Childhood Through High School

Updated December 19th, 2020

Birth and Family: I was born at Orange Memorial Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey on June 23rd, 1941 (just a little less than six months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. My father was Robert D. Smith.  My mother was Eleanor Mae (Finn) Smith. My paternal grandfather Robert A. Laslett Smith was a composer, a director of music, and did odd jobs to pay the bills. He was from London, England.  My paternal grandmother, Harriett Smith was from Cheltenam, England; a little town on the west side of the Cotswolds.  My paternal grandfather met my grandmother when he was working as a gardener on her father's estate in Cheltenam.  They were engaged but did not marry for some time. Instead, he emigrated to the US to make enough money to support her with a promise that he would send for her. She waited patiently. Thirteen years later, he sent her passage onboard the Queen Mary and they were married and lived in Newark, New Jersey. He had a job  as the Director of Music for the Newark School System.  Harriet played the organ at their Anglican church. My grandmother Harriet (MaMo) would play a significant role in my life.  My father was born in 1910.  I'm not sure where he was born; possibly Rumford, Rhode Island. He had a sister who died shortly after her birth. He was the middle of three brothers (Cecil, dad, and Arthur); Uncle Cecil will play a part later in my story.

My maternal grandfather, Emmit Finn was a first generation American of Irish decent.  His family; the Finns and the Seawards have a long history in Ireland. My middle name Seaward reflects this genealogy.   Emmit Finn (Pop Pop) would have a significant role to play in my life growing up.  Pop Pop had a wonderfully magnetic personality with a broad smile. He was a very successful insurance salesman.   He had three wives; the first wife Mimi (Mee Mee) died when I was very young. I don't remember much about her. Pop Pop married his first wife's sister, Agnes. Aunt Agnes was engaged to be married to a soldier during World War One. He was killed in battle. Agnes couldn't support herself so she moved in with Pop Pop and Mimi. My mother was a teenager at the time. Aunt Agnes thought nail polish, lipstick and particularly smoking were evil; Devil Food cake was evil and Angel cake was good. She drove my mother crazy. When Mimi died, Pop Pop married Aunt Agnes because it would have been improper for her to remain in the house as an unmarried woman.  Pop Pop often found excuses to get out of the house. One excuse was to take me or my sister Barbara trout fishing.  He truly enjoyed opening trout season every year with us.  But after fishing, he would take us along to a bar afterwards to play games in the bar while he would have a drink or two with his friends. Barbara and I have fond memories of these special times with Pop Pop.  Eventually, Aunt Agnes passed on and Pop Pop married Dorothy. Pop Pop told us that he married Dorothy because she had a Chevy pickup truck and a boat. They went fishing together. It was a happy marriage. Pop Pop and his three wives are buried near Camden, New Jersey. 

My mother was born in 1916 in Camden.  Her younger brother, Bob Finn would had a career in the Navy as a supply officer. He survived the sinking of his destroyer in WW 2 in the Pacific. He sent me models of Japanese aircraft which were used for recognition training.  I hung them from the ceiling of my room.  One night when he was visiting us after the war, he was sleeping in my room.  At about dusk, he was lying on his back looking up and he saw a formation of Japanese aircraft and thought they were attacking his ship. He got up and ran down the hallway shouting "Fire" "Fire" "Fire". PTSD!  I saw quite a bit of Uncle Bob and his wife Dorothy. They were a great couple for most of their lives.  I remember spending time with them on the beach in Virginia Beach when I was stationed in Norfolk.  Unfortunately, Uncle Bob had a serious drinking problem and his alcoholism and related health problems resulted in his death in a VA hospital.  His wife Dorothy lived without him for many years after his death working in a good civilian job for the Navy in Norfolk.  Bob and Dorothy tried to have children but thought that they were unable so they adopted a son, Randy; more about Randy in the chapter about my USAF Exchange tour in Kansas.  No sooner did Bob and Dorothy adopt Randy and they had three children; Tommy, Margie, and Steve.  Randy moved on and joined the Marines.  I spent some time with the other three; tours of an aircraft carrier etc. during my COMNAVAIRLANT tour in Norfolk.

DNA: Recently, my daughters pitched in and bought my wife Diana and me 23andMe DNA Test kits.  My results follow:
British & Irish                                    67.5%
French & German                              16.8%
Scandinavian                                     1.4%            (Probably those dreaded Vikings)
Broadly Northern Europe                   13.5% 
Broadly Southern European                0.2%
Broadly European                              0.6%
          Total                                       100.0%

Note: Neanderthal Ancestry- I had  more Neanderthal variants than 92% of 23andMe customers.  (Really? No comments please!)

My Parents: My father went to work as a chemist in a paint factory after high school and maybe about a year in college . But the depression of the 1930s caused him to loose his job.  Next, he went to Montclair State Teacher's college in New Jersey thinking that he might want to become a teacher.  Instead, he met my mother "Ellie" who was very pretty and full of life. My mother went to college when she was 16. She turned 17 in December of her Freshman year. Sometime during their time in college, my father decided that he wanted to become a professional Boy Scout executive rather than a teacher. While my mother got her BA in Math Education, my father left college to begin Boy Scout executive training.  At that time, the national office of the Boy Scouts of America was in New Jersey. I was born on June 23rd, 1941 in East Orange Memorial Hospital. My sister, Barbara, was also born at East Orange Memorial Hospital (March 26, 1943)  Shortly after she was born, we moved from Newark, New Jersey to Lewistown, Pennsylvania (in the hilly western part of the state) so that my father could start his first job as an assistant Boy Scout executive.

<>Lewistown, PA (1941-1944):

Lewistown is a small town in western Pennsylvania in the hills east of Pittsburgh.
We lived in a two story red brick duplex on Lindberg Way in Lewistown.  My bedroom was on the second floor on the back side of the house away from the street.  There was a porch off of my room where we used to watch high school football games on Friday nights.  As the US got increasingly involved in World War 2 in both the European and Pacific, food became less abundant for those at home, especially the more desirable cuts of meats.  Rationing was everywhere. People in places like Lewistown turned to raising their own pigs, chickens,  and vegetables.  We had a vegetable garden on the edge of town. They were called "Victory Gardens".  We either raised or had access to chickens and pigs that we either had slaughtered or did it ourselves. I learned how to bleed and defeather a chicken for roasting  The only cuts of beef available were cuts like beef tongue. We managed to have regular Sunday family dinners though.  I can clearly see that  large tongue on the carving platter.  It was actually quite good and we had beef tongue occasionally after the war.  After the tongue itself was gone, my mother would grind up the back part of the tongue with a manual meat grinder that was attached to our kitchen table.  Ground beef tongue with onion and bread crumbs made an excellent dinner. We used that grinder to make all kinds of meat salads, corned beef hash etc.

My parents liked to drink and play cards with their friends.  On one occasion, they had dinner and after dinner drinks before playing cards in another room.  They left a little bit of their after dinner drinks (creme d'menth, brandy, etc) in the living room. While they were playing cards, I drank all the leftovers. Luckily, I survived the experience.

My father would drive to work in downtown Lewistown every day. Dad would always give me a kiss before going to work.  One day, I was visiting a friend down the street who was sick. While there, my father drove by on his way to work without saying "goodby" to me.  That was unacceptable to me and I ran down the street after him; all they way to his office taking off articles of clothing along the way. By the time I actually arrived in his office, I was in my "skivvies".  The office personnel loved it. I was a "star". About 30 years later when I was stationed in Norfolk, I drove with my oldest daughter Heather to Cornell for an interview for graduate school in statistics. We drove across Virginia and up through Gettysburg, PA on our way to Corning, NY and then north to Ithaca. In central Pennsylvania, I saw a sign pointing west to Lewistown. I looked at Heather and commented that we weren't in a rush so why not drive there and check it out. I bet her that I could find our red brick duplex. When we got to the outskirts of Lewistown, I saw an older couple doing some gardening in their lawn.  I thought they looked old enough to have been around in the 40s and the odds were good that they had lived their whole lives there. Society was not as mobile then. I told the old couple that our house backed on to the high school football field. They thought for a moment and said, "you must mean the old high school". They gave us directions. When Heather and I got to  231 Lindberg Way there was no doubt, this was the right house.  I told Heather the story about chasing my father to his office. I was able to trace the exact route from our house to his office in downtown Lewisown some forty years later.

