Tuesday, October 23, 2012


From TING AND I: A Memoir...


We moved outside of metropolitan Walden (pop. 5,000) in 1956, then moved downtown in 1958. I went to Walden High for all four years. Walden is in the north-central portion of Orange County, about 70 miles north of New York City. My parents advised me that the stereotype of kids from “the City” was of being brash and too mouthy—wiseguys. They recommended a long period of modest silence, and I took their advice. It may have been for only a few months, but the vow of silence seemed to have lasted interminably. After a while, I opened up, often making jokes in class.

We lived about five miles from town at first, so my involvement in sports my freshman and sophomore years (basketball, football, baseball) required either hitchhiking home or riding my bike to and from school. No, it was not wholly uphill in both directions. Just felt that way.

Getting a ride home was the source of another near-death experience. A football teammate gave me ride a in his peppy Chevy: “Let’s see what this baby can do.” It did 106 miles per hour. One such ride was enough.

World history class in my freshman year was taught by Mr. Decker, also the driver’s education teacher. A Renaissance man of sorts, very nice. He once had a student who got 100 percent on the Regents’ world history exam. He said he hoped I would match that. I did.

Memorable was my sophomore year biology teacher, Mr. Ross, who shared –no, exceeded –my fondness for puns. One of them involved “testes” for “test these,” and there were many more of like character and quality. Biology puzzled some of my classmates, one of whom asked about the nature of identical twins when one was a male and the other a female. Will that be on the test?

Especially memorable was a compliment paid me in front of the rest of the football team one practice. At 150 pounds, I was among the lightest on the squad, and my position was defensive end, where my modest speed and modest agility could be offset by my determination and wiry strength. “If the rest of you played with the determination of Cooper, here, we’d never lose a game,” Coach Marone told them.

My sophomore year we lost only one football game and lost that one by a single point. Later that fall, Coach selected a few players to join him in attending the Heisman Trophy presentation being made to Pete Dawkins at West Point. I was one of those he chose, which came as a big surprise to me, as I was a substitute who rarely got into our games. Thanks, Coach.

Basketball and baseball took more skill than I had, and I only participated my first two years, mostly riding the bench. I scored a total of two points in Junior Varsity basketball, bunching them together with a single shot my second year.

I did referee basketball games in the church league for younger players. Someone criticized the refs in a letter to the editor of the Walden Citizen-Herald. I replied in kind. I wrote that I did not give a “tinker’s dam” about the outcomes.

Junior and senior years, besides playing football, I ran the mile and pole-vaulted in track and was near the middle among those against whom we competed. Oh, well.

My grades were much better than my running or pole vaulting. Professional track and field was not in my future.

I was in DeMolay, a junior affiliate of the Masons. I have a trophy for being “Eastern Jurisdictional Council Order of DeMolay Oratorical Contest Winner, 1958-59.” While I do not remember the details, I fared better than Jacques DeMolay himself, who had a bad Inquisition.

The high school chorus used my speaking abilities to read introductions to our songs, sometimes, at school presentations. I read better than I sang.

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