I felt like an adult for the first time when
I define my teenage years as beginning when I reached 9th grade and turning 13 years old. This was a pivotal time in my life. My Dad had leukemia and I was just beginning to realize that something was really wrong with his health yet not yet fully understanding the ramifications of that illness would have on my family. I recall that at least once a year he would be admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion. Upon returning home he would be tired and required much rest and took numerous medicines. All of the medication he took made a lasting impression on me throughout my life. While I take medication I have always done so judiciously and as for the last resort. My Mom commented often that Dad should not take so much medicine and it has stayed with me all of my life. 1959 was very much a pivotal time in my life. I turned 13 and in the Jewish religion, I was to be regarded as ready to observe religious precepts and be eligible to take part in public worship. I studied intensely for 1 year in order to do a complete Sabbath service and read from the Torah and also a Haftarah. The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on the Sabbath. The Temple was full of my family and friends and I was really nervous. As an aside, my dad took me to Diamond Brothers for my first suit. It was a hand tailored 3 piece suit, that I had to return 3 times for the fittings. I really felt like a grown up and for the rest of my life I would say " if you can't impress them with what you know impress them with the way you look". I believe that I was flawless in conducting the service, at least that what I was told by all. That evening the dinner party was held at the Walnut Park Plaza Hotel in the Ballroom. I do not remember what was served but I do remember there was much caviar and it was the first time that I was exposed to the delicacy. There was a dance band that played 50's music so I concluded that this party was as much for my parents, family and their friends as it was for me and my friends.
In high school, I played Bass in the school band which I really enjoyed as the music teacher like jazz and that was my first introduction to that musical type. But as I have already mentioned my dad was not well and our deli was open 16 hours a day and I was expected to work when not in school. When I was in the 11th and 12th grade I was enrolled in the work-study program where I went to school until 12 and then left to work in the deli. This set my graduation date back a semester as I was not taking a full load. Although, this was a sad and difficult time in our lives I now have many fond memories of those 2 years. I recall often going out to eat after the store closed with my mother and brother. While I was always close to my mom, my brother and I grew much closer after my Dad's passing. Ice cream and pizza were our favorite places to go.
I have always loved to read and I began to read at an early age. We did not have a TV during my early years so reading and working in the store were my favorite activities. I also enjoyed playing sports, although basketball was by far my best and favorite sport.
Rite of Passage
My mother was the youngest of 7 sisters. She was raised by her sisters as her mother died during childbirth and her dad died before my mom was born. The sisters were their own best friends and had an unshakeable bond. Their husbands knew better than to interfere with what the sisters wanted to do collectively. We celebrated all holidays as a large family either at one sister's house or more often in a private room at a restaurant. We celebrated both secular and religious holidays. Those family celebrations are some of my best memories because as I left for college things changed.
I graduated from John Bartram High School after spending 3 summers at Overbrook High( Wilt Chamberlin's) school. My last 2 years at Bartram I went to school part time and worked the deli which resulted in my attending summer school to be able to graduate with my class. Bartram was a large urban school so my graduating class was large. I graduated in June 1964. I left for Emporia, Kansas in August.
I had 2 jobs while in high school. On one I sold programs on Sundays during football season at the Philadelphia Eagles games. The programs were 1.00 and I made .05 cents for each program sold. I was given 100 programs and if I sold them all I made $5.00, but I got to watch all the games from the sidelines. The year I worked the Eagles won the championship. The other job I had was on Saturday's at the Camac bath and Health club. This job involved folding sheets and towels for the club. I was paid 1.25/ hour. Camac was a unique place. It had 5 floors the top two being a hotel. To belong you had to be recommended by a member who belonged and gives 2 references. The first floor was lockers with an attendant. a small cafe, foot doctor tanning rooms, 15 different kinds of massage tables (Swedish, Russian), 4 different steam rooms. Go down a floor and there was a full basketball court. handball courts, racket ball courts, a fully equipped gym 2 different hot tubs and a swimming pool. The third floor had a sleeping room and shower facilities. So during my junior and senior years in high school, I was working 40+ hours/week. This was a big reason I went to a college outside of Phila. If I would have attended college in my hometown and also worked in the deli I do not think it would have ended well for me. I give my mom and brother credit for picking up the burden of my leaving although Paul reminds me continuously of my abandonment of him to work the store without me.