The Boy Scout executive training program at that time offered a job promotion/change every two years.  My father was offered a new position in Wilmington, Deleware after only two years in Lewistown. We left Lewistown in 1945 for Wilmington, Deleware.  Just before we left Lewistown, the family attended a county fair. While there, my father arranged for me to get a ride in an old Ford Tri Motor airplane; my first experience flying (at age 4) which changed my life. I can't remember anything about the actual flight but I can see clearly walking up to the plane with my Dad.

Wilmington,Delaware (1945-1950):

Dad's job in Wilmington again had the title of Assistant Scout Executive but this time his job involved running the DELMARVA Council summer camp, Camp Rodney which was on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. I went kindergarten through 4th grade in Wilmington. My mother taught math in a local school while we had a maid who looked after my sister Barbara and me at the end of the school day. Barbara and I can't remember the maid's name but lets pretend it was Bell.  Bell was terrific. She helped Mom keep the place clean and made sure Barbara and I were safe.   We remember Bell chasing a black snake out of our lawn with a shovel.  Bell was the first black person I met. She did her race proud and gave me a baseline to learn to appreciate ethnic and racial differences and similarities.

We lived in a suburb of Wilmington called Delaire which was located near the Franklin Turnpike. We had our first family dog there in Wilmington; a beagle named Tippy.  We called him Tippy because as he tried to race around corners in our house (beagles only have one speed, warp speed), he would loose his footing on the linoleum floor and crash in to the opposite wall. We had a new house with no lawn which fronted on a large undeveloped piece of land with hills, streams with lots of tad poles, frogs, and turtles, a railroad track and trestle and a water filled quarry with lots of sun fish.  This was a young boy's paradise.  There were two cliffs there. One was a small one.  The other cliff was much bigger and steeper. We called it "suicide cliff". My sister and her friends were afraid to climb on the "suicide cliff".  They would play on the small cliff and look over with jealousy at the "big boys" playing on the big cliff. One day my friends and I decided to go on an adventure across the street . My sister wanted to come with us, but I said "no, you are too little".  But she came anyway following us at a distance. My friends and I went through the woods into a swampy area. We crossed a little brook by walking across a sewer pipe.  Barbara followed but got scared and was afraid she would fall so she laid down on the pipe and called for help. She was afraid and was crying.  We came back and helped her back across and after she had calmed down a bit, I told her to go back home. She remembers every detail of her "rescue" that day.

I began my scouting experience as a Cub Scout in Wilmington. My mother was our Den Mother.  I spent as much time as I could investigating the paradise across the street.  My interest in rocks and minerals began there. I actually found a nice milky quartz crystal on a ledge of the "suicide cliff which I still have in my collection with a #1 on the crystal and a green box of 3x5 cards describing each treasure I found across the street.  Barbara and I used to fish with handlines at the quarry.  We could sit on the edge watching the worm at the end of the line as a sunfish took the bait. One day, a breeze freshened and ripples came in our direction from across the pond. I noticed that all of a sudden, the sunfish disappeared. Next, a large eel sauntered up and took my worm. A tug of war commenced.  I was almost pulled into the water which would have been very bad as the water was deep and I couldn't swim.  The eel finally got off the hook.  However, after that, I was on the lookout for Mr. Eel.  Sure enough, not too many days later, my sister and I went to the quarry to fish.  The same set of clues occurred; breeze, ripples coming toward us, no sunfish, then the Mr. Eel showed up.. This time, we got the eel on to the bank and managed to get it under control. I proudly walked  back to the house with the eel's head at my shoulder and it's tail almost to the ground. My father told me that it was a North American Eel. Dad skinned it, cooked it, and we ate it; tasted just like chicken.

I don't have many memories about kindergarten and elementary school in Wilmington.  Except one; my kindergarten teacher, Miss Color.  If I were ever to be an artist, it wasn't because Miss Color encouraged me.  In fact, the only memory I have about school is that Miss Color told me that the picture I was working on was terrible. I did well though in elementary school. But, most days I couldn't wait to get out of school and go across our street to my "paradise".  All my good memories are about investigating nature across the street and spending time in the summer at Camp Rodney.

Because my father's job involved running the district summer camp; Camp Rodney, on the Chesapeake, we lived in the camp director's house which was right on the lake.  My mother was off from school so our family spent at least one summer there.  We had a row boat that we kept up on the shore at night. We fished for small mouth bass almost every day either from the boat or occasionally from the shore. On one occasion, my mother inadvertently sat on a bee hive that was under a tree limb which was lying on the shoreline.  It took her a few days to get over it.  We usually had pretty good luck fishing, so we had a lot of fresh fish for dinner. We kept the fish heads and the next morning Barbara and I would get up early and get in the stern of the row boat while the boat was still tied up to shore.  From our position in the stern, we could throw a hand line with a fish head attached out about 20 feet from the shore.  When we would pull the line in, we usually had a nice blue claw crab clutching on the fish head. We would scoop up the crab with a net and put it in a basket in the boat.  We would normally catch between twenty and thirty keeper blue claws in about a half an hour. We would take the basket up the hill to my mother who was usually on the porch watching the crabbing action. She would spend the morning steaming and cleaning the crabs we caught earlier that morning.  We had crab salad for lunch a lot those summers.

I had my first girlfriend (sort of) in Wilmington. I was about eight. Her name was Judy Freesendorf.  She lived next door to us and was Barbara's friend.  Judy had a melodic voice and  used to sing a lot. I particularly liked one of her songs but don't remember the title or any of the words. She used to accompany Barbara and me on our discovery missions in the paradise across the street.  On one of those missions, Barbara didn't come with us and evidently Judy and I did some "rolling in the hay". Only it wasn't hay; it was poison ivy.  Judy and I each broke out all over (repeat ALL OVER) with a rash associated with our roll in the poison ivy. I feel that is was likely that both sets of parents had a difficult time keeping "a straight face" as they instructed us to not repeat our discovery mission. The experience had a significant affect on me. I didn't try to have another girl friend until 9th grade. After all, I concluded, if you mess with a girl, you get poison ivy.

My sister, Barbara, and I got along very well for the most part. We did have a  few 'dust ups' though. One evening at the end of dinner, we decided to have a milk fight while still at the dinner table.  My parents wouldn't let us drink our milk until we finished our food. So, toward the end of dinner, we had plenty of milk available to throw at each other.  Luckily our dining room wall paper had small pink and white flowers in the design so a few milk spots blended right in. 

I was active in Cub Scouts every year in Wilmington.

I learned a lot during those four years in Wilmington. I discovered nature, observed it and became interested in understanding it. Basically, I had my first exposure to the "scientific method".  I also learned that if I paid attention to what was around me and exerted some effort, I could accomplish things.  I guess you could say the I found out on my own, with the guidance of my parents that "Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck". Over those four years, I had progressed through the cub scout ranks;
Bob Cat (Kindergarden), Tiger (1st Grade), Wolf (2nd Grade), Bear (Third Grade), and Weblos ( 4th grade). I was ready to move up to Boy Scouts by the time we left Wilmington. I would move on to become a Boy Scout at our next destination; Rochester, New York.

Rochester, New York (1951-1954):

We moved from Wilmington to Rochester after I finished 4th grade. Dad's new job in Rochester was again as an Assistant Scout Executive Scout Executive. It was a step up though as the Otetiana Council for all of Monroe County covered a large area and a greater scout population. He continued to be involved scout camp activities. We arrived in Rochester at the end of spring in 1950.  I would  have been about to turn 9.  During that summer, while we were looking for our house, we lived in the Rochester Scout Council's summer camp, north of Rochester on the shore of Lake Ontario. My father was the Camp Director so we lived in a large framed house right on the lake. The best I could swim when I arrived at the camp was a flailing "doggie paddle". By the end of the summer, I had learned how to drown proof using the "dead man's float" and could swim a mile in Lake Ontario using the crawl, side stroke, and the backstroke. I learned how to catch wild animals such as raccoon, squirrels, rabbits, and snakes using snares and traps.  I used these skills to provide animals for the camp nature lodge. I learned how to control a canoe using a variety of strokes and improved my rowing skills. Although I wasn't in a Boy Scout troop yet, my Dad  got me a copy of the Boy Scout book "Field Book for Boys and Men". This book was a great way to study about nature, camping, outdoor cooking, and character.  I still have a copy of this excellent book in my home office.

Boy Scout Philosophy:        Slogan:  Do a Good Turn Daily            Motto: Be Prepared

Boy Scout Oath: On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
                           to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally strait.

The Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

My sister, Barbara and I had a great time our frst summer at Camp Cutler.  There was a small building on the property near the main house we called "The Doll House". When I wasn't swimming, catching the animals for the nature lodge, or practicing my knots, we would enjoy time together in the Doll House.  Everything went very well that summer except for a couple of incidents.

We had a big rainstorm one night mid summer and I was late checking the traps I had set in a stream the next day.  When I finally got to my traps, I had caught several raccoon but they had all drowned because the stream had flooded. That was the last time I killed an animal for the rest of my life; except for fish of course. My daughter Lindsay calls me "The Fish Killer". She gives me no slack if I keep a fish rather than throwing it back.

When we were getting ready to leave the main house at the end of the summer, we discovered that a mother raccoon and her cubs had taken up residence in the boiler for the heating system in the basement. The mother raccoon didn't take kindly to our efforts to get her and her cubs out of the boiler and to safety. A mama raccoon can be a handful even when she is in a burlap bag.

My Boy Scout experience in Rochester was exceptional. I was in a very active troop that did a lot of tent camping. I moved rapidly through the ranks from Tenderfoot through Second Class to First Class. I started working on merit badges and I think I achieved Star before we left Rochester. First Class was my favorite rank at the time.  It was similar to my experience later of being a Navy Lieutenant jet carrier pilot that had developed all the skills on his first cruise and was now a section leader on his second cruise responsible for his wingman but didn't have the responsibility of higher rank. The First Class in Boy Scouts was the senior guy on the ground who taught the younger scouts about camping skills and perhaps was a patrol leader. The more experienced scouts who were working towards their Eagle held troop leader responsibilities.

I had one bad experience during my time as a Boy Scout in Rochester. On one of our camping trips, my tent mate wanted to have a homosexual experience with me. I still feel like gagging just thinking about that experience. I'm told that experience isn't unusual for adolescent boys.  Later in life, I met several homosexual men. I grew to celebrate their artistic skills in cooking, painting, dance, and choreography. But, if they start kissing, I'm outa there! I can understand though why many women like homosexual men; they are thoughtful, feminine, usually have pleasant personalities, are good listeners, and they don't pose  a sexual threat. I never once saw a Boy Scout leader conduct himself inappropriately. I think it is terrible to see the Boy Scout movement which has been such a significant factor in the development of so many boys come under such thoughtless attack in recent years.

Our house, 231 Thorndyke Rd. was in a surburb of Rochester called Irondequoit. Irondequoit is located between the city of Rochester and Lake Ontario. The house was a red colonial style house with a larger red barn like garage with a basketball hoop. It had a nice backyard large enough to set up a tent and have an overnight campout.

This is a recent picture of the house. The house was a dark red color when we lived in it!

The house was located six to eight blocks from the elementary school I would be attending  in fifth and sixth grades.  I rode my bike to and from school every day I can remember even in the winter. There were rows of heated greenhouses at the end of our street. It was served by a private perimeter road at the edge of the green houses. The road was restricted to walkers and bikes because it had a metal pipe which extended across about two thirds of the road. I used that road every school day twice a day. I could ride through the open gap in the perimeter road no hands with no problem.  One day when it was almost dark out, I was riding my bike with a friend who was about 100 feet behind me on that perimeter road. After I passed through the gap, I realized my friend had not used his bike on that road before.  About the time I about to call out "Look out for the pipe", I heard a loud crash. My friend had hit the pipe in the middle of the road. He was draped over the pipe; his bike damaged from the impact. Fortunately, his injuries were minor.

1952 Chevy Sedan

We bought a new car in Rochester; a 1952 Chevy Belair Sedan. It was similar to the one in the picture above except ours was two tone; maroon on the body, black on the top. It was a cool car. One day, my Dad thought it would be a good idea to let me drive it from the driveway into the garage a few feet away. The garage doors were open; plenty of room on either side. What could go wrong?  I entered the garage at a relatively high rate of speed. Only my father's quick reactions to get to the brakes precluded me crashing into the back of the garage. That was it for driving lessons in Rochester.  I didn't do that much better when I was doing my practice driving in my car in Ridgewood; a story for later.

I played baseball with my friends in a vacant lot every day after school except when I was either shooting baskets at the hoop of the garage, hitting tennis balls against the garage door, or when it was snowing.  Actually. one day in June, it snowed when we were at the ball field. My father had been a catcher in baseball and was a skillful tennis player so was a great help with my development in sports.  Dad and I attended many AAA baseball games in Rochester. I saw Elston Howard play many games as a first baseman before he moved on to the New York Yankees.  One of the Rochester pitchers, Cot Deal, lived across the street from us.  He was a knuckle baller. I played catch with him on many occasions.  He threw me a slow knuckler every once in awhile. I tried to catch them but my eyes were moving crazily trying to follow the ball which normally hit me in the chest. shoulder, or even my face. Cot Deal moved on to the majors pitching for St. Louis. Dad and I also took in a few NBA games. Rochester had a very good team.  One of their players, Davies, had a great set shot from the outside.  He was not very tall so I knew that you could play basketball if you had a good jump or set shot. I played Biddy basketball (we had maroon and white uniforms), Little League Baseball (as an infielder), and slow pitch softball at the Kodak Park brick dust softball fields.

Rochester had several major companies which provided a lot of skilled jobs; Baush and Lomb manufactured glass lenses from small penny sized ones for microscopes to very large lenses. It was possible to get access (sneak in) and search around the Baush and Lomb dumps and find magnifying lenses of many sizes.  We favored ones about five inches across; perfect for setting grass on fire or burn each other.  Ritter Dental was also in Rochester. They made dental chairs and dental equipment. We saw no reason to sneak in their dump; it was probably too far away or something.  Wards Natural Science Establishment was also there. I'll get to it in a minute.

By far the most important employer in Rochester was the Eastman Kodak Company.  This is a view of Kodak Park.

Eastman Kodak Company did a lot of research and development and manufactured cameras and different types of photographic film.

George Eastman

Aside:  The man who discovered the coating on the back of a roll of the first Kodak film was a Polish immigrant who lived near New York City.  This guy took the train from New York to Rochester to pitch his film coating formula personally to George Eastman.  After having his engineers check it out, Eastman offered to buy the formula for a large sum; perhaps $10,000,  maybe it was as much as $50,000.  Or, he could have 1.000 shares of Eastman Kodak stock. He took the cash (it was a large sum in 1920 or so.) I was told this story by Dr. Warren K. Lewis, a remarkable man who I will discuss later in my story.

Eastman Kodak provided athletic fields for its workforce and other community residents.  The brick dust softball field I played on was one of those. Kodak also sponsored the Eastman School of Music.

I attended the Eastman School of Music for the last two years we were in Rochester.  I studied the violin and viola.

Eastman Kodak employed a lot of Polish immigrants.  The Poles had a YMCA like place called the Turnvrine or Turners.  It had a large heated swimming pool and a well equipped gymnastics facility including parallel bars, rings, trampoline, horizontal bars, saddle horse, and small and high beams.  Our family joined Turners (or more likely Dad got a free membership due to his job). I enjoyed learning to do simple gymnastics and enjoyed the pool in the winter.  My Dad also had a gymnastics background somewhere in his past because he was very knowledgeable about the equipment. I was able to develop some skills on the parallel bars but was too weak to do much on the horse, rings, or horizontal bars. The trampoline was fun. Barbara and I enjoyed that one.

This was the first time in my life where race, ethnicity and religion were significant factors in the society. Up to this point, everyone I knew were Caucasian with mostly European backgrounds with the exception to our maid Bella in Wilmington. Here, there was a large downtown population of Black Americans. There were some violent incidents involving black residents of one area downtown (Kelly Street) and white residents in an a joining area. The problem was not present in Irondequoit. Most of Irondequoit was white but had a great diversity in religion and culture.  The Polish immigrant community was mostly Catholic. We had only fish and vegetables for lunch in the cafeteria on Fridays at school (no meat). If you didn't want that, you just brought your peanut and jelly sandwich and got your milk from the school cafeteria. There was some anti Catholic sentiment buzzing around in our neighborhood. We had some great neighbors who were Catholic. Religious bias was new to me and I never personally felt any; not before, not in Rochester, not now!  Although there were not many (if any) black Americans in Irondequoit, the scout camps included black scouts from the city.  My experience was that the Boy Scouts were always racially inclusive. There was also a large Jewish population in the suburbs.  My best friend in Rochester was Michael Rosenbloom. I spent a lot of time at his house learning about some of the Jewish holiday customs including kosher foods.

