My World 1951-1962

Where I Spent My Elementary and High School Years

I had a Proust moment this afternoon as I bit into a chocolate nonpareil, which is a round piece of chocolate covered with little white dots of sugar candy (see picture below). It took me back to my visits to the old Shaker movie theater, which was demolished forty-odd years ago. When I lived on East 176th Street, I used to ride my bicycle down to the theater, which was located on Lee Road just south of Chagrin Blvd, which used to be called Kinsman Road back then. The pictures I saw were all Saturday matinees, complete with serials, cartoons, and the usual kiddie foofaraw. There, I would buy some popcorn and, if I had enough money, some nonpareils.

Nonpareils

My world at that time did not stretch far from the map shown above. Occasionally, I would go downtown on the old 56A bus, boarding at at East 177th Street, a block from home. I went to elementary school at Saint Henry’s, shown on the above map as Archbishop Lyke school (now closed). My high school was a bus ride away in Bedford, Ohio at Chanel High School (now closed). I played at JoAnn Playground, trying to avoid the usual run of bullies who wanted to establish their dominance.

I had a difficult but happy childhood. The difficulty came with allergies and the start of the brain tumor that would result in surgery in the distant future year of 1966. My little brother and I were six years apart, but I did not really begin to appreciate him until after I graduated from college.

The Only Picture I Could Find of the Shaker Theater

The world in which I lived back then is completely unrecognizable today. For one thing, the tiny trees in the postwar housing that dominated are now enormous. And most of the businesses I recognized, such as the New York Bakery on Lee Road, are now a fading memory. I used to go there weekly on my bike to pick up an unseeded Jewish rye (the caraway seeds got stuck in my Dad’s teeth).

It was an interesting world in which to grow up.

 

Ancient History

My Sixth Grade Class at St. Henry School in Cleveland 1956

This evening I came across this picture of my Sixth Grade class at St. Henry School. Mrs. Joyce, our teacher, stands in the third row at the left. I can identify only three of my classmates—all boys. (By this time, my Fourth Grade sweetheart, Laura Sowinski, was no longer in my class.) The really tall kid in the last row center is my good friend Fred Nickel, with whom I used to play chess and devise explosives made from match heads. Two persons to the left of him is Anthony Braidic, not my friend but I just remember his face. The same goes for James Oliver, who is the boy in the third row three persons in from Mrs. Joyce.

And where am I? You’ll find me at the far right in the second row.

By the sixth grade, I was already a star pupil. It took me several years to overcome my Hungarian upbringing and become more conversant with the English language. In the second grade, Sister Francis Martin used to pull my ears and call me “cabbagehead.” I had finally gotten past the vegetable world.

The Cross of St. Henry Church, Behind Which Stood My School


Over the sixty-three intervening years, I have lost touch with all my Sixth Grade classmates. It seems a pity, because I spent a lot of time with these kids and had some good times. It is likely that the pituitary tumor that was finally operated on in September 1966 was already causing me excruciating frontal headaches. Being a little kid, I didn’t know how bad off I was.