Sunday, November 23, 2008

***November 22, 1963

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry covering the background to the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 for those too young to remember that event.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

Well you, Class of 1964, knew this was coming at some point. Some events form the signposts for every generation. For our parents it was the Great Depression and World War II. For today's kids it is 9/11 and the "war against terrorism". For us it was Sputnik and the Kennedy assassination.

Usually, when discussing these milestone events the question asked centers on where you were or what you were doing on that fateful day. I do not need to ask that question here. I know where you were, at least most of you. Unless you were sick, playing hooky or on a field trip you were sitting in some dank classroom as the Principal, Mr. Walsh, came over the P.A. system to announce the news of the shooting of President Kennedy. What I am interested in, if you want to answer this question, is not what your current take is on that event, whether you were a Kennedy partisan or not, but how you reacted at the time. Here is the story of my reaction.

In the fall of 1960, for most of us our first year at North, a new wind was blowing over the political landscape with the Kennedy nomination and later his election victory over Richard Nixon. If you want the feel of that same wind pay attention to the breezes that I sense coming from today's youth. Maybe that wind grabbed you in 1960. It did me. Although some people that I have met and worked with over the years swear that I was born a 'political junkie' the truth is that 1960 marked my political coming of age.

One of my forms of 'fun' as a kid was to write little 'essays' on political questions. You know, like-Should Red China (remember that term) be admitted into the United Nations? Or, are computers going to replace workers and create high unemployment? (I swear that I wrote stuff like that. I do not have that good an imagination to make this up. It also might explain one part of a very troubled childhood.)

In any case, I kept these little 'pearls of wisdom' in a little notebook. Within a couple of days after the Kennedy assassination I threw them all away, swearing off politics forever. Well, I did not hold to that promise. I have also moved away from that youthful admiration for JFK (although I will always hold a little spot open for brother Robert-oh, what might have been.) but I can still hear the clang as I threw those papers in the trash barrel.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

***The Intellectuals Or The Jocks?-For Fredda H., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a letter written by the late American writer, Norman Mailer, and printed in The New York Review Of Books, detailing his choices for "must reads" in the American literary canon. What would your ten choices be? See below for his (and mine with, one exception).

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment

I did not then, nor do I now, know Fredda H. but it was with her in mind that I wrote the following in 2008. I, today, strongly believe that I could have learned a lot from her:

The Intellectuals Or The Jocks?

Originally posted in August 2008.

Now that school is starting back into session here is a germane question.

What group(s) did you hang around with in high school?

This question is meant to be generic and more expansive that the two categories listed in the headline. These were hardly the only social groupings that existed at our high school (or any public high school, then or now, for that matter) but the ones that I am interested in personally for the purpose of this commentary. You, fellow alumni, can feel free to present your own categories. However, for this writer, and perhaps some of you here were the choices? The intellectuals (formerly known as the "smart kids", you know, the ones that your mother was always, usually unfavorably, comparing you to come report card time) or the jocks (you know, mainly, the Goliaths of the gridiron, their hangers-on, wannabes and "slaves")?

Frankly, although I was drawn to both groupings in high school I was, as has been discussed by this writer in other commentaries in this space, mainly a "loner" for reasons that are beyond what I want to discuss here. Nevertheless, in recent perusals of my class yearbook I have been drawn continually to the page where the description of the Great Books Club is presented. I believe that I was hardly aware of this club at the time but, apparently, it met after school and discussed Plato, John Stuart Mill, Max Weber, Karl Marx and others. Hell, that sounded like fun. One of the defining characteristics of my life has been, not always to my benefit, an overweening attachment to books and ideas. So what was the problem? What didn't I hang with that group?

Well, uh..., you know, they were, uh, nerds, dweebs, squares, not cool (although we did not use those exact terms in those days). That, at least, was the public reason, but here are some other more valid possibilities. Coming from my 'shanty' background, where the "hoods" had a certain cachet, I was somewhat afraid of mixing with the "smart kids". I, moreover, feared that I wouldn't measure up, that they seemed more virtuous somehow. I might also add that a little religiously-driven plebeian Irish Catholic anti-intellectualism (you know, be 'street' smart but not too 'book' smart) might have entered into the mix as well.

But, damn, I sure could have used the discussions and fighting for ideas that such groups would have provided. I had to do it the hard way later. As for the jocks one should notice, by the way, that after four paragraphs that I have not mentioned a thing about their virtues. And, in the scheme of things, that is about right. So now you know my choice, except to steal a phrase from an earlier commentary that I posted in this space honoring my senior English teacher, Ms. Rose Enos- "Literature matters. Words matter". I would only add here that ideas matter, as well. Hats Off to the Class of 1964intellectuals!

Norman Mailer

Ten Favorite American Novels

U.S.A. John Dos Passos
Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Studs Lonigan James T. Farrell
Look Homeward, Angel Thomas Wolfe
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald-1st A.J.
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
Appointment in Samarra John O'Hara
The Postman Always Rings Twice James M. Cain
Moby-Dick Herman Melville

This would be my list, as well, except instead of Moby Dick I would put Jack Kerouac's On The Road, a bit of a different road trip than old Ahab's, although maybe not so different at that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

***Desperately seeking..., For John D., Class Of 1964

Desperately seeking... idea. I will keep this short and sweet. I have to admit to failure, abject failure, in my efforts to keep up a steady drumbeat of commentaries about the old days at North Quincy High (many of which, mercifully, have been relegated to the Recycle Bin). I believed that my commentaries would act as a catalyst and draw 1964 classmates, and other former students at North, out. At some point I figured out that this was not to be the case and I resolved to push on anyway at the whim of whatever demons were driving me on. Now, frankly, I have run out of ideas. A recent re-reading of some of my commentaries has rubbed my face in that hard fact. Two themes in various guises have emerged from the work- the 'tragic' effects of my growing up poor in the land of plenty and the usual teenage longing for companionship and romance. Gee, those ideas have never been the subject of literary efforts before, right?

Okay, okay nobody asked me to volunteer to be the unpaid, self-appointed voice of the Class of 1964 and so I have only myself to blame. I swear I will get into a twelve-step program for the nostalgically-challenged just the minute I get out of the rehab program for political junkies. But in the meantime-help, or else. And what might that or else threat mean? I am desperate enough to steal someone Else's thunder from the general North Quincy High Message Board. Do you really want to hear me on the subject of Squaw Rock? Or how nasty so of our teachers were? Or the dark side of the North Quincy High School Band? Or ........go into back into that dreaded Recycle Bin? Think about it. Send an idea-quick.


Someone has suggested a comparison or contrast between Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis along the lines of the Rolling Stones/Beatles (Class of 1964-Stones or Beatles) or Brenda Lee/Patsy Cline (Battle of The Sexes-Round 235) commentaries that I had done earlier this year. This does not count as a new idea for me because I have already written a commentary for a blog that I belong to reviewing Jerry Lee Lewis's 2006 documentary- Last Man Standing.

Of course, Jerry Lee was better than Elvis-that's a no-brainer. But it is an idea that will find its way into these pages soon. Meanwhile how about some North Quincy idea? I am ready to start writing about President John Adams if nothing better comes along. You have been forewarned.

Originally posted on Jul 27 2008 on Classmates

Thursday, July 17, 2008

***White socks.....and white shorts- For James And John C., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a site that sells "real" gym shorts for comparison with our old white shorts and socks. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

Originally posted in July 2008 on Classmates

Okay, let us take stock. Over the past months in this space I have written a solemn tribute to my father. A heartfelt tribute to my senior English teacher Miss Enos, as well. I have inquired about gas prices in 1964. I have asked where you were on March 17th. I have been a "flak" on more than one occasion for my old classmate the great runner, Bill Cadger, in his quest for North Quincy Sports Hall of Fame immortality. I have taken more trips down memory lane that I can shake a stick at-from the steps of old North Quincy High to the Germantown projects. I have investigated school organizations high and low, including my prize scoop on the mysterious doings of Tri-Hi-Y. Logically then, the next subject that cries out for attention should be......white socks.

Well, that follows naturally, right? Okay, before you call up to have me placed in restraints for my own good, hold up! Let me explain. For those still in possession of their treasured "Manet" from 1964 please open to any page in the sports section. I will give you a hint. Look at the feet of virtually every boy in any group photo. White socks, right? Now we are getting somewhere. And what, pray tell, is the meaning of this sartorial display. I am, moreover, sure that it extended beyond athletics. I know, as a creature of habit at the time and one who desperately wanted to be 'in', that I too wore my 'whites'. But what kind of fashion statement were we trying to make at the time? I do not know about you but at some point 'white socks' meant only one thing- dweeb, nerd, outcast and not cool. I distinctly remember that term in reference to scientific and engineer-types. And we know they were not cool. As cool as we tried to be were we really all dweebs who did not get the message fast enough out in the 'sticks' of North Quincy?

Now I know that if I keep going on about white socks I will voluntarily go into those restraints mentioned above. Frankly, stretching the subject to a paragraph was a chore. So in order to add bulk to this little entry let us look at its companion subject. White shorts, naturally. On old gym days those sacred white socks were accompanied by mandatory white gym shorts and white tee shirts, as least for boys, or all hell would break loose. Rickson's law, you know.

