Thursday, December 8, 2011

The BF/GW Reunion!

So we had a junior high school reunion recently - everyone including my non-Ridgewood friends and family said "What!? Who goes to something like that?" Not an unreasonable question - I mean there can't be many classes that would take the time to do something like that I suppose - a junior high reunion. Unless of course, you graduated from high school in Ridgewood, NJ! Fly out from California - no problem. Chicago - of course! Canada, Colorado - count us in! I mean everybody was on the same page - for a junior high school reunion!

Staurday November 12, 2011 was the reunion - and it was perfect! Aside from a hotel issue (that has since been resolved) and the lack of sufficient time (we only had 8 hours!) - it was perfect! In fact, I guess you could say the lack of enough time makes it even that much more special. I'm so glad I started writing about Glen School which is what ultimately led to all this - though that wasn't the original intent of it. 

Tom and Jimmy - many thanks for your moral support and for just being at the reunion. Terri, Rusty, Mary Ann, Sue L, Cynthia, Anita, Sue Y, Tom, Jimmy, Luann, Nancy, Gayle, Helen, Cathy, Corey, Dinardo, Vazzie, Rick Hartung, Perry, Denise, Frank, Margaret, Tad, Elise, Fred, Jeff, John, Jack, Dan, Elaine, Cathy - ugh, please forgive me for missing anyone - it was the best! For those on the fence about reunions - ours aren't your run-of-the-mill kind reunions - they are indeed fun!

It is a difficult thing to explain to people - and that's what makes it so great - you can't reallly explain it! You really have to experience it to understand it - BUT you also need to genuinely like the people you went to school with too - I graduated with 658 kids and there were probably another 30 or 40 that went to private high schools - and yes I liked all these people!

Some of us were ahead of each other academically, others ahead socially and others - well just always behind (like me!). But the bottomline was that we all kind of were there for each other - even then during the tough years of 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old! There's truly nothing I wouldn't do for these "kids" I grew up with - it's a bond that doesn't go away. We obviously were and are all different - Karen, she's such a talented artist, living her passion - Annie, wow - that smile that could disarm anyone - Katie, who is one of the dearest people I know - Cara - what can't you say about Cara - I could listen to her for hours - Ken Merrill - Ken I look so forward to our semi-annual dinners / brunches with each other - everybody in the circle (and there are a ton of us) - know how special it is - I always wish Artie was here - when I go "sentimental" on everyone - he would always understand - though I wish I could keep a lid on my enthusiasm sometimes! If there was anything I would ask of all these people it's "Can any of you start aging - please?" I guess at times like this - with such strange things happening around the globe its truly nice that Karen, Annie, Katie, Ken, Daun, Luann, Cara, Chic, Tommy, Tad, Appleton - well, that you're all still out there! It brings you back to a great place in your life and which helped to make you who you are today.

About 20 years ago, a company began publishing high school directories - in these $75 books is all the information (for those who participate) on when someone graduated, their married & maiden names, addresses and phone numbers, etc of people who attended your high school. The first time I ordered one (I have 2) I poured over it - I'm not ashamed to say I looked up everyone - there's no one I did not look up - it was interesting to discover that some kids I went school with - their parents were RHS alumni too. I checked out O'Connor - Strype - Annie - Karen - Lisa Faeth - I wanted to know where these people ended up, what they were doing and was always disappointed if someone hadn't sent in their info. The directory was indispensible for getting in touch with some very special people like Jan Potdevin - despite how long it took, I took great pleasure in seeing Jan in 2009 at the Glen School reunion - do you know Jan still has the ring I gave her way back when - how cool is that! In fact - selfish is the perfect word - I think I do this because I am indeed selfish - I don't mean that in a bad way - how can all these people mean so much to someone who was basically - at least until his junior year in high school - so quiet and seemingly shy!? I do get a helluva lot out of these things! I wish I could explain it but all of these people represent what it was like to attend school in Ridgewood NJ at that time - we were all a part of each other's lives in town sports, church, scouts, school - the names are all synonomous with my memories of those times - Speechley, Rimmer, Shepperd, Cancelmo, Perdue, Wescott and obviously the rest of the 658 - so it's not surprising that you could feel so comfortable with any one of them!

If the reunion wasn't enough, the next morning I had breakfast with the girls I always thought the most of  when I was a kid - amazing in every sense of the word are these girls who to this day - remain such good friends with each other just as they did back then - but here they were - the next morning after the reunion and you're having breakfast with them - it was perfect - Daun, Karen, Annie, Katie - you are special (missed you Cara!)! I have the greatest affection for you all! And yes - my wife Caryn was there too!

The above photo was one of my favorite classes - 4th grade. 30 kids! Miss Prescott how did you do it? Anyway, all the girls I had crushes on when I was little were there - in one class - wow, talk about tripping over your words and desperately trying not to look stupid.....Annie, Katie, Cara, Karen, Beth Daly and Beth Perdue all here! This class probably best epitomized my life at Glen School - nothing but the best memories...............the saddest thing about it is that, though this was very much my 4th grade class, I was out sick the day this photo was taken!! One of my favorite classes and I'm not there the day they took our class photo!?

4th Grade Mrs. Prescott:

Front Row l to r: Robbie Whittemore, John Petirk, Corey Duvall, Frank Fortino

2nd Row l to r: Susan Andersen, Lisa Faeth, Annie, Sue Nunno, Mrs. Prescott, Cara, Beth Daly, Katie, and Barbara Durheimer

3rd Row l to r: Karen, Lynn Malley, Kara Degraw, Beth Perdue, Martin Vaz, Greg Rehe, Betsy Kline, Irene Williams,  Jennifer Rudy

Back Row l to r: Bruce Meneghin, Ken, Bobby Stewart,   Wayne Bond, Gary Vukov, Jim Smethurst, Alex Kramer, Chic Voorhis
Other great "kids" I grew up with were in another split 4th/3rd grade class at the time - they included: Artie Brierley, Linda Pursiano, Maryann Vaz, Carl Vrabel, Jill Neandross, Carey Hoff and Jan Koper.

