and I enjoyed the life of teaching together and sharing vacation times and the beach was a wonderful place to live.

In 1989 in anticipation of retiring, we bought a house on the Maine coast in Penobscot. We spent 10 summers there and it was like being in witness protection - just a totally different lifestyle from Long Island. I gained tremendous insights into Robert Frost's poems from our experiences in Maine. Later we exchanged this house for one in Georgia on a lake. Warmer climate (duh) and year-round golf were the big factors.

We both retired in 1999 and moved to Georgia full time. Our daughter Wendy moved there also and the family has stayed together without having to travel all over for holidays, etc. We're all in Anderson, SC now; Marti and I live on a golf course and play frequently. We see the grandkids all the time and share holidays with Wendy and her husband. We found a small condo in Atlanta that we use when we go to concerts and shows. Sometimes I just need a "big" city fix.

The Division Avenue High reunions have been terrific. Seeing high school friends is just a joy. Being with Ira Selsky, Joan Lucas, Linda Votteler and Bill Stanley among others was like going back in time. We all owe much to Barbara Taylor and her helpers for organizing our 50th. The west coast/Vegas reunions with Russ Green, Rich Humbert, Larry Bory, Frank Barning, and Ken Plass were amazing. Heidi Perlmutter has been a life long friend and it was wonderful to spend time with her.

I am grateful to Frank for creating the framework that allows us all to stay in touch. Most of all I'm grateful for being part of our class. It's not over yet - see you at the reunion in Key West in February. Party on.


Anonymous said...

Dewain, after yesterday's Part 1, I was really looking forward to Part 2. Now I'm disappointed, but only because there is no Part 3 to look forward to for tomorrow. A most enjoyable read. Pat McD

Frank Barning said...

Dewain has been invited to write as often and as much as he wishes.

dewain said...

Thanks Pat. Frank has unleashed a monster and I have a few ideas for other posts. One about the "dads" of Daisy Lane.

David M Phillips aka las Vegas Dave said...

DAve Phillips of the Class of DAHS '70.
I have hooked up on FB with Dwain regaling some of the memories of my time there.
Growing up was troublesome for me in personal ways.
The life I had in the neighborhood and in the school network of so many interesting kids was a saving grace.
I Have thought of Dwain and many other names of the decades past, grateful of their dedication and passion for teaching.
To Dwain now, he continues his presence as he blogs.
Thanks Dwain, and Frank for being the locus of all the history we share to the bes of us all.