Miscellanea: Ruminations on a Dreary and Somber Day

Sandra Lynn Burleigh (Donahue) 2/28/1956 – 1/5/1995

I have lived 25,080 days. My sister Sandra who would have been 65 today died at age 38 in 1995, lived 14,191 days. She embodied the adage that it’s the quality of life in your years that matter not the years in your life.

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While it’s important at any time, the value of having good friends and family is far greater in our senior years than the value of one’s investments and assets.

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There are people who have hundreds or thousands of “friends” or followers on social media that may influence their lives. In my life, there are or were five people who influenced me by their thoughts and examples to be a better person. For them, I am grateful.

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We receive 86,400 “presents” daily so everyday is Christmas.

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According to the book, Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by physicist Frank Wilczek, we can have a billion thoughts in our lifetime. I think that as we get older many of our thoughts are re-runs like old Gunsmoke or MASH episodes.

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Based on normal actuary tables, I have probably lived between 87-89% of my expected life. If I was a car, I would probably be replaced for a new model. Regrettably my trade-in value would be relatively low. My tires are worn, my headlights are dim and my engine is not as powerful as it once was.

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Ben Johns: Pickleball = Michael Jordan:Basketball

Johns and Jordan are the best closers in their respective sports.

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Cash Prizes: 2021 Australian Open = $80,000,000; 2021 Pro Pickleball Championships = $100,000

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Mitch McConnell: on Capitol Riot 1/6/21

“The mob was fed lies,”.“They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”…”These criminals were carrying his banners. Hanging his flags. And screaming their loyalty to him,”

Mitch McConnell on 2/25/21:He would “absolutely” support former President Donald Trump if he became the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

WTF???

But Wait for It…

“Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.” ― Groucho Marx

The first corporate job that I had after college was working for a finance company in reviewing and approving credit applications. I developed a nice phone relationship with CBA operator # 33. Over the phone, she was funny, a bit flirtatious and very personable. Since her office was not that far from where I worked, I invited her to lunch. She did not disappoint. She was attractive, had a pretty face, about my age, was funny and the conversation flowed freely. Eureka! I found a nice girlfriend! But wait for it…. At the end of the lunch, I asked if she would like to have dinner with me this Friday night. She said “Yes” and seemed as excited as I was in getting together. But wait for it…

She gave me her home phone number and address and I said that I would pick her up at 7 o’clock, if that was OK. She frowned a bit and said “Would you mind making it at 8 o’clock as my husband leaves for work about seven at night?”

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My bad luck with women, in my bachelor years, unfortunately extended to my friend, Steve. He and I would get together on weekend trawls looking for the girls of our dreams at places like Kaminski’s, Someplace Else, The Coliseum etc. One weekend night, he and I met two women, Lori and Debbie, who I had worked with when I was in college. The four of us shared some conversation, some memories and a bit of flirtation. Steve became very smitten with my former blonde, blue eyed colleague, Lori. He begged me to call Lori for another weekend get together that might include a nice dinner. Obliging my friend, I contacted Lori and with some unexpected reluctance, she agreed to have dinner. But wait for it… Lori had two conditions: the first was that I and her friend Debbie were also at the dinner. No problem. 

The second condition was that Steve was not to become interested in Lori. Puzzled, I asked why as I knew Steve was very smitten. Lori replied, “Because I’m getting married in four weeks.”

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( I generally get tongue tied or am unable to come up with a suitable riposte when provoked but I think I nailed this one). Early 80’s memory…

While having lunch with a single and flirtatious work colleague, she handed me pictures of her recent trip to a resort on one of the islands. She narrated many of the pictures where she was routinely shown in a bikini and sipping various tropical drinks at a beach. I silently flipped through the pictures between bites of my lunch until I came to the last picture. But wait for it… It was similar to all the other beach pictures except the top portion of her bikini was missing.

Grinning she asked “What do you think? As I was handing the pictures back, I replied, “I am surprised they were that big.” Her eyes widened, “Do you mean my chest?”  I replied, “No, the size and swell of the waves in the background of the picture.”

