February 28, 2011

Division Avenue High cheerleaders photo from the 1961 yearbook

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Among the most popular items to be posted in our blog have been photos of early Division Avenue High School cheerleaders. This shot of the 1960-61 squad appeared in the class of 1961 yearbook.

Front row (left to right): Janet Trama, Phyllis McCarthy, Darryl Dittko, Linda Kaiser

Second row: Sue Propper, Joan Kashman, Pat Calderwood, Bobbi Charlick

Back row: Karin Christiansen, Sue Kilbride, Melissa Shaffer, Corinne Norgren

Baseball in Levittown: an email from Joe Zinn, husband of Kathy Stahlman Zinn, class of 1963

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By Joe Zinn

Can't tell you how much true joy I found in reading your February 9 blog post on baseball in Levittown. Wish I could've participated in that field of dreams. Although we had a pretty good little patch of wonderment ourselves on a dirt road outside Gainesville, FL in the late 1940s. (I'm seven years older than Kath - but that doesn't make too much difference now that I am 72 and she's 65 and we've been hitched for 43 years).

Your story brings back great memories of a very happy time. And February is the perfect time to be telling it. Spring is right around the corner and I'm hunting around trying to find where I left my baseball glove. Not that my left knee would allow me do very much in using it after I find it.

But, when I was nine through about 12 years old we'd have all the neighbor kids and ourselves (I am one of nine kids) out on the road playing a game of something almost every day, usually softball. Never got to play Little League baseball. Not sure they had it to tell you the truth. But, by the time we were raising our own kids in rural Virginia we had Little League and I soon became the parent who wound up having to coordinate all the elements of youth baseball: signing up players, assembling teams, finding coaches, updating equipment, devising schedules, preparing the fields, being sure we had umpires and enjoying watching our kids play ball.

I've become a great fan of major league baseball. Been following the Detroit Tigers since 1957 (even though living in Florida). All through the 1950s the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series almost every year (except in '55 when the Dodgers finally prevailed). I wasn't avid in following MLB then (even though my granddad was a professional ball player -a catcher - and actually briefly made it to the Philadelphia Athletics) but everyone knew of this Yankee/Dodger rivalry.

In '57 when I really became interested in baseball I heard of this team out in Michigan which couldn't particularly beat any other team, but could beat the Yankees. I've been following them ever since. Couldn't resist paying attention to a team that had a shortstop who could get a base hit off a pitch-out, and a left fielder who hit a home run every Sunday and would hit two on Sunday if they were playing the Yankees. They had a kid in right who came directly off the sandlots of Baltimore as a teenager and never played a day in the minors and he wound up in the Hall of Fame.

I think you can see what excites me and why I enjoyed reading about your playing days in Levittown. Thanks for taking the time to tell us that story.


1954 Levittown Little League photo courtesy of Steve Mohr, class of 1960

February 27, 2011

About social networking and your early Levittown blog; posting Mr. Lasker's obituary yesterday took teamwork

By Frank Barning

Yesterday we posted the obituary of long-time Levittown teacher and administrator Lawrence Lasker. Many of the early Division Avenue High School students had him as a teacher prior to his becoming an assistant principal.

How did your blogger obtain Mr. Lasker's obituary? At about 10:30 a.m. on Friday, it was forwarded to me by Lou Zinser, class of 1966 who had received it from a friend. I did a Google search of Mr. Lasker and found a recent photo of him, which I included with the obituary yesterday.

At about 5 p.m., I contacted Marilyn Monsrud Frese, class of 1963, and asked her to scan any worthwhile yearbook photos of Mr. Lasker. Marilyn has the first four DAHS yearbooks and has been a valuable ally in my blogging efforts. Three hours later, yearbook scans were received. Yesterday, the obituary and photos were posted at 6:15 a.m.

Within five minute after the obituary and photos were posted, under the story this comment was posted by Joan Bartels Signorelli, class of 1962. "I remember Larry Lasker fondly, not only as a teacher, but as a friend of my parents through the Masonic organization. I am sorry to hear of his passing. He was a great person and a great teacher." Several more glowing tributes from former students were posted.

The blog is important to Joan who follows it very closely, and often posts comments. To many of our blog readers, our stories are like letters from home. Some of the letters provide memories and others, such as the occasional obituary, result in tears. Whatever the case, we are connected to our Levittown roots, which run deep in many of us.

Rarely do I write about how the blog and its nearly 240 posts have been put together. Such information is not about the major theme, early Levittown, so I tend to stay away from it. However, the combination of Zinser to Barning to Monsrud leading to a post on our blog is a wonderful example of social networking.

A year or so ago, most of us had never heard of social networking. Now it's an international phenomenon. Facebook has been a leader. It spawned a movie, The Social Network which has been nominated for eight Academy Awards. The winners will be announced tonight. And the fall of the tyrannical government in Egypt has been credited to social networking with Facebook a major vehicle for change.

What is social networking. Here is one definition:

"Social networking is defined as bringing individuals together into specific groups, often like a small community or a neighborhood. Although social networking is possible in person, especially in schools or in the workplace, it is most popular on the internet. This is because unlike most high schools, colleges, or workplaces, the internet is filled with billions of individuals who are looking to meet other internet users and develop friendships.

"When it comes to social networking on the internet, websites are used. These websites are known as social networking websites. Social networking websites are just like an online community of internet users. Depending on which social networking websites, most of these online community members share a common passion, whether that passion be hobbies, religion, or politics. Once you are given access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization includes reading the profiles or profile pages of other members or even contacting them."

My blog has created a neighborhood of people, most of whom lived and attended school in Levittown in the early years of our town, plus others who are interested in the subject for a variety of reasons. The blog is viewed by people around the globe, including old Levittowners who now live in England, Germany, Canada and Israel. Regular blog readers take their laptops and other devices on vacation to keep up with what we are posting.

My blog is not part of Facebook, although I use Facebook to connect my Facebook friends to the blog. The blog is part of a website called Blogspot.com, which is a free weblog publishing tool from Google, for sharing text and photos.

Much terminology is new to us senior citizens and sometimes needs explaining. It has been a learning experience for me and I do want to point out one thing that many of us get wrong. I did at first. Someone will write, for example, "I really liked your blog yesterday." What is really meant is I liked the story you posted on your blog. A post is like a chapter in a book. A blog is the book. Please forgive me for being picky but that is my nature. Just ask my wife of 42 years.

Most blogs that I have seen are entirely written by one person, with no contributions from others, except comments. That is not the concept of our/your blog.

Thanks to all of you for helping me build a community of like minded people. Without an audience as well as contributors such as Lou and Marilyn and many others, there is no community and there is no blog. I look forward to putting many more chapters in the book, with a little help from my friends.

February 26, 2011

Lawrence Lasker, teacher, assistant principal and Korean War veteran, passes away at age 81

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Lawrence J. Lasker, 81, of Lakewood, N.Y., died Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, in his home.

He was born June 13, 1929, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Hyman and Ida Allen Lasker. He was a graduate of Brooklyn College, where he earned both a bachelor's degree in economics, and a Master of Arts degree in public administration.