I have seen, and I know you have too, many students pass through many portals of learning since our North days and I am here to say that I have never seen another pair of white shorts like the ones we were required to wear. In fact, I believe that today one would be hard pressed to find two students wearing the same kind of gym shorts of any description. And who would argue with the logic of that? Now here is the question I want to ponder. Did I, and maybe you, miss two revolutions? The one away from white socks as a fashion statement and the other away from mandatory white gym shorts. Damn, and I was ready to go to the barricades too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

***An Atlantic Fourth Of July- For Arlene, Class Of 1965

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Fourth of July (Independence Day) celebrations.

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Originally posted on "Classmates" June 24, 2008

No, today I will not mention the tattoo of marching drums. Nor will I go on and on about the finale of the Overture of 1812. And I will most assuredly not describe the seemingly supersonic fireworks that boom over the nighttime skyline of Boston. Today I want to go back the quieter streets around Welcome Young Field in the Atlantic section of North Quincy on the Independence Days of my youth in the 1950's.

Probably, like in your neighborhood in the old days, the local older guys and fathers would put together a kitty, collect contributions and seek donations from local merchants to put together a little 'time' for the kids on the 4th of July. The details of the organization of this extravaganza are beyond my knowledge but I can surely speak to the results. As these things go it was pretty straight forward, you know; foot races of varying lengths for various age groups, baby contests, beauty contest, some sort of parade, pony rides and so forth. But that is only the frame. Here is the real story of the day. Here is what any self-respecting kid lived and died for that day.

Tonic (you know, soda, pop) and ice cream. And not just one tonic or one ice cream but as much as you could hoard. Twice during the day (I think maybe about 10AM and 1PM) there would be what one can only describe as a free-for-all as we all scrambled to get as many bottles of tonic (you know, soda) and cups of ice cream as we could handle. But here is the secret to the success of my brothers and me in grabbing much more than our fair share of the bounty. Grandma lived right on the corner of Welcome Young Field on Young Street. So, we would sprint with one load of goods over to her house and then go back for more until we filled up the back refrigerator.

Boy, that was work as we panted away, bottles clanking in our pockets. But then, work completed, we could savor our one tonic and one ice cream cup that we showed for public consumption. There were other sounds of the day beyond the cheering, the panting and the hee-haws of the ponies. As the sun went day it went down to the strains of some local pick-up band of the era in the tennis court as the dancing started. But that was adult time. Our time was to think about our day 's work, our hoard and the next day's tonic (you know, soda) and ice cream. Ah....


Below is the traffic from "Classmates", unedited, giving other information about Atlantic Fourth of July celebrations.

(2) Welcome young 4th of July

Richard Maffie 1966 (view profile)

Posted: Jun 24 2008 03:17pm PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964

It was organized by the guys at the Sagamore grill. They had a truck with a loud speaker that would go uo and down the streets and had some of the older kid (15 or 15 years old ) going door to door for donations. The day started at around 8:00 am and ended with the talent show in the tennis court. I think Mr Burke won everyyear that I can remember for his "crasylegs dancing. Joe Gill, who worked at Estrella"s market on Newbury Ave was part of the group that set the whole celebration up. The last one I remember was around 1975, because I had my oldest son there. I ran into Frankie Belloti, who was running for some school committee office and I realized that he had not gone to Quincy Public School. I don't know about now, but Quincy Public education was one of the best in the nation in the 50's and 60's.

(4) An Atlantic 4th

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 23 2008 09:19am PST
In reply to Richard Maffie 1966

This note was originally placed on the North Quincy Alumni site.

According to Richard Maffie, Class of 1966, in a reply message on the Classmates site (he is also on this site) this Welcome Young Field celebration was organized by the guys at the bar called The Sagamore Grille. They had a truck with a loud speaker that would go up and down the streets (I remember that-Al) and had some of the older kids (15 or 16 year olds) going door to door for donations. Richard further stated that the day started about 8 AM (that sounds right- Al) and ended with the Talent Show in the tennis court (not the same ones as the ones that are located there today-Al). He said that Mr. Burke (Does anyone know who that is?) won every year with his 'crazy legs' dancing (?). Joe Gill, who worked at Estrella’s Market on Newbury Avenue, was part of the group who set the whole celebration up. Finally, Richard said that the last one that he remembered attending was around 1975 because he had his oldest son there. Thanks for the information Richard. Anyone else have anything to add? Al.

I should note that the Joe Gill mentioned above lived, with his mother, directly across the street from my grandparents, Daniel and Anna Radley, on Young Street. That is the place where we stashed our loot (the tonic and ice cream). Joe, when he worked for Estrella's, would also take my grandfather, disabled from a stroke and a retired Quincy fireman, riding around with him when he delivered orders. My grandfather was a, to be kind, difficult man to deal with so Joe must have had some charm. My grandmother, house-bound as she got older due to having been crippled in an accident, was a saint. When things got tough at my family house over on Walnut Street (near the old Duggan Brothers Garage) I could always go over there, especially after my grandfather went into a nursing home, for a meal or just for refuge. Thanks- Grandma.

(5) Atlantic 4th . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 30 2008 11:07am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964

Alfred 'n' others;

The earliest recollection I have of the July 4th festivities at Young Field was when I returned to Atlantic in July 1945 after being away for a couple years. I seem to remember that they had foot races and other activities. I remember running one of the races which was close between me and another kid. They declared the other kid the winner, but I threw a fit. I guess I hadn't yet learned to take a loss gracefully. Later, in the 50's maybe, I remember hearing a girl who sang like Theresa "Tessie" Brewer at the Young Field tennis courts. I think somebody said she was the sister of one Jim Baldwin (NQHS 1958) who later became one of North's best all-round athletes. That's all I remember of the Atlantic 4th celebrations, and I'm not totally sure of the accuracy of those memories. The years continue to cloud some memories.

Craig S. Warren NQHS 1957

(6) Re: Welcome young 4th of July

Arlene Devine 1965 (view profile)

Posted: Oct 08 2008 07:31pm PST
In reply to Richard Maffie 1966


I am one of the guilty one's out there that have read messages for a couple of years and not responded until this really sparked my interest. Back in the 50's the first 9 1/2 years of my life was on the top floor of a three decker on Sagamore St., and Welcome Young was were we spent every day. We all waited for the fourth. Richard is right about the truck My Grandfather George Kelley and my uncles would ride on the back of the flatbed truck going up and down the streets playing their musical instruments while others collected donations. We would throw change to the people collecting. On the big day we would line up early in the morning with our costumes on. Bud Chase and Elliot Thomas had a lot to do with getting everything together along with a lot of the guys from the Sagamore Grill. On our way down Sagamore Street from Newbury Ave heading to Welcome Young everyone would get a shiny quarter for marching. I do remember going to Wheaton's Varity Store (later owned by my Uncle Harold Kelley) for free ice cream and "tonic."
The rest of the day would be filled with games and shows, and yes the tennis court would be converted to a stage for the day and night.
My parents Joe and Hazel Devine owned the old Stenzel's Market for a couple of years back in the middle 50's. My Mother later went on to work at the Wheelhouse Diner for years, does anyone remember the "Wheelhouse?"

We later moved to Wollaston/Montclair but the best days were Sagamore St. I often wonder what happened to Chuckie Chase, Peter Thomas, Dick Guest, and Rhett Johnson. I was the tom boy of the group.

I remember nights at Ho Jo's, and 7 E's and Bucky the cop. Wollaston Beach between the Yacht Clubs was the place to be.
Tri-Hi-Y and the YMCA. "Up the Downs," between the "Neighborhhood and Bono's Drug Stores." Tony's for Subs. Joyce's Card Shop, The 5 & 10, Walsh's for special dinners, and WMEX's radio station. Gym Class with Ms. McCoy. Four years of Homeroom with Ms Savage. Walking home in the cold with everyone on Hancock Street when North won the Thanksgiving games.

We still go to Dr Yacubian as our Dentist, the model for the "Yakoo," (class of "58"). He knows more about North Quincy High School than anyone else and has been their biggest supporter.

Richard, didn't you live on the second floor of the Parker's house?

I am lucky that I have kept a lot of my friends from childhood but do miss my years growing up in Quincy.

(7) Re: Welcome young 4th of July

Christine Engrassia 1981 (view profile)

Posted: Oct 09 2008 12:04pm PST
In reply to Arlene Devine 1965

I am a little younger then those who have posted on this subject but I can remember all of these things occuring in the 60's to maybe mid 70's.....the great dress-up parade at the beginning of the day, the doll carriage and bike decorating contests, pie eating contests......what great good old fashion fun it was !!!

(8) Re: Welcome young 4th of July

Michael Meleedy 1986

Posted: Oct 20 2008 07:23pm PST
In reply to Christine Engrassia 1981

I remember winning the blueberry pie eating contest for my age group as a 7 year old (1975) and running full speed to by Grandmother's house on E Squantum St.

Good times...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

***I Hear My Father's Voice....I hear an early morning front door slam

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Guadalcanal Campaign, a campaign my father participated in, during World War II.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This was originally posted in June 2008.

In honor of Preston Johnson, 1920-1985, PFC United States Marine Corps, World War II, and, perhaps, other North Quincy fathers.