Waxing Nostalgic

At 68 years of age, while I appreciate all the technological and other wonders that I have and am experiencing, I do wax nostalgic at times of things that I miss like those listed below:

Major league pitchers who throw complete games

Basketball players who don’t take games off

Two way football players who play offense and defense

News that only comes on between 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. No breaking news every commercial break

Civil political discussion shows like Firing Line with William F. Buckley

Women without tattoos or nose rings

Swanson TV dinners

Quality local newspapers and local community reporting

Competitive heavyweight boxing

Cuff links

Pocket watches

The convenience of transistor radios

Gino Giants

Bosco

Wall St Week with Louis Rukeyser

Phillies Hot Pants Patrol

GE College Bowl

Comic books

Vaughn Meader

Big 5 Basketball doubleheaders at The Palestra

Doctors who made house calls

Calls to businesses answered by a person

People shaking hands

Bildungsroman (1970-71)

My freshman year of college at St Joseph’s College in Philadelphia was easily the most transformative year of my life. What I learned and experienced outside the classroom was much more of an education than what I gained inside it. Before my yearlong residency at Fortier Hall (4th Floor), I was a skinny bookish introvert with limited social skills. After Fortier, I was still introverted but my social skills improved and I gained a sense of confidence in dealing with people and how I presented myself, maybe with a little bit more “Fortier” swagger. My sense of humor improved and I incorporated some of the best traits that I admired from my fellow Fortier residents.

Truth be told, I majored in basketball at St Joe’s (not Political Science or pre-Law). I squeezed classes and studies in between playing basketball with commuting students, intramural leagues and pick-up games. I spent as much time in the Fieldhouse as I did in the library. My knowledge of history and literature improved but not as much as my ball handling and outside shot. My roommate was on the freshman basketball team so that became my introduction to various social groups on campus and to some of the pretty young women in the cheerleading squad and women’s basketball club team. I even practiced with some of the young Lady Hawks and I enjoyed some social time with a few off the court. 

The fall of 1970 marked the first year that women entered St Joseph’s College. Some coeds lived on the third floor of my building and I was grateful when some helped me with the mechanics of doing laundry or sending up soup when I was not feeling well. I think their prescence largely made the building more civil. There were also parties and chances to meet women from other schools including Rosemont and Harcum. I still have fond memories of Becky from Rosemont who put up with my failed attempts at humor and seduction to woo her. I enjoyed her company and conversation.

Animal House had Bluto, Otter, Flounder, Boon and Pinto. Fortier Hall had “The Boy,” The Pope, Smilin’ Harv, Fish, Steak, The Great Eraser and Hooter, among others. Just about everyone received a nickname. I had one too but I will conveniently tell the story of my nickname possibly on a future blog post. Despite differences in personality and temperament, we mostly got along.

Fortier Hall was not exactly “Animal House” but it did have its moments. I remember a planned raid on Villanova to cut down one of their trees for Christmas. I fortunately did not attend the raid as I later had to help bail out some of my hall members who were caught and arrested by Villanova campus police. There was also a fire alarm set off at 3 a.m. on a very cold winter night. While the rest of the residents of our building dutifully evacuated and shivered outside in robes and pajamas, my fellow Fortier hall mates were “advised” to stay inside. The students freezing outside did not enjoy that practical joke.

One frigid night, the heat failed in the residents’ building. The Resident Manager of the building was housed on the first floor with his very attractive and young wife. Using the PA system, he advised us of the heating situation and to make plans accordingly to stay warm and comfortable. He closed his announcement with a request for any ideas or suggestions to stay warm. Someone yelled outside loudly, “Send your wife to the Fourth Floor.”

Fortier Hall did have a priest who lived with us. He largely (and wisely) stayed out of the way. My recollection of him was rather unique. One night, a group of my fellow residents were watching “smokers” (porno movies) in a darkened lounge.  I poked my head into the room and said, “Aren’t you worried about Father seeing this?” I should not have worried as he was sitting in the corner of the room watching the film. 