A U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, he had served as a paratrooper and was very proud to have served as a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

Prior to retiring, he had been employed as a social studies teacher and assistant principal at the Division Avenue and Gen. Douglas McArthur High Schools with the Levittown, N.Y. public schools district.

He was a member of Temple Hesed Abraham, Mt. Moriah Lodge #145, Free and Accepted Masons, the Jamestown Shrine Club, Ismalia Temple A.A.O.N.M.S., and the Lakewood Rod and Gun Club.

Larry loved to dote on his grandchildren, enjoyed traveling, and was an avid reader. He was a big sports fan, but especially loved the New York Mets.

Surviving are a son, Kenneth M. (Abbie) Lasker, of West Ellicott; a daughter, Lois A. (Leo) Vatkin, of Patterson, N.Y.; seven grandchildren: Dan Lasker, of Long Beach, Calif., Eric and Josh Lasker, both of West Ellicott, and William, Ilana, Dylan, and Esther Vatkin, all of Patterson, N.Y.; a sister, Doris Drantch, of Hewlitt, N.Y.; three stepsons: Jeff (Debbie), Mike (Sue), and Gary Erlandson; four step-grandchildren: Kyle, Drew, Emelie, and Dan Erlandson; and two step-great-grandchildren: Finn and Owen Erlandson.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Joanne Erlandson Lasker, who died Aug. 2, 2010; and by a brother, Donald Lasker.

A celebration of Larry's life will also be held in the summer of 2011. Messages to the family may be sent by visiting www.presentsixbeyfuneral.com.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorials may be made to Hospice Chautauqua County, 20 W. Fairmount Ave., Lakewood, NY 14750.

Thank you to Lou Zinser 1966 for forwarding the obituary to me and to Marilyn Monsrud Frese 1963 for scanning the yearbook photos of Mr. Lasker

February 25, 2011

Harassing substitute teachers was an art form at our high school

Frank Barning, 1960
Some of us were absolutely cruel to substitute teachers. It was an art form at Division Avenue High School. 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.

Bob Castro, 1960
Since we had developed the reputation as being rather tough on substitutes in general, one time they sent Al Tarney, because 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 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 later 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 regular 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.

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

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

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.

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

February 24, 2011

In the beginning Levittown was called Island Trees; houses were rented, not sold and only Caucasians were permitted to be residents

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Levitt and Sons built 6,000 Cape Cod homes between 1947 and 1948. Each had four and a half rooms with an unfinished attic on a radiant heated slab. They were 750 square feet.

On October 1, 1947, the first 300 families moved into their rental units. Houses were not for sale in the beginning, but were rented for $65 per month on a one-year contract with an option to buy at the end of the contract. The purchase price was $7,500.

The Cape Cod leases came with a list of restrictions forbidding such items as fences, and hanging laundry on weekends or holidays. In 1949, Levitt and Sons removed the Caucasian-only clause from their contracts, which is a story for another blog post.

Several real estate brokers established businesses in the Levittown area when resales from original owners became available. Among the first were John W. Pergola, Ben Kasper, Corriston, and Bill Bond who had two children in the class of 1960, Barbara and Bob. These brokers sold and leased homes.

A source of Cape Cods for brokers were the families that started out in Capes but wanted to move to the newer, 50-square foot larger ranches, which were considered to be more modern.

The area that we know as Levittown was originally called Island Trees. On December 31, 1947, William Levitt announced that he was changing the name to Levittown. The change became official on the first day of 1948. The vast majority of residents were opposed.

That's your Levittown history lesson for today.

Source: The History of Levittown, New York by Lynne Matarrese, 1997

February 23, 2011

For Carol Ackley, it was fun, fun and more fun being a girl in 1950s Levittown; lots of kids to play with and the memories linger

Carol Ackley's 1960 yearbook photo and at the 50th class reunion in 2010

By Carol Ackley '60

It was fun being a girl in 1950s Levittown. There were lots of kids to play with and the warm memories linger.

I came to Levittown in February 1950 to 47 Blacksmith Road, the last part of Levittown, because my back yard was the Hicksville line. I moved there from Pittsburgh where I was born.

The move was full of excitement, because we were coming to live with my father in our new home. I had lived with my grandmother, aunt and two cousins, and my mother during the war and beyond because my father was already in the Army when the war broke out. My father had been living in New York since 1947 and now finally we were all going to be together.

Dad borrowed a car, we didn't have one until 1953, from our next door neighbors to pick us up at LaGuardia and bring us (my mother, grandmother, baby sister and me) to our new home. My father got lost and we drove all over the Long Island until we finally reached our destination. We were greeted by our neighbors, the Oswalds.

I loved Levittown. There were so many girls (Carol Kosiewska, Beverly Corbin, Karen Balos, Sandy Gay, Penny Irwin, Janet Hellings, Patty Oswald and myself) in our area and we were all good friends and played all different games, from hopscotch to punch ball, kickball, ringaround the world, dolls and so forth. We had a great time!

Patty went to Wisdom Lane School, but I couldn't because it was full so I was bussed to Abbey Lane. First, the bus went to Wisdom Lane then the Little School House on Old Jerusalem Avenue and then to Abbey Lane and the reverse trip home. I went there two years, first with Mrs. Miller (who became principal) then with Mr. Karpman, my first man teacher, in third grade.

Finally, Northside School was finished and I went there through sixth grade. Some of the teachers I remember include Mr. Hollowell (what a handsome man), Mr. Lynch, I loved his sense of humor and he made learning fun, and finally Mr. Maloney, who had a band and used to play quite a bit at our dances that we had at Division Avenue High School.

Going to Northside was really exciting because we were no longer bussed. We rode our bikes, roller skated or walked in this giant cloud of friends and collected more as we eventually arrived at school. What fun.

We arrived at Division Avenue School in 1954 (it was not yet a high school) a little nervous. After all, we were the first kids out of Northside, a little cocky, because we were the oldest in that school, and into a school with older kids since there was an eighth grade.

It was exciting that we moved to different classes and got to meet new people. I loved being with different friends, although some moved away including Peggy McNeill, Maryann D'Agostino, and my boyfriend in eighth grade, Howie Haggerty. He really made me laugh. Patty Oswald was now going to Catholic school. A whole gang of us would go to the movies, or to the roller skating rink. What fun.

Does anyone remember going to the roller rink in Mineola? We used to go there before the one on Hempstead Turnpike near Jahn's in East Meadow was built. We would be real daring and jump over the third rail because the tracks were right next to the skating rink in Mineola.

In high school, I would much rather have fun than do a lot of learning so I paid for that by spending every summer going to summer school at Levittown Memorial High School and working. One summer I was working in Woolworth's, and the store was trying to get rid of hoola hoops, so I volunteered to sell them in front of the store. Needless to say, I saw just about everyone from school that day, and I could not make the hoop spin. Frank Barning and Russ Green thought that was the funniest thing.

I used to hang around with Sandy Adams and Linda Kenley. I remember sitting in science lab between John Koehler and Mal Karman. Mal was always telling off-color jokes, I would poke him in the ribs, and then go tell the jokes to the girls at lunch.

