It is June of 1955 and a glorious day at Forest Park. Forest Hills High School seniors, all 950 of them are putting their tassels from side of the mortarboard to the other. I am all of 16 years old, the second youngest in my class. Stephen Schuker is the youngest at age 15. I am oblivious to what the next steps are going to be in my life. The Summer, as all Summers were spent since April 24, 1950, taking care of my newest sibling, Sheryl Ann. As my older sister had done for me for a number of years, I was now doing for my darling young sister Sheri.
My understanding of how one gets into college was zero. I had seen my guidance counselor once in my high school career, when I was coming over for a visit in 9th grade. Mrs. Sutterlin seemed like a nice person, but I never did see her again. I had heard all kinds of rumors about tests that might be taken to get into college, but I did not think they applied to me. As a matter of fact, I did not know what an application was, nor how to get one. There were no computers, no t.v. ads for schools, no articles in the newspapers about going to college. My only conversations about college were to tell my mother that I was going to go for accounting ( that’s in my yearbook). I had no idea what accounting was. Stanley( my brother-in-law) had majored in accounting and that was the only major that I knew about.
As August rolled around and the heat became oppressive, I took myself over to sister Renee’s new house on Horace Harding Boulevard. She had some air conditioning or fans and I was roasting. After the evening meal, Renee asked me what colleges I had applied to and had I heard from any of them. I told her that none of the colleges had called me. She asked again if I had applied. I asked her what that meant and that’s when she blew her gasket. I did not know that one had to make some sort of effort to get into a school. The idea that an application was necessary was foreign to me. I had applied for jobs in the past, but college, wasn’t that different.
Renee instructed that I get my rear end down to Queens College the next day and see what I needed to do to get in. I was frightened out of my gourd. The next morning I walked over to Jewel Avenue and took the bus to Kissena Blvd. and walked over to Queens College. You must understand that none of this was in my experiential or comfort zone. I knew absolutely nothing about college or entrance to college. There I was a singular fellow with nothing to recommend me strolling over to a place I had never been to.
It was a sparkingly beautiful day on my walk from the bus to the college. It was not the behemoth that it is today, but kind of sleepy place that had been a women’s house of detention up to 1938. The buildings were very old and the shrubbery was gnarly. The quadrangle had little grass, but the soccer and baseball fields were still green and occupied. I had no idea what building to go into or who I should see. I picked the building at the head of the quadrangle and wandered into the President’s office. A kindly secretary gave me directions to the admissions office.
The admissions office had all of the official look of a 1950’s disheveled movie set office. There were papers strewn in every direction and people walking around seemingly without purpose. That was not what I had envisioned. A young woman asked me what I wanted and I told her that I wanted to go to Queens College and major in accounting. Her look told me that I had not given her the answer that she wanted. She asked me my name and began to rummage through some large stack of papers. She could not find my application. I told her that I had not applied and told her why. I imagine that she took pity on me and pulled out an application and gave me a pen to fill it out. I had not thought to bring a pen.
After about 20 minutes of filling out the application, I returned it to the kind young lady. She told me that it was really late for me to be applying. What was my high school average, she asked. I told her that it was about 82 or 83. She said that the entry averages for boys was 90% and for girls it was 94% ( that should tell you something about the times). What was I going to do? She said that the college was not completely filled yet and that the school was going to have to give some entrance examinations within the next few weeks. Was I interested? Why, of course I was and she gave me a ducat, on which the date and place of the tests were written.
Two weeks later, I appeared at the testing location, took the test and then waited for the results. They came quickly. I was accepted into Queens College, if I sent them a check for $25 and filled out some more forms. I later found out that I had attained the highest mark on the test of those who had taken it. I wonder how many people really did take it. It was late August, the dog days were coming to an end and Arnold Hillman was a college boy. Go directly to the book store and do not pass go and somehow come up with dough to buy books.