Greatest Clarkstown Memories Essays Reunion 2019
Here are the essays submitted for the 2019 Reunion.
Contest winners were by Don McNeil ('64) and Richard Person ('65).
And a special award for greatest volume of essays goes to our resident class author, Frank Eberling! :)
All but Richard Persen's were submitted by '64 Members.
The essays contributed from members of the classes are posted below in the following order:
A MAKEUP MODEL’S EMASCULATION By Don McNeil
MAN WITH THE WHITE FLUFFY HAIR by Richard Persen ('65)
MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT FROM MY CCHS YEARS By Frank Eberling
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’ By Frank Eberling
32 YEARS OF LIVING LATER By Frank Eberling
MY FRESHMAN YEAR AT COLLEGE By Frank Eberling
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE By Frank Eberling
THANK YOU NOTE TO TEACHERS JOE D’INNOCENZO & WILLIAM MORROW By Frank Eberling
FALLING IN LOVE TO GLENN MILLER (times 3) By Frank Eberling
ON SOCCER & FBI AGENTS DAUGHTERS By Steve Gartrell
THE BITTERSWEET VICTORY NO ONE EVER KNEW ABOUT By Don McNeil
THE NEW KID IN SCHOOL By Don McNeil
LADY IN THE BLACK COAT By Richard Persen
A MAKEUP MODEL’S EMASCULATION
Senior year…Mrs. Hanley’s English class right before lunch. Each of us in the class had been previously assigned to speak for 10 minutes on any topic of our choice. Pam Brown, who was also in the class, chose “the application of make-up” and, since she was modelling in New York City at the time, that seemed to be an appropriate subject for her. Fortunately, but soon to be very unfortunately for me, Pam and I had been on a couple of dates. As presentations were winding down one of the many mornings they were being given, Pam was selected as the last presenter before lunch break. Pam stood up and walked to Mrs. Hanley’s desk. As she reached the front of the class and turned to give her talk, she looked directly at me and preceded her formal remarks by saying words that I will never, ever forget, “first, I will need to select someone from the class to be my makeup model.” Desperately avoiding her stare, I frantically scanned the room to see which girl she was going to choose. Before my search had even reached the first coed, I heard the horrifying words Pam exclaimed with glee, “I select Don McNeil…come on up”!
As my heart sank into my skivvies, I shrieked “no way, Jose” with trepidation but without hesitation, then glanced around the classroom triumphantly to receive class wide praise for successfully asserting my masculinity! Mrs. Hanley on the other hand, had a very different, more sinister perspective and asked me one simple question, “Don, do you want to graduate this year?” Quickly, I had to assess my options. Option 1: summer school and no lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, our last carefree months before we were pressed into adulthood, or 2) mascara, foundation and lipstick, a no-win choice if ever I had had one, but a choice I had to make instantaneously. Finally, however, after what felt to me to be an eternity, I heard my voice quaver as I replied, “graduation Mrs. Hanley”. Mrs. Hanley responded with the faint hint of a snicker in her drill sergeant’s voice, “I can’t hear y-o-o-u-u”! “Graduation Mrs. Hanley” I repeated, “and you don’t need to shout you old bat” (okay, so I might have wanted to say those last few words but perhaps I exaggerate ever so slightly).
Slithering out of my chair, I began the perp walk to the front of the room, slowly and deliberately, inching toward my premature, humiliating demise at the hands of the eagerly awaiting Pam Brown and her war chest of seemingly endless makeup products. As I sat down in the “executioner’s chair”, my life flashed before me. So many things I had wanted to accomplish that now would have to wait until the next time I was banished by the Almighty to this confounding existence on planet earth. During the awkward, endless hours that followed, an infinite parade of makeup products were applied to my face…foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, eye liner, more foundation, concealer, daytime makeup, evening makeup, seasonal makeups, on and on and on until I thought I finally heard salvation. The bell was ringing signaling what I mistakenly believed had to be the end of the school day but it was just the lunch bell tauntingly beckoning me to the cafeteria where I would have to parade in front of the entire student body looking ever so “heavenly”.
Fortunately, however, the bell also was the class’ signal to exit stage left and as they each filed out of the classroom, a couple of the guys winked at me, one I believe blew me a kiss, I might even have had a proposition or two, and all the girls did was just giggle. Equally as fortunately, Pam and I were now alone in the classroom, remaining behind so she could remove the tons of emasculating disgrace that had been plastered all over my face. I was still seated in the “executioner’s chair” and Pam was standing between my legs removing my makeup when from out of nowhere, Andrea Del Regno surprisingly appeared in the classroom doorway. Andrea stopped abruptly, visibly startled with a look of complete disbelief on her face apparently thinking that she had perhaps interrupted Pam and me in some sort of sexual exploration. Quickly composing herself she blurted out one word, “sorry”, and disappeared from the doorway. Pam leaned forward and whispered in my ear as she stifled a wry chuckle, “I knew I should have gone with light eye shadow not dark for the finale of my presentation this morning, and then you wouldn’t have scared the daylights out of Andrea like you just did.” Words to live by from a former makeup model who has never again ventured into public wearing dark eye shadow whenever light eye shadow was clearly the more correct choice!
After having taken clarinet music lessons since the fourth grade, I was pretty confident in my marching band capabilities. The Clarkstown High School Band was a great opportunity to continue playing clarinet and it fit into my schedule. One day I was practicing scale runs in a practice room in the new music room. It was great to be able to work through some of the marches and actually hear what I was playing. Near the end of the session, the door flew open and in walked a man with white fluffy hair. I had seen him several times during freshman and sophomore years, but now as a junior he seemed to take interest in my musical abilities. He pulled up a chair, sat down and said, “I’d like you to learn to play bassoon, Richard.” I could feel my face flush. I was somewhat gob smacked by the request. The amazing outcome was that he showed me how to play the monstrosity. He also pointed out that it cost the school almost $3,000 to purchase it and that I should guard it with my life if I took it off-campus. Diligence took over and within a short six months I was able to play the bassoon. In another year, I would find myself trying out for All-County Orchestra at Nanuet High School. It was an amazing experience because not only did I qualify for the orchestra, but I also scored second-chair. This was one of the most memorable experiences of high School. Thank you, Dr. Ed. Carney! I will never forget your white fluffy hair.