Some of you, I am sure, are warm-heartedly preparing to put some little gift together for the 'greatest dad in the world'. Others of you are preparing to do that same task for dear old dad, although with your teeth grinding. In this writer's family we never even got that far and so today the subject is a little cyberspace message in honor of a man who, as it turns out, deeply formed who I am- for the better. We had been estranged for many years. I do not want to go into the details of that fact, just call them ugly, as this is not about my trials and tribulations in the world, but his.

He was a man who came out of the foothills of Kentucky- Hazard, Harlan County, coal mining country famous in story and song- the poorest of the poor of white Appalachia-the 'hillbillies'. At the start of World War II he joined the Marines, fought his fair share of battles and by the vagaries of fate eventually was stationed in Hingham. While stationed there he met my mother (NQHS Class of 1943), married, had three sons and the rest is history. Well, not quite. He was also a man who never drew a break, not at work, not through his sons, not in anything.

My father was a good man, he was a hard working man when he had work, and he was a devoted family man. But go back to that last paragraph about where he was from. He was also an uneducated man with no skills for the Boston labor market. There was no call for a coal miner's skills in Boston after World War II so he was reduced to unskilled, last hired, first fired jobs. This is not a pretty fate for a man with hungry mouths to feed. And stuck in the old Germantown housing project, to boot. To get out from under my mother also worked, scraped a few pennies together to buy an old, small rundown house, on the wrong side of the tracks, on Walnut Street and we thus came back to the North Quincy of her youth. But who knows what toll that inability to be the sole breadwinner (no big deal now- but important for a man of his generation) took on the man's pride.

And it never really got better from there as his three boys grew to manhood and caused him more than his fair share of heartache. He never said much about it though. Why? Damn, they were his boys and although they broke his heart they were his boys. That is all that mattered to him and so that, in the end, is how I know he must have forgiven us.

To go on in this vain would be rather maudlin. The old Marine Corps slogan held true in his case though- Semper Fi- "always faithful". Yes, that is a good way to end. Except to say something that should have been shouted from the rooftops long ago- thanks Dad, you did the best you could.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

***A Coming Of Age Story- For the Snug Harbor Elementary School Class Of 1958

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bill Haley and the Comets performing Rock Around The Clock.

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Originally posted June 2008.

I have my history hat on again today. For those who can stand to know this information the members of the Class of 1964 this year are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our graduation from elementary school. What better way to celebrate that milestone on the rocky road to surviving childhood than to take a trip down memory lane. Those days were filled with memorable incidents, good and bad, but I have one that I have not forgotten to this day. I note that I graduated from Snug Harbor Elementary School in Quincy and am a product of the Germantown housing project.

At some point in elementary school a boy is inevitably suppose to learn to do two intertwined socially-oriented tasks- the basics of some kind of dancing and to be paired off with, dare I say it, a girl in that activity. I can already hear your gasps, dear reader, as I present this scenario. In my case the dancing part turned out to be the basics of square dancing (go figure, for a city boy, right?). Not only did this clumsy ten-year-old boy have to do the basic 'swing your partner' but I also had to do it while I was paired, for this occasion, with a girl that I had a 'crush' on. That girl, moreover, was not from 'the projects' but from one of the new single-family homes that the up and coming middle class were moving into up the road. I will not describe her here; although I could do so even today, but let us leave it that her name was Rosalind. Enchanting name, right? Nothing special about the story so far, though. Just your average one of the stages of coming of age story. I wish.

Well, the long and short of it was that we were practicing this square dancing to demonstrate our prowess before our parents in the school gym. Nothing unusual there either. After all there is no sense in doing this type of activity unless one can impress one's parents. I forget all the details of the setup of the space for demonstration day and things like that but it was a big deal. To honor the occasion, as this was my big moment to impress Rosalind, I had, earlier in the day, cut up my dungarees to give myself an authentic square dancer look.

I thought I looked pretty good. That is until my mother saw what I had done to the pants. In a second she got up from her seat, marched over to me and started yelling about my disrespect for my father's and her efforts to clothe me and about the fact that since I only had a couple of pairs of pants how could I do such a thing. In short, airing the family troubles in public for all to hear. That went on for what seemed like an eternity. Thereafter I was unceremoniously taken home and placed on restriction for a week. Needless to say my father heard about it when he got home, and I heard about it for weeks afterward. Needless to say I also blew my 'chances' with dear, sweet Rosalind.

Now is this a tale of the hard lessons of the nature of class society that I am always more than willing to put in a word about? Surely, not. Is this a sad tale of young love thwarted by the vagaries of fate? A little. Is this a tale about respect for the little we had in my family? Perhaps. Was my mother, despite her rage, right? Well, yes. Did I learn something about being poor in the world? Damn right. That is the point. .......But, oh, Rosalind.

Rock Around The Clock Song Lyrics from Bill Haley

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock,
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock,
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.

Put your glad rags on and join me, hon,
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes two, three and four,
If the band slows down we'll yell for more,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the chimes ring five, six and seven,
We'll be right in seventh heaven.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When it's eight, nine, ten, eleven too,
I'll be goin' strong and so will you.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes twelve, we'll cool off then,
Start a rockin' round the clock again.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

***A Class Website Of One's Own, For The Class Of 1964

Click on headline to link to Class of 1965 and THEIR Website as referred to in this entry.

Markin, Class Of 1964, comment:
I was surfing the Classmate site looking at the class message boards of the classes at North just before and after us and found that Richard Goldstein had made an announcement that the Class of 1965 has its own website hosted by its own webmaster. Correct me if I am wrong but didn't the Class of 1964 have several members who went to MIT or other scientific or technically- oriented schools who could take on such a task?

Actually, these days doesn't someone have an eight-year-old grandchild who could serve in that Webmaster capacity? In either case, isn't there someone who can take on this chore so that we get to see all the photos of children and grandchildren, the family dogs and cats, the aging children of the Class of 1964, and whatever else cyberspace will accept. I am on a crusade, fellow classmates.

Now I have not always been a technie fan. In fact in the past I have been something of a technological Luddite (if you do not know who a Luddite is go to "Wikipedia"). During most of my life I have consciously kept a few too many steps behind the latest technology, at times from a political prospective and at others from a desire not to get too much clutter in my space. Now, however, although cyberspace does not necessarily bring us the golden age of the global community that I have long hankered for, it does permit those of us from the Class of 1964 to take a stroll down memory lane.

I know there is someone out there who, with evil intent in his or her heart, says " Well, why doesn't old Johnson take on this task?" Fair enough. However, as this is a confessional age, I must come clean here. While I appreciate and can certainly use the Internet when the deal goes down and I get into technological trouble or have to upgrade, etc. I must call in my "significant other" to rescues me. When I say, Cindy, the #*& computer just went kaput she comes to the rescue. Moreover, if the truth were known I also still use a CD player when I go for my walks. In the age of the iPod how yesterday, right? I, however, would be more than happy to write a little something for our website. But we need a Webmaster extraordinaire to get us up and running. So, as this is also an age that is addicted to sports metaphors- who will step up to the plate?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

***In Honor Of Miss (Ms.) Rose Enos,North Quincy High English Department, Circa 1964

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Ellen Terry reciting Portia's mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice. Fitting right?

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Originally posted in May 2008 on Classmates

"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath" lines from Portia's speech to the court in William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"

No, I did not have to look those sentences up. (Okay, I will confess, I did look up to see if there was one or two p's in droppeth) I know those lines and more from the master by heart. Although I am not a fan of rote recital, as was the fashion in my schoolboy days and in earlier times (the great American playwright Eugene O' Neill's father was said to be the master of such Shakespearean recital in the 19th century), it does serve to bring up my point. Literature matters. Words matter. I have, on more occasions than I care to remember, honored those ideas more in the breech than the observance but I have tried to be guided by them. And did those pieces of wisdom just spring forth from the depths of my mind? Hell no, they were planted there by the person whom I wish to honor in this commentary- Ms. Rose Enos, my senior year English teacher.

I have recently come into possession of a friend's copy of our 1964 yearbook (Bill Cadger, the great cross country runner and track man) and in thumbing through the pages I came upon a group picture of the English Department, including Ms. Enos. That brought many things to mind in a hurry. First, and foremost, dread. Dread that I would not be prepared for her weekly ten vocabulary words. Dread that I had not memorized my Shakespeare. Dread that I was not prepared for my book report. You get the picture, right? Dread. And that ain't no lie.

So, that being the case, why is Ms. Enos being honored here today forty-four years after the event? Well, go back to that first paragraph. I was not close to Ms. Enos, certainly not her "pet". Perhaps she did not even know who I was. I do not know about today but back then the classes were very large and there were many minds to feed. I know from my own later experiences that such things occur. So it is possible. Perhaps she did not even like me. That too is possible. I did not display my better side, the "better angel of my nature", in those days. However, I know two things about her-literature matters, words matter. That more than balances things out, don't you think? Miss (Ms.)Rose Enos, wherever you are-thanks.