I dated a fellow from my church all through high school. He was from Hicksville. In senior year, I started to hang around with Joan Allibone and we still keep in touch today. It was great seeing her at the 50th reunion this month. She introduced me to my late husband, John, who I married in l961, have two children, Jack an architect on Long Island and Ellen. I have five grandchildren and am a great grandmother.

For 16 years, I was a stay-at-home mom most of the time, worked in the schools for a little while, then stopped. Later after the kids were in college I worked for Weight Watchers for 15 years and retired and now live in Kings Park.

February 22, 2011

The annual Stella Awards: outlandish lawsuits and verdicts

It's time again for the annual 'Stella Awards'! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico, where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That's right, these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the United States. Here are the Stellas for 2010.


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son


Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, eight days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.


Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boy friend seconds earlier during an argument.


Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000... oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.


The runaway first place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an Oklahoma University football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.

The Oklahoma jury awarded her $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed its manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

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."

February 20, 2011

Principal James Reilly oversaw transition to a new Levittown high school; his message in the 1961 yearbook was for the ages

By Kathy Stahlman Zinn '63

While going through my only Division Avenue High School yearbook, from 1961, my sophomore and last year there before I moved away, I read the address principal James Reilly had written and was impressed.

He had always struck me as a formal, straight-laced, almost stern, man. I greatly respected him, as did almost everyone else. He ran a "tight ship", which must have been very important, since he oversaw the transition of Division Avenue School from a junior high to a full Junior/Senior High School, in 1960.

I know I felt very secure there, and as if everything was in order. They say the principal of the school sets the tone, and I certainly think he did. I did learn one thing personal about him that year. Our band had been invited, for the first time, to play in the famed St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City. We learned, probably from Mr. East, our band director, that this was due to Mr. Reilly's membership in the "Ancient Order of Hibernians".

I had no idea what that was. However, my New York City Irish-American mother certainly did. It was an Irish Society of great prestige. I learned many years later that "Hibernia" was the Latin name for Ireland. There is a picture of our band in the same yearbook, marching down Fifth Avenue. What it doesn't show is how very cold it was. I have a memory of Mr. Reilly, in a jaunty hat, accompanying us, and with a big grin on his face. I realize now he could have been no more than in his mid 40s. Many of us have children that age now. But that band memory showed him being smiley and jolly - a real Irishman that day.

It wasn't until I read this 1961 yearbook piece that I realized what a wordsmith he was (an Irish characteristic - some call it blarney, but I prefer to think of it as a love of language). I also realized how deeply he felt about the mission of his school, of Levittown, of our own parents, and especially of himself, in educating us to "serve your fellow . . . citizens. "

I learned from Frank Barning, '60, that Mr. Reilly had also been a teacher at Division. I had never thought of him as anything but The Principal. Frank wrote: "Mr. Reilly was a fine English teacher and a respected administrator. I had him for seventh grade English and he ran a great class. He was the sort of teacher I hoped to have more than once, but that did not happen. He was a sharp, professional dresser, always carefully groomed. He would be shocked at what teachers and students have devolved into over the years. His message in the 1960 yearbook was about pioneering, since we were DAHS's pioneer class. In short, Mr. Reilly was a class act."

Here is what Mr. Reilly wrote:

Dear Graduates of 1961:

Thirteen years ago a young, eager, and idealistic group of mothers and fathers, perhaps with some of you in tow, began a great adventure of living in an unheard of area called Levittown. No doubt those first days of muddy roads, balky oil burners, too-distant stores for food and clothing wavered even the strongest among the pioneers of our community. But the tenacity and the ingenuity that had brought them through a great war turned to the exciting task of building a bright new world of green lawns and gaily decorated Cape Cod homes.

In time, recognition and respect, yes, even envy, were the rewards of this model community. As members of this exciting dream come to fruition, your life has been made fuller and richer by the efforts and sacrifices and ideals of your parents and of the thousands of nameless but active, generous citizens of our community who have built around you a world of love-filled homes, of inspiring houses of worship, of extensive recreational facilities, of quality schools.

We are inspired to seek the heights of achievement by the priceless example of those who contribute to our growth from love and generosity and sacrifice; we in turn from the well spring of gratitude and from the human desire to contribute to a better life must inspire those who follow us by our total and complete flowering of talent and ability for the benefit of all.

We of the school staff have, in joy and in pain, molded you in the image of your community and inspired you in the spirit that is its essence to serve your fellows as thinking, sensitive and giving citizens who may boldly approach their own bright new world as their fathers did before them.

God grant that though you know us for our feet of clay we have shown you the shining beauty of the stars.

It was our good fortune to have had James R. Reilly as our school's leader in a time of transition. He was a class act, indeed.

February 19, 2011

1957 Division Avenue High School cheerleaders...Give me a D!

click on photo to enlarge
Front row: Becky Compton, Sue Dennis, Phyllis Cotter, Carol Klass

Middle row: Louise Nicolosi, Marion Wetzel, Sue Abbott, Margaret Johansson, Ellen Rees, Diane Sinatra

Back row: Maryann McNally, Margie Matthewson, Franne Newman, Joni Allibone, Penny Stone, Diane White, Bonnie Ramsey, Joyita Stovall, Lynda Reed

This was Division Avenue's first varsity cheerleading squad. All the young ladies could have been in the DAHS class of 1960, the school's first graduating class. Not all of them graduated from Division, however, as some were given the option transfer to Levittown Memorial because it was closer to home. They were sophomores in this photo from the 1957-58 school year.

February 18, 2011

Part two: Q&A with Michelle Fromm-Lewis '63, the New Mexico years

Michelle and brother Cliff in 1951 and recently on vacation in Peru. That's Michelle on the left in the Peru photo.
Click on photos to enlarge

Eventually you moved to New Mexico, quite a big change for a Levittowner. When did you move there and what were the circumstances?

I moved from Bethpage to New Mexico in 1973 with my two children and husband (now my ex). We were looking for better climate and lower taxes. I had never been west of Pennsylvania and came here completely sight unseen. Some people said I was very adventuresome, but I figured if it didn't work out we could return to New York. It didn't take long for the culture shock to wear off and my love affair with New Mexico to begin. My childhood pleasure with the outdoors was rekindled. The opportunities to be active and to enjoy nature are abundant here. Our winters are usually mild enough to enjoy outdoor sports in the city, or, take a 30-45 minutes drive to hike in National Forest, or to snowshoe or ski at higher elevations. Though New Mexico lacks an ocean, which I miss quite a bit, we have lots of lakes for boating, fishing and camping.

As I recall, you did not start college until several years after high school. Your Facebook bio states that you earned a BS in 1978 and an MA in 1987 from the University of New Mexico. That appears to have led to your 15 years at the Sandia National Labs. You had some interesting jobs, lots of responsibility. Tell us something about those years.

In 1974, almost 12 years after high school, with both of my children in school full time, I decided to enroll at the University of New Mexico. At the beginning of my sophomore year my husband and I divorced. At that point I had to weigh options. I chose to struggle through, supporting myself and the kids with grants, loans, scholarships and a little child support. I graduated in 1978 with a BS in Home Economics Education. My intent was to move back to New York after graduation where the children and I could be near extended family. Instead, I married Chuck Lewis after a very short courtship and stayed.