I had such a great time you guys - thanks for what you did that weekend too! I toast all of you and can't wait til we get together again!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BF: Slowly Gaining Confidence!

As a student at Ben Franklin Junior High, I definitely felt excited to be there - ya know, out of elementary school and into "real" school. I'll be honest - looking back now I definitely wasn't ready - too young - but when you're going to school with a certain group of kids since kindergarten and kids that you really like, you can't imagine it being any different - yet you see everybody getting a little ahead of you socially. Seeing people I grew up with - like Eide, Rimmer, Petrucci, Katie, Vuke and so many others - I was embarrassed sometimes - they all seemed like they were actually 7th graders and I thought they as well as many others - were so cool.

While I felt older, I definitely wasn't sure how to navigate the halls of BF. 7th grade was hard in this way, 8th was a little easier and 9th I started to feel like I fit in and definitely felt better about myself.

Probably one of my biggest faults even to this day, is that I really wrap myself around things - it could be anything - I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, I definitely get enthusiastic about things - wish I was more low-key. That's not to say I am ignorant just, well, I love being with friends and with people I genuinely like.

I look back on BF and wish I could go back and be part of the paper - Franklin Speaking - or be able to show that I was capable of more things than some thought I was. I was definitely more caught up in trying to fit in and allowed my grades to suffer as a result.

Above - me and my dad around 7th grade - we were attending a baseball dinner - the guset speakers were Bobby Cox (played for the Yankees before he made history with the Braves) and Bobby Richardson. Smile Ricky!!!

By the time I reached 10th grade I was beginning to sew my oats a little - got some confidence suddenly - making up for lost time! I was cutting classes - going to Renato's for lunch, smoking by then. Even started sneaking liquor into our dances (we had great dances with live bands but they stopped doing them because of some fights and probably because they knew we were drinking too!) Despite all of this - I never really changed - I was still myself which is to say these things didn't change my personality - I was a likeable guy and I liked everybody - I was not trying overly hard to be cool - I just, well cut class, drank a little, smoked - I can't explain it but my teachers liked me and so they cut me a break - lucky for me and my folks had so much patience.

I remember one time at RHS while Mrs. Beckett wasn't looking (remember Mrs. Beckett? - Mr. McCutcheon's secreatry - loved her!),  I grabbed 2 special absence/admission slip pads when she looked away. I used these to get out of class - gosh don't tell my kids this!!! Please don't think that I'm proud of this - I mention it because here was this shy generally quiet guy who was able to do these things - I marveled at myself. Mr. Mac used to marvel at me too and in spite of myself continued to cut me so many breaks.

When I was a junior in high school - I think this was my epiphany year - I began dating a girl - from Paramus - I was feeling, well - so happy about my social life, love life and suddenly my academic life began to turn around - it was funny really. Even having the confidence to ask a girl out that I liked but didn't know - Robin Sleeman who was a junior and she said yes!

 It was late in my junior year in high school - I was still struggling to get a grip on my studies and Mr. Honsinger told me it was likely I might not graduate with my class - "What! Are you kidding me!" - this is not happening! I looked him in the eye and asked him what it was gonna take to catch up - he told me my senior year would be pretty busy but I said there was no way I was not going to graduate with my class - bring it on Mr. H! Well obviously I made it and graduated with the Class of' '73 - what a wonderful feeling - it wasn't even difficult - I just spent so much time having fun that I let my grades go.

 If I can figure out how to get some home movies transeferred to the internet - I will post our Class of '73 graduation movie - in it I am so animated, hugging people - I think in part because I was there - I made it - I was suddenly so into RHS, my girlfriend was there, some teachers came specifically to see me graduate - people would never have known I was capable of being so outgoing - I played it so close to the vest before - should have just been myself. But here I am now in 2011 and I'm loving being in touch with so many great people from my past - I swear I felt like I knew practically everyone - I enjoyed everybody - what a great time to grow up!

Artie - man I wish you were around - he knew that  we are what we are as result of so many things and one those things was our time growing up. I feel I always have to remind people not to mistake me for one who is stuck in the past - I just so enjoyed that time that - for me anyway - it is worth remembering - the tough parts as well as the great parts - the loves, loves lost, the friends, the teachers - good and bad - the whole world in front of you - the hard academic days (in my 9th grade yearbook some friends would write "Good luck at RHS - you'll need it!") - the great football games - the drivers license, the first drink. There was a time - probably when I was maybe 18 or 19 when I thought how great it would be to start over and take that "Ricky" back to BF.

Looking back now, I can see myself myself sitting in math class or in homeroom or getting snapped with a towel in gym class - hey see you guys in 41 years at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cathy O'Neill's Yoga Class - Saturday at WL Hilton!

Cathy O'Neill will be giving a yoga class on Saturday at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton - see details below.

PLEASE be sure and contact Karen Eide regarding this!!

From Karen:

On Saturday, for the travel weary.. Cathleen O'neill has generously offered to gift us with a yoga class @ 3pm at the hotel. Grab a towel from the pool or room for a mat. It's in Groves 3 & 4. Holds about 20. If you'd message me or DM @kareneide on twitter I'll keep a list so I'll know if we need a bigger room. I can't wait to see everyone!

Please be sure to contact Karen....................

Thursday, September 22, 2011

BF Coming of Age Part Two: Reality!

Coming of Age - it means so many different things to people - but it is definitely a combination of wonder, experiences, hope, love, fitting in - its all the things that contribute to your growing up, your attempts at love and the trials that come with that.

Above, yup that's me!

The opposite sex is always a major part of it - that journey through school - the struggles are all relative to the age you are but by the time you get to junior high, it starts getting more serious. I always felt way behind my friends when it came to girls - I knew I wasn't mature enough to handle some things in BF but I sure was observant about everything around me! I wanted to smoke. I wanted to wear the right clothes. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to get good grades. I wanted to be accepted. I put so much pressure on myself that it seemed impossible to achieve anything!