The following, unedited, is the traffic in response to my post on Classmates

I recently received an e-mail on the Classmates site from James Connolly, Class of 1964, who was in English class with me in senior year. James is now a Xavierian Brother- that is a Catholic religious order. He, presumably, has no reason to lie, not that he need to on this occasion. Brother James told me that he too was in dread of Ms. Enos in those days. He also told me that Ms. Enos, among others, had helped him immensely in preparation for his vocation. Enough said.

Replies 5 messages

(2) In memory of Miss Rose Enos . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 23 2008 11:10am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


Miss Enos was my 10th grade English Teacher for the 1954-55 school year. It often struck me as somewhat cruel, but some kids used to say it looked like she applied her makeup with a trowel. I struggled in her class, but so did many others. When we had to write our own poems, I wrote something to the effect that "If I had an airplane, I would fly. . . " I didn't think it was on a par with something by Frost or Longfellow, but one of the guys a year behind me said Miss Enos read my poem to their class the following year. Maybe saying "This is how not to write a poem." Who knows?

When I had the mumps that wiped out my 1955 spring track season, I missed a book report in Miss Enos' class. When I returned after missing 2 weeks of school, she let me choose one of the many books she had in her closet. I think it was called "Merril's Marauders" and it was quite interesting. I had to read that book in one night and write 2 facts about each chapter. I squeaked by with a "C" in her class. I think the spelling/vocabulary tests were what saved me. I just wasn't very good at writing things up in those days. I finally did get a "B" in English in my senior year, probably because I was no longer in the "College Prep" program. When I graduated in 1957, I "fled" into the Navy with no intention of ever going to college. Ironically, I spent nearly all of my first year in the Navy in school. I took the Honorable Discharge in 1967 and started college in 1974, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1982 from the University of Texas in El Paso. I guess some of us take a bit longer to get with the program. I feel that most, if not all, of the English teachers I had at NQHS made a positive impression, including Miss Rose Enos. That was in spite of my not getting the best of grades. Dave Meaney once asked if I was having problems at home, but I fibbed and told him there were no problems. Anyway, thanks should go out to the teachers who put up with us those many years ago.

Craig S. Warren

(3) Miss Enos

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 23 2008 01:31pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

I am posting the information below that I had originally placed with my commentary to prod Brother James Connolly (and others) to come up with their own Miss Enos stories like the one above by Craig Warren.

"I recently received an e-mail on the Classmates site from James Connolly, Class of 1964, who was in English class with me in senior year. James is now a Xavierian Brother- that is a Catholic religious order. He, presumably, has no reason to lie, not that he needs to on this occasion. Brother James told me that he too was in dread of Ms. Enos in those days. He also told me that Ms. Enos, among others, had helped him immensely in preparation for his vocation. Enough said."

(4) Literary ambitions . . . ?

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 24 2008 11:01am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


My average for the three English classes I had in 10th, 11th and 12th grades was about a middle "C." 10th-C, 11th-L, 12th-B. Miss Enos may have been the teacher who planted the seed of writing in me, but it probably didn't begin to germinate till I started college in 1974, 17 years after graduating from North. I received three "A's" and a solid "B" for the 4 English classes I took in college and was encouraged by the professors to write more. I also did reasonably well writing up the lab reports for experiments in engineering or science classes. More recently, I have started a fictional "narrative." So far it's reached 142 pages in Spanish. I asked a former NQHS classmate if I should write a parallel English version. She told me it would probably be better to finish the Spanish version first. I don't know when that will be, if ever. I know; "don't give up on anything." The Spanish was probably started at NQHS with the two years of Latin with Louise Fifield and one year of Spanish with Roberta Webstersmith, who was usually a French teacher. After all is said and done, unless we slept through high school, all of the teachers and coaches had some influence on us. Some, of course, more than others. Rose Enos was one of those who may have been somewhat intimidating to many, but that's how good teachers are.
My late wife Elvia, who retired in 1990 after 28 years of teaching primary school for the State of Chihuahua, was that kind of teacher. She was tough on her students, and some of them later thanked her for being so tough, because it made secondary school and beyond less difficult.

Craig S. Warren-1957

(5) Yes, Literary Ambitions....

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Aug 12 2008 01:18pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Craig- Thanks for answering my question about whether Ms. Enos (or any other teacher) sparked any literary ambitions in you. In the interest of getting your 15 minutes of fame (or more) I guess you better keep on writing your autobiography (oops) fictional 'narrative'. Good luck. The reason that I asked you that question in my e-mail is that someone last spring asked me that same question. I answered her with an entry in this space that I subsequently deleted. I have reposted here to give you an idea about my 'literary' ambitions.


A Writer's Monologue

Why is this writer writing all these damn commentaries on these message boards?

I have recently received an e-mail asking this very question, although it was more politely put. I hope. Well, if one reads my answer on the canned Q&A section on my profile page (since deleted, AJ) provided by this site one answer is to network with the old gang. Another is the fact that some of us are still standing and that is in itself a cause for wonder. In earlier ages (there he goes again with that history stuff) people of a certain age (that means us) would be considered old. Can you believe that? So, partially I am also celebrating that fact. Furthermore, a recent series of events in my life have made me aware of my mortality and I, frankly, feel a need to get back to my roots. Fair enough?

Those reasons listed above are all good and sufficient but I will now present the real reason, a confession if you will. I have always liked to write, and I have an inordinate respect for those who do it well. If for one minute I could write like Ernest Hemingway with that sparse, functional language that gets to the bone of social existence I would give much gold. Or if I could write in the savage sardonic style of the late Doctor Hunter S. Thompson (Doctor Gonzo) I would add diamonds to the pile.

So mix this love of writing with all of the others. Then put them together with the glorious possibilities of the information superhighway that gives me a targeted audience and here we are. And the best part is that you can read or not read these screeds without any fuss, muss or bother. Nice, right?

(6) Literary ambitions . . . ?

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Sep 13 2008 11:17pm PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


Haven't seen any of your commentaries for a while. Have you continued teaching? Anyway, I hope all's as well as can be with you.
Whenever anyone asks me, "How have you been?," my usual answer is, "In spight of everything, . . . well."

I have done little writing lately, but have done quite a bit of reading. One of my favorite writers is a lady from Chile who has been living in Marin County in Califorfnia for some years with her San Francisco Lawyer Husband. Her name is Isabel Allende, and she has published a goodly number of books, beginning in the early 1980's. She didn't consider herself a writer until she had published two books and begun to write her third. A word she likes to use to describe her writing as well as most of her life is "passion." You seem to feel that a sense of humor is a necesary quality for a writer, and you're quite right in most cases. Ms. Allende definitely has a sense of humor which is evident in most of her books. She writes in Spanish and most of her books have been translated to as many as 40 other languages, including English. Her life has been somewhat of a "roller-coaster," which you and I seem to have experienced to some degree. Maybe that's what is needed to be a credible writer.

I also recently saw a video of a speech Ms. Allende gave to a group of scholars in Monterey, California a year or so ago. She has an accent in English, but not too heavy. No worse than a Boston accent. Again, her sense of humor and passion were evident. Oh, yeah. One of her books, "The House of Spirits," was also made into a movie in the late 1980's or early 1990's. She is, or could be, an inspiration for me, if I would just get off my duff and back to bashing the keys.

That's all for now. I often say to my son and grandson that if they really like to do something, they should "stay with it." Maybe it's time I followed my own advice.

Craig, NQHS 1957

Saturday, May 10, 2008

***The Generation Of '68?-For Mary, Class Of 1964 Somewhere

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia entry for the "Summer Of Love", 1967.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

The first draft of this comment was written before I got my grubby little hands on a copy of our Class of 1964 "Manet". After intense examination of that document I find nothing there that would indicate that the future foot soldiers of Woodstock Nation were seething to be free to try alternative ways of living. Nor do I get a sense from those pictures that people were getting ready to challenge the way political institutions were being run in this country. I will thus let my original remarks stand.

Do you consider yourself a member of the Generation of '68?

"In that time, 'twas bliss to be alive, to be young was very heaven"- a line from a poem by William Wordsworth in praise of the early stages of the French Revolution.

I mentioned in the Tell My Story section that while we were all members of the Class of 1964 some of us were also members of the Generation of '68. I guess to those of us who considered themselves part of that experience no further explanation is necessary. However, if you are in doubt then let me give my take on what such membership would entail.

This question is actually prompted by an observation made by my old friend, and our classmate, the great track and cross-country runner Bill Cadger (See On The Matter of Bill Cadger-Runner for a comment on his exploits). Part of my motivation for joining this site was to find him. I have done so and we have started to keep in touch again. At one of the "bull sessions" that we have conducted I asked him whether he had gone to any class reunions. I had not done so and therefore I was interested in his take on the subject.

Bill said that the only one that he had gone to was the 5th reunion in 1969. Of course that is the high water mark for the Generation of '68. A key observation that he related, as least for my purpose here, is that when he went to that reunion and people came up to him to introduce themselves he had trouble identifying people, especially the guys, because of all the beards and long hair that were telltale tribal symbols at the time. So that is one, perhaps superficial, criterion for membership.