When I taught work study for the public schools I had a sign on my bulletin board that said, in effect, most people get their careers by sticking out a thumb and hitchhiking. They move from job to job and end up somewhere that they hopefully like. That's exactly what happened to me.

After graduation, while waiting for a teaching position to open up, I took a job as a head hunter for an employment agency. A year later I was hired by Albuquerque Public Schools to teach a work study program in the hospitality industry for low income students. The program was on a federally funded grant. When that grant dried up I was hired by the State Department of Education on another federal grant. This one was designed to help teachers throughout the state develop their work study programs. In both of these grant positions I had to interface with education and industry, and teach adults as well as teens.

I continued to take graduate level courses to maintain my teaching certificate, but I wasn't in a degree program. Sometime around 1983 the cosmic forces started to fall in place for me. The second grant was winding down, I discovered I loved corporate education, and UNM started a program in an up and coming new field call Performance Technology (PT). PT is a broad spectrum approach to improving productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency in the workplace. It involves assessing a situation, developing training if necessary, or providing other interventions such as fixing flaws in systems, writing policies and procedures, creating job aids, and finally doing cost benefit analysis assess results. Unfortunately, the 21 graduate hours I had accumulated to this point were so spread out in time I couldn't transfer any into the new program. Undeterred, I enrolled, and was awarded my MA in 1987.

While working on my MA I did some more hitchhiking. I worked for the NM Association of Commerce and Industry as an assistant to the president and lobbyist; I managed a locally owned candy store that did its own production on the premises; and, I held a part time position as an Assistant Dietician and Kitchen Supervisor at University Hospital.

After receiving my MA I lucked into my dream job at Sandia National Laboratories. I got to travel, to participate on and in some exciting projects, and to work side by side with many respected business people, scientists and engineers. Picture the shy girl from Levittown in a Detroit office with Lee Iacocca's chief aide and vice presidents from General Motors and Chrysler who gathered to plan the first Agile Manufacturing Conference. Picture that shy girl, frustrated by a discussion going in circles, getting up from her seat, approaching the flip chart, picking up a marker and taking over the meeting. Oy vey, I still can't believe it was me.

It was like stepping out of my skin and becoming someone else. For a while I worried that I had overstepped my bounds. However, the outcome of my boldness was to be asked to coordinate all the conference workshops. In another situation I was asked to teach a group of visiting Russian Naval personnel and scientists about our training and evaluation methods. The Russians spoke only a few words of English and I don't speak any Russian, so five days of training and socializing after hours happened through an interpreter. In yet another highlight of my career, I was the PT consultant chosen to help develop a two-year training and mentoring program for a select group of Sandia engineers. On this project I was honored to work with retired scientists who had been a part of the Manhattan Project.

In retirement, you and your husband Chuck have done a lot of interesting travel, driving thousands of miles and visiting interesting places. What are some of the highlights of your adventures, the latest of which was flying to Machu Picchu?

First of all, I'm on a quest to visit all 50 states. My personal rule to count a state as "visited" is that I must stop and see at least a couple of sites or participate in some meaningful way with locals. I can't just drive through it. At this writing, between work travel and vacations, I have been to all 50, but I don't count Montana, Indiana, West Virginia or Vermont.

Chuck and I have been fortunate to extend our travels beyond the United States. Being neighbors with Mexico, prior to the current unrest down there, crossing the border into Juarez, and further, was safe. In addition to the border town, we've been to San Carlos, Ixtapa, and the "Mexican Riviera" (Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas). We've vacationed on a small Belize island. And, as you mentioned, we were recently in Peru. We've been to England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, and British Columbia, Canada.

So what were the highlights?

Machu Picchu, Peru: There aren't proper words to describe how awesome this place is. The vastness, the architectural feat, and the breathtaking beauty of it cannot be be captured in pictures----not even video.

The Amazon, Peru: Hot, sticky, buggy, few amenities even at a four-star inn, but an experience I wouldn't trade (just glad it was only three days!)

The St. Lawrence Seaway cruising from Quebec to Kingston: Breathtaking scenery, many historical and interesting sights, and going through six locks were the highlights. Chuck and I both love being on the water (even though we live in the desert!). This ship was a replica of a steamboat and there were only 60 people on board, including the crew.

Krakow, Poland: Auschwitz: probably the most heart rendering and emotionally difficult place we've ever visited. "Never forget".

Wieliczka Salt Mines: Incredible! The mines date back to the 13th century and are 1,073 feet below the surface. There are complete rooms carved into the salt, including chapels (where they actually hold services and weddings). The statues, wall carvings, alters, walls, floors, ceilings, all made of hard salt.

Tell us about your family--spouse, children, grandkids and brother Cliff.

My brother and I had wonderful parents. Lou and Sylvia Fromm were hard working people who taught us good values and gave us abundant love. Cliff and I were always close. Being the "big brother" he watched out for my safety and was proud of my successes. For example, when he taught me to ride my two-wheel bike he treated my success with a trip to Carvel. He was also pretty critical of my boyfriends, especially ones he thought were too old for me.

My husband and I have a blended family. We each brought a son and a daughter into the marriage, and the four kids, ranging from 10-16 at the time, lived with us full time. Chuck, a retired mechanical engineer, is involved in Free Masonry and is an active Shriner. Our children, all in their 40s now, have given us five wonderful grandchildren (doesn't everyone say their grandkids are wonderful?). The oldest, Felicia, who just turned 24; Brendan, who will be 15 in two months, is a freshman in high school. The twins, Walter and Jesse, are in 3rd grade. And Jacob, the only one who doesn't live in New Mexico, is in 2nd grade.

In retirement, besides travel, how do you keep busy? I know that you do a great deal of volunteer work. Your new year's resolution was to cool the volunteer work.

Keeping busy is never an issue...finding time to relax is the problem. I'm very active in the Sisterhood associated with my synagogue. In the last six years I've served as finance coordinator, president, secretary, and currently as treasurer, and I'm active in the many fund raising, social, and cultural events we conduct each year. For two years I worked on the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, chairing the volunteer committee one of those years.

I like to be physically active and I like variety, so I walk, hike, or swim regularly. I like to snowshoe a few times each winter, and kayak in the summer. Wanting to bowl, but not wanting the pressure or commitment of a league, I organized a group that meets twice a month. On the less physical side, I belong to a book club, and I do many different crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, quilting and jewelry making. I'm not great at any of these crafts, but I like creating, and I like the down time they provide in my hectic life. Chuck and I are also camping and boating enthusiasts. Over the years we've sailed and power boated....currently we have a pontoon, which is very conducive to groups of family and friends, especially the grandsons.

With our commitment to wind down some of our volunteering, I'm starting to take more classes, and together Chuck and I are starting to plan more, and longer trips in our RV. Maybe I'll finally get to those last four states.

February 17, 2011

Part one: Q & A with Michelle Fromm-Lewis, class of 1963, who grew up in and with Levittown

Click on photos to enlarge

The Fromm family was among the first Levittown residents. Where did you live in Levittown, when did you move there and where had you lived before?