My sister, Barbara and I continued get along very well except for one incident that we both remember very well. Our house had a laundry chutes from the top floor hall down to a laundry room.  According to Barbara, I put a half empty box of pretzels in the top floor laundry chute for some reason. Mom and Dad found them and asked who did this? I told them that Barbara did it. She was punished. She became so mad that she threw a brush at me. I ducked and the brush went through a closed  window behind me breaking it. She got punished again. She claims I had a laugh over that one.
Barbara had a great friend who lived on our street, Sharon Mitchell. Sharon now lives in New York and she and Barbara meet occasionally for coffee.

I had several teachers in Irondequoit that I remember well. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Miller  took a liking to me I guess because she used to come to the gym when I was practicing basketball and gave me encouragement. I remember that we made applesauce in her class which was my first memory of a lab type activity.  My sixth grade teacher,  Mrs. Morgan gave me a great basis for my math education which lasted from 6th grade through through high school. She was an excellent teacher. I had a hard nosed teacher, Mr.  Murphy in seventh grade who really got my attention.  He was a veteran Marine who had just returned from the early stages of the Korean War (AKA conflict). One of the students, Arthur Altman, was talking to another student (not me) when Mr. Murphy was trying to teach.  Arthur was a repeat offender. Well, Mr. Murphy had had enough and walked smarty up to Arthur and broke a wooden ruler (with the metal strip) over the back of Arthur's hand.  No one ever crossed Mr. Murphy again.

Summer of 1951: Grindstone Island: 

I think this is the summer that the family went on a two week trip to Grindstone Island. Grindstone Island in the St. Lawrence River (Seaway) just to the northeast of Lake Ontario.
Our Grindstone Island camping experience was a spectacular family trip. We drove along the southeast shore of Lake Ontario to Clayton, New York which is located on the US side of the St. Lawrence River. We parked our car and boarded a boat which took us to Grindstone Island. I think it was on a Monday.  In those days, the island was almost uninhabited except for a caretaker's cabin and refueling station on the island's dock and a few few tourist two week rental cabins. Our cabin was bare bones. We did have running water and a stove but no refrigerator.  We brought enough dry food for two weeks including powdered milk and vegetables for a week. There was only one other family camping on the island.  Barbara remembers getting chased a lot by two boys from that family especially when we were going to the dock. She found refuge by jumping off the dock into the water. Evidently, the boys couldn't swim. After the first week, we rented a small boat with a motor and traveled northwest to a small town on the Canadian shore of the lake where we purchased another week's supply of milk and fresh vegetables; and got ice cream cones!!). The trip to Canada was the only time we left the island and the only human contact we had except for a few fishermen who stopped at the dock on the island to get gas.  The St. Lawrence River was a paradise for fishermen who were after Muskies (Muskellunge) and Northern Pike.

As you can see, Muskies and Northern Pike can be quite large and are an aggressive fighting game fish. We didn't have the gear or the experience to go for the big ones  but we did have a small rowboat which we used for fishing for small mouth bass and and hopefully for a small pike. As you can see by now, camping and fishing were our family's main vacation choice. I learned lot those two weeks about camp cooking from my Mom and worked on my camping and other Boy Scout skills from my Dad. My sister, Barbara, and I continued our friendship during these summers except when we decided to try to kill each other that is. Grindstone Island is much more developed these days and has become quite a desirable tourist venue. Check it out on Google.

Summer of 1952:  Camp Massawepie:

Camp Massawepie which consists of about 2850 acres (including ten lakes) was purchased by the Otetiana Council of the Boy Scouts of America (serving Rochester and Monroe County) in 1951 for $150,000. Before this, the area was used by:
1890- The Childhood Park summer house resort hotel and guest houses.
1908- Childhood Park House closed
1912- Property bought by the Emporium Lumber Company of nearby Connifer, New York.  In addition to lumbering the forests, the family used the area around the
          lake as a private family resort.
1920s- The property was leased to a private military school
1951- The property was purchased by the Otetiana Council (Council Executive Robert F. "Parky" Parkinson)
1952- Camp Pioneer opened (Camp Director was Bob Parkinson)
1953- Camp Mountaineer opened (Camp Director was Joseph R. Klein (1953) and Tommy Rowe (1954)
1956- Camp Voyageur opened

Info above from Massawepie Staff Alunmi Association Website

During the late summer of 1951 and early summer of 1952, my father and I spent a lot of time at Camp Massawepie helping to get the property ready for Camp Pioneer's opening in mid summer of 1952. The hotel and guest cottages still had many personal items still around. The ten pin bowling alley was still operational.
Our job was to transition the property from a private resort with a hotel and guest cottages to a Boy Scout Camp with a chow hall, administration building, swimming platform etc.

My mother and sister also came along for some of the time in early summer. On a hike one day with my sister,  I walked into the leaves of a tree or bush which contained some kind of pollen or mold. I didn't have an immediate reaction. But later, while we had taken a couple of canoes out on the lake. my throat and face began to swell. By the time they got me on to the shore and to a Doctor in a nearby town, the swelling had gotten so bad I stopped breathing. Luckily, a shot of Benedril was immediately effective.

I had a great time attending Camp Pioneer later that summer as a regular participant with my scout troop from Irondequoit.

Summer of1953: National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Irvine Ranch in California:

In the summer of 1953, my father accompanied a group of scouts from Rochester by train to the
National Jamboree at the Irvine Ranch in California. We left on the train sometime in June.  My father was in a separate car with the other leaders (They also probably had a Pullman Car for sleeping!). I was with the regular scouts, some from my troop from Irondequoit and other parts of Rochester.  We talked, looked out the window at the passing scenery, played cards, and slept in our coach car.  The were some scouts with Polish background who taught me a Polish card game, Euchre. Our train moved west through Buffalo and Ohio. Our first stop was Chicago. I remember that we had a tour of the Science Museum there.  From Chicago, we headed south west across the vast flat America midland.  The next stop I remember was in New Mexico; Carlsbad Caverns.

The entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

Next was to descend through the cavernous Devils Den (lots of bats)

There ware many large and awsome rooms with stactite and stalgmites

Carlsbad Caverns was enormous and spectacular. My only other experience with caverns was a trip through the Lauray Caverns in Virginia. The Lauray Caverns are certainly worth the trip but Carlsbad Caverns are in a whole different category. After Carlsbad, we continued southwest to the Grand Canyon.

Looking from the south rim at the
Colorado River

The Grand Canyon is spectacular easpecially at sunrise or sunset

Visiting the Grand Canyon was an incredible experience which I would repeat later in my life. After the Grand Canyon, we headed west to the Irvine Ranch in Orange County, California. The
jamboree took place from July 17th through July 23rd.

The over 51,000 scouts set up tent camps and cooked all their meals over charcoal fires. There were many activities over the seven days including a pancake breakfast where Vice President Nixon addressed the crowd. Bob Hope, John Wayne and other Hollywood celebrities participated in other events. But, by far the most significant
experience was getting to know scouts from all over the country and trading with them for items such as neckerchiefs, neckerchief slides, and even Horned Toad lizzards.

I got a Horned Toad from a scout from Texas. I kept the toad on my shoulder on a string for most of the week.  I didn't bring him back with me though. I left him at the Irvine Ranch along with the other 12,000 Horned Toad lizzards brought to the Jamboree from Abeline, Texas. I wonder how many Horned Toads lizzards there are at the Irvine Ranch these days! We left the Jamboree and headed north for our visit to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Falls

Geyser basin

Old Faithful

Yellowstone National Park was fantastic; waterfalls, geysers, and all kinds of animals (moose, brear, elk, and buffalo).
This will be my first visit to Yellowstone Park.  I would return with my family and then a couple of more visits I will discuss later in my memoir.

We also stopped at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota before crossing the Dakota badlands heading east back to Rochester. I would also visit Mount Rushmore again later in my life.

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

We returned to Rochester sometime in August ready to get back to school. In my case, 7th grade.

Me in about 1954. Note the Jamboree patch on my right pocket and First Class rank on my left.

Summer of 1954: Camp Massawepie; Camp Mountaineer:

The summer of 1954 was another significant summer.  Camp Mountaineer was located across Massawepie Lake from Camp Pioneer. Both camps shared the swimming area and canoe storage but their programs were completely different.  Camp Pioneer was for the younger scouts.  Camp Mountaineer's program was more challenging including rock climbing, more rigorous hikes such as a ten mike hike to Mt. Arab, obstacle course physical training, survival camping, and canoe trips.  Mountaineer had opened during the summer of 1953 when I was on the Jamboree trip. It's new Camp Director, was my father's friend, Tommy Rowe. Tommy Rowe was a great guy and he enabled me to get the most out of Camp Mountaineer's programs.  He was a graduate of Cornell University and was a factor in my deciding later in my life to attend Cornell. By the end of the summer, I had developed a three day canoe trip from Long Pond through the Racket River which involved some difficult portages.