MAN WITH THE WHITE FLUFFY HAIR
by Richard Person ('65)
MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT FROM MY CCHS YEARS
By Frank EberlingTo talk about my most memorable moment from my CCHS years, I draw upon an article I wrote for the Rockland Journal News in 1995:
Fifty-six years ago, on November 9, 1963, my father took a picture of me during closing moments of the Nyack game. I was waiting to get called back into my final football game.
We wound up defeating Nyack for a perfect 8-0 season, the first time Clarkstown had ever had an undefeated championship football season. As one of my teammates told me fifty years later, “It was the best day of my life. It’s been downhill ever since.”
Under Coaches William Morrow and Bob Sawyer, we outsmarted them all. Center Charlie Pape hiked the ball to Bobby Lawson. Senior backfield included Pat Damiani, Bob Tveit, Keith Jones. Senior ends were Simon “Rocky” Levinson and the late Dave Forsberg. Tackles were Paul Hanchar and the late Frank Tucek. I played right guard despite my center #52. Underclassmen Michael Talaska, Glenn Handley, John Miller, the late Artie Connolly, Steve Bretschneider, the late Jimmy Munsing, Kenny Ward rounded out the team, with my brother, Ray Eberling, the team manager.
After the final buzzer, the stands emptied out onto the field. My father rushed toward me and threw his arms around my shoulders. Doc Carney’s marching band marched through the streets of New City in celebrations, while many of us took off our pads for the last time.
In recent years we’ve lost Artie Connolly, Frank Tucek, Jimmy Munsing, and Dave Forsberg. They were all heroes during that game. Through the inspiration of Coach William Morrow, we pulled off something many said could never be done. Has it really been 55 years?
What follows is the article [that Frank wrote] from the Rockland Journal News, from November of 1995. Some minor revisions and updates have been made.
In November 1963 we were unstoppable—champions on the football field, and ready to conquer the world. What a difference a month would make.
When the ‘’63-’64 senior year began in a splash of brilliant autumn color, we knew we had all the answers. Within two semesters we were to discover how little we knew about ourselves, our friends, and the world around us.
We lived in an “Ozzie and Harriet meets Norman Rockwell” painting, with our rosy cheeks and short haircuts, “Studyin’ hard and hopin’ to pass,” dancing to Chuck Berry and Motown, and enamored, even hypnotized, by a smiling president and his wife we saw on black-and-white television.
Clarkstown High School was a different world than the one we live in now. There were no drugs in school. No racial turmoil. No malicious acts of rebellion or student violence. No teacher assaults. No all-pervasive sense of fear so prevalent in many of our nation’s schools today. That fall of 1963, we looked ahead to a year of promise and a future that held no limits. Most of us had known each other since kindergarten and there was no doubt in our minds that our senior class was the coolest to ever grace the halls of Clarkstown High.
After an auspicious away victory over Goshen, we rolled over our opponents one after the other, despite incredible odds and the skepticism of sportswriters and county residents.
It was just not possible for Clarkstown to defeat historical powerhouses like Suffern, Spring Valley, and especially Nyack. We succeeded in doing the impossible.
Maybe we weren’t believing in ourselves, unable to figure out how it was actually happening. Bill Morrow and Bob Sawyer, our two coaches, seemed almost surprised themselves, until Coach Morrow did a little research in the Guidance Office and explained it all to us during our last practice session.
“You’re not necessarily bigger or faster or stronger than your opponents, but you win because you are all a lot smarter than they are.” Coach Morrow had discovered, to his absolute amazement, that the team had exceptionally high IQs and the scholastic records to back it up.
We beat Nyack that following Saturday. I made the most exciting tackle of my short football career. Bobby Lawson’s passes hit Dave Forsberg, Rocky Levinson, and Mike Talaska time after time. Paul Hanchar made a heroic, defensive goal-line stand three plays in a row, the likes of which I have never seen again.
Victory was never sweeter, with a march down Main Street in New City and the celebrations that followed. The Class of ’64 was on a roll.
The following week was the Senior Class play, with many of the football players coming in during the last few days of rehearsal for their cameo roles in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
How happy and innocent we all were. How naïve and focused on our small world. But as Ernest Hemingway once said, “It was the end of something.”
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
That same victory week a former CIA/FBI informant was working at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. In Great Britain, the manager of a rock-and-roll group completed negotiations for four appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Most kids in the United States had yet to hear the band’s name or the sound of their music.
And in a Far-Eastern jungle, a small contingent of U.S. Military advisors were training soldiers to fight a civil war that had been going on for decades. Surely, none of those things had anything to do with us.
In a move uncharacteristic for me at the time, I had started keeping a journal that first semester of my senior year. Little did I know, this year would be like no other in history. As I read the yellowing, brittle pages now, the term “innocence” cannot really quite convey the spirit of that time. In a period of one month in that journal, we became football champions for the first time in the history of our school, I wrote of heartbreak when I broke up with a girl who would later become my first wife, we bowed in a standing ovation curtain call for the Senior Class play, our beloved president was assassinated, and The Beatles would change the sound of music forever. It was all a foreshadowing of the three decades of turmoil that followed.
What we witnessed in a few short weeks would forever change our lives and the way we lived, in the way our country lived. It was if the world had suddenly shifted gears and lurched toward the future, throwing us off balance, leaving us grasping for something to hold on to, an anchor from the past that no longer existed.
In six short months that followed, the world we lived in changed radically, and we changed with it. The story’s already been told in countless books and movies and songs of what happened next….of where we would go…of how we would change even more in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
32 YEARS OF LIVING LATER
And where are the surviving cast of characters, 31 years later? (55 years in 2019).
As for my teammates and other close friends, one of us committed suicide at the age of 19. One of us sacrificed his leg in the first war our country ever lost. Another committed suicide over a 20 years through drug abuse, another war we lost.
