Greatest Clarkstown Memories Essay Contest Reunion 2019
So now we will have some fun revisiting yesteryear as we introduce our Greatest Clarkstown Memories Essay Contest for Reunion 2019. It's easy to enter, simply select one of the five categories below and write a short essay on the topic, anywhere from 100 to 1500 words (with no extra consideration for length) and forward your submission to Frank Eberling at email@example.com (click on frank's e-mail or copy and paste it into your your e-mail address bar). Essays will be posted on Amazon.com. Submission deadline is September 1st, 2019.
Frank has written his version of an essay to each of the five categories as samples to give you an idea what could be included in each category but please feel free to be creative if you have an idea for one of the categories that reflects your experiences at or from your years at CCHS. Frank's sample essays are below.
1. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
INVITE: So I hope some of these stories have piqued your interest to write something and attend the 2019 Reunion.