Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance and a Jewish Boy’s Revenge…by Robert M. Katzman

1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance

by Robert M. Katzman © September 9, 2018

Fifty-four years ago on June 8th, 1964 I ran away from a dangerous violently abusive home. I was fourteen and two weeks away from graduating Caldwell grammar school on the South Side, about a dozen miles south of State and Madison, Chicago’s Downtown.

My story is filled with Ghosts, but it is worth writing down, if only to soothe the Ghosts’ anxiety.

After all, aren’t I part of a world-wide Tribe so often called: The People of The Book?

Who am I to resist that Celestial Design?

It is now long past “What will become of this wild child?”

Now near seventy, I must write, “This is what really happened.”

Today is the evening before the Jewish New Year. In Hebrew: Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5778, a time for summing up and considering one’s life. By the end of this grave period of self-assessment, Yom Kippur, people must ask themselves:

What kind of person am I?

Do I regret my errors in judgment?

Will God allow me to live another year, or is my time on earth up?

Will I drown, as it is written as a possibility if not forgiven, be consumed by raging fire, or worst of all to me, be torn apart by wild beasts? God is making an offer the Jews can’t refuse. (Apologies-sincerely-to Mario Puzo)

I am the last of my family. I better write faster.

It was a largely Irish/Jewish community. A year earlier I’d had my bar mitzvah a mile farther south at the largest synagogue anywhere on the South Side, Rodfei Sholom Or Chodesh, so packed with kids and families that instead of one such important ceremony each Saturday morning, the temple had two of them in order to keep up with the baby boomer crush of children. They had to squeeze me in early, so I was actually still twelve when I participated in the ancient coming-of-age ceremony. On days like this, over a thousand people crowded into the cube-like yellow-brick Temple at 91stand Jeffery Avenue. I remember as a child how silent a thousand people could be regretting their cruelty, praying to be forgiven, and wondering if they could forgive those who were cruel to them.

Children think their small world is forever and nothing will ever change, but within three years the post world war two southern black migration north to find a better life for themselves terrified the residents of that fifty-year-old community, and in an incredible real estate scam peddling hate, lies and prejudice, by 1967 the entire area around my former home was inhabited by black people. Except for my Mother, Anne, in her two-story red brick Georgian style home who never moved. She wasn’t prejudiced and stayed there another twenty years.

Her parents lived a couple of miles even farther south; Nathan Warman and Celia Baumwohl Warman, both immigrants from Minsk, Byelorussia and Dobra, Poland before and during World War One, they never moved either.

I have thought about that, about why the three of them weren’t afraid. Why they never ran. Then as I grew older and kept reading, always kept reading, I realized that compared to the murderous Cossacks under the orders of Russian Czar Nicholas II, who went rampaging through Jewish Shtetls raping and killing helpless unarmed Jewish peasants trapped in those impoverished tiny villages, which my family witnessed, their choosing to live with people with merely darker skin color than themselves was, well, comparatively no big risk.

My Grandmother Celia, then sixteen, hiding behind a barn door in Poland with her younger sister Shirley saw their father Moshe beheaded by a Cossack riding on a “big black horse with a terrible sword” as she told us many times. She watched his head roll away into a ditch. It froze her heart. My middle name Michael came from him. His memory dwells within me.

No harm ever came to my Grandparents and my Mother in all the time they remained in their homes. Their grandchildren, my sister Bonnie and myself inherited this lack of prejudice, as have all six of our children and as will all eight of our collective grandchildren. Hate has stopped with us.

But my grandmother’s frozen heart made my Mother a furious violent single parent, who took out her rage on her small son for nine years, beating him with fists, metal garbage cans, leather belts and rubber hoses, and shedding his artwork on his walls. All of that was secret. No one knew about it and I never talked to anyone about it. I knew that it would be a “shanda for the Yuden” or an embarrassment for the Jewish community if anyone knew about her. This Tribal rule kept my bleeding mouth shut. I have never understood why, even today.

