September 17, 2011

Was Mike Newton's whereabouts a figment of my imagination? Now the truth is being told.


Our previous blog post was concerned with a conversation that I recently had with my Division Avenue High School classmate Jim Healy. People assume that I know the current status of most of the people from back then because of my Early Levittown blog. "Spider" asked if I had any up-to-date poop on Mike Newton.

I had nothing to report about our erstwhile basketball star. As much as she tried, the class of 1960's thorough reunion director, Barbara Wittenberg Taylor, could never locate him either. The last time I saw Mike, I was living in East Meadow in 1967 and he was driving a sanitation truck. Others had seen him, years ago, at an OTB (Off Track Betting) outlet.

Healy, the nickname guy, referred to Newton as "The Fig", even after all these years. He remembered that he had heard from a couple of his sources that his old friend was a tour director in the Panama Canal. Two or three others, in recent years, have mentioned the Canal gig to me. Newton was an important figure at Division because he was a local basketball legend. He was to Levittown in basketball what Pete Cybriwsky was to baseball, or Judy Lloyd was to classic female beauty. We had our heroes.

I had to burst "Spider's bubble on this information about Newton working in the Panama Canal tourist industry. And I have never admitted this before. Six or seven years ago, before anyone knew of blogging, I published a Division Avenue alumni newsletter that I emailed to about 50 or so people, mostly from the class of 1960. A couple of times I was asked, "Do you know what Mike Newton is doing these days?"

Absolutely no one had any information. So I made up the story that "The Fig" was a tour guide in the Panama Canal. I even had a photo (see above) of a Panama Canal guide that I had taken in 2003. The guy vaguely resembled what I imagined that our old basketball star might have looked like in his late 50s. It was all done in fun. And now years later, the story comes back to me from Jim Healy. The tour guide was an ex-pat named Marty. It is an interesting tale, if I do say so myself, and seems so believable.

One of the JV basketball teammates of Healy and myself was Artie Kornfeld. I have proudly told dozens of people that I went to school with and was a close friend of the famous co-creator of Woodstock. Maybe I made that up, too.

Photo by Frank Barning

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