I was completing merit badges at a rapid pace and was on my way to Star Scout. I cooked and carved a duck as part of my cooking merit badge. I stayed up all night in our back yard and traced the movement of the moon through the night as part of the Astronomy merit badge. Canoeing merit badge was in my 'wheel house". Camping merit badge was easily passed. My merit badge sash was filling up.

Star Scout Badge above
Merit badge sash on the right. Note: The scout on the right has just received his Eagle (Life badge on left pocket)


Ward's Natural Science Establishment:

Ward's Natural Science Establishment was founded in Rochester, New York in 1862 by Augustus Ward (1834-1906). Originally, Wards was established to be a leading supplier of natural science materials to museums in North America. (Google) It continues in business today providing science materials to schools and colleges.

I was fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time at Wards during my four years in Rochester. At first, I just looked around particularly at the rock and mineral collections.  Eventually, I was given the opportunity to be able to participate in the assembly of some of their mineral collections provided to schools and colleges such as the Industrial Mineral Collection. I was introduced to Dana's Manual of Mineralogy at Wards and learned a great deal about mineral identification and correlation of specific minerals to their most famous locations;  such as Smoky Quartz and green Microcline feldspar (Amazonite) from Pike's Peak, Colorado.

Smoky Quartz and green Microcline Feldspar (Amazonite) from Pike's Peak, Colorado from my collection.
I had no girl friends in Rochester. After all, my past experience was that if you mess with girls, you get a bad case of poison ivy.  There was one girl  though, Gayle, who I met during a one week Methodist summer church camp. We really got along great. And, I was as physically attracted to her as I could be at age twelve or thirteen. It was not meant to be though.  She dumped me because I spelled her name Gail in a note I wrote to her. Who ever spells Gail Gayle anyway!
I blame the Methodist church for not giving us name tags.

Ridgewood, New Jersey (1955-1959):

We moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey at the end of summer 1955.  My father had a Boy Scout job in Manhattan involving fundraising for the Greater New York City area; all five burrows; Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.  This was primarily a desk job; not his area of expertise.  He took the train every morning from Ridgewood along with all the other commuters getting back in town in the evening. My parents selected Ridgewood because it was a short commute to New York City and because Ridgewood High School had an outstanding reputation as an outstanding college preparatory public high school.

Ridgewood Train Station

Fortunately for him (and the rest of us), my Dad was promoted after two years in Manhattan as Chief Scout Executive for the Bronx, a big job (the pinnacle of his career). My mom, to her credit, took graduate courses at Columbia in math education. After a couple of years, she began teaching math at Paramus High School,  eventually becoming the Math Department Chair.

Barbara and I attended Ben Franklin Junior High School. I was in 9th grade; she in 7th.  There were two junior high schools in Ridgewood; George Washington Junior High in "upper" Ridgewood and Ben Franklin in "lower Ridgewood. "

Ben Franklin Junior High School

"Upper" Ridgewood was the upscale part of town where the CEOs, CFOs, company presidents etc. lived.  "Upper" Ridgewood was located on the ridge from which those chief executives could see "the city".

"Lower" Ridgewood is where the town, middle class neighborhoods and Ridgewood High School were located.  There were no lower income areas of Ridgewood.  We lived at 364 South Irving Street about four blocks from the high school. (I can't believe I found this image on Google!)

364 South Irving Street

We had great neighbors. Mary and Roger Herring lived about four houses to the left in the image. They were very good friends of my parents and very interested in Barbara and me. Brabara and I continued to visit them until about the 1970s when Roger died and visited Mary after that for about ten years.  They were terrific people. A retired fire chief lived in the house on the right (blocked by the tree). He had two Doberman Pincers that scared the hell out of Barbara and me. He died about five years after we moved in and both dogs died within months of his death. They we loyal to the end. The Ives family lived in the house on the far right. Mr. Ives worked for the telephone company. I don't remember Mrs. Ives. They had four children. Toby was a year younger than me. His sister Robin was a year older than me.  Their younger older brother, Bill was about 25. He was good looking, athletic, typically wore a white "T" shirt and a black leather jacket, had greaser black hair combed back on the sides, and rode a big Harly. Bill worked for the phone company as  a repairman. Bill was your textbook a 1950s "bad boy" except that he was great; friendly, polite, and helpful. The oldest Ives brother Jeremy lived in England. He was a professional ballet dancer with the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company in London. The perceived idea that male ballet dancers were " sissy" was debunked for me when I met him when he visited his family one Christmas. Jeremy was a superb athlete (Olympic style), incredibly coordinated, and much stronger than his 'Bad Boy" brother Bill.

Robin and Toby Ives were the welcoming party to  Ridgewood for Barbara and me. They took us in. Because of the age differences, Toby
naturally fell in with Barbara and Robin with me in social situations.  We would spend time on Friday nights with them in their basement listening and dancing to the new Rock and Roll music.  Occasionally, things got extra friendly at least with Robin and me. But with time, that stuff (the necking with Robin) wore off and Toby became my first friend.  What Toby lacked in his motivation for school work, he excelled in things mechanical. He was funny, very friendly, and courteous. He introduced me to his friend Don Wadsworth.

Don was a year or so older than me. The three of us were friends for several years until we were split up.  After about two years Toby, Don, and I began "borrowing"  people's cars on Friday or Saturday nights. The cars were parked along the street with the keys in the ignition. We thought the people wouldn't need them for a few hours because they were attending a party. We would take the car for a spin and bring it back in about twenty minutes or so.  We did this about two or three times. Don was the "ring leader". On one such night, I was late meeting up so they went on with just the two of them. Only, this night, they got caught. Don wound up in reform school for awhile. Toby, because he was younger, got some community service I think. I, the future Eagle Scout and Naval officer got off free because I was late for the rendezvous.  I probably would not have been either an Eagle Scout or Naval officer, if I had been caught with them and found quilty of car theft.

Aside: Toby Ives, the mechanically minded non student, got Cs and Ds in school.  After I had left Rigewood for college, I heard that he enlisted in the Army. I think that he got assigned to some kind of an intelligence unit. This work required a lot of reading, evaluating, reporting, and orally presenting on the material he was assigned. In the process, Toby became interested in history.  I heard that after he got out of the Army, Toby used his GI Bill tuition assistance to go to college; majoring in history. And, after getting his Bachelor of Arts in History, Toby went to and completed law school becoming a lawyer. I didn't ever get to meet with Toby Ives, Esquire. Too bad, I would have loved to!

I had  my first girl friend in 9th grade. Her name was Barbara Stark.  Barbara was good looking, friendly, and nice. We went out a few times but it didn't last through our transition from 9th grade in Junior High School to 10th grade in Ridgewood High School. Barbara is now Bobbie Baeder. We are currently friends on Facebook. I had another friend, a girl named Jeanne Scepka. She lived down South Irving Street and we were friends throughout high school but not romantic friends. I talked to Jeanne at our 50th high school reunion and we agreed that we had had chemistry but didn't take advantage of it at the time. Too bad!

Jeff Lapic:
I met my best friend , Jeff in Boy Scouts I think. It may not have been initially in the scouts but it will do. Jeff was known as a bit of a "book worm" in 9th grade, but I knew him much better than most. We worked weekends cutting lawns and other yard work and participated in scout activities including camping. Jeff's mother didn't approve of me because I wore black chinos occasionally. We shared a love of the new music, Rock and Roll, and listened to Alan Freed on WINS radio from New York. Jeff and I along with our friends attended one or two of Alan Freeds Rock and Roll shows in New York  and couple of Jocko's Rocket Ship Shows in Harlem at the Apollo Theater during our high school years.

The procedure for the Apollo Theater shows was to get up at o'dark thirty, take the bus to the Port Authority, and the subway to Harlem.  We would then stand in line until the theater opened at 9:00 am or so. We would sleep through some kind of movie and the show would begin; The Clovers, Del Vikings, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jimmy Bowen and Buddy Knox, Chuck Berry etc. one after the other;  Fantastic. Then, another movie followed by another show. The best ever! 