My ice cold unloving Grandmother Celia unknowingly transformed that terrible Cossack into my Mother and after nine years of enduring her irrational fury, when I turned fourteen I ran away into a cold rainy night with nothing but my t-shirt, blue jeans and gym shoes until my Father Israel found me and I moved in with him.

But that is another story. Not the one I have never written about before. The one I will write about today.

Earlier, after extensive and to me, endless testing, I’d been accepted into Hyde Park’s University of Chicago Laboratory School. I’d never heard of it and my parents battled over my going to such an expensive exclusive school three miles north from my Mother’s house, but it was supposed to be the best high school in America.

But a Jewish psychologist working with troubled boys in Downtown Chicago, a Dr. Mayer, warned my parents, after they were endlessly called to my grammar school because of my relentless playground fighting and my unwillingness to be silent in class, that if I wasn’t given a chance to go to a far more challenging atmosphere and somehow discover a way to quench my unending desire to refuse to accept abuse from anyone outside of my own house and daring others kids to trip my hair trigger temper, I was heading for dark waters.

Dr. Mayer didn’t know about my intense intent to exact revenge upon my insane Mother. No one did. No one understood the volcanic violence barely contained inside of me. The doctor felt that eventually prison might be in my future otherwise.

My running away from her ended my Mother’s financial involvement in my life. My Father lived in a one-room small hotel with a pull-down metal bed stored upright against a wall during the daytime, and with a small kitchen and bathroom. He couldn’t find work and nothing seemed to go right with him after his nearly four years in World War Two in the Pacific arena.

He was wounded in more ways than just from aerial bombing which sent sharp burning hot metal shrapnel into his legs, which he never had removed and died with those pieces still in him thirty-six years later, after the night he moved me into his small life. Regardless, his poverty didn’t make him any less of a hero to me. Money was not how I judged him.  Kindness was all he could offer me and that was what I was desperate for.

I would be responsible for paying the school’s tuition. I knew that and decided to talk to the University High School’s tuition office about my situation. This was a place where wealthy and sometimes famous parents sent, or maybe parked their children when they travel the world, and was also a discounted perk to draw in distant desired professors with children to join the University of Chicago’s faculty.

Money wasn’t an issue for those children, the six hundred or so that composed the four-year student body. They didn’t have fourteen-year-old kids coming to talk to them about figuring a way to pay the high tuition. However, my being a rebel for the eight years I was in that other public school didn’t let that intimidate me, and after a frank talk with a somewhat surprised and disturbed administrator there, he agreed to let the first year slide until I could find work and begin paying them when I was fifteen.

I didn’t bother mentioning that I’d found two jobs immediately after graduating Caldwell School, as a clerk in a Greek grocery store and as a dishwasher in an Irish restaurant. I worked after school and on weekends, because I had to, but that wasn’t anyone’s business but my own.

However, if I didn’t repay the first year’s tuition within the next four years, I wouldn’t be allowed to graduate. They didn’t offer me any discounts, or charity, and that didn’t surprise me. The man I was speaking with, formal in a three-piece suit and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, felt my somewhat dire circumstances might positively develop my character. We shook hands, and I left his office. Never saw him again and in fact in Spring 1968 when I was a senior in that school, I received a letter informing me that without repayment of my freshman year’s tuition, I would not be allowed to graduate with the other one hundred sixty people in my class.

My working seven days a week for the past three years, which was well known by then because of my local business called Bob’s Newsstand, evidently didn’t impress them as evidence that my character had transformed positively. That I never was able to participate in any of that school’s extra-curricular activities, or dances or sports teams or whatever else the other kids did after school there was of no matter to them. I owed them money. They wanted it.

I admit that I was seething at their uncharitable attitude, the coldness of it, and decided that I would find a way to pay off the debt. However the repayment would be done in a memorable way. I guess you could take the kid out of public school, but you couldn’t take the public school attitude out of the kid.

I repaid them.

I graduated.