Most of us now live in an average cross-section of American lives for a group of suburbanites in our late forties ( in 1995, early seventies in 2019).
Vinny Burns took an early retirement from IBM and moved to Idaho. Charlie Pape tired of Wall Street early on and owned a very successful sports bar in Las Vegas. Jim Damiani became president of the Rockland Board of Realtors and a bigshot in the Rotary Club. Ken Conners made major motion pictures for many years. Pat Damiani and Bob Raspanti were electrical contractors. Simon, “Rocky” Levinson invents medical devices for the University of Colorado. (It was, no doubt, his IQ that skewed our team’s record). Richard Leibowitz is an attorney. Quarterback Bobby Lawson, whose golden arm led us to our championship season, is a retired FBI Agent. Paul Hanchar, the most determined defensive lineman I have ever seen play anywhere, became a high school teacher and later owned a bar in Congers, like his father before him. Sadly, teammates Frank Tucek, David Forsberg, Jimmy Munsing, and Artie Connolly have gone on ahead. Frank was a roofing contractor and David was a social worker with Native Americans in the northern mid-west. Artie owned a bar in New City.
The 20th reunion was packed with exuberance and fun, loud music, and laughing. The 25th, still a good crowd, but perhaps a little more mellow, began with screams and hugs and ended with catch-up conversations that lasted until four the next morning.
Our 31st reunion was held on Memorial Day of 1995. Where earlier reunions had brought elation, I left this one feeling let down. Maybe it was the fact that we were a year late for the scheduled “30th.” Maybe it was a bad choice of weekends. The crowd was smaller, almost subdued. Were we all just tired? So much older? The conversations were more strained, as if we had all run out of things to say to one another, had too many other concerns on our mind, or had just lost interest. Maybe the people many of us had traveled so far to see, had hoped would be there, never showed up. Bobby Lawson, our quarterback-hero turned FBI Agent, was too busy investigating the Oklahoma City bombing to attend. There’s a metaphor of our country in that fact somewhere, but that’s a story for another time.
I searched the eyes of those few who did show up.
Some came from as far away as Dallas and Chicago, or in my case, West Palm Beach. Why had they made such a journey after all this time? What were they looking for one last reminiscence to bring a smile of remembrance to their face? The retelling of a senior class prank, like the time we smuggled all the silverware out of the cafeteria over a few days? A forgotten twist on an old story they’ve told their own children a million times? To see someone they’ve known for 45 of their 49 years?
I know why I went. Nothing very complicated. I wanted to feel again what was in my chest the day we left the field in triumph after the Nyack game. The school’s first 8-0 season. As the team walked off the field, our heroes carried on our shoulders, the strains of Doc Carney’s marching band played our victory song. Someone came running up behind me and threw his arms around me in a hug. In those days, no man hugged another, and I was embarrassed, until I realized it was my father. He was proud of me. He himself had been a 1933 graduate of Congers High School, Clarkstown’s forerunner, 30 years earlier.
A few minutes later that day, standing in the locker room, I took off my shoulder pads for the last time and hung them in the locker. The simple rite of passage lasted but a second.
Last Memorial Day weekend (1995) I visited the practice field and listened for the sound of cleats on the steps down the hill and the grunts of wind being knocked out of lungs on sudden impact of a helmet. But it was quiet. Below, a springtime sweet-clover had filled in the muddy spots worn on the field by a million cleats.
I walked up the hill past the old Carnochan Mansion that served as the centerpiece of CCHS. Past the tennis courts, I half expected to hear Doc Carney’s lead trumpet solo on the Notre Dame fight song, customized for good old CCHS. There wasn’t even a whistle on the wind. Just the sound of a few memories clattering around in my head. I looked to the sidelines where my father had taken my photograph, had first hugged me.
I waited for that feeling in my chest to come again. But like the field before me, it remained empty as I looked down from the hill.
The time has moved quickly, and our world with it. So quickly we hardly even take notice. But for those of us who were there, the triumphs we lived, the sorrows that we field, the heartaches we overcame, the music that became our anthems; they will live on in the memories of at least a few of us from the Class of ’64.
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE
By Frank Eberling
If you look in the 1964 under category for Class Clown, you’ll see a picture. It must have been a tough choice because if I had been in charge of choosing, it would have been a tie for first place between about twenty of the girls in class. I’ve had some of the biggest laughs of my life with not only the winner, but Linda Hall, Phyllis Prentice, Betty Basnight, Ellen Pulis, Vicki Bettleheim, Peggy Helmkamp, Suzanne Coletta, Sandra Hofmann and many others. Where did this humor come from? Why were they so funny? Had their parents forced them to watch hours of Gracie Allen, Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Imogene Coca, Nanette Fabray? Had they watched too many episodes of Ernie Kovacs? Sgt. Bilko, Bob Hope? Was there something in the water? I don’t know, but our class was
filled with laughter.
Sometimes one of them would say something silly in class and we would not be able to stop laughing the entire period.
But despite all the millions of laughs from our great class comediennes, I think the funniest thing I remember occurred during one of the performances of our Senior
Class Play, The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Kenny Barkin, truly one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met, took on the role of BANJO, a character based on Harpo Marx and portrayed on film by Jimmy Durante.
During one performance, Kenny entered the stage. Charlie Pape and I, dressed in our police uniforms for our walk-on parts, watched from behind the curtains, off-stage right.
As the scene progressed with back-and-forth banter between Banjo and another character, Kenny forgot his lines. There was deadly silence. You could have heard a pin drop as sweat formed on his brow. The audience eventually caught on and there were some nervous giggles as Ken stammered his way around through the obvious delaying tactic.
Enter stage left, Chris Condura, in the role of a housemaid. She carried a tray in her hands and on that tray she had placed the script book, turned to the current scene. She looked at Ken and down at the script. It took him a split second and then a sigh of relief crossed his face. Reading from the page, he acted out his lines without looking up from the book on the tray.
Of course the audience caught on immediately to what had happened and broke into laughter, as Ken’s feeble attempts to cover up what was actually happening only
made the situation worse.
