February 21, 2011

One particularly strange Division Avenue teacher in 1955-56; Robert Hamilton Flynn had a weird way of conducting a class

Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco

By Frank Howard Barning

My seventh grade English teacher at Division Avenue School (it was not yet a high school) was a tall red-faced young man, Robert Hamilton Flynn. Frankly, he was a nut case.

Why would I remember, much less even know, his middle name? Because he called his students by first name, middle name and last name. I was always Frank Howard Barning. Then there was Sandra Gail Adams, Lilette Stella Levy, Raymond Paul Wenz, Stephen Martin Zwerling and Steven Charles Mohr. Maybe I'm the nut because more than 55 years later this stuff is still in my brain.

I also remember the middle names of 1950s baseball players. There was Mickey Charles Mantle, Willie Howard Mays, Gilbert Ray Hodges, Carl Daniel Erskine, Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Allie Pierce Reynolds, Theodore Bernard Kluszewski and hundreds more, including Calvin Ross Abrams who lived in Levittown at the time. And don't get me started on middle names of United States presidents. By the way, Harry S. Truman's middle name is just the initial S.

When piano-playing Truman was president, he wasn't particularly popular. To some, LS/MFT stood for "Lord, Save Me From Truman.” Back to Mr. Flynn, who wasn't around Division very long, as I recall. The guy was unrelenting with middle names. He sort of made a game of it. At the time, Lucky Strike was a major cigarette brand and a major advertising slogan was "L.S./M.F.T: Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco." He made fun of Lilette Levy by commenting that L.S./M.F.T stood for "Lilette Stella Makes Fast Tracks." How strange was that for a teacher to say.

My 1960 classmate Cliff Fromm (Clifford Lance Fromm) was also in Mr. Flynn's class back in the 1954-55 school year. He has Mr. Flynn memories, too. "It's interesting how the mind works. I don't remember where I put things and quickly forget the names of new people I meet. Long-term memory seems to be saved on a different hard drive," he recalled.

"For some reason I do remember Mr. Flynn telling Jay Citrin that his real name has to be Jason." He refused to believe that a boy could have the given first name Jay. "Interestingly, my wife Marilyn and I have a friend named Sue, which is her full name on her birth certificate," said Fromm. "She's a retired teacher from the New York City School system and all her official documents have the name 'Susan' inscribed on them, even though she made countless efforts to get them corrected."

Fromm also remembers an incident in Mr. Flynn's class where he called up someone to write on the blackboard. "That person, whoever it may have been, refused and Mr. Flynn said he gets an F as a test mark. Mr. Flynn proceeded to call up more students seated in the same row and there were more refusals, each getting an F grade. I couldn't use an F and didn't know what to do. Fortunately the person just before me got up and went to the board. Phew!"

Also remembering Mr. Flynn was Karen Biro Hewson, class of 1960. "There were a few teachers whose classes I enjoyed, Ms. Eisenhauer, Mr. Keating and (don’t laugh) Mr. Flynn. He scared the s--- out of me, but I never forget to cross my T’s and dot my I’s to this day."

Robert Hamilton Flynn wasn't a bad teacher, just someone with a strangeness that even 13-year olds picked up on. I have no idea what I learned in his class, but there is a continuous reminder of my seventh-grade experience. I frequently email Sandy Adams and her name in my mailing system is Sandra Gail Adams. She refers to me as "Frank Howard."

8 comments:

Jim Anrton said...

Frank Howard you are a sick puppie- James Joseph

Anonymous said...

You have a good memory for the past, Frank. Me too. Mr. Flynn sure had an unorthodox way of teaching, but then, you remembered him, didn't you. Teaching methods sure have changed over the years. Today, teachers are far too lenient and way too careful of how they teach, for fear of upsetting the parents who would protest vehemently if their kids were taught way Mr. Flynn taught his students. Ah, the good old days.

Lillian Ruth Handleman

dewain said...

I too had Mr. Flynn, and beyond a fixation w/ crossing "T"'s and dotting "I"'s, I have no recollection of his class. As Karen Biro shows, every teacher ,no matter how far from the norm, reaches some students.

Frank Barning said...

Most of my teachers were a blur. At least Robert Hamilton Flynn was memorable, and as I wrote, not a bad teacher, just odd.

I just remembered another middle name from that class....Carol Beth Ackley.

Many of my blog posts get little reaction. This one has created memories and even some dialog. Those are purposes of our Early Levittown blog.

The previous post created discussion about English teacher and later principal James Reilly. Readers wanted to know if he were still alive, which he is not.

Anonymous said...

From Midge Bollinger Finck, class of 1960

Like you and those who commented, I to had Mr. Flynn. I really enjoyed him. Ballpoint pens came out during the time Mr. Flynn was my teacher. Needless to say ballpoint pens were not allowed in his classroom. I remember more that he wore his belt almost to his arm pits. So I think that also makes me strange.

I don't read my e-mail everyday, so I have the pleasure of a few new stories on your blog whenever I open it. Thank you for your
wonderful insight into our past. I always felt like we had a little of Andy Hardy's life in Levittown.

Emily said...

I remember him as "R.H. Flynn," and that he made us put our chairs in the exact Kentile tiles equidistant from each other, and he also wore only white shoes after Memorial Day. He seemed old to me, not young, and I really liked him. He brought a woman date to one of our basketball games, a tall woman just like him. Emily "Barbara" Estow Carroll

Dr Purva Pius said...

My name is.Mrs.Anna Daniel. I live in Ukraine i am a happy woman today? i need to use this time to tell all people how i got my loan from this honest and God fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $84,000 please contact him. if you also need a loan without any problem he name is Dr Purva Pius email {urgentloan22@gmail.com} tell him that is Mrs.Anna Daniel that refer you to he contact Email {urgentloan22@gmail.com}


BORROWERS APPLICATION DETAILS


1. Name Of Applicant in Full:……..
2. Telephone Numbers:……….
3. Address and Location:…….
4. Amount in request………..
5. Repayment Period:………..
6. Purpose Of Loan………….
7. country…………………
8. phone…………………..
9. occupation………………
10.age/sex…………………
11.Monthly Income…………..
12.Email……………..

Regards.
Managements
Email Kindly Contact: {urgentloan22@gmail.com}

Dr Purva Pius said...

My name is.Mrs.Anna Daniel. I live in Ukraine i am a happy woman today? i need to use this time to tell all people how i got my loan from this honest and God fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $84,000 please contact him. if you also need a loan without any problem he name is Dr Purva Pius email {urgentloan22@gmail.com} tell him that is Mrs.Anna Daniel that refer you to he contact Email {PurvaPius22@gmail.com}