That story, written and published in one of my earlier books, is called “The Thousand Dollar Bill”.  The repayment was very memorable. But that is not the purpose of this story, either.

This story is about the most wonderful transformation that occurred to me in that amazing school, and how it affected all of my life.  That is the reason I titled what follows now, 1964: A Runaway’s Renaissance, because it was.

In my freshman year in that high school, beginning in September, 1964, I had more free time than I ever would have for the rest of my life, until I closed my last store in Skokie, Illinois to care for my dying wife of forty-two years, Joyce, who was in hospice in our Wisconsin home in 2016.

Lab School or U-High as most people generally called it, was a very quiet, very clean, brightly lit and carpeted classroom sort of place, where it was safe all the time, where the classes were small, unlike the thirty-three or so per class in my public school. The teachers were mostly quiet people, gentle, easy to talk to and serious about educating us. There was no playground to fight on. There were no gangs and no weapons. There was a lot of discussion about whatever we were supposed to be learning.

I have decided to leave the cafeteria in the school’s basement out of my story. Perfection is difficult when it came to supplying, um, tasty food in the exclusive private high school, even for the mighty parent organization, The University of Chicago. Let’s move on.

There was a large room on the school’s first floor called The Audio Visual Center, where students could go to practice learning a foreign language, or hear some lecture about some subject they were supposed to write about. There were numerous booths with walls between them and a record player for each booth, and big earphones to keep the sound of the record within that booth. There was no adult in there and it was for self-learning. It fascinated me. I began exploring what else was in there that I could listen to for free, besides French, German, Russian or the history of religion and dull stuff like that.  I was fourteen and this was a very cool room.

 

I discovered music.

I discovered some faraway place called Broadway in New York City.

 

This was a fantastic discovery, and for free, and I decided to learn everything about this stunning distant place and who inhabited it, which I never before knew existed. For the next nine months, I studied musical theater and singers. I learned the words to many songs no one sang anymore.

Imagine if you can, being culturally isolated me, and for the most part never having heard of the following people:

Barbara Streisand, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Robert Goulet, Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Jones, Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra, Stubby Kaye, James Cagney, Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire, Diane Washington, Nat King Cole, Maria Callas, Chita Rivera, The Everley Brothers, Hank Williams, Pearl Bailey, Doris Day, Gene Kelly, Mel Torme, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Judy Garland, Dorothy Dandridge, Yul Brynner, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Ann Margaret, Rita Moreno, Julie Andrews, The Andrews Sisters, Ray Bolger, Vivian Blaine, Gordon MacRae, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Harry Belafonte, Paul Robson, Robert Morse, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Barbra Harris, Peter, Paul and Mary, Charles Nelson Reilly, Fanny Brice, Zero Mostel, Lena Horne and uncountable others.

Or being able to listen to, for hundreds of hours, the following Broadway musicals:

Carousel, Funny Girl, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Camelot, Guys and Dolls, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, West Side Story, Hello Dolly, An American in Paris, Oklahoma, The King and I, Singin’ in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Showboat, Calamity Jane, South Pacific, Gigi, Annie Get Your Gun, Bye Bye Birdie, Porgy and Bess, The Music Man, 76 Trombones, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, Brigadoon, Pins and Needles, A Funny thing happened on the Way to the Forum, Fiddler on the Roof, The Apple Tree, Fiorello and more.

Did I have to look up the names of the musicals and the singers? Sure, I’m ancient now, but I only listed the ones I remembered discovering in my little booth with my big earphones on.  I know I left many people and productions off those lists, but that isn’t the point.

Imagine the impact on my life learning all the stories, the liner notes on the backs of the album, hearing singers at the top of their game, the dramas, the love stories and being transported to wherever the musicals would send me. Imagine listening to all of that from the age of fourteen and a bit of fifteen.

Later, when I had multiple stores and I would travel to New York once a year for the gift show in the exhibition hall in Mid-Town, I would stay for two days, always went to the Second Avenue Delicatessen, then some top steakhouse, and always two shows on Broadway or Off-Broadway. I never had a reservation. Just walked up to the box office, bought the best seat available that night for one guy and spent a couple of hours in heaven.