Everyone backstage was doubled over with laughter.
About ten years ago, about eight of the guys had a mini-reunion at Charlie’s house in Las Vegas. Charlie Pape, Vinny Burns, Jimmy Damiani, Ken Conners, Ken
Barkin, Richard Leibowitz, and I sat around a table played cards and reminisced. Most of us had been in the play or the audience that night of The Man Who Came to Dinner.
We were once again privileged to hear Barkin’s great laughter. I almost expected Chris Condura to walk in the room wearing her maid’s outfit, carrying a tray with a script on it.
THANK YOU NOTE TO TEACHERS JOE D’INNOCENZO & WILLIAM MORROW
By Frank Eberling
Dear Coach and Coach,
This is a THANK YOU NOTE to both of you. Let me provide some context.
After graduating in 1964, I attended the University of Florida. I went from a class of 264 in a school of 900, to a sprawling campus with 18,000 students. The culture shock, moving away from the protective womb of New City, was so extensive, that I did not
complete my freshman year and dropped out in the spring of 1965.
Four years later I eventually graduated and became a high school English teacher in Palm Beach Gardens for about five years. I tried to emulate the wonderful teachers I’d been blessed to have at Clarkstown. I looked around and observed carefully. Few of the dozens of teachers I worked with could measure up to what I had experienced as a student at Clarkstown.
Through a truly bizarre set of circumstances I got a job at the local television station, and for the next eight years I was a television rporter/cinematographer/producer. After that, I went on to be a television entertainment magazine producer and eventually a documentary producer for a total of about forty-four years.
I’ve done over 100 projects for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in places like Midway Islands, Pearl Harbor, Normandy Beach, the Bridge at Remagen.
After that I did over 100 documentaries for Florida PBS, filming in thousands of locations around the state.
Throughout these forty-plus years I have had the opportunity to sit down and interview four presidents of the United States, politicians, hundreds of sports figures, movie stars, celebrities, and authors.
I have had the distinct privilege of rubbing shoulders with greatness on many levels.
Why am I telling you all of this? To be a “name-dropper?” No.
Over the years I tried to figure out if there was a common denominator that all of these achievers shared. Did they share any particular traits? They came from so many diverse backgrounds and levels of experiences and socio-economic classes.
As Shakespeare once said through Malvolio, “Some men are born great, some achieve greatness. Others have greatness thrust upon them.”
So what did all these people have in common? I could only find one trait all of them shared, and that was this.
Not one of the hundreds of achievers I’ve interviewed had the slightest idea of the profound influence they’ve had on the lives of others. Not presidents, not politicians, not movie stars, not best-selling authors who had sold 90 million copies of their books.
They did not, or could not, comprehend the influence they had over others.
So I am writing to you today after more than fifty years of reflection on the experiences you provided to my classmates and me. I want to say, “THANK YOU,” for all that you did and the tremendous influence and profound impact you have provided to
Coach Morrow, after a year of coaching by Lou Gerascioti, you took over, and we saw firsthand, the difference between truly terrible coaching by Gerascioti and truly great coaching by you.
You never raised your voice or criticized or humiliated, like your predecessor had
done constantly. You taught by demonstrating technique and positive reinforcement. You
inspired us by your personal strength, not by yelling and screaming at us.
It was grace under pressure and we all watched, absorbed, and learned how to conduct ourselves not only as athletes, but as honorable young men.
One day, toward the end of our championship 1963 season, you came down on the practice field and told us you had been to the Guidance office to check our academic credentials. You told us what you had discovered. Our players had extraordinary I.Q.s, leading you to tell us that we won our games both because we not only outplayed our
opponents, but because we also outsmarted them with our intellect.
I’m not sure you ever realized what an impact that had on my teammates, but especially me. It was something I think we all somehow suspected, but you had validated with your research. When I think of the brain power of such players as Bobby Lawson,
the late, great, David Forsberg, Rocky Levinson, it comes as no surprise. And time has proven you correct in your assessment.
As the season came to a close and our undefeated record seemed imminent, we closed ranks, followed your leadership, and awaited the last game.
The Friday before, we all took a knee on the field, some of us for the last time. We listened to your final words. You convinced us we could do it.
The next day is one we’ll never forget. The stands were packed, our adrenaline was racing. We all looked to you. We drew on what you had taught us and we accomplished what many believed at the time could never happen. Clarkstown High
Football went 8-0 to win the championship.
We lifted you on our shoulders, as you, metaphorically, had lifted us on yours.
We carried you around the field. A small token of thanks for helping us realize a monumental goal. I have had teammates in their late sixties tell me it was one of their life’s greatest moments. I had one teammate tell me recently that it was all downhill after that day in November of 1963. In many ways, but not all, I would have to agree. I see his
point. The bottom line is that you were responsible for making that happen, for giving our simple lives some lasting significance, and we thank you for it. In the coming days it was football championship jackets and trophies. (I still have both of mine after 55 years).
Coach D’Innocenzo, my thanks to you for being a great history teacher and a great track coach. Tenth grade World History is one of those classes that has a significance you may not realize until later in life. My cousin, Margaret Rogers, had recommended that I take your class because you were a great teacher. I was fortunate enough to get in your class the following year.
The highlights of the class? The Magna Carta, 1066 A.D., The Dark Ages, the Renaissance, The French Revolution. They all remain with me to this day because of the passion for the subject matter you shared with us in your classes. Later, when I took
World History as a college requirement, I was light years ahead of my classmates because I had already learned the material from you four years earlier.
As a track coach, you, again, coached through positive reinforcement. I remember starting the spring track training season running in the gym on cold, rainy, March afternoons. Later we ran out to the track for the requisite two laps before breaking into groups and starting specialty training.
In 10th grade I ran the 440. By 11th grade I’d had second thoughts about my abilities. One day I came to you and told you I was quitting the team. The look of surprise and disappointment on your face is one I will never forget. It was a look of silent
disbelief, as if to ask, “Why?” Not until later did I realize that by letting you down I had let myself down.
