March 11, 2013

How a Levittown Boy Scout learned many lessons about religion more than 55 years ago

How a Levittown Boy Scout learned many lessons about religion more than 55 years ago

Also learned was how we are all interwoven to each other no matter how we worship

What a beautiful story Kathy Stahlman Zinn told about Levittown and St. Bernard’s Church earlier this month in this blog.

I, too, used to go to St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. Quite a few of Boy Scout troop 160's meetings were there. I often walked there from Elm Tree Lane, which was near the North Village Green. I had many happy memories there but it was also the home to one of the saddest moments of my life, as well.

Our beloved Scoutmaster, Mr. Carroll, was suddenly been struck down with what I now believe was a heart attack. He and his son Wesley, who was older than I, but a good friend, always made this Jewish kid from the lower east side of Manhattan feel welcome as a true brother in scouting. They both took me under their wings and made that time of my life most memorable. But I digress.

The sadness came when the funeral for our Scout Master was held at St. Bernard’s, and our whole troop was in attendance. Not only was this my first funeral but it also was the first time I attended a Roman Catholic Mass. I cautiously entered the vestibule of the church and tried to blend in with my troop as closely as possible.

I entered the pew and turned my attention to the altar where the congregation was transfixed. My first view was the massive image of Christ behind the altar. Then came my first experience with death and its many rituals.

The coffin was open and there lay our Scoutmaster, poor Mr. Carroll. Shock raced through me like a bolt of electricity. Now the Mass began. At that time virtually everything was in Latin and I was having enough trouble with English and learning Hebrew at our local temple. I knelt and genuflected as best as a beginner could and soon it was over.

Now came one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my short life. Members of our troop all rose and slowly marched past our beloved Scoutmaster in a final farewell.

That day I learned many lessons about religion, life, death and the value of friendship. I also learned how we are all interwoven to each other no matter how we worship. Like Kathy, I too remember St. Bernard’s Catholic Church and the many lessons about life that it taught me.
Damon Solomon is a 1960 graduate of Division Avenue High School and a Hofstra University alumnus. He lives in Florida.


Anonymous said...

Kathy Stahlman Zinn.... What a beautiful story, Damon. And it shows how our different faiths and places of worship did not keep us apart. but often were places of coming together. I remember going to at least one Bar Mitzvah (Jeff Harriton's, I think), and, although it was a happy, rather than sad event, I, like Damon, experienced a wonder and awe at different rituals and customs which connected everyone in the room, regardless of their own faith community.

Howard Whidden '62 said...

Damon, I lived on Pinetree and my wife, Nancy Raynor lived at the bottom of Elmtree where your brother was a part of our 'crowd.' The last time I talked with Phil he told me of the time you nostalgically visited your old home where you saw a young man sitting on the stoop. If I recall correctly his appreciation of your quest was not exactly supportive and enjoyable! LOL

Anonymous said...

Great Post Damon. I could relate remembering the first time I had to go to a funneral for someone I loved very Much. I have since spent years visiting the Christian Church in Northern Calif. I enjoy and feel a
specialness in every house of worship. Finnding out about all differences in people should bring us together. Thanks for Shareing this.

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