This went on for a long time, until it didn’t. Things end.

Going to the Lab School gave me two educations: Discovering all I wrote about above, that there were wonderful caring teachers who would take the time to talk with me if I asked them and my two years in Journalism class putting out the Midway, the school’s newspaper which had a real impact on my way of writing news and writing stories like this one, and how different the two things were. Newspaper writing is facts only, no opinions. The Who/What/When/Where & Why.

But also, because of the necessity of paying my way, that newsstand taught me the rules of showing up on time every single day at 5 AM; how to talk to customers; how to deal with truck drivers who initially assumed they could steal newspapers out of the tightly wire bound bundles and I’d never know how to catch them; how to safely dress for Chicago’s frozen winter weather; how to make a waterproof, windproof wooden newsstand; how to make a fire in a tar pot, later a kerosene stove; how to light and care for a kerosene light and later a Coleman lantern; how to tie strong knots when returning unsold magazine and newspapers; how to hire people and the man born in 1896, my first employee Bill Reynolds, then 69, a one-armed, one legged former bookie and newsvendor in 1912 on my same corner, who became my mentor to the world for three years, bless him. He opened my young eyes to a world and words which no longer existed.

I wasn’t very good at a number of my classes, like French, or Physics, or Geometry, and I didn’t win any awards for my scholastic achievements at the end of my four years there.

But while I was studying Social Studies or classes like that over the four years, I was studying another kind of “social studies” on the cold streets of Hyde Park. Like the late Saturday night when a terrified prostitute saw my kerosene lantern shining on the otherwise dark street and ran up to me begging me to let her hide inside of my newsstand because her pimp was after her. And I let her.

Or learning on the job about what it meant to be part of the infamous Chicago Democratic Political Machine, which I unknowingly joined the moment I needed a license to operate my newsstand. That it was unthinkable for me to ever imagine putting up some campaign poster for any Republican politician running for anything. Or my license would evaporate-Poof!-like that.

That in order to not have to pay off a seemingly endless line of petty local politicians to avoid tickets and penalties for whatever they felt I was doing or not doing, I had to locate the real center of political power in Hyde Park, pay him and only him a flat amount of money quarterly, and after that no one else was allowed to touch me. I learned that most every group had a power structure.

That becoming friendly with the cops in the 21st District by initially giving them free papers led to my discovering an alternate universe of law enforcement. Like at Christmas time in 1967, my being able to buy multiple cases of Cutty Sark Whiskey from a nearby liquor store at seventeen, in broad daylight, in order to have a ready supply to pay off my truck drivers to stop them from stealing from me for a few weeks.

Or later after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 1968 while I was still in high school, a couple of cops I knew pretty well by then suggested for my own safety I should buy a gun, they specifically recommended an automatic, from a local guy in a hardware store a few blocks away, and to tell him that they sent me so (1) he would actually agree to sell me the gun though I was only eighteen, and (2) not try to screw me by jacking up the price. I did that, and eventually registered it so it was legal.

I learned the importance of not only refusing to buy hot merchandise, like stolen Playboys for example, offered to me from the trunks of certain guys’ cars, but also to never mention that situation or those men to my friendly neighborhood cops. Because, well, everybody knew where I worked. That silence was protection, but only until a guy proved to be untrustworthy.

This was my alternative education of the streets of Hyde Park, where no degree was offered, where there was no graduation but where the benefits accrued constantly to those who knew how to keep their mouths shut. That acquiring mutually beneficial friendships were the only way for me to move up and also protect myself. That a handshake was a contract. A serious contract.

I was learning all of this while at the same time I was failing geometry in Lab School. Until I figured out that by hiring the geometry teacher’s constantly high on weed and otherwise unemployable teenaged son, without any actual conversation suggesting a quid pro quo, I passed his class with a D. Ok, a D minus.