A few days later I was walking home after school along South Main by the Esso station. I heard a bus honking its horn behind me and I turned to watch you and the team riding the bus, on your way to a track meet. You were taking the team to compete. I was going home to sulk. I knew then, for sure, I had made the wrong decision. I had let us both down.
My senior year I came out for track again and you welcomed me back, despite the fact that I had quit the team a year earlier. You assigned me to run the 180-yard low hurdles and occasionally run the second leg of the 880-yard relay.
I still have the newspaper clippings of each track meet’s event results, and an 8mm film clip that my sister took of me running the hurdles. It is surrealistic to watch it today.
Your patience, forgiveness, and leadership went a long way with me, and I thank you for it.
In the last few years I have cut back on the video production and have spent my days and nights teaching in the local state college classroom.
Our world is different now and our students almost unrecognizable. It becomes immediately apparent that they did not experience the education in the classroom and the leadership on the athletic fields that we were fortunate to experience from teachers like you both. For that, I feel sorry for them.
Not only for not being able to live in that age almost sixty years ago now, but also for never having lived in the environment our parents and our teachers provided for us during those special years.
Are these merely the ramblings and reflections of a man of a certain age? I don’t think so. I remain convinced that we grew up on a special place, during a special era. You and your teaching colleagues helped make it special.
And for that I am most thankful to you both. I’m sure most of the others have gone on ahead. Miss Hicks, Mrs. Korn, Mrs. Martz, Miss Palermo, Mr. Grider, Mr. Donn, Mr. Hanley, Coach McGrath, Miss Fitch, Miss Tuck, Mr. Roberts. They all deserve a special thank you.
So unlike those famous people I interviewed who do not or cannot comprehend how influential they are in our lives, I want you to know that you both did a great job,and my classmates and I are thankful for shaping our minds, our behavior, our attitudes,
our perspectives, our futures, and our lives.
FALLING IN LOVE TO GLENN MILLER (times 3)
By Frank Eberling
The first time I danced to Glenn Miller was in the 7th Grade.
The last time I danced to Glenn Miller was in the 12th Grade.
I used to think we attended the best high school in the history of the universe, except for one small thing: the school dances.
By the time we entered the 7th grade in the fall of 1958, Rock & Roll music had become a cultural phenomenon and was being integrated into our everyday lives, often despite resistance on the part of parents.
I had already started my record collection and my platter pack was filled with Fats Domino, Elvis (I can’t remember his last name), the Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chuck
Berry, the Del-Vikings and dozens of others.
My older sister, Bonnie, an accomplished pianist an avid dancer, had taught me how to dance, with long afternoon practices, while watching American Bandstand. I learned The Lindy, The Stroll, The Cha-Cha through hours of practice after school.
So when it came time to attend 7th grade dances in the CCHS cafeteria on Friday nights, I was looking forward to struttin’ my stuff to some good music.
But then as that first 7th grade dance approached, my sister warned me, “They don’t play Rock & Roll at Clarkstown school dances. It’s not allowed.”
“What do they play?” I didn’t understand. Were they ignoring the most powerful cultural event that our generation had witnessed?
“Doc Carney’s group, The Sophisticated Swingsters, provides the music.”
“They play the standards.”
“Music from the 30s and 40s. Big Band stuff. Swing music. Hence the name The Sophisticated Swingsters.” She didn’t really say “hence,” but you get the point.
“You mean the stuff they used to listen to?” They meaning my parents.
Despite my shock and disappointment, I went to my first 7th grade dance and Doc Carney and The Sophisticated Swingsters provided the music, just as they would for every dance in my high school career for the next six years. Glenn Miller, The Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington,
Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berrigan, Artie Shaw. They played the entire 30s and 40s catalog. I kept waiting for the Rock & Roll that would never come.
The big novelty event of the night was the playing of The Bunny Hop. I had been warned about this tradition and how corny it was. How corny was it? Well, despite the fact that my father was a “colonel,” and that I was a little “husky,” it was still terribly corny.
And then I discovered The Bunny Hop was fun. Everyone on line was laughing hysterically, including me. That, plus the fact that my hands encircled the waist of the girl in
front of me while my waist was being held by the girl behind me, I mean, what’s not to like?
So we Bunny-Hopped all around the cafeteria, like rabbits in heat, and out the side door and down the hall past the lockers and the G.O. Store. Then, past the cafeteria serving line before hopping back into the cafeteria. What made it even more funny was when some of the guys
hopped in the wrong direction at the wrong time, intentionally, almost toppling the lines over into a heap on the floor. Instead of “one hop forward, one hop back, one hop forward, three hops forward,” they would do “one hop forward, one hop back, one hop forward, three hops backward.” Boom! Chaos!
I could Lindy to the fast songs Doc played, like In the Mood, or Chattanooga Choo-Choo, because those songs were danced to the Lindy a generation earlier.
But it was the slow dances, like Moonlight Serenade, that really got to me.
And so it was over the next six years I fell in love hundreds of times to the music of Glenn Miller, just as my parents had done over twenty years before, in those pre-War years.
With my palms sweaty and my knees trembling, I would ask a girl to dance and hold her tight and for a few moments at least, fall in love over and over again.
Ironically, the three landmark slow dances I had, swaying to the sound of Doc Carney’s Sophisticated Swingsters, were all with girls named Sandra. Three separate, earth-shattering dances, all in different locations, all with a different Sandra, who I happened to be madly in love
with on those nights and those three Glenn Miller dances.
The first Sandra and the first dance was that night in the school cafeteria in 7th grade as Doc Carney played Moonlight Serenade. She was a girl from Congers and I had a crush on her that entire seventh-grade year. That year we had a split session, with half the 7th grade class
attending CHS in the morning, and then we would ride buses across the reservoir to attend three afternoon classes in the old Congers High School my father had graduated from in 1933. In the afternoons, at Congers, we took New York history and English and a third class. As we rode the bus, I would glance at Sandra, silhouetted against the waters of Lake DeForest Reservoir. When
she caught me looking, I would avert my eyes quickly.
