Stuyvesant

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.

Feel free to comment here: Ken@leavingwest83rdstreet.com or below

17 thoughts on “Stuyvesant

  1. Our lives certainly have crossed similar paths. My husband, Norman Guttman is also a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. He graduated in 1960. Also part of the Football team. Believe he was a manager for a few years ….and they did win the championship during that time. We met when he was a senior at Stuyvesant and I was a junior at Julia Richman. We married in 1964 and have been living in Forest Hills since then.
    Very small world, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry you felt that way about Hunter girls. I had a couple of friends who were cheerleaders for Stuyvesant, but my attempts to join the cheerleading squad were rejected because I could never do a split and did not learn to do cartwheels until college. (Also, I was not very outgoing, so personality may have had something to do with it, though – as a budding actress – I’m sure I could have faked the required smiles, and I WAS somewhat boy-crazy.)

    Many of my fellow alums cherish our HCHS credential above our university affiliations and have retained or re-connected with more high school friends than university friends. Although I was not very enthusiastic about attending HCHS during the time I was there, starting ten years after graduating, I became very active in finding “stray” classmates and organizing our “milestone” (every five years) reunion parties. I have been called “the glue” that keeps our class (’68) together. Like you, I came close to flunking Calculus Senior year, and I took no Math courses whatsoever in college. (I fulfilled the Math/Science requirement with a course in Logic, which counted as either Math or Philosophy and included many topics which I had studied TWICE in high school.)

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  3. Fond memories. I graduated in 1967 and tried out for the football team. I made it and when I realized the practices were way on the East side and I lived on the West side, I decided to not to continue. I still remember the chant “DeWitt, eat ….” I remember the legend of the riot in November 1963. Our Strong Band and the Flea at graduation was priceless.

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  4. My first wife was Hunter class of 67 (I was Stuyvesant 66).
    I remember those football rallies the chant was “DeWitt eats sh-t! “.
    I was on the rifle team, still have my Stuyvesant jacket with the S letter sewn on crossed rifles in the middle.
    I lived in Jackson Heights at the time and after one rifle practice at the Manhattan Armory NYC experienced a major black out.
    My classmate and neighbor Steve Beck was also on the team, we had to hitch back to Queens carrying our rifles in their padded cases.
    Thank you for your memories and allowing me to share mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brought back memories. From the class of 65. My hangout was Willie’s candy store on the corner of 16th and First. He had his transistor radio on when we were dismissed on 11/22/63 and it was there I learned about JFK. My memory is that the morning rally walked up Third Avenue against traffic until 23rd St. and then with traffic until 32nd St.

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  6. Gotta say, this installment gave me lots of chuckles (not the candy of our youth). For one thing, you mentioned each of my parents’ high schools: Julia Richmond (mom) and DeWitt Clinton (dad). For another, you apparently did a whole lot better socially than me. My folks pulled me out of PS44 after a year and got me into 9th grade at a private school, where I was more than a year younger than everyone else in the class. When you’re just past 13 and the girls are almost 15, that’s a whopping difference–and disadvantage. And I continue to be amazed at your powers of recall, right down to your graduating average. Those were wonderful years (our summers together especially). Keep the memories coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great memories of Stuyvesant. I got in trouble with Fleidner during the “riot” who threatened to send me back to my neighborhood school. My parents knew his boss at the board of Ed and he was overruled.
    Didn’t know then how great an experience it was.
    I have several friendships from there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a Stuy 84 so attended 20 years after you and many of your other readers. I only read one other post (about your efforts to become a rabbi) but am enjoying them.

    Liked by 1 person

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