Tales From the Boys Room

Back in fifth grade me and my friends were in the boys room at Rushmore Avenue School in Carle Place. There we were lined up peeing when the principal walked in.

“Boys,” he announced, ” You should not stand so close to the urinals when you go to the bathroom. Back up so you don’t get splashed.”

We inched away until he told us to stop a foot or two from the fixture. This felt a little strange, but whatever. Who were we to question him? We figured he learned this in the military because all of our dads were WW II or Korean War vets and they were full of manly advice. After that he’d periodically stop in and do an inspection to make sure we were standing nice and far away when we peed.

OK, I’m not saying that Mr. X was definitely interested in looking at our little fifth grade units, but doesn’t this strike you as a little creepy? Imagine what would happen if your kid came home from school and told you this story.

We were just doing what we were told. And anyway, who wants urine splashed on their pants?

That’s Not a Knife…

I’m probably not smart enough to be the superintendent of schools in Lansingburgh, NY but I am smart enough to know that a knife with a 1-1/2 inch blade is not a weapon.

So what’s up with George Goodwin? According to an article in the Times Union, Mr. Goodwin, superintendent of schools in Lansingburgh,  recently suspended a student for 20 days because the young man had a keychain size pocket knife in his car at school.

The student is Matthew Whalen, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout and National Guard member. The high school senior plans to apply for an appointment to West Point, but now he’s worried that this knife nonsense could be a problem.

Was Goodwin worried that young Whalen would run amok in the school hallways slashing people with his tiny knife? Yes, it’s ridiculous to think that a knife this small is a weapon, but it would be way too easy for us to sit here and call Mr. Goodwin names. Just because it was a stupid decision doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a stupid man. Even the best among us sometimes do things that are hasty and shortsighted.

The only thing for George Goodwin to do now is to fess up and admit he made a mistake.

Why not tell him yourself. Here’s George Goodwin’s email address ggoodwin@lansingburgh.org —and his phone number is 518-233-6850.

How Did I Get Here, Anyway?

When I was in fourth grade they took us on a field trip to New York where we toured NBC at Rockefeller Center.

It was awesome. We peered into the news studio, created frying bacon sound effects by crinkling cellophane, and saw where Johnny Carson presided over the  Tonight Show. We also got to watch DJ Big Wilson doing his shift on WNBC-AM. That did it. From that day forward I wanted to work in radio or TV.

The rest of fourth grade was all about broadcasting. I made several shoebox dioramas showing TV studios with cables of string and clay figures standing behind cameras. My teacher, Mrs. Rice, did not approve . Years later I got to read her notes about me and it turns out she made a big point of the time wasted on these projects. What could be worse than a fourth grader wasting time?

At home I would huddle in my room spinning records and recording myself playing DJ on a reel-to-reel recorder. I’d read stories from the paper in a serious tone like the newscasters on the radio. Little did I know that they swiped many of their stories from the same place.

It was inevitable, really: a straight shot that landed me at the radio station and TV studios of SUNY Plattsburgh. The internship, the job, the second job and 24 years doing what I wanted since I was eight-years-old.

But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we’d visited a doctor’s office or law practice instead of NBC.

The Graduate

My son Zack is now a graduate of the eighth grade.

It’s a milestone because it marks the end of his tenure at the K-8 Catholic school he attends. All the kids will go their separate way so it’s different than just moving from the town’s middle school to the high school.

The staff and teachers did a great job of recognizing the student’s achievements and time together and capped it off with a nice graduation ceremony.

It was all well and good until somebody walked up and said, “Congratulations.”

Congratulations? I must have responded inappropriately because the person gave me that “You asshole” look that comes after saying something inappropriate. But come on —congratulations on making it through eighth grade?

Excuse me, but what is this, Arkansas —where graduating eighth grade is like getting your medical degree? So sorry if I sound like a jerk but you know what? You’d better graduate from eighth grade. Now go have a nice Summer.

Richard J. Harte of Delmar is Not Amused

My son Zack’s eighth grade social studies class at St. Thomas School recently studied about the Roaring Twenties —and capped it off by turning the classroom into a speakeasy where they danced the Charleston and swigged grape juice. Somebody thought this picture was so cute that they sent it to our local weekly, The Spotlight.

Well, not everyone thought it was cute, like this guy who fired off a letter to the paper:

As a long-time parishioner of St. Thomas in Delmar, I can’t think of a more inspiring way to begin the religious season of Lent than by having a 1920’s prohibition event for the school’s eighth graders… complete with faux “booze” (photo, 1920s roar to life, march 11).

To say I am a little surprised and shocked at both the timing and the function is an understatement. I realize that the purpose was an educational exercise examining the Roaring ’20s, but do you really educate children by having them act out a disregard for the law (Prohibition) and promote the consumption of alcohol as a fun thing to do? Then to publicize the occasion by submitting a group photo of the kids, complete with bottles and glasses in hand. And we wonder why the children of this and other communities start drinking at an early age.

Seriously, “educators,” did you think this out beforehand?

P.S. – Yes, I do enjoy a drink, and yes, thank you, I do have a life.

Richard J. Harte

Yes, Mr. Harte, of course you have a life. Your life is writing ridiculous letters to the local newspaper.

Times Have Changed

For better or worse, the things you could do years ago no longer fly. For example, travel with me to 1969.

That was when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Mets won the World Series, and Miss Salerno chased Joe Sergio around our second grade classroom with a ChapStick.

Miss Salerno, who was just recently out of college, once had my father come down to inspect my messy desk. That’s another story, but the only thing she found more annoying than my desk was Joe Sergio’s chapped lips. Finally, one day she couldn’t stand it anymore. Miss Salerno took matters into her own hands and set out to apply the waxy balm herself. He took evasive action. A chase ensued.

If a teacher did that today she’d be yanked out of the classroom and put on paid administrative leave. She might even end up on the news. The student? He’d be sent to the school psychologist. Part of me longs for the days when teachers had more authority in the classroom, but I guess the ChapStick thing was a little over the edge. Even worse than the time she tried to cut his hair.