But on that night of the dance, I asked her to slow dance and she said “Yes,” and I fell in love to the music of Glenn Miller for the first time, as my knees turned to black raspberry Jello.
Four years later, in our junior year, there was another Sandra in my life. We were always laughing in class. I can still hear her laughter. In October I asked her to go to the Junior Prom with me that coming May.
She said, “Maybe.”
I got “Maybe” from her for the next five months. I would wait until the middle of each month and ask just one more time.
Finally, just about six weeks before I would have had to order my tuxedo, shoes, and boutonniere for me and a corsage for her, she said, dejectedly, in final resignation, “Okay.”
I’m guessing the guy she was really hoping would ask her to the Prom had finally asked someone else, or had been killed in a freak skiing accident when an avalanche buried him under sixty feet of snowpack. Whatever. It was obvious from the get-go I was not her first choice.
That night of the Junior Prom at the Empire Country Club in Spring Valley, I danced to another Glenn Miller tune, as played by Doc Carney and his Sophisticated Swingsters, and fell in love with Sandra #2.
Seven months later, during our senior year, I had been dating Sandra #3, a junior, for just a few weeks. In December of 1963, I invited her to our Christmas Dance. She said “Yes,” immediately, and that night of the Ball, I slow danced with Sandra #3 and fell in love again to
the sounds of the Sophisticated Swingsters playing a Glenn Miller Christmas tune.
Three Sandras. Three heart-throbs. Three aches in my heart I can never let go. All set to the soundtrack of Doc Carney and his Sophisticated Swingsters.
I used to think I had attended the best high school in the history of the universe except for one small thing: the school dances and the music played by Doc’s group.
Now I know I attended the best high school in the history of the universe because of school dances and Doc’s music choices. I once heard a rumor, later, that we couldn’t have Rock & Roll played at our dances because Mr. Festa didn’t like R&R. I’m not sure if the rumor is true, but I’m thankful for his decision. Who knows what would have happened if we had spent the night listening and dancing to R&R music at a high school dance? Would we have poured out of the school afterward in a Blackboard Jungle-like frenzy, stealing hubcaps and soaping storefront windows as we descended on an unsuspecting New City population, enroute to a career of juvenile delinquency?
I do know that ever since those days I have been eternally grateful that we were exposed to that music, played so professionally, by such an astounding group of dedicated musicians. Thanks to Vinny Burns, Dave Fuchs, Harold Seifried, Tally Reischl, Stu Mushlin, Mel Duchin,
and all the other Sophisticated Swingsters for providing the soundtrack to our lives.
We fell in love to the music our parents had fallen in love to, twenty-five years earlier and we are so much richer for having been exposed to it. Looking back from the year 2020, it would be like playing music from 1990-1995 today. Not such a big leap with today’s music. But
back then, it might have been a century ago.
Two of the Sandras have gone on ahead, years before their time. I talked to the third Sandra about ten years ago, but she had little recollection of the Christmas Ball.
Every time I hear a big band tune, I think of Doc Carney, his great musicians, and my three Sandras, falling in love to the sounds of Glenn Miller (x 3). Playing music from 1935-1945 at our dances in the early 1960s made all the difference in the world.
ON SOCCER & FBI AGENTS DAUGHTERS
by Steve Gartrell
On SoccerOn the soccer front, we were down to only 4 teams in the Rockland PSAL league: Nyack, us, Spring Valley & Pearl River. Football was king. Who knew anything about soccer? Most of us had never played soccer (except maybe a few times in gym class) until the 7th grade with Coach Travaglini.
Clarkstown had only had a football team for a few years prior to our time there, so that prior to that all the good athletes had played soccer and so CHS (Congers High mostly back then) had been Rockland champs for something like 25 years straight and many Rockland schools didn’t have a soccer team. To give us enough teams to play, Coach Tacchino had to start the Rockland/Westchester Soccer league with games at White Plains and New Rochelle and we played teams all over northern New Jersey, too. I remember one game on a dirt field (literally, no grass!) over the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. A kick too high and the ball would wind up bouncing to Manhattan.
We played some games with the New York Military Academy where one Donald Trump (also ’64) was apparently on the team.
Over the years, their were some pretty weird rules for public school soccer. Early on, the penalty area was a half-circle and goals from the field counted for 2 points while penalty kicks counted for one point. We didn’t have throw-ins from out of bounds, we had kick-ins.
The Nyack night game was always the high point of the season, and it was always the best attended soccer game of the season. (The reason Nyack High School had lights was because there was a failed dog track in Nyack, and when it closed the high school got its lights.) At CHS, the soccer field didn’t have stands of its own. Fans had to sit on the highest seats of the football field facing backwards to see our games.
FBI Agents’ Daughters
Sophomore year I had a freshman girlfriend (I thought) who was sitting up there facing the freshman football game, while I was playing in a varsity soccer game and she never once turned around to watch the soccer game. I asked her why. It turned out I had a rival on the football team and he had asked her to the game (while I had not).
She was the daughter of an FBI agent and they lived in a little development in New City that was exclusively settled by FBI families. I never got to kiss her good night because she was always out of the car, up the stairs and behind the screen door before I could even get out of the car. Turns out the FBI moms keep close watch on their and others’ offspring! Argh! She used to tell me that her Dad had saved the country again, but she couldn’t tell me any of the details.
THE BITTERSWEET VICTORY NO ONE EVER KNEW ABOUT
In the fall of 1963, our name in Rockland County football history had been proudly etched in stone as we earned our first ever football County championship, a saga that Frank Eberling so masterfully commemorates in his essay entitled MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT FROM MY CCHS YEARS. Bells were rung and praises were bestowed, all in honor of the 1963 Clarkstown Rams who had won eight games and lost none. Then, as fall moved ever closer to winter and Rockland County witnessed its first few flakes of snow, the outdoor crowds moved vocally indoors leaving the gridiron to its winter slumber. Now basketball season had taken center stage to the supportive cheers of Clarkstown fans as they once again rallied around the Rams, encouraging us to continue the school’s winning ways established by our “mighty gridiron gang”.