I kept his kid on long after that until he passed out while carrying a stack of New York Times one Sunday. There were limits to the arrangement and the teacher never mentioned it to me.

Was I corrupt?

Me?

No, I was merely a teenager deeply immersed in “Chicago Urban Studies” up to my neck.

But by my junior year I was able to buy a car, a 1962 Buick Electra 225, with what I was earning at my newsstand. And I was reading the New York Times every single day, every section including Business and Finance, all of the editorials and the politics from the age of 15 until I closed the newsstand twenty years later in 1985. A very different sort of self-education.

I had an accountant, a lawyer and before I graduated in 1968, I had a corporation. Between the school and the newsstand I believe I had a unique education and a way of looking at the world probably like no other, and despite the bad times, I am grateful for the chance that school gave me despite my lack of money. Although my total obliviousness to fashion was obvious to all.

But there’s one more thing.

I really wanted to be good, be civilized while attending that special school. No trouble, no fighting, no disrupting classes, no bad reputation following me from teacher to teacher, class to class like in my public school, like some tin cans tied to my tail.

I decided that Lab School might be my one chance to really learn something and maybe make something out of my life. But perfection and noble aspirations are elusive and so came the incident in my French One class in early Spring 1965 when I was fifteen.

There were three older blond boys sitting behind me in a room with about twenty students and desks which weren’t attached to the floor. These boys, contrary to my hopes of encountering no trouble, decided that my Semitic nose, which loomed large against my 120 pounds and my five foot, four inch stature, was a reason for them to collectively have some fun at my expense.

Bad fun.

Week after week, month after month, when the stern French teacher was present who had good control of the class, they would whisper just loud enough for only me to hear: “nose, nose, nose” over and over, stopping to laugh every so often, because what was I going to do about it?  There were three of them, they were bigger guys than I was and they assumed they held all the cards.

And I waited.

I could do this. Not get in trouble. Not get expelled from that school. Not let my life return to an endless loop of misery.

But life didn’t cooperate and neither did those three boys. One day that tough teacher was gone and a young substitute took over here class for one day. The trio decided she was no problem for them and then decided to become more aggressive, saying that word “nose” not only over and over, but also louder so other people noticed. The teacher said nothing. But others began watching this situation. No one really knew me. No one knew what my life had been like for not just my years in public school, but also the nine years in my dangerous house.

There is a limit to patience. A limit to civilization. A limit to what a person could endure. Or maybe more importantly, would endure. Those boys must have decided they wanted to find out the limits of the short skinny kid in the first row, the Jewish one with the big nose. Must have thought I was some wimp they could toy with.

I did nothing in response to their words. I was waiting for the bell to get out of there. Then the ringleader of the crew became impatient at my lack of response. This wasn’t any fun if he could continue to insult me and still get no rise out of me. I guess he wanted to teach me a lesson.

So he did something new. He kicked my chair. He made a mistake. That…was contact. Like knocking a chip off of my shoulder. He found a way to see how far he could go with me.  Evidently, the privileged punk didn’t understand the “Public School Rules of Engagement”.

Suddenly, like in a Time Machine, all four of us were rocketed back to the sharp gravel playground of Caldwell School, an economic universe away from that quiet French class.

Why on earth would that fool want to unleash the “wild child” within me whom I struggled with daily to keep calm. Where the possibility of extreme pain from his likely furious response to me had no meaning for me? Not after the madness, brutality and destruction I’d survived before him.

Goodbye, Lab School.

My invisible unstoppable “Clock of Retribution” had begun to tick.

I turned around and very quietly told the main guy, the bigger one, that he could call me whatever he wanted, but NOT to touch my chair. He smiled, then he laughed at me, and then they all laughed, feigning terror at my whispered warning, mocking me.

But I knew what was coming and they didn’t. As sure as I was of what that main guy would do, I saw my damned entire life spread out in front of me like some wide landscape of endless violence and no escape from it. I knew I was going to be expelled from the school. I knew the volcanic anger was boiling up inside of me and I didn’t care about anything else in the world except for the next two minutes.

