FOREST HILLS HIGH SCHOOL
So I wear my belt on the side and have since 1952 ( except for the two years in the Army when I wore my uniform). I played second base on our softball team in Junior High at a time when everyone wore garrison belts- those wide belts with big buckles. On bending down for a ground ball, the buckle stuck me painfully in my belly button and I let the ball go through my legs. From that moment on, my buckle was placed on my side. It still engenders quizzical looks from all sorts of people, from Governors to kids in our scholarship programs, as it did from my first sergeant in Germany when we were on the town.
If you can imagine, my graduation to Forest Hills High school was cause for me to feel quite unusual. At least at Stephen Halsey Junior High there were smaller and younger kids. In Forest Hills, there appeared to be none. The students there were mostly all older, even the ninth graders and certainly much bigger than me. I am not sure if I made a decision to change my behavior, or if it came to me normally. As I have said, my mouth has been an advantage to me throughout my life. My sotto voce comments in high school seemed to be appreciated by my classmates. I was even at the forefront of trying to drive my teachers out of their minds. I only succeeded with one of them.
Our homeroom teacher in my first year, was also the home economics instructor. We had homeroom in her lab- filled with clothing dummies, material, sewing machines and suchlike. In a flash of brilliance, I came up with the idea of dressing up one of the dummies in a dress with a hat and other froo froo things and placed it on the teacher’s desk prior to her arrival. When she
( I wish I could remember her name) came into the room, she started to scream at the figure on her desk. After a moment or two, she realized that it was a fake. She then turned her screaming at the class and actually frightened some of the students. It was not long after that our teacher kind of disappeared, not to be seen in the halls of Forest Hills High School again.
Classes at Forest Hills appealed to the bulk of the kids, middle and upper middle class, going on to great colleges, with aspirations to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, and engineers. Mostly, that was for the boys. The girls were pre- women’s lib and conformed to the time honored jobs for girls- nurses, teachers, technicians of all sorts, models and many housewives. Out of the 1,000 students we certainly had a number of boys who wanted to enter the theater, dance, set design and commercial art and girls who wanted to be physical education majors and models. However, the majority of my classmates conformed to the lay of the land.
Were there odd kids at Forest Hills? There certainly were. A few years my junior were Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Jerry Springer, Eugene Oravitz ( Michael Landon), Marty Ingels among others. They were preceded by Bob Keeshan ( Captain Kangaroo) and Burt Bacharach
( of music fame). We even had a budding mass murderer, a couple of comedians, and some shady financial whizzes. I guess some were involved in drugs even then, but no one seemed to know, at least in my circle of friends.
Everyone went to the corner of Continental Avenue and Queens Boulevard on Friday and Saturday nights to stand around and smoke and look cool for the girls. Yup, I had a D.A.( duck’s ass) and smoked Kool cigarettes ( started when I was thirteen). How wonderful to be that age- smoke, have a D.A. and roll up your t-shirt to show off your nonexistent muscles. Sometimes, the standing around even got you a girl to go to the movies with. Amazing what some popcorn could get you.
If it wasn’t the Midway Theatre or the Continental Theater on a Saturday night, then it was off to crash a wedding or bar mitzvah at the Forest Hills Jewish Center. My buddy, Rudy and I would dress up in our only suits and trundle up the stairs with all of the other guests. We sometimes pretended to be part of the group, but mostly people never asked us who we were. We kind of sidled up to the goodie tables and gorged ourselves on anything that we could find. There was always punch to wash things down.
If there were some girls there, we would ask them to dance ( I was great with the cha cha) and asked the girls all kinds of questions about themselves. They never seemed to be interested in us, nor asked us who we were and what part of the family we were from.