It was clear after we played our first few basketball games senior year that we were up to the challenge. Like our football predecessors, our squad had the outstanding talent to bestow glory to Clarkstown in a second major sport. On the “A” team were seniors Bob Lawson and Dave Forsberg complemented by some great junior year talent in Glen Hanley, Bruce Drummond and Bob Tarigo. And as the season unfolded, the “B” team emerged as a force to be reckoned with as well with seniors Charlie Pape, Ken Connors and Don McNeil very ably complemented by juniors Artie Connelly and Doug Perry among others.
Undefeated as we entered the Christmas break, we traveled one wintry Friday evening to take on Spring Valley on their home floor. Onto the battlefield of our adversary we walked, not overly confident but certainly aware that we had the potential to go undefeated on the hard courts this ‘63/‘64 season. Our squad was a fast-break, in-your-face group of basketballers with a stingy defense to complement our high powered offense. While Spring Valley on paper was a worthy opponent, we assumed that we should emerge victorious against this county rival.
However, as the game began, Spring Valley launched a very different strategy against us than other county foes had chosen. Instead of running with and being outgunned by the powerful Clarkstown offense, Spring Valley slowed the game down almost to a standstill, being very deliberate when they had the ball. Pass after pass after pass on every play before they attempted a shot. This was not a game that we had seen before, so even though we were quick to score against the Spring Valley defense, we became frustrated by their very measured offense. As the game entered the fourth quarter, the score remained close but we had racked up only half the number of points that we had normally run up against other opponents. At games end, the scoreboard displayed the final verdict, Rams 46, Tigers 51. We had suffered our first defeat of the season at the hands of an inferior but well-disciplined Spring Valley squad.
As we boarded the bus to return to Clarkstown, the mood was somber. How could we have lost to a team that clearly could not keep pace with us but a squad that potentially had discovered our Achilles heel? When the team bus arrived back in New City, coach McGrath announced that he was calling a special practice for the following morning, Saturday at 9:00AM. I do not recall coach ever asking us to come in on a weekend but we knew that if we faced more rivals in subsequent games who ran the same offense as Spring Valley, the remainder of our season could be far more challenging than we had previously anticipated.
So, at 9:00AM the next morning, we entered the gymnasium and coach was already there. He had the game clock lit up displaying official game conditions, home team and visitors were designated, and coach was decked out in sweats and sneakers with his game whistle wrapped around his neck ready to officiate a full 48 minute contest. It was GAME ON all over again!
We all went into the locker room, changed into our practice gear, and came back out to play ball. Nary a spectator was to be found in the stands, but this was to be a real, honest-to-goodness basketball game. Coach explained that the first team and the second team were going to play each other with the second team running the same deliberate, slowed down offense that Spring Valley had sprung on us the evening before. Awesome we thought on the second team, we were going to get a chance to show our stuff, even if it was likely to be in a losing cause. What could have been better we “B” team basketballers thought in anxious anticipation! And if we lost, no big deal since after all, the “A” team was the mighty Clarkstown Rams, but if we won, we would have some kind of fine bragging rights for the rest of the season, so we were psyched!
Coach brought us to center court for the official tip to begin the game, and we were off and running, or more like off and walking for the second team, as we simulated Spring Valley play. Up and down the court we went with the first team scoring quickly while the second team played “snoozerama drama” taking minutes to seemingly hours to score one basket. Once again, the first team was frustrated by a slow pace to the game. At halftime, the score was close and we “B” teamers felt a certain satisfaction that we were keeping up with the first team, and it gave us confidence that we could possibly even win this contest.
On we went to the third and fourth quarters, regularly supportive teammates now assuming the inglorious role of battlefield enemies, but it had become a no-holds barred contest and bragging rights were on the line. At one point, Doug Perry mugged Bob Lawson at center court, a mugging for which most people would have been arrested and sentenced to 40 years at hard labor, but coach let us play on and Doug stole the ball from Bob. Doug fast broke to our end of the court and as he went to score, Bob body-slammed him into the wall beyond the basket. As Doug peeled himself off the protective matting, we realized that the gentlemanly rules of basketball were being replaced with rugby style smash and bash.
The clock continued its relentless tick down to the final seconds of the game, the score was very close, and the game was clearly up for grabs. Then finally, after 48 minutes of a well-fought contest, the buzzer sounded and the game was over. And as clearly as I can remember as my memory fades with each passing day, when we looked up at the scoreboard, it read “Rams First Team”: 40, “Rams Second Team”: 41!
Astoundingly, the second team had earned bragging rights for the remainder of the school year, yet we were a team that was truly all for one and one for all. We worked hard and practiced hard as teammates competing for school pride, and this Saturday morning game remained our secret for the rest of the season. Even though the “B” team had earned those coveted bragging rights, no one really cared. We were all in this together to bring honor to both our late Coach Ed McGrath as well as Clarkstown basketball. And, as it turned out, as I recall, the ‘63/’64 Rams basketball team went on to win every other county game for the rest of the season, enabling us to claim our second major sports county championship senior year. And who can say what role that the “BITTERSWEET VICTORY THAT NO ONE EVER KNEW ABOUT” played in our eventual domination of Rockland County basketball, but it may very well have been just the spark we needed to go on to win it all in basketball in ‘64!
The above is true to the best of my now compromised recollection, but I will admit, I just can’t imagine that at least once, I didn’t mention to Bob Lawson that we had bested him and the first team if I thought that Bob’s many athletic achievements senior year might have been causing his head to swell just a tiny bit! After all, what are best friends for???
And, for those keeping score, once again if memory serves me correctly, we also won the baseball county title as well as both spring and fall tennis titles, bringing our total to five Rockland County championships during our final year at Clarkstown. Who says that the 1963/1964 mighty Rams were just a bunch of pretty faces?
THE NEW KID IN SCHOOLOne evening during the winter of ’61/’62 as we were gathered around the dining room table for dinner, my dad proudly announced that he had been promoted with IBM and we were moving from upstate New York where we had lived for the last 9 of my 15 formative years to someplace called Podunk or Chipmunk or Armonk or some such town outside New York City. Instead of being happy for my dad who had been “Ozzie Nelson” to my mom’s “Harriet Nelson”, I was crushed to be moving away from all of my friends, especially those of the feminine persuasion who mysteriously over the prior few years, had become decidedly less “icky”!