Honestly I loved BF but hated growing up during my 7th and 8th grade years - I had wished I could fast forward through it all.

The growing up thing had definitely distracted me from my schoolwork. I couldn't wait for the school year to end just to get away from the pressures I felt. Then there were the summers - that wonderful break between school years when not only the schoolwork would go away but all the social pressures that came with going to school too!

In the summers when I was 11, 12 and 13 I was a completely different person - I wasn't trying so hard to impress others and I was just being myself. I recently wrote in the Glen School blog about a girl I met in the summer for a fleeting moment when I was in 7th grade. It was at the beach. I saw her, asked if she would meet me on the beach later that night (it was early) and she said yes. There is something about being on vacation - nothing to lose - you won't see the person again if its a rejection ya know? Was I nervous asking her - definitely! Was I even confident she would show up - not really but I didn't care. I thought she was cute and the summer gave me the confidence I didn't have in school at that point - people don't know you when you're away - it gives you license in a way! I was able to be myself and be comfortable in my own skin as they say! It was a night I'll always remember and one where despite all the talk about girls - I didn't "try" anything - we simply talked. We were barefoot, tan - the ocean - it was perfect! But the kiss when we said goodnight - wow............ We wrote for a little bit and after a while didn't stay in touch but it was a great experience and great memory
- very special and I realized that hey I CAN deal with this thing called life! - that is until I got back to BF! I couldn't understand why I couldn't take the summer Ricky and merge him with the BF guy!

Above, click the arrow to watch a scene from "The Wonder Years" to the song "Seasons" by Elton John. That show was a lot of peoples lives and definitely mine!

Its funny looking back on friend's various takes on the fairer sex - each had an opinion on what we were supposed to do as boys - what was expected of us - what the girl expected from us! But it just starts out simple - there doesn't have to be a plan.

By 9th grade I was becoming more sure of myself but began hanging out with a guy who was definitely trouble. I learned a lot from him - you know about sex and things like that, drugs even, drinking - he was way ahead of me! I won't mention his name because that wouldn't be right but had I really gotten involved with him who knows where I would've ended up - he left high school - I couldn't imagine not graduating with my class. It was fun and exciting but I also wasn't a stupid kid - I navigated that episode pretty well!

Anyway by the time I graduated 9th grade I was a little more in the know.

By the time I reached high school - I would still struggle with schoolwork but developed a relationship with a girl from another town. For me it was an amazing relationship - one that was long term too. We had our ups and downs to be sure - there was heartbreak and moments of sheer joy but it would end a year or so after high school. There was the lunch time phone call on the pay phone at the main door at RHS - yes, I know - what love does to you when you're young! Still, dating someone from another school - it was exciting but the down side of course is less time at your own school. Oh there were times during a tough period in that relationship when I spied a girl at RHS - Robin Sleeman - gosh I thought she was so cute. She played field hockey and me and a friend would sit on the steps to the old gym and I would watch Robin practice. I remember saying to him "Gosh she's cute!" "I have to ask that girl out! Should I?" "Think she'll say yes?" It was just like Fred Strype in 7th grade when he asked me if I thought Nanci Hesse liked him - now it was me asking someone if they thought Robin would like ME! How I progressed! Finally, I did ask her out and I was so excited when she said yes! I was such a jerk to her - that is I wasn't mean to her but you can't - you should never go out with a girl when you're in a realtionship with another - either wait til its over or be honest - of course when you're 16, 17 years old mature thought isn't part of your life. Still - as shortlived as it was - I have the fondest memories of Robin - holding hands with her, walking her home - she probably has the opposite memory of me and I would deserve that to be sure. But holding hands with someone you care about - there's nothing like it. Anyway, all these rituals gave me  the coinfidence in high school to become a better student and helped to make me a lot more outgoing. I have often thought about Robin and I wish she knew how she had made me feel - I didn't handle that (as far as she was concerned) - very well......

Above, click the arrow above to hear the Elton John song "Friends".

The struggle to come of age has been around since forever - it's the one thing that never really changes. We all have to go through it - for some it can be extremely difficult - for others - like me - we laugh along the way - but we never forget these times that help to make us who we are!

The BF/GW junior high reunion - reserve your rooms now by calling the Woodcliff Lake Hilton 201-391-3600 if you'd like to stay over night. Don't miss out on something that will make you smile!

Monday, September 19, 2011

BF Coming of Age Part One: Innocence & Fantasy!

The 60's - the decade started with Doris Day movies and silly comedies and ended with the Woodstock documentary and movies that didn't leave much to the imagination. The music of the early 60's was tame  - Elvis was drafted into the army and Buddy Holly and others died in a plane crash. Still it was an exciting time with Kennedy's New Frontier and the Space Program. By 1964 though, the British Invaision began with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones rocking our young worlds. By 1967 - with the Summer of Love - a little something called the Sexual Revolution was raising its head - er, no pun intended! By 1967-68 the line between what we thought was cool and the older generation of America trying to convince us otherwise or not knowing how to react - well let's just say that the line was getting bigger by the year!

Above, the decade would start out with silly, non-controversial films like the Doris Day movies and end with the likes of "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice".

By the late 1960's, movies started to change - 1967 brought "Bonnie and Clyde", "Cool Hand Luke", "The Valley of the Dolls". 1968 brought "Barbarella", "Romeo & Juliet". In 1969 came "The Last Summer", "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". In 1970, "MASH", "Catch-22" and "The Boys in the Band"! There didn't seem to be a subject untouched and there was no way you couldn't at least KNOW about these movies - through ads, movie trailers, magazines, conversation - talk about raging hormones!

Above, the cast of "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice".

As kids we were getting bombarded from all sides - the Vietnam War, riots, political assassination - and sex!! Whew...............but let me start with the innocence of it all!