Our family moved to Levittown on November 15, 1949, just 12 days after my fourth birthday. Our house, a Levitt ranch, was located at 68 Woodcock Lane. Woodcock is sandwiched between Orchid Road and Pelican Road (where Northside Elementary is now) and extends from Pintail Lane to Skimmer Lane.

Prior to moving, we lived in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn where we had grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins within walking distance. I believe our extended family thought they would never see us again when we moved so far away. At the time, minimal infrastructure made Levittown a long way from Brooklyn. Today, although there are much better roads, traffic makes it a trek.

What were some of your earliest memories of Levittown?

When I close my eyes and let my mind see Levittown in its infancy, at a time when I was barely out of my own, I see barrenness. I see rows of box houses of slightly different shapes surrounded by nothing. Front yards were blank slates waiting to be decorated with grass and trees. I see an excavation site soon to become Northside Elementary School, Azalea Lane pool sitting in a treeless field, and Hempstead Turnpike with very little built on it as yet. I see the Village Greens with the big five and dime type store that had a little bit of everything: lunch counter, druggist, housewares, hardware, school supplies, and best of all, candy and ice cream. I grew up, not just in Levittown, but with Levittown.....me going from childhood to adulthood, and it going from a rural and isolated development to a major suburb of a big city.

Playing outdoors and having the freedom to wander safely around a few block radius is my fondest memory. The "Old Motor Parkway", aka "the Old Dirt Road", ran behind our house. Wild blackberry bushes grew along the slope leading from our property down to the dirt and gravel remains of the road. In the summer we spent many happy hours picking those blackberries. Some of the mothers turned the berries we didn't eat into pies and preserves. After a day of picking our fingers would be purple and our arms scratched and scabbed from the thorns, but we didn't care one iota. It was fun.

The Dirt Road had another calling card to entice me and the neighboring children. There was a huge old tree back there which a neighbor and I regularly climbed. We would sit on the high branches peering down on our world, or we would swing from the lower branches by our knees. During the winter months, after a heavy snow, we would grab our sleds and head down the Dirt Road just a little ways to a perfect size hill to enjoy a rough and often tumble ride down. (Check out the Long Island Motor Parkway (LIMP) on Wikipedia. It was also known as the Vanderbilt Parkway.)

Perhaps my most meaningful memory of Levittown, and one that probably has helped to shape some of the values I have today, is what I call the "oneness" of those that lived on Woodcock Lane. Everybody knew everybody else from one end of the street to the other. Everybody watched out for each other. Everybody cared for each other, like family. I always felt secure and protected, not only by my own parents, but by the adults in just about every house.

Who were some of your first pals and later friends at Division Avenue High School?

My first "pals" in Levittown were pretty much the kids on the street. One playmate in particular became more like a brother as we grew older. David Amster's parents and my parents were close friends (and remained so till they all passed) and David often dropped by our house in the evenings when we were in high school.

As I moved through elementary school my world of friends expanded from our street to as far away as five or six blocks, but as we matured and developed different interests some of those friendships waned. In sixth grade I met my first forever friend, Susan Blank Judson. In eighth grade I met another forever friend, Joan Fineman (Metz) Bumgarner. Joan moved to Plainview after our freshman year but that didn't deter the friendship.

In ninth grade, or there about, Nancy Menicon Christiansen and June Johnson become forever friends. I must admit that a few of these friendships had gaps which mostly occurred in the earlier years after graduation. However, when they resumed more than 27 years ago, it was almost as if there was never a break.

Were there any teachers you really enjoyed and any who inspired you?

I can't say that I was particularly inspired or encouraged by any of my teachers. Like many good students who are quiet and shy (boy have I changed), I think I "fell through the cracks". As an adult contemplating the teachers I've encountered I've gleaned my own inspirations from their behaviors. Some are things I'm inspired to do, and others, not to do.

For instance, from my third grade teacher, Mrs. Fox, I learned the importance of looking beyond the obvious for a root cause. She took the time to notice that my math tests had the correct answers for the problems I copied from the board. At her suggestion, my eyes were tested, and glasses fixed my test scores. From my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Tausig, I learned that you can humiliate someone even though it wasn't your intent. We need to take the time to understand what people are made of and what does or does not motivate them.

From my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Marley, I learned how 20 students can be demoralized waiting for a positive stroke that doesn't come, while one or two students get all the positive reinforcement. We need to reach out to everyone and share a kindness. From Mr. Danhieux and Mr. Erath, I learned that a picture, especially in multi-color chalks, can say a thousand words and make a subject come alive. A little effort can improve outcomes.

From Mr. Lasker, a truly nice guy who enjoyed his students, I learned that telling a few jokes and stories at the beginning of a class doesn't make a lecture any less boring. Maybe colored chalk would have helped. From Mr. Shatz, a little odd but a great teacher, I learned to never judge a book by its cover.

Highlight(s) of your high school years?

Most of the highlights of my high school years took place outside of school. I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend who lived in Levittown but went to East Meadow High School. I attended some weekend conventions with a youth group; swam on a team for Azalea Lane pool; hung out with my forever friends.


To be continued tomorrow. Levittown girl Michelle moves to New Mexico, gets married to Chuck Lewis, earns two degrees and accomplishes great things.

February 16, 2011

Cutting through early Levittown backyards was a way of life for kids whose only means of transportation was walking

Levittown before fences, early 1950s. Note the small trees and bushes. Photo courtesy of Tim Lavey, class of 1963.
click on photo to enlarge

By Frank Barning

"In those early years of Levittown, no one had yet put up a fence to delineate their property so as kids we would 'cut through' to get to the North Village Green and the pool. And every yard had a clothesline, and every house a TV antenna." These words were written by Howard Whidden, class of 1962, for the blog and they triggered so many memories long forgotten.

'Cutting through," as Howard called it, was an art form for many of us who walked everywhere. This was primarily when we were too old (not cool at some point) to ride a bike and too young to even dream of driving a car.

My favorite cut through was from my house on Hyacinth Road, corner of Primrose Lane. I'd walk directly cross the street and slip through my friend Ed Gifford 's side yard. Behind his house was what was known as the Long Island Rail Road right of way, which was a wide swath of dirt that ran east/west through all of Levittown starting on the west side of town at Newbridge Road.

Many years before, the LIRR had a branch line that ran through what became Levittown. The official name was the Central Railroad of Long Island (see note below). As far as I remember, no tracks remained by 1954. High-tension power lines were and still are the dominant feature.

Often, the boys from Hyacinth Road and nearby Primrose Lane would cut through the right of way and wind up on Old Farm Road. From there it was a short hike to the joys that the North Village Green offered us. If you were a Levittown kid in the late 1940s and the years that closely followed, you probably had your own favorite cut throughs. That ended when substantial fences were built between houses. Most of the early Cape Cod residents in my part of town had been renters and they certainly were not installing strong fences and other improvements.

Our house had been a rental until we moved to 10 Hyacinth Road in late 1954. My dad replaced the flag stone front path with cement, improved the almost barren landscaping and installed a stockade fence to separate us from the neighbors in back who lived on Carnation Road. I remember the Thompson and Caruso families who lived behind us for many years. The fence offered us and them some privacy and delineated our turf.