As my folks and my brother packed and headed south to parts unknown, I remained upstate to finish out my sophomore year with peers with whom I had spent many “summerfall wintersprings” since early grade school. Soon, however, the school year had come to an end in mid-June of ‘62 and it was time for me to bid farewell to my perennial classmates and journey to a place called Rockland County and a town that seemed to be named both New City and Clarkstown, a mystery that confounded me for many decades. Shortly after relocating to New City-Clarkstown, I observed an attractive young girl with “magic eyes” who passed by our house all summer long pushing a stroller. I assumed she was in high school and was babysitting for a working couple in the neighborhood, so my interest was piqued. Things seemed to be looking up I thought…hopefully. However, as summer wore on, I saw or met very few people in New City-Clarkstown and I was missing my friends and our carefree lifestyle upstate. Nearing summer’s end, Sally Mance, who lived right behind our house, had a late August soiree where I officially met Bobby Haar, Stan Mesnick, Ed Itkin, Bill Friedberg, Ellen Mokover and others from “Clarsktown’s Brainiac Bunch”, but I had failed to meet Ms. “Magic Eyes” wasting all three months of summer that had now slipped elusively into early fall.
As the first day of the new school year quickly grew near, I asked my brother where I should go to get a haircut so I would look my finest as I began the next, rather ominous chapter in my young life. He told me there was a barbershop on Main Street but through a confusion in directions, I went to the wrong place, and I received a scalping that still lives in “haircut infamy” among Clarkstown historians to this day! So, as I began my junior year in my new school, I walked through the front entry of Clarkstown Central High feeling as though I had the words “butt ugly” tattooed across my forehead.
To make matters worse, my transcript had gone on “walkabout” while in transit from upstate New York to Rockland County, so I found myself in classes where I felt completely unarmed since I did not have a squirt gun, I did not know how to make a spitball, and I had never seen a sling shot in the classes to which I had been historically assigned. And to add insult to injury, there was some peculiar difference with History curriculums between my old school and my new school, so I was having to take six classes a semester instead of five to catch up with the rest of my junior classmates.
And finally, the coup de grace. Stan Mesnick was in my homeroom and since I had met him at Sally Mance’s party, he said that he would look for me at lunchtime in the cafeteria so I wouldn’t have to eat alone on my first day. I thanked him sincerely for his empathy and felt a bit better because at least I would be lunching with someone I knew. As I walked into the cafeteria with spitball residue still sticking to my shirt and the haircut from hell, I searched mightily for my friend Stan who was nowhere to be found. While Stan never explained his no-show, I assumed he must have decided that the combination of bad haircut and spitball scum was more than he could stomach at midday break and had ducked out as he saw me entering Clarkstown High School’s fine lunchtime culinary establishment. So, I found “friendship-for-a-day” with the audio visual squad and we ate in silence with even the AV guys not wanting to be seen with “the new kid in school” with the God awful haircut.
After a week of suffering in silence, I finally had to beg “Mrs. Harriet Nelson” (a.k.a. mom) to contact the school and initiate a rescue from the current classes I was in to placement in the relative safety of the Brainiac Bunch. Fortunately, she successfully prevailed upon school administration to reassign me to the college bound crew on a “quarterly trial” basis, and I was whisked away to the security of classes where everyone was way smarter than I was but no one had squirt guns, spitballs or slingshots…I was in Heaven. Then it became even better…“Ms. Magic Eyes” happened to be in one of my new classes and I discovered that she was a member of the Brainiac Bunch, she was a thespian, she was in honor society, she was a cheerleader, and she seemed to like me despite my Stalag 17 haircut. For me, New City-Clarkstown was beginning to take a turn for the better.
As the year progressed, I continued to make acquaintances. I found that I had sports in common with one of the cool guys in school, a fellow by the name of Bob Lawson, and he and I had one other really important interest in common…coeds! Who knew that I would get to meet some really nice female classmates and even to date a few of them, and I wanted to enjoy that opportunity for as long as I could. What had started as a sure “swing and a miss” at New City-Clarkstown, had morphed into something very special and I felt like I was beginning to fit in, at least a little. The inexcusable downside, however, was that the more people I met and the more that they were nice to me, the more I began to believe my own hype, and regrettably, I let it get the better of me. By the end of junior year, I had become a bit (or even a lot) full of myself and for that, I remain truly sorry and offer my sincerest apology to all of my classmates.
However, the gracious culture of Clarkstown senior year was still courteous and classmates remained kind. And I very much enjoyed spending time as “Robin”, sidekick to Bob “Batman” Lawson. We played sports together, we partied together, we met high school girls together, and it was through his friendship as well as other classmates I met, that yielded a wonderful last two years of high school that I continue to value to this day. So thank you Clarkstown High School or Clarkstown Central High School or Clarkstown Senior High School or now Clarkstown Senior High School North (so many names in this small hamlet, so little time)! “I came, I saw, I conquered”…well not the conquering part, but I was at least two for three, a respectable batting average if I were ever to lace up the old baseball cleats one last time.
It began in September 1961 in a very crowded classroom almost as large as my gym class. Why? Because everybody who wanted to have a language credit on their college application chose Spanish I—and, so there were freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the class. Only three weeks after the beginning of the agonizing torture of daily verb drills, threats such as “Cállate o te tiro este borrador y apunto a tu boca.” followed by swift execution of the threat, and the iron hand of a seasoned teacher, the class size was pared down to a very manageable size. Even my future wife headed to Latin I for a more civilized classroom experience. So, who was that Lady in the Black Coat? Yes, it was the inimitable Luz Kirkland—someone with whom I would spend the next four years learning the Spanish language from a wonderful native speaker.
LADY IN THE BLACK COAT
By Richard Person
 Shut up, or I'll throw this eraser and aim it at your mouth.