Aside: Alan Freed was the person recognized nationally to first use the term "Rock and Roll when he was a radio disk jockey in Cleveland. Allen Freed sponsored rock and roll shows in New York.  Unfortunately, he was convicted of "payola", accepting money for mentioning a company on the air (a practice which is common place today of course).

Happy Hacking Hedonists: Jeff reminded me that we formed the Happy Hacking Hedonist (HHH) Club in high school. I'm  not sure what we did or if we had any other members.

On one horrible day, Jeff Lapic's world was turned upside down.  He was on a camping trip when some white gasoline (gas without lead) was inadvertently poured over his head and ignited, burning him severely from the waist up. His ears were burned off and face unrecognizable. He had many plastic surgeries to repair the damage. His plastic surgeons asked him how he would like to look. Looking through a publication of famous Hollywood actors, he choose Paul Newman. Jeff's serious condition made him famous at school. After six months or so, much of it in a head to waist full body cast, Jeff returned to school, a hero. He took his fame in stride and we renewed our friendship as if nothing bad had happened to him.

Jeff and I had two other very good friends, Geoff Martin and Flip Parsons (The thing I remember best about Flip Parsons is that he had a killer '55 Mercury). The four of us were together constantly.  Our favorite thing to do was to get together on Friday nights and bake applesauce cake. Sounds strange, but the fun of it was that we had to get the stuff for the cake by going  to neighbors' houses (usually late at night) to borrow the ingredients. After eating the cake and listening to rock and roll, we would sometimes go out and get into mischief.

MIschief #1- In those days, the post office had large blue post office mail boxes placed around town for people to deposit the mail. Our prank was to take a mail box from one corner and place it on the opposite corner. We could imagine the confusion it would cause for some old geezer when he tried to post his mail te next day.

Mischief #2- We would find some "Detour" saw horses somewhere and take them to Ridgewood Avenue rerouting the traffic (NYC bound busses) to Glen Rock or somewhere.

Mischief #3- Jeff and I were standing on a street corner one evening when a police cruiser went by us close to the curb splashing water on to us.  Jeff shouted out "nuisance of society" or words to that affect. We ended up at the police station.  My father had to get us out. That happened only once!

My father was a second father for Jeff and Jeff a brother to me and friend to all of us in our family, especially during our high school days.  He was included in almost all our
family activities including summer trips such as our two week family summer camping vacations to Cape Cod. My sister, Barbara, dated Jeff for awhile. She remembers the Rock and Roll shows and also a date in "The City" after a high school dance and having one too many "zombies". Barbara also remembers going to a teen party with Jeff and me and her friend Connie Andrick at a pavilion where we sang songs such as "The Sloop John B". She also remembers a party in our back yard when her friend from Rochester, Sharon Mitchell came to visit. Sharon would eventually move to The City where she and Barbara would continue to get together.

I had to use this Mineral Club picture taken in 11th Grade because Jeff's picture was not in our Senior CLass yearbook. Jeff went to Dartmoth College with a Navy scholarship.  We would meet up again during college and remain friends for many years.

Cape Cod:

We made several camping vacations to Cape Cod Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Massachusetts.  We would establish our camp at one of Nickersons established campsites where we would cook all our meals including my mother's camping dish "American Slop Chewy. This recipe has been passed down from Barbara to her daughter Melissa and thence to Melissa's children. One of our favorite activities was swimming in one of the ponds on the property; Flax Pond or the larger Cliff Pond where the water was nice and warm and there was a bath house.  When we were particularly adventurous, we would drive up to Wellfleet and go to Cahoons Hallow.  Cahoons Hallow had a extremely large and very steep sand dune which was great for sliding. But, the water was very cold; high 50s even in July or August!

Nickerson campsite

Cliff Pond

Cahoons Hallow

Jeff was with us on many if not all of our trips to Nickerson. Both Jeff and my girlfried JoAnn Emery joined us on one of the trips; I think in the summer of 1958. Unfortunately, Jeff had to leave Ridgewood after his 11th grade year.  His parents moved to Seattle, Washington. Jeff almost stayed with us for his senior year. But, his parents insisted he go with them.

The Jersey Shore: Another of our family summer activities was to go to Normandy Beach on the Jersey shore.

My paternal grandfather purchased (perhaps built) a house sometime around 1915 (I think on on 4th Avenue) right behind the berm; houses were not built on the dunes back then. My father and his brothers grew up summering at that house. Dad and Uncle Arthur built a garage (separate from the house) which was later turned into a guest house. Dad liked to tell the story about how Uncle Arthur dropped a hammer on Dad's head while building that garage. My father also worked as a commercial fisherman one summer (more on this in a minute).  The entire family GiGi and MaMo, Uncle Cecil and his family, Uncle Bob and his family, and our family would go to the shore at the family "cottage", sometimes separately, sometimes in a big group. Barbara remembers learning to swim at Normandy. There was a swim class on the bayside (Barnegat Bay) where there was a sandy beach and shallow calm water. She remembers going to visit Uncle Cecil and his wife Mairiam at a small house they rented in the summer. They had a daughter named Margie who was about eight years years older than me and a "knock out". One summer, Margie had a boyfriend there named Van who was a lifeguard at Normandy Beach. She and Van occasionally took Barbara and me out for ice cream. I had a big crush on Margie and Barbara had one on Van. Margie went on to design greeting cards with The American Greeting Card Company. GiGi sold the Normandy house without telling the sons. Dad, Cecil, and Arthur were furious that GiGi sold it as they would have purchased it and kept it in the family. The house and guest house were later demolished and replaced by a new house.

One of my favorite things to do at the Normandy house was to get up at dawn, walk over the berm dune, take my surf fishing pole and surf fish while watching for the New England dories coming ashore loaded with fish recently unloaded from their off shore nets. Sometimes, the  boats were full up to the gunnels with fish.  Sometimes, the catch included a 500 lb sea turtle. Once in awhile, the only fish in the boat was a giant tuna probably a Bluefin Tuna. The locals called them "Horse Mackeral".  These fish were immense; head up near the bow, tail at the stern of a 25' boat.  My Dad told me that when he was fishing in those boats as a teenager, they brought in a big one.  They took it to the fish house, hoisted it up by the tail and then the junior man (my Dad on one occasion) would reach into the fish's mouth to the stomach and touch some magic part and all the recently eaten fish would drop on the floor.  They would then wash them off with a hose and off to the cannery they would go. By the way, on those early mornings, I would usually catch a nice flounder or bluefish for breakfast. On one morning, I caught a huge summer flounder; its head was at my shoulder, its tail at my ankles (I was about 5ft tall that summer).  There is a picture of it somewhere (I'm looking for it.)

"Horse Mackeral" not my giant flounder

Our family would continue to go to the shore throughout my high school years.  My sister, Barbara and I have many fond memories of our time there.

Boy Scouts: Of course some of the summer as well as during the school year involved Boy Scout activities especially in the 9th and 10th grades. I made Life Scout and Eagle in 9th grade and then the Order of the Arrow (OA). OA was based on the Native American culture and concentrated on learning survival skills as an individual. The field test was three days alone in the woods with a few matches and a knife. I loved it and it was valuable experience when I went through various survival training courses later in the Navy. I also did several service projects with our church, The Westside Presbyterian Church, and completed the requirements for the Boy Scout God and Country Medal.

Life Scout

Eagle Scout Badge and Medal

Order of the Arrow

God and Country
I moved on to participate in Explorer Scout activities but my interest waned as I became more involved in other interests.

NY Yankees: One of my favorite things to do with my father was to go to Yankee games from 1957-1959.  When my father changed jobs from the fund raising job in Manhattan to the Chief Scout Executive  of the Bronx, his office was near the Concourse Plaza and Yankee Stadium. I and occasionally Jeff would take the bus to the New York Port Authority and subway from there to the Concourse Plaza where we would meet my dad at his office. Of course the Yankees were great in those years. A few of them actually had summer homes in Ridgewood.  I played ping pong with Bobby Richardsoon on several occasions.

The 1958 World Champion Yankees had a famous roster including Casey Stingel (Manager), Whitey Ford (pitcher),
Yogi Berra (catcher), Elston Howard (1st base), Bobby Richardson (2nd base), Tony Kubek (SS), Hank Bauer, (left),
and Mickey Mantle(right field). Roger Maris joined in 1959.