Then the clueless son of a bitch just touched the back of my chair with his toe and I exploded, whirled around like a raging roman candle and went right for his throat with all the velocity and propulsion my hundred twenty pounds could supply, and we went back and down, sliding through row after row, scattering other desks and students, papers and pens flying in the air and I didn’t give a damn. I wanted to kill him. Right then, at the moment on the floor, he was everything horrible in my life and I didn’t care and he would pay. Laugh now you stupid asshole, laugh now with my strong fingers digging into your soft neck. His blue eyes bulged wide and he was terrified. He had no idea what he had unleashed.

Many student’s hands swiftly separated us. The tables were returned to where they had been. All the papers and pens were picked up and all the kids returned to their seats, including me and the asshole.

I waited for the end of my career, my last chance in that school to come crashing down, because how could that mild young substitute teacher ever know what had happened to trigger what I just did in her quiet French class?

But then something changed.

Really changed.

That young teacher paused for a minute to allow everything to return to order, and then after a moment…she resumed teaching.

I stared at her.

She was teaching French.

She wasn’t screeching at me like I was some wild animal. She didn’t send me to the principal. She didn’t ask me to defend myself, to somehow justify what just happened. All she did was resume teaching French from where she was in our books when what had just happened interrupted her.

Maybe she heard the boys.

Maybe she understood everything.

Maybe she came from a home, a life, like mine.

I have no idea. But nothing happened to me. It remains an unsolved mystery in my life why justice arrived for me that stunning day. But truly, then and still now today, I found her kindness, her decency toward me that day to be emotionally shattering. Tears still flow. Even the thought still unbearable:

Where were you??

Or a kind person like you, all those years when there was never anyone to rescue me?

It was a small mostly elite student body and word spread quickly to all four levels, freshman through senior, about the bizarre incident in the Freshman French class and what that “Public School Maniac” did to the three boys who were insulting him. A friend, and I actually did have one, told me about this.

No teacher ever mentioned it. Neither did any of my classmates. Like it never happened. But in my four years at that special school, an island of civilization, not one person ever touched me, insulted me or did anything else which might—just possibly—cause me to react like I did in the French class in spring, 1965. I didn’t have many friends after my four years were up, but no battles either. It was my last fight ever with anyone after that incident in May 1965.

While my life has unfolded in unusual ways, sometimes I remember that one moment when I felt so free to do whatever I needed to do with no concern whatsoever about any consequences.

I think to myself, I wonder if other people ever experienced a moment like that, where nothing else mattered. I admit there is no equivalent release to what I felt that day. When miraculously justice arrived and I was found to be innocent, moments after my clutching fingers were removed from my tormentor’s neck.

But today I have many friends, nice, smart, kind people who seem happy to see me and never talk about what I look like or anything like that. I think about that and the mystery of that one time and have decided, since I’m writing this on the eve of the Jewish New Year, that if God decided it was time for me to receive a break, that what had already happened to me was at last enough and it would happen to me never more, I’m willing to accept that as possible. Maybe that’s what religion is for.

I will pray tonight, asking for forgiveness, seeking atonement for my sins (but not for that one day. Never.)and be willing to forgive other’s transgressions. But also, every so often, I will express silent thanks for the chance I received that day to have a better life and escape from all that came before. Because after that day, that one day, I was free, and all the anger went away.

See also for more illumination: “I’m fourteen. I need a job.” (written July 18, 2018)

“I’m Fourteen. I Need a Job”…by Robert M. Katzman

Publishing News! 

(Currently seeking representation as a speaker/poet for hire)

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: http://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $2.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools can call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

11 Comments »

Comment by Jim Payne

September 9, 2018 @ 6:23 pm

You are a great story teller. You are unique.

Comment by Herb Berman

September 9, 2018 @ 6:35 pm

Goodness, Bob, you run Job a close second. I’m glad your current friends are kinder than your childhood tormenters. I guess they couldn’t be meaner.