Frankly, dear classmates, among the reasons that I turned my back on the old hometown right after high school was that it seemed like a "square" (remember that tribal term from our youth meaning not "hip", another term from that era) working class town that did not fit in with my evolving political and cultural, or more correctly counter-cultural, interests. Thus, Bill's comments rather startled me. My assumption would have been that the "squares" would have gotten a job after high school (or gone to college and then gotten a job), gotten married, had kids, bought a house and followed that trail, wherever it led. This new knowledge may tell me something different.

Is it possible that there were many other kindred spirits from our class who broke from that pattern, at least for a while? Who not only grew their hair long (male or female) or grew beards (male) but also maybe dressed in the symbolic Army/ Navy store fashions of the day (male or female) or burned their bras, symbolically or otherwise (female)? Or did some dope (Yes, I know, on the advise of counsel, we are all taking the Bill Clinton defense on this one. Now!) and made all the rock concerts? Or hitchhiked across the country? Or opposed the damn Vietnam War and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported the black liberation struggle and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported an end to the draft, ROTC on campus, etc. and got......well, you know the rest of the line? Or lived in a commune or any number of other things of like kind that were the signposts of the generation of '68? In short, tried to "storm heaven". We lost that fight but the same kind of storm clouds are gathering again, at least a little, in 2008. Your stories, please (and that includes those "squares" who now do not now seem quite that way anymore).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

***Bowling Alone In America?- For Barbara A., Class Of 1965

Click on the headline to link to a Website devoted to ... bowling. Of a different sort.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This entry was originally posted in April 2008 on Classmates.

Why were there separate boys and girls bowling teams in 1964?

"A book is a dangerous weapon"- part of an old time television ad in support of literacy.

Yes indeed, a book is a dangerous weapon, especially in the hands of a man with a mission. And not just any book, my friends, but a priceless copy of the "Manet", 1964 edition, our year book. I was so alienated then that I believe I threw my copy out the day after graduation. But that is another story. For those who have not read my comments on a previous Message Board entry I recently came into possession of this treasure through Bill Cadger, the great cross-country runner and track man from our class. Now this document and a copy of the list of attendees at the 20th class reunion in 1984 should keep me in commentary until the cows come home. They are like manna from heaven. So what is the subject matter for today? Well, the title of this piece tells it all-bowling, naturally. Or rather, more to the point, why was it necessary to have two separate teams in such a unisexually-friendly sport? (Yes, I know this is an awkward construction, but it suits my purpose.) For those who still have their "Manet", see page 35.

I, moreover, have my legal eagle's hat on today. Let me try to make my point by an analogy in the law. Lawyers Tom Kiley, Kevin Murphy, and Steve Kalish (and any others that I do not know about), who suffered through briefing those endless Constitutional Law cases, will appreciate this. There are various tests to determine whether governmental actions pass constitutional muster. The easiest standard for the government to pass is called the "rational relationship" test. Here, basically anything a governmental actor does, short of murder or mayhem, is okay- so tell your client to go home and get on with his or her life. Separate bowling teams by sex do not even come up to that standard. What gives?

Okay, we are talking about 1964, a time well before women's equality of access was legally, and more importantly, socially recognized. A case in point. In those days there were no young women running track at North. The theory then was that women could only run to the store. Apparently they would break apart or have some other malignant physical problems if they ran more than one hundred yards. Now we know better. Just the other day on Boston Marathon Monday Ms. Tune from Ethiopia not only ran 26 plus miles but had a sprint left at the end. Kudos.

So what does this have to do with the bowling teams? Just this, what possible reason could there have been, even then, for separating the sexes in such a benign sport? I loved to bowl as a kid and spend more than my fair share of time, if memory serves, in that downstairs bowling alley just outside of Norfolk Downs. I know myself, from later experience, that more than one woman could beat the pants off of me at ten pin. No sweat. And here is the real tragedy. I freely now admit that I was very shy around girls in high school. I think that had there been a mixed bowling team I might have been able to overcome that affliction. I would have been less maladjusted and maybe, just maybe, I would not have thrown away that year book. And...

Wait a minute! Let us get this story straight. In the year 2008 this writer is alleging, based on a quick perusal of old "Manet" pictures, that North Quincy High School's failure to provide mixed bowling teams stunted his human potential. And led to a subsequent depraved and sordid life. Well, yes. And others, I am sure, carry those same emotional scars. That, my class mates, is where the little legal discussion above comes into play. Tom, Kevin, Steve- don't you think we have a basis for a class action suit in behalf of the aggrieved members of our Class of 1964? Maybe on a theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress with a "lost of consortium" claim (a quaint legal term) thrown in? Fellow victims, step forward. Tell your heartfelt stories.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

***An Archaeological Dig?-For Carol C., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the "Dead Sea Scrolls" a minor discovery compared to the one discussed below.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This entry was originally posted on the Classmates site in mid-April 2008. Several of the later entries below like "The Matter of Bill Cadger-Runner", "Bowling Alone in America?', The "Real" Scoop on Tri-Hi-Y" and "White Socks.... White Shorts" are based on information found with this 'discovery'.

What, no question today? (This refers to the question format that I was using at the time to introduce each entry). No, or rather I have 1000 questions. I have just been on a hunt. Was it in search of the Dead Sea Scrolls? No, that's kid's stuff. Did I venture to the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia (Or what is left of it. This is today's Iraq). Boring, for the moment. Did I go on an Indiana Jones-style adventure in search of the lost Ark of the Covenant? Mere child play. No, I bravely went to the wilds of Newton, Massachusetts to the home of Bill Cadger, the great cross-country runner and trackman from our class. And what treasure did I dig out? A rather pristine copy of the "Manet" for the Class of 1964. This, my friends, is the find of the age.

Okay, now I have you exactly where I want you. Forget Botox and Hair Club for Men from now on, guys and gals, no more trying to pass for fifty something just because sixty is the new fifty. I have proof of age. In black and white glossies. And I do believe that I could find a good enough lawyer to have it hold up in court. Bill, though, is already talking about hiring hit men to do me in if I so much as harm a hair on any classmate's head. You know Bill; he was always one for the wild talk. Believe one thing now that I have this little beauty for ammunition there will be no end of pithy comments on these message boards.

But enough of that for now. A couple of comments are in order before I do a thorough scientific examination of this artifact. First, in the interest of scientific veracity I must confess an error. In my commentary "A Walk Down Dream Street" (now "In Search Of Lost Time" post) I mentioned that Bill and I spent many a summer evening on the front steps of North Quincy High discussing our dreams. In describing the steps I mentioned that there were either stone lions or gargoyles on either side of the steps. Well, in many pictures in the year book the front steps frame the shot. The items on the side of the steps were actually stone columns and globes. I was close though, right? That is definitely either a result of the mist of time or senility. Your choice.

Finally, a first observation on a run through of the class pictures. For most of the guys I would not want to meet you in a dark alley, even now. For most of the gals, and call me a "dirty old man" but please, please do not tell my "significant other" I would not mind meeting you in the dark. But, mainly, classmates I am in the dark. Enlighten me.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

***"Wow"! A Bill Cadger Photo-Op- For Al B., Class Of 1964

"Wow"! A Bill Cadger Photo-Op- For Al B., Class Of 1964
Originally posted in August 2008 on Classmates.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This entry relates to an on-going run of commentaries about Bill Cadger the great track runner and the fight to get him into the North Quincy High Sports Hall of Fame (See The Matter of Bill Cadger-Runner and Once Again, On Bill Cadger, April 25 and April 26, 2008). The photo is located on the Class of 1964 Member Page over at the Classmates site.

Apparently being Bill Cadger's friend since the 'dog days' of Snug Harbor Elementary School down in the Germantown "projects" is not enough. Recently, strictly as a sign of that friendship, I argued the merits of his case for entry into the North Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame on Classmates (see The Matter of Bill Cadger-Runner and Once Again on Bill Cadger on this Message Board). Now it seems that I am to be his eternal "flak", you know, "press agent", "spin doctor", "gofer" or "stooge". Isn't there some kind of constitutional provision against indentured servitude? Here is why I ask that question.

I feel 'duty-bound' to announce the latest 'newsworthy note' about the fleet-footed runner from the Class of 1964. Bill has upgraded his photograph on his profile page on this site. Earlier this year he had placed his Commonwealth of Massachusetts driver's license here for your inspection (For those who did not get a chance to see the picture I have not made this up. I really don't have that kind of imagination.). As one would expect of such a photo Bill, of course, looked like he had just finished a long stretch in Cedar Junction (Walpole, for those who have been out of the area for a while). Christ, those ID photos make the Madonna look like an axe murderess. What did he expect?

In any case Mr. Cadger has rectified that situation with a new downloaded photo on his profile page. To get a glimpse just go to the Class of 1964 Member List and click on Charles Cadger. Why Charles? I will refer you to Dr. Freud for an answer to that question. As to the photo itself and his pose, there is a method to the madness. Bill insists that one and all should know that he is no longer that slender strider of 135 pounds. For comparison purposes for those who still have their 1964 "Manet" a look at Bill's full profile on page 63 will tell the tale. He mentioned, in his usual dry manner, that now people who know that he was on the track team will think that he was a shot-putter. In short, a person not to be messed around with. That got a chuckle from my "significant other" Cindy and me. Enough said, though. What is next, a video on "YouTube"?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

***Once Again On The Great Class Of 1964 Runner Bill Cadger -For Steve T., Class Of 1964

*Once Again On The Great Class Of 1964 Runner Bill Cadger -For Steve T., Class Of 1964

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment

Originally posted in May 2008 on Classmates

What kind of madness have I unleashed? What kinds of monsters have I let loose? Recently, as a simple act of friendship, I wrote a commentary in this space arguing that my old friend and our classmate from 1964 Bill Cadger should be inducted into the North Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame (See "In the Matter Of Bill Cadger-Runner", dated April 26, 2008). Now my e-mail message center is clogged with requests from every dingbat with some kind of special pleading on his or her mind. A few examples should suffice, although as a matter of conscience (mine) they shall remain nameless.