Sports: I stopped playing the violin during 9th grade in favor of basketball. I played basketball as a guard on our 9th grade Ben Franklin team even though I was only 5 ft tall and was skinny, about 110 lbs.  I had and excellent jump shot from the key. The coach told me though, I would not have a chance to play on the Ridgewood High School Junior Varsity team in 10th grade because of my size.  So, I had a growth spurt my 9th grade summer.  When I checked in for basketball at Ridgewood High, I asked the coach if I could play now that I was 5' 10" and 150 lbs. He said, go ahead and try.  The problem was that even though I still had my devastating jump shot from the key, an excellent one hand set shot from the corner (which I would never get to use as a guard), and the fact that I shot better than 75% from the foul line, my competition were better athletes.  The starters were all three sport stars; football, basketball, and baseball. Ed Collins was a starting, running back, guard, outfielder and went on to Notre Dame. Jim Reddington played the other guard.  Bob 'Scab' Stewart was a starting lineman, forward, and first baseman who went on to play defensive tackle at the Naval Academy (he got hurt trying to tackle Navy's All American running back Joe Ballino in practice).  Mike Heatherington was the starting quarterback, forward, and pitcher; the school super star. Don Joondoph played the other forward and Steve Tannis was the center at 6 ft 4 Inches (tall in those days. So, I sort of faded away from the basketball program after 10th grade.  I was surprised when the the starting center, Steve Tannis, actually recognized me at our 50th reunion. He was still as good a dancer as ever.  I was shocked though to learn that he was dancing on two prosthetic lower legs; he lost his lower legs in Vietnam.

I gave it a try in baseball as a second baseman. I was a decent fielder but not so good with the bat. So, on to tennis. With my fathers help, I was steadily improving  but had no chance making the tennis team. The Ridgewood High tennis team had  been state champions as long as anyone could remember.
I would be more successful in tennis later in life. In conclusion; even though I wasn't very successful in any of my high school sports attempts, I did get in pretty good shape. Even though wasn't particularly strong and didn't have sprinter speed, I did have excellent endurance. I could run a mile in close to five minutes. (I could still run a mile and a half in under nine minutes  until I was thirty five).

Another popular thing to do in Ridgewood was to go to Graydon Pool:

Graydon Pool was an ultra large pond with a cement bottom.  It could be drained and cleaned. Sand was installed over the cement to give it a beach effect. It had lifeguard protected swimming areas, a large wooded floating dock, bath houses, and basketball courts and picnic tables. In the winter, it would sometimes freeze over thick enough for ice skating.  For a couple of years they even had a 100 meter swimming lane so that Ridgewood's most famous athlete, Carin Cone could practice.

Carin Cone was in the Ridgewood High School Class of 1958.

She won the Silver Medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Autralia in the 100 meter backstroke.

She tied the world record at that time.

She accomplished this at age 16!

The Duck Pond: In addition to the very popular and well maintained Greydon Pool, there was a natural pond that we could enjoy.

The Duck Pond would freeze over every winter. It was a great place to ice skate.  I got a pair of men's hockey type skates but never played hockey because I couldn't skate backwards very well.

Palmer's Pharmacy: As I wasn't busy on the basketball court or on the base ball field during my junior and senior years, I got a job.  I worked at Palmer's Pharmacy as a stock boy and delivery driver. In those days, most prescriptions were delivered. I drove a 1956 Chevy panel truck when making those deliveries.

Palmer's Pharmacy was in the
brickfront second store to the left

The Palmer's Pharmacy
1956 Chevy truck was blue

My delivery job involved driving all around Ridgewood and occasionally the nearby town of Glen Rock. I had lots of deliveries in upper Ridgewood where my girl friend (s) lived which was very convenient for a brief meet up.

High School Girl Friends:  I had two girl friends in high school. Both were upper Ridgewood girls. I first met Penny Harger at a lower Ridgewood Friday night "sock hop" at the Westside Presbyterian Church. The church had these almost every Friday night; they were a lot of fun and and kept us relatively safe. The music was rock and roll and there was lots of fast dancing to songs like "Whispering Bells" by the Del Vikings or "Party Doll" by Jimmy Bowen and Buddy Knox.  There was also some getting friendly slow dancing.  Penny Harger was cute, spunky, very intelligent and a lot of fun. Her sister had a boyfriend with the nickname, Bo. That's where I got the idea that I would like that nickname too. So, when I went to college, I put Bo Smith on the door of my dorm room and viola, I transitioned from Bob Smith to Bo  Smith. Penny and I were both on the Ridgewood High Yearbook staff in 11th and 12th grades. Our senior year, I was the Sports Editor; she was the Editor in Chief.  I really liked working with Penny and we had a great time socially.  Penny went on to be very successful. 

I saw Penny briefly at the 50th reunion.

1959 Yearbook Staff
I was the Sports Editor (left)

1959 Yearbook Editor in Chief

Penny had a girlfriend who lived near her in upper" Ridgewood named JoAnn Emery.  JoAnn was also good looking and very intelligent. She was a little more reserved than Penny but we had a great time together. JoAnn I eventually went "steady" in our Senior year.

 We had a great time singing together in Acappella Choir and
in the Madrigal Singers

Acappella Choir
JoAnn and me upper right
Jeanne Sepka
second row left

Madrigal Singers
small acappella group

There was a lengthy transition from Penny to JoAnn which was difficult for me and both of the girls. The culture at the time was that you found a girl and went steady.  I really liked both girls and didn't want to choose.  So, I went back and forth for awhile which was upsetting for everyone involved. I ended up with giving my high school ring to JoAnn. JoAnn and I enjoyed singing with the Acappella Choir and the Madrigal singers. The Madrigal Singers were a small sub group of the A Cappella Choir. JoAnn went camping with my family and Jeff at Nickerson State Park. We had a fantastic time. We also went to the shore together.

One day, I was playing crochet in JoAnn's yard when all of a sudden, my throat and face began to swell. I remembered that day in Camp Massawepie when I had the same symptoms so I told JoAnn's father that I needed to go to the hospital right away.  After the Benedril shot, I was fine.  I never had the problem again.  I've been told that I probably out grew the allergy.

JoAnn and I had a great senior year. We began to get physical toward the end of the year. I think JoAnn probably confided in her mom what was going on and before we went 'all the way'. I was a bit surprised when JoAnn left town for the summer.  In retrospect, that was probably a good idea.  I regret though that I was not more aggressive about getting back in touch with JoAnn after we had moved on to college. I think I really missed out on a good thing. JoAnn earned her  PhD and became a professor at the University of New Hampshire. She is happily married. She did not attend the 50th reunion.

Aside: I would have still been a virgin at the end of high school except that I was deflowered by a another girl, a complete surprise, in the passenger side of the front seat of my 1950 flat head V8 Ford.

Dating in New York City: One of my favorite kind of dates was having dinner followed by hitting a couple of jazz clubs. It was actually affordable in those days, especially because  I was working at the pharmacy.  A typical date would start by dinner at a small French restaurant on 58th Street West.  It was called Le Champlain or Le Chateau or something like that
(I couldn't find a picture of it on Google). There was a bar on the first floor. The dinning room was in the basement. I could get out of there for about $40 which included an Old Fashion cocktail (the drinking age in New York was 18; 17 no problem, no ID required), steak dinner, and wine for two. We would then walk up toward 5th Avenue continue on to the Basin Street East night club. There was a small cover charge and a two drink per person minimum per show.  The regular performer was none other than Duke Ellington.  Other famous acts I saw there were  Dave Brubek with Carmine McCrae, and the Roof Top Singers. If I had the cash, we would stay for two shows. Sometimes, In lieu of Basin Street East, we would go to Times Square to the Metropole Cafe.  The Metropole Cafe featured jazz performers on the narrow stage behind the bar.  My favorite was when they had Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole, two of the best drummers of all time both on the stage at the same time doing a drum off. We could also go upstairs if we wanted to and see performers like Dizzy Gillespie.

Basin Street East

Duke Ellington
Metropole Cafe

Metropole Cafe Bar

The coup de grace date was set up by my Dad.  He had arranged for Jeff and Barbara, and JoAnn and me to get a table by the dance floor at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Ball Room restaurant. The performers were a Big Band with Ella Ftizgerald as the front singer. We had a fantastic dinner, danced, and too much wine.  At the end, my Uncle Cecil showed up an offered to pay the bill; until he saw the bill and decided to pay half of it.  We had a great time!

My first car was a1950 Ford.