When I was in first grade I remember hearing a joke told to me by a 5th or 6th grader. My oldest sister was married but at the dinner table this one night was myself, my sister Ginger and my parents. It was a routine night in the Flannery house. "How was your day at school Ricky?" my mom cheerfully asked me. "Hey I learned a new joke in school today!" and I proceeded to tell it without any prompting - something that had the punch line ".............rubber balls and liquor!" and I laughed practically before I finished,  innocently happy that I remembered it line by line - honestly having no clue what it all meant - I was very proud of myself! It just sounded so funny to me. Talk about stopping everyone in their tracks. Looking back my dad probably wanted to laugh, my sister did laugh but not because of the joke and my mom couldn't believe her ears! In the end, all that was said really was "You shouldn't tell jokes like that Ricky....." and I was left to frown and wonder what the fuss was about! The innocence of it was great!

In 5th grade, there was this guy that joined our class - Brian Marchese. Brian attracted everybody - the guys liked him because he was cool, he had the first Stingray bike. The girls liked him becasue he was cool too but the attraction was that he was the bad boy! Well, one of the first things I learned from Brian was the "F" word. Naturally - just as an innocent would do - I went home that night and was gonna get to the bottom of the "F" word - you know, it MUST mean something. I'll never forget this. My mom was outside planting flowers and I was throwing the ball around with neighbors. Before going inside, I went up to my mom: "Hey mom, do you know what "F***" means?" My mother nearly fell over and was speechless! She stumbled on a reply and said "Your father is shaving - why don't you ask him." "Sure!" So I went inside still seeing nothing wrong the word and said "Hi Dad! Hey do you know what F*** means?" After a pause in HIS reply he said something to the effect "You better ask your mother about it!" Really I thought? Why the run-around? Do they not know the meaning of this word? I got the dictionary - nothing! Well I pursued it until I asked an older kid down the street what it meant and after an explicit description of its meaning - now I was speechless - but became a little more in the know as they say!

At Camp Green there was Mark Gorenflo - I met Mark at 6th grade camp - Camp Green. Ridgewood elementary schools always went to camp with another school in town - I think Mark was from Willard. Anyway, we learned Mark had a girlfriend - I remember us talking about that. I mean I was "sort of" going steady at the time with Cindy Pomeroy - I mean we had been longtime friends - I really liked her, we kissed, she had my id bracelet - I finally asked her to go steady but I was such an innocent that I didn't think to ask her to the movies or on some sort of date! Here was Mark and he was "really" going steady - "wow" we all thought - this guy is cool! How does he do it? How can I be better at this ritual? In my Camp Green diary among all the writing about mining for iron ore, bird watching and the like, I wrote "I like girls." - I guess girls were on my mind - but it wasn't so much a generalization about girls as it was about the bigger struggle of how to chart my choppy course through junior high.

Later on after I reached junior high school - 9th grade specifically - I remember plotting out the purchase of my first Playboy magazine! It was another right of passage and a "big deal" but how to do it? "Ricky, Drapkin's has them right out in the open!" a friend said. Sounds like a plan. So one day I walked uptown to hang out and went to Drapkin's in search of Playboy! There it was on the shelf like a beacon! I spent what seemed like a half hour trying to figure out how I was going to buy it. Of course there was now a girl behind the counter - OMG - can't do it now, but I was not about to leave. I thought if I could hang around long enough til she leaves and the guy gets back behind the counter again I can make my move! So I was leafing through all sorts of sports magazines, tool magazines - "harmless" magazines that wouldn't raise eyebrows. Oh wow - "How to Build A Short-Wave Radio" how interesting - don't you have to take a break or something I thought?! Finally the girl went somewhere else but I couldn't just walk up to the counter with Playboy in my hand - what if I see a neighbor or a girl from school or my mother! I'll be labeled a degenerate! So I grabbed the NY Times and slipped Playboy in between the sections - not to steal it but to hide it from those in line with me! "Hi! Um - er, I'll take the Times, oh and some gum and um, I guess I'll take this too" ya know, since it's there! Geez, I felt the heat in my cheeks but walked out the door truly thinking the owner was going to yell out "Just a minute young man!" When I got it home I didn't know what to do with it! But two things were certain - one, I had to hide it - two, I couldn't believe my eyes! Another right of passage - more knowledge - finally! When you're a kid you just want to at least know what it's all about!

Then there were movies with your parents. Anyone ever go to a movie with your parents when you were like 11, 12, 13 years old and realize that it was probably not intended for you to see that one but no one realized it until after the movie started? My parents took me to see tons of movies - it was always a blast going to the movies! I went with friends - went to the Stanley Warner Theater a lot when I was a kid. But there were a couple of movies my parents took me to which I probably shouldn't have gone to see though. One was a movie called "A Guide for the Married Man" (actually I couldn't remember the title but recalled that Walter Matthau and Jayne Mansfield were in it and Googled them). The storyline was teaching the art of philandering. Seeing Jayne Mansfield I was like - hello, how uncomfortable is this? I remember sitting there seeing these women up on the large screen and feeling increasingly uncomfortable sitting next to MY MOM! Granted, when I was recently trying to figure out the title, the movie was listed as a comedy - I mean Lucille Ball and Jack Benny among many others had small roles but there is no way my mom thought this was about what it was about - still though it was a harmlesss 60's movie.

Above, "A Guide for the Married Man" - innocent 1967 movie fare but still able to make an 11 year-old (me) go "Wow!"

Then there was Dr. Zhivago - when this came out in 1965 you have to remember we were seeing movies like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music which I confess is one of my favorite movies. Zhivago is clearly a phenomenal movie, it's epic - I love it to this day but there was a scene where Julie Christie is raped by Rod Steiger and I was like whoaaa - I was 10 years old! Sitting there with my mom watching scenes like that - well you want to get some popcorn or something and check the box scores! Slowly I began to put it all together....................

When you're a kid you talk among your friends - "Did you hear about this movie?" Chances are you haven't or wouldn't see the movie you were talking about with friends but one thing was clear - you knew it was hot!