According to Wikipedia, "Central Railroad of Long Island is a former railroad on Long Island built by Alexander Turney Stewart, who was also the founder of Garden City. The railroad was established in 1871, was merged with the Flushing and North Side Railroad in 1874 to form the Flushing, North Shore, and Central Railroad, and was finally acquired by the Long Island Rail Road in 1876, and divided into separate branches. Despite its short existence, the CRRLI had a major impact on railroading and development on Long Island." If you are interested, there is considerable information and maps that can be accessed via Google.

February 15, 2011

Q & A with Howard Whidden, class of 1962; teachers inspired him to pursue a career in education, learned Vietnamese in the military

Q. Where did you live in Levittown, when did you move there and where had you lived before?

A. Born in Elmhurst and spent my early years in Jackson Heights, we moved to the first section of Levittown, three blocks from Loring Road and the Wantagh State Parkway, in 1951. My first school was Northside where my second grade teacher was Miss Kissam. Levittown was growing by leaps and bounds at the time, and it seemed that redistricting was an on-going process. Third and fourth grades were in Summit Lane, fifth was at Wisdom Lane, and then back to Summit for sixth grade. Hal Murphy was my last elementary teacher...a World War II vet, he died shortly thereafter of a massive coronary.

Q. What were some of your earliest memories of Levittown?

A. The pool! How I couldn't wait until I turned 10 to be able to go by myself. In those early years of Levittown, no one had yet put up a fence to delineate their property so as kids we would 'cut through' to get to the North Village Green and the pool. And every yard had a clothesline, and every house a TV antenna. As a kid I recall walking with my mother to the Sunrise food store in the Green or out to Bohack on Hempstead Turnpike. There was a tavern/bar on the corner, the Boots and Saddle, and it seemed at the time like a real den of iniquity.

I was a paperboy for the Long Island Press and part of my route took me past the drugstore at the Green. There was a red haired guy, Milt Schulman, who ran the front counter where I paid for my nickel candy bars and dime comic books, and his gruff brother-in-law, Al Averbach (a pharmacist). Artie Hertz was the soda jerk at the lunch counter. Boy, could he make a chocolate egg cream soda. Averbach and Schulman were co-owners.

There were several teachers who made a huge impression on me: Larry Lasker for his love of history and his stories about his neighbor, Hortense; Carlotta Miranda for her quiet, understanding demeanor and tons of patience; Bob Simes, who was just an all-around great guy and class advisor; Frank Waters and Mr. Nolan in the English dept.; Bob Graham who later became VP; Sadie Alegra, who got me to finally pass a math course; Jimmy Amen, who left me with the indelible impression of the truly compassionate phys. ed. teacher; Jerry Jewell - NOT.

But my all-time favorite was Gladys Eisenhower. I still remember the day she was talking about the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, who never used his sword, letting it rust in its scabbard. She became so animated, she climbed up on her desk to demonstrate how in battle he would literally swing his sword, scabbard and all, over his head, calling out, "Come on boys, get those British!" She knew I loved history and excelled each quarter except when studying government. To my enduring shame I had the temerity to tell her it was 'boring!' How I wish I could tell her it became a favorite subject as an AP history teacher and department chair.

Q. What did you do immediately after high school (job, military, college)?

A. After attending Nassau Community I enlisted in the USMC. As a result of Carlotta Miranda's fine teaching I scored very highly on the army's language aptitude test and was trained to become an interrogator/translator. I attended a 32-week course learning Vietnamese (8 hours per day, five days per week) so by the time we were finished I could speak fairly well, and then on to a six-week interrogation course. Well trained, I then sat on my butt in California for the next 10 months, and with only 10 months left in my enlistment I was finally sent to Vietnam.

Great experiences...I loved the people, their culture, history, got to see a lot of the country (picking up prisoners, delivering documents to Saigon), but as rear echelon personnel I didn't see combat...worst experience was getting jungle rot in my feet and ankles.

Finished my undergrad degree at William Paterson U. in New Jersey using the GI Bill, which also paid for a master's in social studies and a second master's in educational administration.

I finished my student teaching at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, NJ, a truly inner city school...and I absolutely loved the experience. Graduating in January there was a job opening at the same time and I got it. One third black, one third Spanish, and one third white, most of whom were either Italian or recent Arab immigrants. Coming from lily-white Levittown it was a truly eye opening experience where I learned kids are kids, people are people, no matter what their color or ethnic background. I stayed there a wonderful five years until child #2 was on the way and we needed a home, not an apartment.

The sticks of New Jersey were growing and a new high school was opening in Vernon (home of the Playboy Hotel, Action Park, Great Gorge Skiing, and now called Mountain Creek). Hired as a history teacher I rose to department chair and later to vice principal. I traveled out of state to become a principal of two different high schools but quickly returned to New Jersey's much better retirement system. Retired in 2002, I have just finished my 21 year service on Vernon's board of education, the last seven as board president.

Q. Where do you live now, and how long have you been there?

A. Since 1975 we have lived in Vernon, New Jersey where we raised three great children.

February 14, 2011

Levittown NY ranch houses sprung leaks after 40 years

By Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63

I lived in the model #4 Levitt ranch shown in yesterday's blog post, the one with the pointy roof. It had a pretty good size kitchen just inside the front door compared to most Levitt Cape Cod houses. This ranch also had the stairs that started at a back door not at the front door while many or all Capes had side doors as a second entrance, not the back door that ranches have.

As you may remember, the ranches had a fireplace between the kitchen and the living room. That was a wonderful thing to have in the winter. And all the houses had radiant heating in the floors! You could walk around the house barefoot and your feet were always warm. Dogs loved them too. They would always find the warmest spots.

It wasn't until the Levitt ranches hit about 40-years old that those radiant-heat coils started spouting leaks. You couldn't tell where the leaks were starting. Sometimes they would remove tiles and cement and have to dig around until they found the leak in the buried pipe. For a while many homeowners just had them fixed and patched the floors, but then multiple leaks would start up so a change to baseboard heating were made to almost all Levitts.

Also, most oil burners have been moved to garages and the tanks buried in the lawns had to be filled with cement and above ground tanks moved to the sides of the houses or into the garages. If an old buried oil tank sprung a leak, the homeowner was responsible for an 'oil spill inspection' and the removal of all effected soil, which many times would have leaked underground into neighbors' soil too. That inspection and cleanup was very expensive so people started filling their tanks with cement to prevent that from happening. And this all had to be done and documented by inspectors.

I still live in a Levittown ranch, have for about 60 years. Overall, Levitt and Sons did a spectacular job of creating and building our community, a few leaks aside.

February 12, 2011

1962-63 Division Avenue High School varsity cheerleaders

click on photo to enlarge

Here's a photo from the class of 1963's yearbook. The caption says that Cathy Burner was the captain of the squad and that it was directed by Mrs. Elchysen and Mr. Granese.

Cathy is in the first row, third person from the right. Now Cathy Siebert, Miss Burner was the homecoming queen. She lives in North Fort Myers, Florida with her husband of 33 years, Bob Siebert.

