Sunday, July 8, 2012


Excerpt from Ting and I: A Memoir...

I went to Hunter College Elementary School, HCES, admitted on the basis of an IQ test score. Hunter was at 68th Street and Park Avenue, but I lived on 181st Street and Riverside Drive, about five miles away. I made my way there by bus or subway or a combination. I started Hunter at nearly seven years of age, skipped second grade, and progressed apace thereafter.

It was an elite school, with pleasant and interested teachers, generally well-behaved kids and an accelerated curriculum, plus quite a bit of testing to follow the progress of the little “geniuses.” In an early grade I was photographed explaining eclipses, with the picture carried as part of a story about the school in a weekly magazine. With parental help, we staged the musical South Pacific. There I was, third from the left in the sailor chorus.

I fell in love with my elementary school teacher, Miss Audain, who taught my homeroom for three of those years. Edith V. Audain was black, beautiful, smart, kind and my special friend. She seemed to know I came from a rougher environment than most of the other kids. She did not marry me, however, but chose a Mr. Alleyne, much to my disappointment.

Unlike some of the other HCES elite parents, mine (especially my mother) were opposed to discrimination against blacks (“colored people” being the euphemism of the time). Mom wrote a sympathetic fictional story decrying segregation, published in Harlem’s Amsterdam News. My parents shaped my own views of race relations. A neighbor of ours ten years later told my mother, “With your attitude, one day one of your kids will marry a Negro.” Foreshadowing?

I remember several little girls from HCES, but I doubt they remember me. Joan? Abby? Wendy? Majda? Anyone?

Actually, I do have one sweet memory. Judy Copland may have been her name, and she was a couple of years older than I. We both rode the Fifth Avenue Coach Line to and from HCES, though her stop was much closer to school than mine. Her parents once took me along on a family outing to the amusement park at Coney Island—a nice, generous thing to do. I do like the music of Aaron Copland (despite his politics). Maybe they were related.

No comments:

Post a Comment