After all this stuff getting thrown at you - some of it brought on yourself - you're asking yourself  "Man, am I ready for all this stuff?" My parents - they were the best parents a kid could have - whenever they found themselves in a situation like taking me to a movie I probably shouldn't see at a particular age - it was an innocent thing to them, they didn't make a big deal about it and nothing would be said and so I would be left to squirm in my seat! However, when it came to music it was a different story. When it came to music my dad was of that generation that said "I can't understand what they're saying!" Now, my mom, she would understand some of the words - that is she would know what she was hearing but the meaning would be lost! I will never forget this one day - I had purchased the new Beach Boys single "Do It Again". If you're into The Beach Boys you'll know that this song is strictly about The Beach Boys going back to their musical roots - surfing, girls and cars - kind of nostalgic for The Beach Boys - here's a verse:

Well I've been thinking 'bout,
All the places we've surfed and danced and
All the faces we've missed so let's get,
Back together and do it again

Well my mom yelled upsatirs to me "Ricky, that song is inappropriate!" Really? Really mom? Oh - I get it - the words "DO - IT - AGAIN........" - I nearly fell over with laughter - I did try to convince her it was about "old times", etc - well finally - I just turned down the volume a little! I think part of it in my case was that my folks were about 15 to 20 years older than most of my friends parents - a big gap when you consider all that was going on! Then when I bought Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" in 1969 - forget about it - "ah, ah, ah, ah, ah......." mom didn't even mention that one - probably just didn't know what to say!!!

I also remember trying to convince my dad that going for a haircut every other week wasn't a good idea anymore! Took a while but finally succeeded. Same with bell-bottoms - "Come on mom, everybody's wearing them!" Took a while but managed that one too. Growing up - there is a lot to it! Pop culture, sports, girls, physical changes you're not ready for. You're trying to fit in - you're not sure of things - you're sometimes wishing that all this was not happening with people you know around you!

Relive it all - come the BF-GW reunion Saturday November 12 at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.

Friday, September 16, 2011

BF-GW Reunion Sat Nov 12, 2011!

So our big RHS reunion is in 2013. First we had the Glen School reunion and now its the BF-GW reunion Saturday November 12, 2011! It will be at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in Woodcliff Lake NJ Saturday Nov 12. Cocktail reception 7-8, dinner 8-11pm. To make room reservations call the Woodcliff Lake Hilton 201-391-3600 and mention that you are reserving under the Ben Franklin / George Washington Junior High Schools reunion November 12. It's gonna be a fun evening!

Updated "Who's Coming List" - paid and confirmed: (people are coming from far away you guys!)

Paid & Confirmed  - If you think you're coming please let me know! I know some have expressed that they will come for drinks afterward and that's fine BUT if you're planning on dinner I definitely need your check so the hotel has a dinner for you! Thanks you guys! That's a pretty nice list! I know some have said they will pay at the door - THIS IS OK too - just assure me that you will pay for dinner - this way you can pay at the last minute and still have a dinner. I need to give an unofficial number to the WLH by next Tuesday Nov 8.

I for one can't wait!

Ann Rimmer
Katie Knight
Karen Eide
Cara Worthington
John Wescott
Terri Dimodugno
Ken Merrill
Maryanne Vaz
Cathy O'Neill
Helen Hudson
Anita Simos
John Sands
Daun Paris
Elaine Pedersen
Sue Yerger
Nancy Tanchak
Jim Appleton
Marjorie Appleton
Cathy Ratcliffe
Jeff Auger
Perry Inganamort
Denise Costigan
Ginny Curbelo
Sue Leahy
Katie Knight
Dan Scala
Gerilyn Melzar
Gayle Allard
Patty Dunne
Luann Speechley
Peter Sackrider
Mary Ann O'Rourke
John DiNardo
John's Guest - Marialyse (couldn't make out last name - sorry John!!)
Tad Shepperd
Sherry Shepperd
Frank Petrucci
Frank's Fiance Jenny
Tom O'Connor
Kim O'Connor
Fred Strype
Elyse Strype
Cynthia Hoogland
Rick Hartung
Corey Duvall (after 10pm)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

BF Pop Culture: 1967-1970!

What defines us as we're growing up? A lot of things really - our folks, schools, our friends - then there's pop culture - you know, the tv shows, the movies, the music of one's life. Junior high was filled with pop culture.

Above, Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw in a still from the movie "Love Story" - a girl favorite.

There were the movies. Correct me if I'm wrong but I'd say for the girls that among the movies that defined their years at BF were movies like "Love Story", "To Sir With Love" to name a couple - remember Lulu's hit theme song? I remember the girls talking about "Love Story" and Ali McGraw and unable to hold back the tears - you know, "Love is never having to say you're sorry" - the original chick movie! For the guys there were James Bond movies, Matt Helm, Bonnie & Clyde and The Dirty Dozen. The Graduate was one movie that defined the time - when Ben (Dustin Hoffman) is relentless in his pursuit of Elaine (Katherine Ross) and arrives at her wedding "Elaine!!!", "Ben!!!" 2001: A Space Odyssey, Midnight Cowboy - wow what a difference a few years makes right?

Above, Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman in the movie "The Graduate".

Above, click the arrow above to hear Lulu sing "To Sir With Love".

Above, click on the arrow above to play the song "Mrs. Robinson" from "The Graduate".

Television was at its peak and was still a novelty and something we all loved. The variety shows were huge with my parents - Hollywood Palace, Dean Martin Show, Kraft Music Hall and (gulp!) Lawrence Welk! I would watch Hollywood Palace once I realized they had bands on there like Ed Sullivan. We had our own variety shows in the mid-sixties in the afternoon that had girls and bands - "Shindig!", "Where the Action Is!" and "Hullabaloo!" - loved those shows - remember Go-Go boots!?

Above, click the arrow to play The Yardbirds playing "I'm A Man" on tv's Shindig. I loved that song. Note the go-go dancers! As soon as you play you'll see a 15 second clip of who presented this video - once you get past that - very cool!

