Going to Stuyvesant High School was an honor I didn’t know I had achieved in 1963. I knew it was a top school along with Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Hunter but I was not sophisticated enough to understand what it meant to be accepted and attend.
I chose Stuyvesant because even at thirteen going on fourteen I knew that girls would be a serious distraction in classes as they already were so in junior high.
I was not alone in going from JHS 44 to Stuyvesant. I’m still good friends, almost sixty years later, with one of the guys.
Stuyvesant did not bring out the best in me in many respects. While I excelled in chemistry and biology, one of my english teachers had the chutzpah to tell my father, a writer, that his son could not write. I did okay in math and physics. I loved photography where I learned darkroom techniques.
I did not hang out after school. Hang time was at Danny’s, right next door on 15th Street, for breakfast in the morning and then outside Danny’s luncheonette until it was time to go in.
I loved chemistry; I took as much as I could. The lab was great place. I even went on to start college as a chemistry major.
I became a sort of mascot for the football team. I was small so I felt safe with the big guys and quickly became a bully. It brought out the worst in me to hang with them. I almost injured a lower classman on the stairs. Lucky for us both he landed on his feet.
We had a pretty poor performing football team but a great cheer, “Retain it, retain it, retain the elliptical spheroid”. Our cheerleaders came from Hunter College High School, our sister school on the East Side in the 60s.. As I recall we would have preferred Julia Richmond, an all girls high school not far from Hunter but not for the intellectually gifted. The football rival was DeWitt Clinton, a team we never beat, but we tried. Clinton was a ruff and tumble typical NYC High School.
The Clinton game was scheduled for November 23rd, 1963. We marched up Second Avenue (that would be against traffic), the morning before, a rally turned “riot”. We were showered with coffee cups from construction sites, and were photographed for the Daily News. The game never happened, as events of that fateful November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas certainly took precedence. Of course, that photo, which I was in (it was staged) also did not happen that Saturday.
The NYC Transit strike of January 1966 made getting to school on East 15th Street close to impossible. The three train trek was unavailable for two weeks. My friend Billy, a football player, drove a mustang, so I walked across central park from West 83rd Street and he picked me up on Fifth Avenue. He was a chick magnet in that car. Didn’t do me any good but the ride to school was important.
My social life was never better than when I was Stuyvesant. I have always believed that because I was going to an all boys school I had to work at it. I only remember that there were gatherings with girls from Franklin (a West Side private school) but I’m sure there were other sources.
My academic success was nothing to write home about. I graduated 507th in a class of 715 with an 87 average (or was it 83). Almost anywhere else either average would have ranked much higher than the bottom third. I was given a passing grade in calculus because I was senior. I took it again in college and dropped it there too.
I loved Stuyvesant; I have been a member of the Stuyvesant Alumni Association for as long as I can remember; and that’s the only such association I have joined. I went back to the building on numerous occasions and have visited the new building as an alum. (The escalators were such an improvement over those narrow stairwells.)
Although I have few fond memories, I cherish this “credential” more than any other.
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