Stonybrook School

— Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 – { Is Mercury Retrograde? }

— Stonybrook School { grades kindergarten to sixth } is no more. A complex of condos took its place before the late 1980’s – that probably happened while I was away. I would have noticed.

—My first four and a half years as an Amerikan Schoolboy took place in that school. It had really black blackboards and might have been built in the 1930’s or earlier,  in Stratford, Connecticut, USA – in whatever parallel world designation we will be assigned when the majority of us on this planet realize we live in a multiverse.

— The school served a lot of area ‘projects’ – single story brick duplexes and two story wood-framed, wood-clad duplexes slapped together during world war two to house the workers and families of those workers needed for the area’s war industries.

— Success Avenue ran more or less north and south and may have been a border between Stratford and Bridgeport for part of its course – um, it ran north from Pearl Harbor Street until it met Stonybrook Road then continued north until it beant around to the east and met Broadbridge Avenue. Success avenue north of Stonybrook Road was the western boundary of the Stonybrook projects, which had its duplexes mostly lining courts and crescents to the east of Success. I think Pearl harbor Street was fully inside Bridgeport, Connecticut, the city that would trade off with Hartford in the near future for ‘largest city in Connecticut’ ‘honors’. As a five and six-year-old, all I knew about Bridgeport was that it had a strange looking building calling a ‘Mosque’ on a hill I could see from our front door. – That, and Bridgeport could have ice cream trucks drive around and ring their bells and entice happy kids with parental approval and parental dollars to run to wherever the trucks stopped and buy ice cream on a stick coated in chocolate or two flavored ice cream cups with a small flat wooden ‘spoon’ sealed in something like waxed paper – Bridgeport kids could run to the ice cream trucks, but Stratford kids couldn’t. It was against Stratford’s laws to sell ice cream from trucks that roamed around like that. We lived close enough to the Bridgeport border to see and hear those ice cream trucks every day in the summer. Twenty years later I thought that ‘Success Avenue’ should change its name to ‘Failure Boulevard’. – But that was after we moved out.

— I also remember vividly the day an army styled jeep rolled slowly up our court with smoke billowing out behind it. My mother came running out of the house, grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me inside. I later learned that I’d been gassed with DDT.

— By the time I reached the fourth grade it was beginning to feel like every friend I made moved away almost as soon as I began to believe I might have a friend for life. And then, halfway through my fourth grade year – we moved. We moved to an older single family two-story house in a ‘nicer neighbourhood’ with a third of an acre pyramid-shaped lot. We had grumpy older neighbours to our south and a family with younger kids renting a smaller two-story house with a much smaller lot to our north.

— In Stonybrook school, in the fourth grade, I was moved from one fourth grade classroom to the other, and was told that the reason they were moving me like that was because I was learning faster than most of the kids in the first classroom and as fast or faster than the kids in the second classroom. I’m not 1,000% sure now, when exactly this move took place, but I think it happened within the first month of that school year. That would have been 1958. I had a new baby brother, born in July of that year, and a soon-to-be two year old baby sister, a stay-at-home mom – and our two bedroom duplex was not going to cut it for a family with two boys and two girls and two parents.

— After my mother and my aunt explained – to the old witch of a new 4th grade teacher in that new school – that I had been accelerated from one class to the other because I was a bright kid, the teacher called on me on the first day I was there to read from the class’s homework assignment from before I got there, and I was unsure of the new kids, had only heard harsh – derisive words from any of them, stuttered and stammered through a paragraph I’d never seen before. The teacher angrily told me to sit down, and, in front of all my new classmates cackled, “I don’t think you were moved from one class to the other in that old school of yours because you were bright, I think they moved you because you’re stupid.” And I became the brunt of many jokes that day. I think that scarred me for most of the rest of that year.

— When we moved to the ‘nicer neighbourhood’ on January 8th of 1959 I soon learned that the only boy my age in our neighbourhood was a bit ‘off’. When I walked to school with him all he wanted to talk about was Nazi tortures, with a weird gleam in his eyes like he wanted to try those out on somebody. My parents knew the family with younger kids who lived across the side street from this guy’s family and they told us that the ‘weird’ kid was constantly getting beat up on the way to and from school. I began dragging my feet when it was time to get up and go to school, for a number of different reasons, only one of those reasons was the fact that I didn’t want to hear about Nazi torture practices all the way to and from school every day, four times a day, twice going to school, twice coming home. We still came home for a little more than an hour lunch in those days. When I told my mother about that guy talking about Nazi Tortures and many of them involving girls, she wanted me to walk with my sister, who was two years younger than me, and two years younger than the ‘weird kid’. There actually was an older boy who lived next door to the weird kid, and his sister was my age, but they went to a Catholic School. The slightly older boy had blond hair and was good at sports and had no time for weird neighbours or new kids who couldn’t hit a twelve year old’s fast ball for a home run every time he stepped up to bat. When I was nine years old in most of 1959 – this elusive sports minded kid was eleven. His sister was my age and had darker hair. Her name was Natalie, but like I said, she went to a Catholic School and I almost never even caught a glimpse of her.