Then there was the endless stream of sitcoms - "I Dream of Jeannie", "Bewitched", "I Love Lucy" reruns, "Partridge Family", "Brady Bunch", "Batman", "The Monkees", "F Troop" - it was endless! Other shows that kind of defined our generation included shows like "Room 222", "Lost In Space", "Star Trek" and "Mission Impossible".

Above, the trials and tribulations of "Room 222" made an impact on tv at the time.

There were 2 shows that I remember made an impact for me at BF. One was "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" which we always talked about at the bus stop on Tuesday mornings - repeating the classic lines! It was such a cool show at the time - full of double entendres! Then there was Goldie Hawn! She was my favorite star as a kid - I had a huge poster of her in my room - I thought she was so funny! Listening to some of her clips from Laugh-In she's just hysterical!

Above, Goldie Hawn!

Above, click on the arrow above to play a short clip of Goldie Hawn at her best!

Another show I really dug was "The Smothers Brothers Show" which was cutting edge at the time and marched to its own drummer particularly where the Vietnam War was concerned and opinions go. I thought it was a very cool show. And its why they cancelled it in the end.

Above, Jim Lang hosted "The Dating Game"- a popular Saturday night show - pick him! pick her! and the chaperoned "overnight" trip/date!

Above, click the arrow to play Simon & Garfunkel's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" - "What a dream I had, Pressed in organdy, Clothed in crinoline, Of smoky burgundy, Softer than the rain......" - are you kidding me? Truly one of the simplest and most meaningful love songs! Adjust your volume - I couldn't find a better version.

There were the game shows too like "The Dating Game", "The Newlywed Game" and "Let's Make A Deal". I used to make a list of all the things I'd bring with me if I ever made it to the "Let's Make A Deal" show - you know, for the end of the show when Monte Hall would say things like "I'll give you 500 dollars if you have a buffalo nickel!" When I was 10 I thought it funny too that young married couples would get together with other couples and trash each other on tv all for the sake of winning a washer!

Music by far was the best - I started to discover all sorts of music! I loved music as far back as I can remember thanks to my sisters Sharon and Ginger. Watching The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" with Ginger was memorable - my sister took me into the bathroom immediately following that February 9, 1964 show and tried combing what hair I had down into bangs! The weeks leading up to the Beatles arriving in New York were cool - I'd sit on the counter in the kitchen with Ginger while she was doing homework or whatever and we'd be listening to the radio - WABC-NY am radio - remember Cousin Brucie? - for those weeks leading up to Sunday February 9 it was "The Beatles are coming! The Beatles are coming!" and they'd play a song that was called "We Love You Beatles" - incredible build-up for a band  - I thought these guys must be amazing! It was timely to have such a distraction so soon after the death of JFK. By junior high The Beatles were singing "Hey Jude" and the White Album had come out - seemed a long way from the days of "It's A Hard Day's Night" but wonderful! Before we left junior high, The Beatles would break up!

Above, The Beatles had changed quickly from the days of 1964 and Beatlemania - 1967 brought "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"  - wow - talk about a game changer!

I bought tons of records by the time I reached junior high - 45's were only like .59 cents. Started out buying the one hit wonders, then The Beatles, Beach Boys, Monkees, Rolling Stones. Then in 1968 the album "In A Gadda DA Vida" came out - now that was different - is it possible to keep up with it all!? Simon & Garfunkel, Dylan, Lennon's solo albums - I would get lost in the lyrics. To this day I still love discovering new music. Music was another bus stop or school conversation subject - "Have you heard the latest album by....?" I love all kinds of music - Simon & Garfunkel was certainly up there as far as music that was meaningful. I mean just listen to some S&G songs like "The Sounds of Silence", "Kathy's Song", "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her", "The Dangling Conversation" or "A Most Peculiar Man" - the lyrics are amazing - how can someone write like this?

Above, click the arrow to play Simon & Garfunkel's "Kathy's Song" - its a beautiful song.

The price of color tv sets came down in 1967 making it easier for many to get color tv. I'll never forget when my dad brought the first one home. It was such a monstrosity! You know - they were the stereo, radio, tv combo! We were like "Wow!" "Ooooohhhhh!" - for sports it was "Look at the grass - its green!" We were so impressed by such things! There were peace signs, discoteques, granny glasses, mod clothing and Smiley Faces. There were posters, love beads and the Polaroid Swinger camera.

Twiggy led the way with the Mod's!

It was a great time to grow up but with lots of sobering things going on outside our bubble called Ben Franklin Junior High!

Be sure to come to the BF/GW reunion November 12 - no matter what year you were and rediscover your classmates and make new friends!

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 1967: Welcome to Junior High!

The last day at Glen School - 6th grade - all I could think about was what was it gonna be like in 7th grade? At Ben Franklin Junior High School in general? How different? I have 2 sisters but now both were married and no one was there to tell me what it was gonna be like. All I knew was I wanted to change, to be different than I was - especially after going to 6th grade camp (Camp Green). In fact sometimes I wished that I could've gone to a different school - start a clean slate - its hard to change when people think they "know you" and look at you being a certain way - in a new school - I thought - they wouldn't know me and I could start over.

There would be no more walking to school - no more home for lunch - we would take the bus now. I was looking forward to the cafeteria - but who would I sit with? At the age of 11 the social jockeying was a little intimidating. What I had going against me was that I was a quiet kid in junior high - didn't miss anything but never wanted to make a fool of myself - just couldn't break out. Whereas now I don't care so much what people think, back then I cared a lot about what people thought! Just like in Glen School - I admired a great many of the kids I went to school with at BF. Weird writing such things when I know people are reading this but when you write a blog you tend to put it all out there I guess!

Above, a scene from the 1967-68 school year in our BF cafeteria.

It's not that I wanted to be someone else but I sure as hec wanted to have the confidence of some of these people I knew! Vuke, Frank, Cancelmo, Artie, Tad - Rusty - I mean nothing fazed Wescott - that crew seemed to move with no issues! How do they do it?