Your life-story almost always astonishes me.

Shanah Tovah.

Comment by Charlie Newman

September 9, 2018 @ 9:18 pm

Well-done…as always…file under “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”…tho I wish you didn’t need the strength

Comment by Lynda Rosemark

September 10, 2018 @ 6:31 am

Wow..quite challenging for you.so glad you had a gentle sub. My teacher training was of the philosophy that no kid could touch another or disrupt class….if so, kick him out!
It s a schande that the Lab School made you pay full price,,,,,they should be ashamed.
Shanah Tovah Bob

Comment by Bob

September 10, 2018 @ 6:51 am

Lynda, everything is relative. A nasty teacher hit me with a ruler in 6th grade and I reported her to the principal firmly stating at the age of twelve that this was no Catholic School and no teacher could hit me. The teacher was completely put in her place by the principal and that woman never spoke to me again for the rest of the year. I had my limits. Thanks for writing to me.
Shanah Tovah, Lynda

Comment by Brad dechter

September 10, 2018 @ 7:11 am

Shana Tova Bob! A very good outcome to what was a bad situation.
Reminded me of the old joke though:
“What did one eye say to the other?
Between us, something smells!”
Sorry- couldn’t help the joke.
I experienced antisemitic behavior in the Boy Scouts at Caldwell, which is the reason I left the troop after3-4 months. Even on the South Side, where Jews were by far the majority prior to 1967, there was still pockets of antisemitism on the South Side. Sad!
Glad you knew how to take care of yourself and glad you had such an understanding teacher!
Brad

Comment by Don Larson

September 10, 2018 @ 12:30 pm

Bob,

Thanks for writing this story.

I don’t feel that fighting for our honor is a sin or needs an excuse. Perhaps though it is better had we not needed to fight with such anger more often than we have.

The more important lessons are the ones we had the hardest times learning at first, absorbing more of those lessons later.

Every time I read your stories I feel glad that we have been friends for 60 years now. Part of me considers that I should have been there with you in some of your battles and you with me in mine. But apparently we were supposed to endure those battles alone to deeply integrate the experiences into our souls.

During my Sophomore year at Bowen, I had the pleasure of sitting at lunch with a group of friends who all were Jewish. I never felt awkward in that group having had so many Jewish friends ate Caldwell. One day a topic came up at lunch about “being Jewish” in some regard. One of my friends mentioned that I was not of that faith. Immediately someone said “let’s make Don an Honorary Jew!” That was the solution fully embraced by the others and it was an honor for me to be so considered by my friends.

I was a Methodist at that time and for many years afterwards. For a while I considered becoming Catholic. Eventually I found my Spiritual sanctuary in other ways and have never looked further.

But I was Jewish at least for one lunch period amongst friends at Bowen and I still find comfort and pride in that designation. 🙂

Don

Comment by Bob

September 10, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

You being my friend for a zillion years is enough. Friends can’t be everywhere they are needed, all the time. While I certainly will accept you as an “honorary Jew”, who you are to me all this time and right now is far more important than to giving a name to a philosophy which probably has no real meaning in your existence. You need not pass any test to be a friend of mine.

Comment by Don Larson

September 10, 2018 @ 8:46 pm

Hi Bob,

We understand each other very well.

Don

Comment by Bob

September 11, 2018 @ 5:50 am

I guess I’d prefer to be filed under “Hot Sex and dark Chocolate”, but, well, we can’t have everything, can we? Happy New Year, C!
B

Comment by Bob

September 11, 2018 @ 6:01 am

Jim, thank you. This story, which stemmed from a realization that it was so unusual, untold and jam-packed with emotion, that I decided I had to see what I could do with it. It has been re-edited and expanded a dozen times in an effort to catch all the little errors and to say the things I wasn’t so sure about saying initially. Add in the fact that it is about Rosh Hashanah, during that same holiday and there was a pressure to finish it before the holiday passed. But within 24-hours it became the most read story of anything I’ve posted in eleven years. THAT was a surprise.

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