One request argued for recognition based on finishing 23rd in the Senior Division of the Squantum Fourth of July Fun Run. Well, what of it? Another, arguing for inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, touted her near perfect imitation of Mick Jagger on "Gimme Shelter". Please!! A third sought a testimonial from me for an employment opportunity, including a resume that made me truly wonder where she had been all these years. Here is my favorite. A fellow classmate wants me to get in on the ground floor, as a financial backer of course, for his idea of putting the ubiquitous teenage cell phone use and the Internet together. Hello! Jack (oops, I forgot, no names) I believe they call that "Sidekick", or some such thing. As so it goes.

Listen up- I hear "MySpace" and "YouTube" calling all and sundry such untapped talents. Please leave the North Quincy High School Class of 1964 Message Board for serious business. You know, this writer's musings on the meaning of existence, the lessons of history and the struggle against mortality. That said, at the moment that serious business entails getting the gracefully-gaited Mr. Cadger his shot at immortality by induction into the Sports Hall of Fame. Let us keep our eyes on the prize here. Join me in that effort. Enough said.

Friday, April 25, 2008

***Why Is The Class Of 1964 Cross-Country Runner And Trackman Bill Cadger Not In The North Quincy Sports Hall Of Fame?-For Roger F., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Hicham el Guerouj, the Moroccan Knight, setting the one mile run world record in 2008.

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Why is the great Class of 1964 cross-country runner and track man Bill Cadger not in the North Quincy Sports Hall of Fame?

Originally posted in April 2008 on Classmates.

Okay, Okay I am a 'homer' (or to be more contemporary, a 'homeboy') on this question. In the interest of full disclosure the fleet-footed Mr. Cadger and I have known each other since the mist of time. We go all the way back to being schoolmates at Snug Harbor Elementary School in the old Germantown housing project. (As did fellow classmate, the lanky linkster, Tom McPartlin. Are there others?). We survived that experience and lived to tell the tale. But enough of that. What I want to discuss today is the fact that this tenuous road warrior's accomplishments, as a cross-country runner and trackman (both indoors and out), have never been truly recognized by the North Quincy High School sports community. (For those who still have their Manet, see page 63 for a youthful photograph of the 'splendid speedster' in full racing regalia.).

And what were those accomplishments? Starting as a wiry, but determined, sophomore Bill began to make his mark as a harrier. Junior year he began to stakeout his claim on the path to Olympus by winning road races on a regular basis. In his senior year Bill broke many cross-country course records, including a very fast time on the storied North Quincy course. Moreover, in winter track that senior year Bill was the State Class B 1000-yard champion, pulling out a heart-stopping victory. His anchor of the decisive relay in a duel meet against Somerville's highly-touted state sprint champion is the stuff of legends.

Bill also qualified to run with the 'big boys' at the fabled schoolboy National Indoor Championships in Madison Square Garden in New York City. His outdoor track seasons speak for themselves. I will not detain you here with the grandeur of his efforts, for I would be merely repetitive. Needless to say, he was captain of all three teams in his senior year. No one questioned the aptness of those decisions.

Bill and I have just recently gotten reconnected after some thirty years. The main reason that I joined this site was to find him. After finding him, one of the first things that I commented on during one of our 'bull sessions' was that he was really about ten years before his time. In the 1960's runners were 'geeks'. You know -the guys (and then it was mainly guys) who ran in shorts on the roads and mainly got honked at, yelled at and threatened with mayhem by irate motorists. Admit it. That is what you thought then too.

In the 1970's and 1980's runners (of both sexes) became living gods and goddesses to a significant segment of the population. Money, school scholarships, endorsements, you name it. Then you were more than willing to share the road with a runner. Admit that too. You even got out on the road yourselves with your spiffy designer jogging attire and high-tech footwear. You ran Wollaston Beach, Castle Island, the Charles River, Falmouth, LaJolla, and Golden Gate Park. Wherever. Until the old knees gave out. But that is a story for another day. By then though, Bill had missed his time.

Now there is no question that a legendary football player like Bill Curran from our Class of 1964 should be, and I assume is, in the North Quincy Sports Hall of Fame. On many a granite gray autumn afternoon old "Bullwinkle" thrilled us with his gridiron prowess. But on other days, as the sun went down highlighting the brightly-colored falling leaves, did you see that skinny kid running down East Squantum Street toward Wollaston Beach for another five mile jaunt? No, I did not think so. I have now, frankly, run out of my store of sports spiel in making my case. Know this though; friendship aside, Bill belongs in the Hall. That said, what about making a place in the Hall for the kid with the silky stride who worked his heart out, rain or shine, not only for his own glory but North's. Join me. Let's "storm heaven" on this one now.


Below is the traffic on Classmates, unedited, concerning the above-mentioned question.

Replies 16 messages

(2) . . . Runners

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 13 2008 12:11pm PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964

Mr. Johnson;

I agree that "back in the Day" the NQHS Cross Country, Winter Track and Spring track athletes were usually the "forgotten ones." It may have been in part because they were not considered "team sports" like football, basketball and baseball. About the only way a track athlete would be recognised would be if he were a star in at least one of the team sports. I graduated from North in 1957 and was a mediocre cross country runner in 10th and 12th grades, and I was probably close to the last on 1955 team to get a letter. I made a few points in the 1955-56 winter track season and the 1957 spring track season. I probably never would have participated in track at all if it hadn't been for my 9th grade English Teacher Dave Meaney. I guess he thought my being just over 6 ft. tall and just under 150 lbs. I had a possibility of being a distance runner. Bob Gentry was the winter track coach and got me to try the mile after being in a few 1000 yd. races in the old Metropolitan Indoor Track League. What I remember most from those days was that we always seemed to enjoy ourselves and had a lot of laughs, regardless of a meet's outcome. I have often wondered if anyone kept track of North's cross country and track meets over the years. Winter track competitions were not always held indoors. During the 1956-57 winter track season we had a meet against Weymouth which had an outdoor slightly elevated board track. We even had to walk through about 8 inches of snow to get to the track. Those were the days. I'm glad to see you "campaigning" for a former classmate who was such a good runner, and recognizing Ms. Enos who was my 10th grade English even though English may not have been my best subject back then. I took a few walks along Wollaston Beach in 2007 when I went back for my class' 50th reunion. Takle care.

Craig S. Warren
NQHS 1957

(3) Runners

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 23 2008 05:13am PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Craig- Thanks for note and all the good information about the years just before Bill and I ran at North. A couple of information points in my role as Bill’s 'flak'. I noticed from your communities on your profile page that you served in the Navy. Right after high school Bill, for a number of reasons, also joined the Navy and served for four years (1964-68). That was kind of the point in my commentary about Bill's being somewhat before his time as a great runner. Nobody from colleges and places like that was offering track guys much of anything in those days so the Navy was Bill's escape route. I do not know if you save your writings but if you still have your comments about the old days you could either e-mail them or send a note to Bill's bulletin board on the 1964 members list. I know he would be happy to read them and I am sure has some comments from his perspective.

A couple of points for my own information. My family moved back to North Quincy from the Germantown projects in early 1959 so that when I transferred schools it was to the new Atlantic Junior High School. I noticed that you went to North Quincy Junior High. Where was that? Was it part of North? Someone recently told me that during 1959 just before I got to Atlantic that a big move over from North had occurred. Is that true? I also noticed that you went to Squantum Elementary. I believe that is gone now, true? Also that you went to the Quincy Elementary School. I know that is gone, right? My late mother (NQHS 1943) and late younger brother (NQHS 1966) went there.

My career in track and cross country seems to have paralleled yours. A few good races but mainly "the slows". I got letters in all three sports but some of them, frankly, were gifts. My best year in Cross Country was probably in 11th grade. Indoor and Outdoor track nothing memorable. I started running in the 9th grade and thought I was going to be a star. As I pointed out in "A Walk Down Dream Street" that I have today reposted in the All School Discussion Page on this site so much for some dreams. The reason I ran was because I was not, and am not now, good at team efforts yet wanted to do some physical activity. Such is life.

Bill really had the silky stride and the determination to go for it. We used to run Wollaston Beach in the early morning summers. (Our 'exploits' later in the day are commented on in "Anyone Remember Wollaston Beach?" also posted on this site.) I would do some running but he was driven to go farther and harder. I certainly remember the old "Dust Bowl" off of Hollis Avenue where we practiced. And running to Long Island during Cross Country season. And the chaotic Met League meets indoors. Anyone who ran winter track cannot fail to remember that damn Weymouth outdoor wooden track where we has 'indoor' meets on what seemed to always be the coldest day of the winter. But enough of that.