What was BF like? It was big, fun, imtimidating - and more!

Homeroom - this was a new thing for us - having a base in the morning and late afternoon before you went home even if you didn't have a class with that teacher. In homeroom you received all your school info, school newspaper - they took attendance. We had homeroom sports teams. My 7th grade homeroom teacher was Virginia Colbeth - she was pretty cool - always smiling. Homeroom 209. Among those in my homeroom were Kathy Stella, Janet Helms, Kevin Marshall, Nanci Hesse, Fred Strype, Bob Whitehead and Colleen Moran.

Above, the back side of BF - the cafeteria is on the right. Above the door in the corner (at the right angle) was where I entered every morning when the bus dropped us off. The second set of windows above and to the right of the door was my 7th grade homeroom - 209. As high school seniors we would return to BF one last time when we graduated high school. Our parents had decorated the BF gym and set up food in the BF cafeteria for an all-night party after our big graduation dinner. BF would be the last place we'd see on our final day in the Ridgewood school system.

We would take classes like woodshop, graphic arts, science, health among all the others. We took language now - French or Spanish. I had 3 great Spanish teachers. The first one was Wilma Farina - I liked her. My 8th grade Spanish teacher was Mavrovitis - she was the one who would make me stand up at my desk and roll my R's - my name was Ricardo and I always seemed to say it like you would say Ricky Ricardo - you know, very American sounding! I would stand there before the class and go "Me llamo Rrrrrrrrrrrrrricardo! Me llamo Rrrrrrrrrrricardo!" I could barely keep from laughing but it worked nonetheless! In the 9th grade it was Dona Maria Garcia. Spanish class that year boasted a pretty good group - Colleen McCarthy, Willie McKee, Elisa Foca, Robin Gneiting (dear Robin!), Sue Nunno and Sandy Toney.

Rea Mavrovitis - my 8th grade Spanish teacher wrote "Good luck to a nice boy - Dona Rea" - boy do I know my Spanish! (well not really I'm afraid - I looked it up!)

We had lockers for the first time. We would shoot hoops after lunch outside the cafeteria. I made some woodshop projects that took no imagination - a wooden stool, a pine shelf - run of the mill stuff - all this while a 9th grader was putting the finisihing touches on a grandfather clock that he started building in the 7th grade! Pine stool - grandfather clock - oh well! Wanamaker made sure to point all this out to us when we first entered his class - we all thought it was downhill from there!

For the first time, we would take showers after gym class - this was new! The biggest thing was avoiding the snapping towels - but hey we gave it back too! We didn't have the greatest food in the world but it was edible! If the day's lunch menu didn't measure up there was always Linden's chocolate chip cookies!

There was the corridor patrol - where's your pass? - some teachers would give you the simplest pass, others would have elaborate,  foot long pieces of wood with the classroom number on it you had to carry. Corridor patrol was great cause you could catch up on your homework - I wouldn't know about that!

Above a member of the corridor patrol was stationed at the end of each hallway to monitor student traffic - "Let me see your pass!"

There was Mr. Higgins and his drama workshops if you were so inclined. BF actually put on some extravagant shows that would rival any high school today. We had 2 great art teachers - art class was elaborate for junior high. The teachers were 2 BF classics - Art Weil and Peter Tilgner. Mr. Tilgner had taught for a year in England when we were in 7th grade - he traded spots with Mr. Trueman who spent a year with us.

Above is a montage of rehearsals for "That's the Way It Is!" - our 8th grade production.

Above, my sister Ginger as a toy soldier in the 1960-61 BF production of "Babes in Toyland".

Above, the entire cast of "Babes in Toyland" at BF in 1960-61. Look at the costumes - this was a junior high school production - pretty cool! My sister Ginger is among the toy soldiers on the lower left - click on the pictures to enlarge them.

We signed yearbooks - I was friends with everybody or I liked to think I was - that is to say I genuinely liked everyone and the thought of perceived status, money, ethnicity, etc. really meant nothing to me. Yeah, I do have the usual "You're a nice kid", "Have a great summer" and "See you next year" signings in my yearbooks but that's ok - looking at my 8th grade yearbook it seemed like just about everyone signed it - a way to feel accepted I suppose. Despite my lack of great grades - I did love BF and made it through!

Above, in 7th grade we did our signings on a sheet of paper!

There were the dreaded "laps" around the field on the hill seemingly every gym class no matter what the season!! There were the guys that never took their gym shorts & shirts home to wash! There were spit balls - tons of them - using Bic pens was the best way to "shoot" them! Penny football in the cafeteria - the tables were perfect for it! Mr. Murphy and Mr. Nelson - Principal and Vice-Principal in 7th and 8th grade and Mr. Watts and Mr. Swinkin in 9th. Chris Tilgner, Cobb, Yennie, Bennett, Mrs. Pade, Latham, Lamm, Garcia, Gooding, Kalina, Bleeden, Kim, Geils, Cobb, Cooke, Collis, Pierro - there were so many classic BF teachers - for good or bad how could you forget them?

Above, the classic Bic pen - take it apart and it made the perfect spit ball shooter!

Above, behind the backstop (where I played baseball one year) was the hill - at the top of the hill it was flat and it went the entire length of the BF field - this is where we ran our laps - Yennie and Bennett seemed to take delight in making us run no matter the season! For several years we always had our baseball tryouts at the BF field.

There was the bookstore. "Franklin Speaking" - our school paper. The BF shows. They included: "The Inspector General" in 7th grade, "That's the Way It Is" in 8th grade and "Up the Down Staircase" in 9th.

There were also the long walks home for some of us if we missed the bus.

Then there was Marlboro Country. This is where you hung out and smoked before and after school. I've said this before in the Glen blog but when I arrived at BF I remember seeing all these people and realizing that I was definitely missing out on something here and I was definitely not cool - how I wanted to be out there - to be smoking! (Pretty funny to think of it that way - as if that was how it was supposed to work!) If I remember right I think the group started directly across from the main entrance of the school and then moved over by the cemetery. It was a Who's-Who group of kids.