When I was doing the lawn care business
in 9th and 10th grade with Jeff, Geoff, and Flip, I saved my money. I made a deal with my father. He agreed that he would pay for the insurance when I had saved enough money to buy a car. I bought my 1950 Ford when I was in 10th grade (1957) for $300. Mine was a sedan, not the coupe pictured above. I had a bit of a problem though before I was old enough to drive it on the public roads. I kept the car on a small parking area we had made out of gravel next to our neighbor's large garage.  One day when I was backing it out, I misjudged the turn and hit a tree with my left fender. Not only did I damage the fender, but I also damaged the hood and grille badly. It turned out that all three of these parts were bolted on and could be easily removed (no welded seams in those days). I bought replacement parts at a junk yard for a grand total of $30 and bolted them on; good as new. Next, I added a glass pack muffler, lowering blocks, and painted it 1957 Ford star mist blue (with a brush). From there after, it was called 'The Blue Bomb'.  It was a great car; loud and fast to 65 in second gear.  My sister inherited it when I left for college.

Drinking Alcohol:  The drinking age in New Jersey was 21.  The drinking age in New York state was 18.  Accordingly, there was normally a caravan of cars with teenagers in them driving from New Jersey to New York on Friday and Saturday nights.

The route was from Ridgewood (the top of the ring at the bottom of the map) to
Suffern via Route 202.

There were numerous DUIs and some car crashes. I made the trip one time.  My father decided that it was too dangerous for us to drink and drive so he decided to let us (Jeff and me) drink at our house.  We didn't overdo it though mostly beer and wine with meals. There were some instances of lapses in judgment. One one occasion, I went to a "beer party" on a Friday night at a house in upper Ridgewood. The guy's parents were not home and it turned out to be a scotch party. I got totally wasted.  A couple of guys at the party drove me home.  They were afraid to encounter my father so they propped me up against the front door, rang the door bell and fled.  My father opened to door and I fell in to the living room; totally out of it. He put me to bed. BUT, he know that I was supposed to work at Palmer's Pharmacy the next morning at 9:00 am.  He got me up at dawn, fed me runny scrambled eggs until I could keep them down (I probably went through a dozen or so), and lots of coffee until I could go to work; on time.  I learned that lesson well. I never missed a class at Cornell or couldn't work the next day after going on liberty in the Navy.

New Jersey Mineralogical Society:

Jeff and I joined the North Jersey Mineralogical Society (NJGMS) in Paterson as soon as I had the Blue Bomb. In fact, my first experience at night driving was to a NJGMS meeting.  It was scary but worth the effort.  I participated in several field trips including spelunking (cave exploring) with NJGMS.  But by far the best aspect of joining the group was learning about the New Street Quarry in Paterson. The New Street Quarry was closed by a chain link fence but the gate was open enough to squeeze through; perhaps on purpose to let the rock hounds in without being liable.

New Street Quarry

Zeolite Mineral Group
Prehnite, Datolite, Thompsonite


The New Street Quary was a Dana location for the Zeolite Mineral Group. Only Nova Scotia had similar quality zeolites in North America. Good quality specimens of Chabozite, Pectolite, Datolite, Prehnite, and Thompsonite could be found at New Street often associated with lavender colored Amethyst.

Amethyst with Chabazite

Chabazite with Datolite


Prehnite with Amethyst


Franklin Zinc Mine, Franklin, New Jersey:

Franklin Zinc Mine-1950s

Franklin Zinc Museum-Today

Franklin Mine Buckwheat Dump

The Franklin Zinc Mine was operated by the New Jersey Zinc Company when it closed in the 1950s. There was plenty of high quality zinc ore still in the mine but it was closed because labor costs were lower in South America.  The museum is still open today providing displays about the history of the mine and examples of the minerals found in the mine.  Many of the minerals found in the Franklin mine are very rare and occur only in this location. In addition, many of the minerals at Franklin are fluorescent.  Florescent minerals contain ions such as Manganese which vibrate giving off bright colors sort of like the 'northern lights'. So, it has been a popular spot for rock hounds from across the world to come and collect.  The Buckwheat dump at Franklin is still open to collectors today. But it is pretty well picked over as no new mine rocks have been added since the mine closed. However, my father's brother Cecil was the Vice President of the New Jersey Zinc Company in the 1950s. As a result, I made several great collecting trip to the Buckwheat dump while I was in high school in Ridgewood.

In addition to the rare and hard to find minerals, common Franklin minerals found in the Buckwheat dump are shown below:

A crystal of Franklinite
on Calcite (CaCO3)
Franklinite is a primary zinc ore mineral. It is not fluorescent but the Calcite fluoresces bright red.

The red mineral pictured here is Zincite (ZnO), also a primary zinc ore mineral.
It does not fluoresce.

The flesh colored mineral here is Willemite (Zn2SiO4) on Calcite. Willemite is also an ore of Zinc and fluoresces bright green.

This is the the rock to the left under short wave fluorescent light.Willemite (green) on Calcite (red)

 This rock consists of pink Rhodonite (MnSiO3) crystals on Calcite
The Rhodonite does not fluoresce but it's pink crystals are highly desired by collectors.
As you know now, the Calcite fluoresces bright red.

Franklin minerals can also be collected today at nearby Ogdensburg, NJ at the Sterling Hill Mine.  I did not collect here in the 1950s. But, I have collected there many times in recent years.

Room Changes at Home:

Sometime during 1957/1958, my paternal grandfather, GiGi had to be located in a nursing home near Ridgewood. His dementia (we called it senility in those days) had worsened to the point where my grandmother, MaMo could not care for him. We would visit Gigi a couple of times a month on a Saturday.  He would sit by his window and look out at the parking lot below.  But instead of seeing the 1950s cars in the lot, he would see old Fords, Plymouths, Dodges, and Chevys of the 1920s and 30s.  He had little short term memory, but his long term memory was very clear.  He was aware of who we were but his mind was just all about his past.

MaMo initially moved in with Barbara as her bedroom was much bigger than my little garret type room.  That didn't work out well and Barbara asked if she could live in the attic.  My parents had a better idea. We had a room on the first floor at the back of the house we called the sun room.  My father built a wall with shelves out of knotty pine near the stairs which separated the sun room from the living room. Access to the newly created bedroom was from the kitchen though a small room in between which we called the sewing room. The new bedroom was a good deal for me because there was a rear door to the house that provided entry to the kitchen. The result was that I had a private entrance to my bedroom.
MaMo moved in to my room upstairs.  I have no idea why MaMo didn't get the room on the first floor so she didn't have to go up the stairs. Maybe it had to do with bathroom access or something like that. I was very close to my grandmother MaMo. She doted on me and I returned her love.  She was a wonderful person.

Mamo liked to take a little nip of whisky at bedtime. She had a pint of Seven Roses she used for that purpose.  My job was to go in to her room when she was away and add a little to keep the pint bottle about half full. We kept a gallon bottle of Seven Roses stored away for that purpose. Every year as Christmas approached, I allowed the level of whisky in MaMo's pint to decrease so that on Christmas Eve, she had very little left.  She was very happy every Christmas to get a new pint of Seven Roses.  I think she was aware of what we were doing but it made for a fun family joke every year.

Ridgewood High School (Preparing to go to college):

Ridgewood High School had a large campus. The school buildings are at the top with the football field and track below. The baseball field and tennis courts are not shown in the picture.

The Ridgewood High School main buildings are very beautiful with lush landscaping.  There was also a stream that was located below the football/track fields. The Seniors were allowed to meet/study along the stream during study hall.

As I said in the beginning, my parents selected Ridgewood because Ridgewood High School had an outstanding reputation as a college preparatory public high school. The teaching staff was experienced and in addition to a very high standard academic curriculum, they offered common sense courses in wood and metal shop (boys) and cooking and home economics (mostly girls), and excellent extracurricular activities.  I took all the college prep math classes  including a Thomas' calculus course that had recently been developed at Princeton.  I did very well in math and the sciences and OK in history and English. I took three years of Latin. The first two years had boys and girls in the same class. The third year the classes were segregated.  The boys read Cicero. The girls read Virgil. The school thought Cicero to be too raunchy and inappropriate for girls. I finished in the top 5% of my class which made me competitive for acceptance at a good college. 

My Senior Class picture from the yearbook.

I applied for and was accepted at the Colorado School of Mines, first choice and Franklin and Marshall, second choice.  However, I applied for and was accepted for a full Navy scholarship (NROTC) at Cornell University. Of course, I decided to attend Cornell. I had learned how to work hard toward a goal and was ready for college. 
"Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck"

Next Chapter: Cornell                                           

Website Created by Robert S. "Bo" Smith
Photos unless otherwise attributed are from Google Crome or Ridgewood High School Annuals (1958 and 1959)