Finally, I did not realize that Bob Gentry had been the coach during the 1950's. Bill and I have talked about him and his capacities as a coach. We recognized that track and cross country were 'poor relatives' compared to sexy sports like football and basketball and that we were lucky to get running shoes out of the deal. However Coach Gentry really did fail to appreciate that in Bill he had an exceptional talent and that he should have moved mountains to promote his career. Coach Gentry always acted more like a timeserver than a coach in that regard. Your comments.

(4) Running at NQHS . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 23 2008 10:02am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


My "running career" at North was only in sophomore, junior and senior years, and was not continuous. As I mentioned before, my 9th grade English teacher Dave Meaney was the reason I considered running. At the beginning of the 10th grade (1954), he called a few of us to his classroom to see if we might be interested in cross country. I took the chance and ended up as the 5th, 6th or 7th kid in most meets that season. That gave me enough to barely get a letter. I didn't compete in the 1954-55 indoor season, because I didn't know it existed. I started 1955 spring track and got as far as running the 880 in the first meet. Sadly, I ran the race with the start of a case of the mumps and ended up missing the rest of the season.
I began working nights at a variety store on Billings Road the summer of 1955 and didn't go out for cross country that year. Then a friend, Ron Coleman, convinced me to try out for winter track in the 1955-56 season. We started running the 1000 and even ran in the State Meet at the old Boston Garden. I was near the end of that race. Running on a 10 or 11 lap board track for the first time was scary. In any given race, Ron was ahead of me, because he was faster and had a good "kick" at the end. If he was 1st, I was 2nd. If he was 2nd, I was 3rd, and so on. Coach Gentry switched me to the mile just past mid-season. I still didn't win a race, but came in second once to Natick's 1000 yd. State Champion. Gentry even tried to get me to break 5:00 during practice around the circle in front of the school. He put 2 or 3 guys who normally ran the 600 to act as "rabbits," but the best I could do was 5:01.5. Somebody later said the Mile wasn't measured right around the circle, but I never knew if it was short or long. I did manage a letter for that season. Somewhere in there coach Meaney had a heart attack and I didn't go out for spring track in 1956.
I started cross country in the fall of 1956 with coach Gentry. We had a bunch of good young distance runners that year, so I was put on the "junior varsity" team, which ran a shorter course. We even ran up and down Huckins avenue in Squantum to get some hill practice, and also ran out to coach Gentry's house in Merrymount where he served refreshments. I barely made it to mid season when I decided to leave the team. I started the 1956-57 winter track season. Then in January I chopped off part of my right index finger slicing bolgna where I worked nights. So much for my senior winter track season. Then came spring track again. That time I tried to give it "my all." We held a "Junior Olympics" in which all competed in all track and field events. I was one of a very few who actually did compete in all events even though I still had my arm bandaged from the January accident. Those who competed in everything were given new uniforms and shoes. I think I was near the top in the overall competition, but probably because I did try all events, though the results were far from spectacular. I ran the 880 all season with Ron Coleman again just ahead of me. The most fun race was the last one against Quincy at Memorial Stadium. Coach Meaney was back and for some reason put Ron in the mile. He also switched Jim Baldwin (jr.) and Russ Landberg (soph.) to the 880. Jim was a good all-round athlete who also played football and basketball. Russ was a good all-round runner. I thought, "Oh,boy. A chance to win a race." We swept the 880 with Russ 1st, Jim 2nd and me 3rd. I was a bit disappointed, but was ecstatic over our sweeping the race. I thought we had won that meet, but Ron didn't think so. Oh, well. At least my last meet was fun and I again managed to get a letter. Memories that made the rest of life in those days bearable.

Craig S. Warren
NQHS 1957
El Paso, TX since 1967

(5) Runners and...

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 23 2008 02:22pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Here is a little commentary that was originally in the 'prime time' spot on this site (the coveted All Class Discussion Board) but that I deleted as being a little off from my main purpose in the neverending fight to get Bill Cadger into the NOHS Sports Hall of Fame. At least it gives evidence that track guys (and gals) have a sense of humor.... or try to have one.


What kind of madness have I unleashed? What kinds of monsters have I let loose? Recently, as a simple act of friendship, I wrote a commentary in this space arguing that my old friend and our classmate from 1964 Bill Cadger should be inducted into the North Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame (See In the Matter Of Bill Cadger-Runner above). Now my e-mail message center is clogged with requests from every dingbat with some kind of special pleading on his or her mind. A few examples should suffice, although as a matter of conscience (mine) they shall remain nameless.

One request argued for recognition based on finishing 23rd in the Senior Division of the Squantum Fourth of July Fun Run. Well, what of it? Another, arguing for inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, touted her near perfect imitation of Mick Jagger on Gimme Shelter. Please!! A third sought a testimonial from me for an employment opportunity, including a resume that made me truly wonder where she had been all these years. Here is my favorite. A fellow classmate wants me to get in on the ground floor, as a financial backer of course, for his idea of putting the ubiquitous teenage cell phone use and the Internet together. Hello! Jack (oops, I forgot, no names) I believe they call that Sidekick, or some such thing. As so it goes.

Listen up- I hear MySpace and YouTube calling all and sundry such untapped talents. Please leave the North Quincy High School Class of 1964 and All Class Message Boards for serious business. You know, this writer's musings on the meaning of existence, the lessons of history and the struggle against mortality. That said, at the moment that serious business entails getting the gracefully gaited Mr. Cadger his shot at immortality by induction into the Sports Hall of Fame. Let us keep our eyes on the prize here. Join me in that effort. Enough said.

(6) Coach Bob Gentry . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 24 2008 10:24am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


You have mentioned that coach Gentry just seemed to be "doing his time" while you were at NQHS. I first became acquainted with him when I went out for Winter Track for the 1955-56 season. I was told that he was teaching at one of the Junior High Schools while coaching Winter Track at North. I never had any difficulties in my dealings with him. Maybe my expectations weren't very high, because my "running talent" was somewhat limited. He did seem to pay a bit more attention to those of us who needed more guidance and let the more talented kids just "do their thing." He did seem to want to get the most out of the talent he had "for the good of the team" and may have rubbed a few egos the wrong way. He, like coach Meaney, may not have been perfect, but I felt they both were fairly sympathetic to the weaknesses of all of us. In 1955-56 coach Gentry was probably around 50 years old, so by the time you guys dealt with him, he was closing in on 60. His seeming to be just "doing his time" may have been due to other causes outside of school and coaching. Who knows? Teachers and coaches are more-or-less human, too. We had a few who may have been a bit on the "nutty side" or may have had problems with booze or at home. Adolescents, as in most eras, don't really understand adults and vice versa. Sometimes it might just be a lack of "chemistry" between pupil/athlete and teacher/coach. Life isn't always "fair" and some of us may not be as flexible or adaptable as we could be. Anyway, I saw Gentry as a decent coach and we may have actually won a few meets with him. We had one runner who was Class "C" State Champion for the 300 yd. dash (George Doring) one year and later ran for the four years he was at Brandeis University. He told me that in those four years Brandeis didn't win a track meet, but he did end up in their Hall of Fame. However, it is good that you are campaigning for your friend's being recognized. I'm not so sure North has a hall of fame for anything other than football or possibly basketball. It could be time to recognize the "marginal sports," including those of the past. I have tried to keep up with track at North, but it's not easy from El Paso. I even sent a message to the Patriot Ledger a couple years ago asking about High School sports, but they said they were not alloted enough space to cover everything. As I said, life is not always fair and we may not always get what we want when we want it. I constantly tell my 9 year old grandson that he should not let frustration cause him to give up on anything.

Hang in there Alfred!

Craig in El Paso

P.S. While touring the old school last year, I asked a guy who seemed to be a teacher or coach why there was little or no recognition for some of the NQHS teams after 1992, which seemed to have been a banner year. His answer was brief; "Budget."

(7) Track at N.Q.H.S.

Joseph Crowley 1954 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 24 2008 11:57am PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

I ran track in 7th and 8th grade and then moved over to football, basketball and baseball. Track and cross country are fabulous sports but never received much recognition back in my time at North ( class 1954).Dave Meaney was a terrific individual and loved coaching track. He was the reason I found a way to run track in prep school when meets didn't conflict with the baseball schedule.

Track and baseball don't have Hall of Fame status simply because no one has taken charge of an effort to establish one. The football and basketball Hall of Fames are self funded and managed by organizations that were formed to support deserving athletes such as Bill Cadger.I'd love to see track and cross country athletes recieve the recognition they deserve...go for it.

Joe Crowley "54

(8) Coach Gentry

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 25 2008 12:51pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Craig- Thanks for your take on Coach Gentry. I know from my own observations over the course of my teaching career that some coaches take on the job as a source of extra income as much as to furfill a desire to coach. That probably was true, or truer, in the old days when teachers' wages were very poor indeed. That is not the problem. What was the problem, as far as Bill was concerned, was that in him Gentry could have had that one extraordinary athlete of a coaching career. And he, frankly, blew it.

On another matter. Did you guys run over in the old "Dust Bowl" off of Hollis Ave? More importantly, did anyone come out alive?