Like with every school year, fashion was an inevitable part of the deal whether you liked it or not. More times than not you attempted to keep up with the times lest you be left out or worse have no reading at all on the cool meter! Speaking for myself, there was the Peacoat - I wanted one in the worst way and finally got one. There was the CPO shirt - usually in navy blue - had one. There were the half boot / half shoe um - shoes. The wide belt. Bright pants. Always the chinos too which went perfectly with your paisley shirts! Bell-bottoms. Even sneakers began a transformation. Slowly going away were the PF Flyers and Keds - in came Adidas and Puma's. I remember Chris Ferraro showing off his Adidas sneakers in class - everybody was asking about them - "Where'd you get 'em?" "How much?" "There's a running style AND a cross-country style?" The mini-skirt was in for the girls and frankly the guys didn't even notice anything else! You can mark the years just by looking at what a kid is wearing in photographs!

Above, the mini-skirt was a girl favorite and well, a guy favorite too!

Above the Peacoat - I wanted one in the worst way and finally convinced my mom to get me one!

Above, Artie wearing the popular paisley shirt, wide belt and chinos! L to r in front are Sue Nunno and Jill Neandross.

Then there were the girls! Lots of new girls - of course there were the girls you knew from church, Glen School and camp, but now there were girls from Somerville, Travell and HoHokus. I recall being in 7th grade homeroom - I sat next to Fred Strype - he had a wicked crush on Nanci Hesse who was also in my homeroom. Nanci - like all the Ridgewood girls - was cute! Fred would ask me: "Should I ask her out?" "Do you think she'll say yes?" "Where should I ask her?" We debated whether it be outside after lunch or afterschool! It felt great that he wanted my opinion!

Then there were the guys who were already going steady with girls seriously - you know, you'd go to class - as soon as you were out the door you held hands together (or more) til next class! I forget who it was - Mr. Gooding maybe? - anyway this teacher would walk the halls during the class change near the library. He would come up to an unsuspecting couple and he would split their hands with his arm breaking their grip and say: "There will be no hand-holding in the halls! Get to class!" He would battle the couples all year long.

All in all life at BF was new and exciting. Discussions about girls always on the bus ride home. Thoughts of "How can I buy a pack of cigarettes?" "What do I need to do to be cool?" Yes, it is ridiculous that one needs to ask such questions - to think that you need to plot how to be cool - it just doesn't work that way. However, the issue is huge when you're a kid though!

There were also the incredible struggles with math class - especially my 7th grade year - Mr. Bleeden was the best and spent a good deal of time with me after school helping me to understand it all. By 9th grade I always hated to ask questions - it stems from Mr. Kalina who said: "Any questions? No question is a stupid question." - oh, really - well, yeah I have a question and then I proceeded to ask it - Mr. Kalina responded: "Didn't you listen to anything I said in class?!" From that day on I had no more questions! Some teachers just didn't get it - sorry Mr. Kalina! That poor man broke a lot of chalk on the board - he had an amazing temper and no patience!

Anyway BF was a special place where you met a lot more people than the small world of grammar school.

In 9th grade, the HoHokus and Mount Carmel kids would join us and in high school the GW kids and kids from Mount Carmel would join us if they hadn't already in 9th grade - we doubled our size and ultimately graduated with 658 kids!

It's a cliche, but man if only I could go back knowing what I know now!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Miss You Robin Gneiting, Artie, Eddie O'Hara, Alex, Jerry...............

We'll always remember our classmates - how can you forget the people you grew up with? Here are some "kids" no longer with us - love you guys!

How is it possible these people aren't here any more?

Artie Brierley

Robin Gneiting

Eddie O'Hara

Bob Haring

Alex Kramer

Jerry Guarente

Not pictured: Pat Florence, Bill Lavery, Mark Garella - sadly I guess I'm missing some others..............its important to live for today but I can't help remembering too.......

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Forget About Mount Carmel!

Mount Carmel in Ridgewood - Catholic school K-8. I went to Mount Carmel church and went to sunday school at the school across the street and CCD classes during the week with the Meneghin's and the Daly's when we got older.

During Sunday school,  we always sat at the desks of the Catholic school kids - they were filled with their school books. Some sunday school kids would move the books around of the kids that went to school there - ya know, put his book at her desk and her book at his desk and so on. We wondered - "Who goes to school here?" - turns out that a lot of great kids went there! Terri Dimodugno, Tom O'Connor and Jack Wolfstirn to mention a few! I didn't spend a lot of time there but I remember that school like it was yesterday!

There was the typical array of nun/teachers. There was the "mean" nun (no, not really), the nice nun, the young nun - you get the idea. The one that was very serious or "mean" (not really) - that was the one you wanted to impress more than anyone. The day she awarded me with a religious medal I was amazed and so psyched!

Then there was first communion - my partner was Colleen McCarthy! Then confirmation in 6th grade. They made us learn over 200 church-related questions and answers - I studied for days. "The Bishop will ask you these questions!" we were told - we all waited patiently in the pews on confirmation day - "C'mon ask me a question!" - maybe one question - what a letdown - I knew all the answers - at least for a little while!

Then there was CCD classes - I found CCD interesting. One year we had this guy - teacher - maybe someone's parent - he started preaching big time about sex and how it was best to kneel down and pray if you got into a "little situation" - that was enough for me - I asked my mom if I could pass on CCD classes after that.

Wish I could remember all the nuns names - Jack, Terri and Tom do I'm sure! Sister Margret, Sister Mary I think were a couple of them.

Above the Mount Carmel School on the right. The building on the left was where the nuns lived.

If you went to Mount Carmel and graduated RHS - you're soooo welcome to attend the BF/GW reunion on Nov 12! Tom - do you still have your cordouroy jacket!?