Others in the photo include Elyse Jacobs, Marilyn Monsrud and the late Mary LaMar. If you can identify others, post a comment or drop an email to fbarning@yahoo.com

February 11, 2011

Winter on Long Island, or why some of us have moved south

It's winter in Long Island
And the gentle breezes blow,
40 miles per hour at 32 below.

Oh, how I love Long Island
When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
You may think that I'm a fool.
I could never leave Long Island,
Cause I'm frozen to the stool.

Author unknown

February 9, 2011

My Levittown was a baseball-loving boy's field of dreams; we could always find a bunch of boys to choose up sides

By Frank Barning

Baseball has been my passion since 1951. From birth to age 12, I lived in Forest Hills, NY. Not much baseball was played in that area of Queens because just about the only grass was growing on the front lawns of rich people. We baseball fanatics had no choice but to play softball on the cement playgrounds of the public schools. No wonder I never learned how to slide.

My family moved to Levittown in 1954, about two months into the seventh grade. Among the appeals of my new hometown were the sparkling green baseball fields. The more I rode my bicycle, the more ball fields I found. They appeared behind schools, at village greens and in parks. This place was made for me. No more wearing out my Keds on cement. No more softball. Now I could play the real thing. BASEBALL

Adding to my joy were the dozens of others boys like myself who loved to play our national pastime. It was a rare spring or summer day that I could not get into a pickup game. Mostly, I found them at the Azalea Road park, in the shade of the water tower. Also, there was a bunch of guys who hung out at the North Village Green who were always ready for a game. The North Green guys called themselves The Natives. I quickly joined their tribe. The best player in the bunch was a younger kid, Bobby Lombardi who went by the name of Lumpy.

The swimming pool was maybe 50 yards from where a ball field had been created by the guys. We used to go for a dip in between games. Truly, I could not have asked for more. The rich kids in Forest Hills were sent away to summer camp. Given a choice, I would have picked a summer in Levittown.

Although it was not baseball, stickball games were great fun. Hundreds, if not thousands of hours, were spent behind Northside School playing the game. Bob Castro, Mal Karman, John Koehler and I spent many a sweaty summer afternoon tossing Spaldings and tennis balls into a chalked box we had drawn again a brick wall behind the school. Our bats were broom handles. John was a great hitter, Bob had a deadly fastball and Mal dreamed that he was Mickey Mantle.

We even imported kids from other parts of Levittown to play stickball against us for money. When you had John Koehler on your team, you expected to win. Truly, he hardly ever struck out and he could throw a knuckle ball. A few years later, he brought the same batting eye to the Division Avenue High School team and earned all-league honors for coach Joe DiMaggio’s Blue Dragons.

I was too old to play Little League by the time I moved to Levittown, but did sign up for one year of Pony League ball. Classmates Artie Dorrmann, Tom Young (who moved to Roslyn before graduation) and Jay Citrin were teammates. Now I share my Pony League memories with my pal and classmate Don Davidson who fondly recalls getting a hit off of Pete Cybriwsky.

I played in Pony League in 1956 and the big star in our age group was Cybriwsky, a pitcher whose fastball was legendary throughout Levittown. Pete moved through the halls of Division Avenue like he was Elvis himself. He had an aura, a presence. He was a man, while the most of rest of us were still boys. I remember at parties around Levittown during high school, if the girls heard that Pete was coming, they would swoon. No kidding. The girls still remember him as Levittown's best dancer.

Opening day of Pony League, Pete is pitching for the Exchange Club again my team. During warm ups, we focused on Cybriwsky, marveled at his size, the speed of his fastball, his charisma. Our manager gathered our team together and said not to be afraid of Cybriwsky. Easy for him, he did not have to face this monster. Then he announced our batting order. “Barning, you’re leading off,” he said. “Take a couple of pitches. Let’s see what this kid has.”

The umpire yelled “Play ball.” I walked to the plate, took two strikes, swung and missed the third pitch and trotted back to the bench. Overall I struck out all three times, but did foul off two pitches. That day, I realized for the first time, that there were levels of the game.

Levittown was a great place for a baseball-loving boy to grow up. There were so many guys my age that it wasn't difficult to find a choose-up game. When he weather turned cold, there was the court under the Azalea Road water tower to play basketball. We even shoveled snow off the court when necessary.

Levittown was a wonderland, hardly ever a dull moment.

February 8, 2011

Navy torpedoman Cliff Fromm saw duty in the Gulf of Tonkin

By Cliff Fromm '60

I joined the Navy after high school in 1960. I turned 17 in April, graduated from Division Avenue High School in June and left for boot camp in August with classmates Jimmy Halpin and Bruce Garabrant. In 1961 I was sent to San Diego to the USS Gregory DD802, a Navy Destroyer, as a torpedoman. We were deployed to the South China Sea and operated in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam to add to the United States presence.

Although the U.S. wasn't officially at war in Vietnam, the first battlefield casualty was in 1961. When we got back to the South China Sea our sister ship, the USS McDermott, and my ship were tracking a submarine when we collided. My ship caught fire and all the training and drills came into play and everyone knew their job to save her, although she was no longer usable as a war ship.

The Gregory was somehow brought back to the U.S., decommissioned, and used for target practice and by the Navy Seals for underwater demolition. She was sunk off San Clemente Island to the heartbreak of those who served with her.

After the collision, I was transferred to the USS Ingersoll DD652. We operated out of Yokosuka, Japan and were there for R&R in November of 1963 when President Kennedy was shot. I was assigned to Shore Patrol (the Navy's equivalent of Military Police) when the photo of me (see above) was taken with the United States flag at half mast behind me.

President Johnson wanted to increase the military's presence in the Gulf of Tonkin so my enlistment was extended. I got out of the Navy in 1966 but my last year or so was in the reserves on the USS Bristol DD857 out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In 1965 I met Marilyn on a blind date and we got married in 1966. This May will be 45 years. We tell everyone we got married when we were 10.

My first job out of the Navy was in construction working for a company building one-family homes in Smithtown, Long Island. I then got a job working for General Electric in its finance operation. I went to school nights and weekends getting my BS in Accounting from C.W. Post College and my MBA in Finance from New York Institute of Technology. G.E. paid for most of my tuition and, taking full advantage of the G.I. bill, I also received subsistence allowance from the Navy.

I left General Electric in 1980 and started my own company in corporate finance. Evenutally the economy started to have a negative affect on my business so at 62 I decided to retire. Now I'm always so busy that I don't know how I ever had time to work. Marilyn is a nurse at a New York State Psychiatric hospital and plans to retire in about a year. We live in New City, New York.

We've traveled a lot and plan to spend our children's inheritance doing more. Three years ago Marilyn and I went with my veterans' group back to Vietnam where we, along with the local Rotary, are supporting an orphanage and a school. It was a very rewarding experience.

February 7, 2011

Q&A with the class of 1961's Wally Linder and his four years in the United States Navy

Why did you enlist and how long did you serve:

I enlisted in the Navy February 17, 1963 for four years. The original enlistment was for three years, but when we reported to Whitehall Street (NYC), we were informed that all enlistments were now four years. We had all signed paperwork for three years. We were told that we could leave and go home if we didn't want to do the four years. Of course we had all said goodbye to family and loved ones, and it would have been very difficult to go home. Two people out of 50 went home. This all happened very suddenly, because the Viet Nam war drums were beating quietly in the background.