— But what I learned really quickly that year was, living in those projects in 1959 was a lot more pleasant for a nine-year old than being transplanted into a ‘nice neighbourhood’ in the ‘North End’ of Stratford. A lot of clique-ish friendships had been made and new kids halfway through the fourth grade year – if they weren’t super cool, they were the odd man out. When I tried to talk to kids my age, even my classmates, a lot of the time I received the ‘elevated middle finger salute’ – I had never seen that in the Stonybrook area projects. When I asked what that meant, I nearly had my face slapped by my six-foot-two  -two hundred and fifty pound father. My mother intervened, with a shudder and asked, “Where did you see that?” – “At school -” – “Well, it’s not nice at all, we never want to see you do that anywhere.” When I had one friend at school who actually seemed to like me, I asked him what that meant and he told me it meant the ‘eff word’. I’d never heard that at Stonybrook either. And the kids were all much meaner and seemed to practice spitting out put-down phrases, like “You’re so low in this world you have to look up to see the gutter.” Kids spit in each other’s faces and one day, on the playground I saw a popular kid who was almost fat, knock a smaller kid to the ground and nearly smother the kid by jumping on top of him and covering his face with his large belly. I think a teacher broke this up just before the kid on the ground might have died in front of us. The kid who’d lost that fight, I have no idea what it might have been over, or what might have ‘started it’ – ended up in the hospital that night and the school went into panic mode thinking that the teachers and principal and the whole school board might have been sued for letting that fight happen without their close enough supervision to make it stop before it got out of hand… But everybody breathed a sigh of relief the next day when we all learned that the kid who’d been rushed to the hospital had a burst appendix and not some internal injury caused by a playground battle that had never included fists – the heavier, much more athletic kid had bumped into him so hard it knocked him down and then jumped on him like some kind of sumo wrestler { way before anybody in Stratford had ever heard of sumo wrestlers } – But the teachers all warned us that we would be in deep trouble that we might never get out of if we picked a fight on the playground. The next year, instead of making sure there were teachers on the playground before and after classes, they instituted rules that no students could be on the playground before school, or during the lunch hour, before a new bell went off to signal it was time to rush around and line up at your grade specific, sometimes classroom specific doors. And then there was just enough time for the class bullies and the classes were made up of, probably, 33% bullies – there was enough time for these bullies to try to verbally humiliate the 25% weakest boys or 5% weirdest girls with taunts they probably learned from their older relatives, parents, or anybody who’d been subject to the verbal abuse of Drill Sargents, street gangs, abusive authority figures or the like.

— Another thing I didn’t realize right off, Stonybrook school had a population that was almost half minorities. Everybody in my new school was white. I was pale – almost half Scandinavian & almost half British Isles { Including Scotland and Wales } with nearly a fourth Irish and a little bit French, Dutch and a bit of ‘who knows?’ and, at the time, we thought we were a little bit { 1/32nd? } Native American, back when everybody called that ‘American Indian’.

— So, in my rebellious mid twenties when I wanted to grow up to be an angst-ridden tortured poet-novelist I thought “The Rich Are With Us Always” might be a decent working title for the book I never got past the third page when I sat down to write –

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Blog Posts:

Hello world! ((( ? )))

— Today was my birthday and my first day of School. First day of kindergarten. A lot of us cried in Miss Root’s afternoon class. I almost joined them when I heard one kid moan that he wanted his mother. The teacher had learned that it was my birthday. She called me up in front of the class, showed us a paper maché cake, plopped me across her knees and spanked me five times. I was not impressed.

— One classmate, male child of a friend of my father’s – wet his pants and cried.

— The teacher read a list of names of her morning students at another school in town. We all nearly busted our guts laughing at the sound of those names. —> Looking back, I don’t get the joke.

— Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!


~~~~~ Jim

More Adventures in Kindergarten

— I remembered a dream. I woke up seeing a girl in my kindergarten class all grown up and running to her rural mail box to see if she got a letter from me. I was away at war saving the world. Maybe, if I saw it from this angle, I might have been dead. This was confusing. I thought I might have to marry that girl (again?) when I grow up.

~~~~~ Jim


First Grade —>

— Friday, September 30th, 1954 —

— There’s a new girl in my class this year. First Grade in Stonybrook School. Our mothers met and talked to each other before school. They asked me to walk the new girl home from school. I was okay with that.

— Our teacher is Miss Nelson and she’s old. But she wasn’t mean to us. Our mothers explained to her that we were supposed to walk to and from school together until further notice. She reminded us before we went home for lunch, and again when we were getting ready to go home at the end of the day.

— It was a hot day today, Walking home for lunch we broke away from the traveled path, on the next court up from my street, found a shady spot and sat down for a couple minutes. Some older kids pointed at us, laughed and sang a song about us being up in a tree, “K-i-s-s-i-n-g”. I thought they were jerks. So did she.

— The funny thing is, I can’t remember whether she had lunch at our house with my mother and sister, and me. I think she went home and came back in time to have me walk her back to school.

— [ Later on in the fall, Donald French, one of the biggest kids in our class – started trying to sit next to her and started trying to get to the biggest chairs in our first grade class room before I could get to them and plunked his chair down next to the girl I was still walking to and from school every day. He also tried to get away with moving the only other chair that that was that big away from where she would sit in the hopes that I wouldn’t find that chair in time and get it back beside her when we were called into a circle for story time or whatever. I was as tall as Donald, but I was ‘skinny’ and he wasn’t. Our teacher caught him trying to move the only other bigger chair to somewhere where I couldn’t sit near that girl, she was not impressed. She yelled at both of us, told us not to act like babies. I didn’t think that was fair. But I didn’t complain. He didn’t try to hide my chair for at least a week after that. — Then one day, after school when we reached my home, her father was there with her mother and a car, and said he had a job in Ohio and they would be moving away. That was the last time I saw her. I don’t remember crying, but I swore to myself I would remember her and find her when I grew up. Now I can’t remember her name. 🙁 – We got teased a lot, but somehow we were able to shrug that off. — I wonder what kind of life she had, or is having? ]

~~~~~ Jim

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