When I was growing up everybody wanted to be something. My earliest recollections are of wanting to be a fireman. I even said it aloud in the film my father made for the fire department, FDNY. It changed many times over the years. I often look back and think that life happened to me rather than me controlling much.
I did not however want to become dentist even though there were some pleasant things that might have been designed to push me in that direction or not discourage to me.
My father’s friend and my mother’s boss, Dr. A., was a pedodontist; and apparently an important one because he was once president of the American Society in his profession.
Because of him, while others played with GIJOE which my dad objected to, I played with chalk molars and real dental instruments. I never filled the cavities I made but I do recall digging in the chalk.
Unfortunately, I got my mother’s teeth. Dad smoked and drank to excess and had all his teeth. Mom had the same habits and eventually no teeth. I had a mouth full of cavities and tremendous amounts of dental work (still do).
I had the honor during a children’s dentistry week to appear in the World Telegram and Sun with Dr. A. I treasured my celebrity for many years.
One of the structures at the World’s Fair was the Singer Bowl (yup, as in sewing machines). The children’s dental society held an event there that featured an icon of the times, Soupy Sales. I got to meet Soupy because of my relationship with the society’s president.
You may recall the Thanksgiving Day brunch on Central Park West, this was also a benefit of the world of dentistry my family was attached to.
I worked in the “pedo” department at the NYU College of Dentistry sitting right outside Dr. A’s office, he was “pedo’ chair, while I was in college. I was collecting and processing data for a children’s dentistry research project with the affiliated Bellevue Hospital.
With all these “encouragements” I never entertained dentistry as part of my future. I also never thought of becoming a writer like my dad, or a lawyer as was once suggested by the director of campus security at CCNY. I fell into sociology and social science research as a result of my love and admiration for Walter C. Bailey my professor and mentor. After his retirement I sat at his desk for my first real job at the New York State Narcotic Addiction Control Commission located then at 61st Street and Broadway which was happily within walking distance of West 83rd Street.