I enlisted because the Cuban Missile crisis had just happened, and I took JFK's advice and "did something for my country". I also thought the service would be a great place to acquire skills. The Navy sent me to avionics and electronics schools in Millington, Tennessee. Then I went to advanced school on Instrument Flight Trainers. I had to fix and train on 2F23 flight simulators.

I was in schools for over a year, eight hours a day, every day. The classes were outside Memphis, in buildings which were not air conditioned. The barracks were not air conditioned. I had no electronics background, and I was a 19-year old kid scared to death. If you failed out you were sent to Carrier Deck Duty, which had a very high mortality rate.

Any interesting ports:

After my schooling, I received orders to report to The Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut. Everyone else in my class went to Naval Air stations or carriers. I was in the air-wing and had green stripes on my arm, and no one could understand why I was going to The Submarine School. It turns out that there was a Submarine Simulator, which was huge and took up most of the inside of a building (hidden and very classified). I worked there for awhile, and then went back to school to learn how to repair motion picture projectors.

I spent the rest of my Navy experience repairing motion picture projectors, tape recorders, and overhead projectors for The Submarine School, in Groton, Connecticut -115 miles from Levittown. I think God has always watched over me.

Anything else you might like to add, for example did you use the GI Bill for college:

Yes I did. I got married in 1968, and started Nassau Community in 1969. I worked full time during the day, and went full time at night (through the summers). I had two children, bought a house and graduated from Hofstra University in 1973. The GI bill paid for my college education.

February 6, 2011

In disbelief, classmates Scott Cornell and Bob Kuhn have a chance meeting on a train in Japan while on military duty in 1967

By Scott Cornell '60

Reading John Kinstrey's post on your February 3rd blog brought back vivid memories of a most improbable event that happened while I was on active duty in the Navy. In the spring of 1967, I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity in Kamiseya, Japan. The installation was located between Tokyo and Yokohama, several miles from the Atsugi Naval Air Station. Like most of the junior enlisted personnel on the base, I was a “watch stander” working an “eve-day-mid 56 off” schedule – 8 on, 8 off, 8 on, 56 off.

My “off string” time was split between some volunteer work on base and sightseeing - mostly in the Yokohama area, which was easily reached by Navy bus. However, after one of my watch strings, my shift supervisor and I decided to make a rare trip to Tokyo. This involved taking a cab from the base to the rail station near Atsugi, taking a train to a major transfer point (Sagami Ono) and then catching another train to Tokyo.

We left the base shortly after being relieved from the mid-watch. We were dressed in civilian clothes – we were “encouraged” not to wear uniforms while on liberty. We caught our train to Sagami Ono and got off the train to an absolutely jammed platform of Japanese rush hour commuters. After several other trains picked up passengers, our Tokyo-bound express arrived.

In typical fashion, when the doors of the train opened, the crowd surged to board. The platform “pushers” shoved people into the cars until the doors of the train could close. As I entered the car and looked to my left, I saw another non-Asian standing in a corner of the car. The face was strangely familiar.

It didn’t take long for me to recognize my high school classmate, Bob Kuhn. I somehow made my way to him and we exchanged greetings in almost total disbelief. Bob was a captain in the Marine Corps and he was on two weeks of “R & R” in Japan. He, too, had chosen the day for a sightseeing trip to Tokyo.

We talked for the duration of the trip to Tokyo, dwelling mostly on our military experiences. When the train arrived in the city, we said goodbye and went our separate ways. To this day, I count this experience as one of the most improbable chance meetings I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I have never seen Bob since that day.

About the photo at the top of the page:

Scott Cornell at the Brooklyn Naval Receiving Station - December 1965. Scott commented: "I found that picture among some of my mother’s belongings. It was taken in December 1965 at the Naval Receiving Station in Brooklyn as I began my two-year active duty stint as a Naval Reservist." Scott and his wife Eileen live in West Chester, Pa. and have attended Division Avenue reunions on Long Island last year and this month in Florida.

February 5, 2011


1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

2. Some days you are the dog, some days you are the tree.

3. There are two excellent theories for arguing with women. Neither one works.

4. Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else.

5. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

6. If you think nobody cares whether you're alive or dead, try missing a couple of payments.

7. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

8. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

9. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

10. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably well worth it.

11. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

12. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow. In fact, just leave me the hell alone.

13. Don't worry, it only seems kinky the first time.

14. Good judgment comes from bad experience ... and most of that comes from bad judgment.

15. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

16. No one is listening until you fart.

17. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

18. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

19. We are born naked, wet and hungry, and get slapped on our ass...then things just keep getting worse.

From an email forwarded by John Tanner '60

February 4, 2011

The late Neal Manly, class of 1960, was an attorney who devoted his professional career to representing poor people

Known to many in Levittown as Corky, Neal Manly was a quiet, studious young man. A member of the class of 1960, he died in 2008 and his obituary, which follows, tells the story of an extraordinarily special person.
CORNELIUS "NEAL" A. MANLY, 65, died after a seven-year battle with cancer on May 9, 2008, at his home in Irvington, Va. He was formerly of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Mr. Manly was born in New York City on December 26, 1942, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1962 to 1966. He was a graduate of American University, and Washington College of Law at American University. He was a member of the Bar in Ohio and North Carolina and practiced for 33 years. He married Stephanie Ames of Toledo on his birthday, the day after Christmas in 1970, giving them three celebrations within two consecutive days for the last 37 years.

Mr. Manly an attorney devoted his professional career to representing poor people. He started his career as a Vista volunteer for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland in the Hough area in 1972. He was the director of Summit County Legal Aid Society in Akron from 1976 to 1979 and Catawba Valley Legal Services in Morganton, N.C. from 1979 to 1990. He returned to Cleveland to manage offices in the Central neighborhood and Downtown Cleveland for the Legal Aid Society.

As an attorney for Legal Aid's Juvenile Unit in the early l970s, Mr. Manly steadfastly protected the rights of juveniles. In a series of cases, he fought for and obtained the right of low-income people to blood tests at the expense of the state when charged with paternity. This fight incurred the wrath of Juvenile Court judges, one of whom sought to hold him in contempt for his advocacy. After a trial, a visiting judge found Mr. Manly not guilty of contempt of court.

Neal enjoyed music, fishing and golf. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Shaker Heights High School athletic teams, especially the football, soccer and tennis teams of his sons. As a loving husband and father, he was an active member with his family of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights.

Surviving are his wife, Stephanie Ames Manly; two sons, Colin Ames Manly and wife, Kathryn C. of Cincinnati, Ohio and John Smith Manly of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; a seven month old grandson, Jackson Ames Manly; a sister, Patricia M. Peterson; a brother, Robert P. Manly, both of Florida.

A memorial service will be held 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 15 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2747 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44106. Memorials may be made to the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, 1223 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, OH 44113 or Hospice of Virginia, P.0. Box 2098, Tappahannock, VA 22560.

Published in The Plain Dealer on 5/13/2008.