My Adolescent and Early School Years
Where I went to school“I started Elementary School at Patterson which was about 1 mile from where I lived. We lived on top of our Deli. Patterson went from 1st to 6th grade. There was no school bus service so Patterson was a neighborhood school, you either walked or took a trolley car. The trolley cost 10 cents. I walked to school with a bunch of neighborhood kids. I don’t remember any parental supervision walking with us, but there were school crossing guards at most intersections. I was always fond of telling my kids how I had “” to walk 10 miles uphill in both directions with no shoes and holes in my socks”” whenever they complained about the weather or walking. During my adolescent years, I took piano lessons. I did this in the hope that would improve my hand-eye coordination and my baseball career would greatly benefit. Did not happen! But I did give recitals at school and enjoyed playing the piano. My first piano instructor would sit next to me on the piano bench with a ruler in her hand and rap me on the knuckles whenever she deemed I made a mistake. I remember my adolescent years as being happy years. My parents let me help in the store stocking shelves, cleaning, running errands and delivering to neighbors. I liked the kids in the neighborhood. We played stickball, hoseball, and basketball right outside our homes in the street. Our playground, Finnigan, was about 7 blocks away containing football fields, baseball fields, basketball courts and a swimming pool. During these years I played all sports and swam in the summer. All in all, these were happy times. One of the most memorable events that I recall is one day when I left for school, unbeknown to me or my walking classmates, my brother who was not yet school age, followed us to school. He never entered the schoolyard and after some period of time as we began to enter I noticed my brother outside the gate. I told a teacher and she telephoned my mother. Mom was worried sick as she knew Paul was missing, called the police who were searching for him. This was the very first indication that Paul would be a man who loved a good adventure. This would be shown as true as he got older and had many more adventures. During the summer I would spend a lot of time at Finnigan playground both swimming and playing basketball. As I graduated Elementary School and began Tilden Junior High I realized I had no future in either baseball or football, but I was ok in basketball. Monday, Wednesday & Friday was swim days for boys. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday were swim days for girls. Sunday the pool was closed. So when it was girls swim days I was on the basketball court playing in pick-up games. There were many very good basketball players who were to be well known later in their lives. Wilt Chamberlin, Wally Jones, Bob Boozer, Guy Rogers & Earl Monroe to name just a few. These and other basketball players were who we admired and we followed their career in High School, College and finally the Pros. During the summer of 1955, my parents sent me to Camp Skymount which was located in the Pocono mountains in upstate PA. The Camp was a 2 week overnight camp. This was my first time to be away from home for any period of time. I cannot remember very much about this experience except I must have enjoyed because the next year they sent me to Camp WAN-WEE-TAH,I was 10 years old.”
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.