Finally, I believe that I saw a photograph of you in your sailor uniform on the North Quincy Alumni site. Is that right? We should be boosting that site because it is strictly for NQHS and does not have the inevitabe explosion of advertising that confronts one on this site.

Regards, Al

(9) Hall of Fame

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 25 2008 01:00pm PST
In reply to Joseph Crowley 1954

Sir, Thanks for the message about the neglect of old time runners like Bill Cadger. I have tried to get information about the Hall of Fame through NQHS but have been unsuccessful thus far. Where would I get in contact with the football or basketball Hall of Fame sponsors. Do they have a website, etc.?

Also a question that I asked Craig Warren, Class of 1957, as well about whether you had your meets at the old "Dust Bowl" off Hollis Ave. Did you run them there?

Finally, from this running commentary that Craig and I have been having about coaches. Did you know Coach Gentry? Tell me more about this Coach Meaney. He seems to have made a different from your praise of him. Regards, Al Johnson

(10) Hall of Fame

Jean Moran 1975 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 30 2008 05:38am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964

Sir, As the wife/widow/daughter-in-la
w and sister-in-law of NQHS/QHS Football Hall of Famers, I believe Ken McPhee, former NQHS Football Coach was quite involved in the Hall of Fame Program. That may be a start for you. Good Luck and I truly enjoy reading your posts.
Jean Leone NQHS 75
Wife/Widow of Carl E Leone NQHS 74
Daughter-In-Law of Carl Leone QHS ? (also Football ********** in the 60's)
Sister-In-Law of John (Jack) Leone NQHS 80

(11) "Hollis Field" . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 30 2008 07:39am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


Sorry 'bout that. I think the "dust bowl" you refer to is still called Hollis Field. The first time I ever set foot on that track was our first or second practice for cross country in the fall of 1954. We started by jogging 5 laps (1 mile) and the legs were hurting for a week, since I had never really run more than a few yards before that. Then there was spring track in 1955 when I ran my first 880. The mumps prevented me from finishing my first season of track. It may have been that same spring pre-season when I tripped over a teammate's heel and fell. I suffered a pretty bad scrape, but I got up and finished the 220 without looking at the wound. It was just practice, and most were trying all events to see where we would fit in on the team. Coach Meaney cleaned up the scrape the best he could with his first aid box. The bleeding soon stopped and I still have a couple cinder chips in my left knee.
Anyway, we did have our home track meets at Hollis Field. I don't remember it as being that "dusty," but it was far from being a good track facility. There were bleachers on both sides of the field, but never many spectators. The 5-lap track made it difficult for me when I had to run on a 4-lap (440 yd./400 meter) track. Most of Us still had fun at Hollis in spite of its failings. Where does North hold its home meets these days? Most tracks these days appear to have a rubberized asphalt surface instead of the old cinder/dirt. I never have run on such a track. My only running after high school was for the Navy's annual physical fitness tests or an occasional jog around the neighborhood.
I tried to get to the field in 2007, but was confused by the way they have one-way streets around it. It was easier when we walked from the school to the field "back in the day."

Craig S. Warren 1957

(12) "The Dust Bowl"

Joseph Crowley 1954 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 30 2008 10:54am PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957


The actual name for what we always referred to as "The Dust Bowl" is Cavanaugh Stadium. If you had practiced football on that surface you would return to the locker room with a dust covered uniform.

Many, such as yourself ,wear the badge of honor from that old cinder track. Those cinders were mean to the body if you were unlucky enough to take a spill.

I have fond memories of my many hours practicing at that field. As poor as that facility was some outstanding athletes were developed on that track and field. Great memories for all of us.

Joe Crowley "54

(13) Coach Leone

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Aug 01 2008 04:19pm PST
In reply to Jean Moran 1975

Jean- thanks for note and information. If you want to read more commentary go to Class of 1964 message board. That is where I place the bulk of my commentaries, as you might expect. There is a commentary on the Class of 1964 football team that your father-in-law coached. That is the one that starred the legendary "Bullwinkle" Bill Curran.

The other day Bill Cadger and I went back to NQHS for a memory lane trip (I went incognito, just in case, because I believe some people are out to get me, right?) . On the ground floor there is a sports section with a picture of the 1966 football team that, I believe, won the Superbowl that year and shows your father-in-law, as well.

Finally, I had Coach Leone as my Algebra II teacher. You might think about doing a little tribute to him on this board like the one I did for Ms. Enos, my senior year English teacher. I am sure that would generate many a story. Some funny ones I am sure.

(14) "The Dust Bowl" Redux

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Aug 01 2008 04:29pm PST
In reply to Joseph Crowley 1954

Sir, thank you for your memory of the "dust bowl". I knew, from a trip over to the old oval last year, that Cavanaugh was its real name. Strangely, after not having seen it for something over forty years it was basically the same. A little better surface on the track (although not much). They had taken out, and not replaced, the old bleachers that were there in 1964.

Now for my "dust bowl" war story. In spring track in the seventh grade at Atlantic Junior High School (now Middle School) I fell down after the start of a dash. I took 'cinders', as you mentioned in your comment. Last year I had a knee replacement operation and noticed that the cinders were still there. I believe that I should get a "purple heart" or something, right? Do you have a 'cinder' story? Regards, Al Johnson

(15) I stand corrected . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Aug 01 2008 07:30pm PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


That's what's good about getting more people involved in these messages. I stand corrected concerning the name of the old "dust bowl." Cavanaugh Stadium does ring a bell. Have they put that rubberized asphalt on the track?

I just remembered another incident that could have been fatal to one of our track team mates about the spring of 1957. The team's javelin throwers were practicing one day and one of the other guys took it upon himself to throw the javelin back to them from the other end of the field after each toss. The "returner" was waiting for one of their tosses when it seemed something off the field distracted him. The javelin grazed one of that "returner's" eyebrows, nicking him slightly. Talk about lucky. Another centimeter and the thing would have lodged in his eye socket and probably killed him. He didn't say much for a few minutes and had a very surprised expression on his face. I ran into that guy at our 50th reunion last year and asked if he remembered the incident. He laughed and said, "Oh, yeah. I haven't been the same since." He was another of our good all-round athletes and had a heckuva sense of humor. Good to see he still has it.
As an aside to that incident, I think it may have been Coach Dave Meaney who had told us that most high schools in the western states didn't have the javelin throw as one of their events. That's still true today, at least here in El Paso. That scary incident at Cavanaugh Stadium kind of confirmed what he had said. Curiously, the discus probably isn't much safer.

Anyway, thanks for the correction.

Craig S. Warren '57

(16) "Dust Bowl", Once Again

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Aug 02 2008 06:33am PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Craig and Joseph- is there anyone who went on to that track (at least in the old days) who does not still have cinders somewhere on their body as a reminder of their youthful activity? I asked Bill Cadger about it and, naturally, he related his 'cinder' experience. Was this a "rite of passage" from the vengeful track gods and goddesses? I think you could still pick up some these days from what I saw of the track last year. Regards, Al

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

***March 17th or Easter 1916?-For Jimmy J., Class of 1966

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of William Butler Yeats', "Easter, 1916".

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

Originally posted in April 2008 on Classmates

What part, if any, did your ethnic heritage play in your growing up?

"A Terrible Beauty Was Born" the last line from William Butler Yeats- Easter, 1916

In our last posting I mentioned that I would give my answer to the question of whether I skipped school to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in the next posting. Part of my reasoning for not answering the question fully then was to answer the more general question above using my own background as a foil. By a natural coincidence this year Saint Patrick's Day and Easter, two 'high holy days' on the Irish cultural calendar, fall on successive weeks and therefore permit a comparative analysis. Here goes.

In the interest of full disclosure I confess here (and will provide the requisite transcripts) that I never skipped school on March 17th to go to the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Boston. I do not, moreover, recall then ever really wanting to go to the event, although plenty of people in my old neighborhood did so. That is the rub. I, along with many of you, have some degree of Irish in us (just look at the names of the members of our class on the class list). Quincy was a first steppingstone in the second Diaspora (out of Ireland, out of South Boston/Dorchester) on the way to 'lace curtain' respectability, although my own family never made it pass 'shanty'. Just as today Asian Americans, particularly the Chinese and Vietnamese, have followed that well-trodden path to Quincy. In the case of my family, however, those roots were submerged in an American vanilla assimilationism. We never got past the desperate fight against being dirt poor to think of such high subjects as ethnic identity.

I have been a partisan of a just solution to the national question in Ireland and justice for the Catholic minority (and any Protestant worker who would listen to reason) in the North almost my whole adult life. For this class member, then, today the more important question is not one of ridding Ireland of snakes but ridding it of the bloody English Army. Thus, the above-cited line commemorating Easter, 1916 is what I would skip school for, gladly. I now take a certain pride in the accomplishments of our common Irish cultural heritage. However, it has been only very recently that I found out that my long-departed maternal grandfather was an ardent, if quiet, Irish nationalist. It is in the blood, apparently. However, this new knowledge kind of puts one of the sources of my youthful indifference into perspective, doesn't it? Chocky Ar La (Our Day Will Come).

Easter, 1916-William Butler Yeats

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.