There was a protocol to put a tie on the door knob outside when you had a woman in your room. This was a “Do Not Disturb” sign alerting your roommate and others to stay away. On weekends this was not an uncommon occurrence and our good Father managed to disappear. I swear the seniors in our hall paid him off.

I experienced one food fight at St Joe’s. The cafeteria food was not good and tended to be very bland and predictable. So Food Services made an announcement that steak was going to be served. All of us looked forward to it. We shouldn’t have! The steak was tough as a pigskin. You could not cut it. You could not chew it. Soon steaks were flying around the cafeteria like footballs on the gridiron and a chant from angry students broke out, “The steak is shit, the steak is shit.” The Director of Food Services came out of his office to assess the clamor and had to dodge pieces of inedible steer aimed in his direction.

Big 5 basketball was the big social event on campus at least from December through March. Villanova was the big rival and the rollouts tended to be more brutal and caustic for that game than others. One of the most infamous rollouts was “ What’s the difference between Chris Ford and a dead baby? Answer: A dead baby doesn’t suck.” Big 5 games were generally sold out at the Palestra and raucous. A group of us also supported my roommate at freshman games and we were especially obnoxious at our home games towards the visiting team. I personally pissed off one All Star South Jersey player who looked like he was coming into the stands for a fight.

There were three influences on campus that I did not have any interest in. For some reason, guys on my floor liked to watch soap operas, especially General Hospital. I passed. I also did not share any interest in drinking beer so I often was the only sober member of our Hall during parties. I never smoked, inhaled or tried marijuana. I still recollect the Hall parties filled with the odor of Mary Jane, loud music by The Doors and the smell of spilled beer on the carpets. I did pick up one bad habit and that was cursing. Cursing was part of normal discourse among Fortier residents and I carried this bad habit home for a short while.

I don’t remember any classes or teachers at St Joe’s that made any impression on me. I learned much more from the residents of my Hall and those of another Hall (Ryder) that shared the fourth floor with us. I was in a mix with students of different countries, states, ages, economic status, talents, interests, political and cultural views. I also shared conversations with students who inspired me by their drive and ambitions for the future. My freshman year was during the Vietnam War and while there were no disruptions on campus, there was plenty of discussion and debate on our continued military involvement. (That’s why I feel bad for students who are now forced to online studies. The biggest benefits of college may be the social and intellectual connections you make not the dry textbooks and sterile lectures you muddle through.)

I finished up my education sophomore through senior year at Rutgers University in Camden. The teachers and classes were much better at Rutgers and I focused more on my studies and less on basketball and social events. I graduated with a Political Science degree with the intention to attend law school but wound up in the banking industry as a career. I owe my year at St Joe’s as the start of my life education and its influence is still a part of me.

Poor White Boy from South Camden Memories

I have referred to myself as a “poor white boy from South Camden” when describing my early youth (ages 0-10). I lived with my parents and grandparents in the same house. My sister was born when I was three years old. My grandfather died when I was six and my father passed away when I was seven. 

Camden was a different city than it is today. In 1960, when I was seven, “white flight” had not yet started. There were stores, bakeries, professional buildings and doctor’s offices on Mt Ephraim Avenue and on Broadway. I even remember a movie theater in the center part of Camden.  Crime and poverty were not as prevalent as it would become. I lived in a three bedroom, two level very modest home on Morton Street, located within South Camden, till I was eight or nine. The area was referred to as “Polack town”, where many Polish immigrants and their families settled.”With my mother, grandmother and sister, we moved to Sheridan Street which was about four blocks from the Morton Street residence. The house on Morton Street burned down sometime in the 70s or 80s I believe.

Listed below are some of my memories of living in South Camden (1952-1962):

Neighbors sweeping the streets and sidewalks with brooms of any trash or garbage. The streets were spotless. Everyone policed their own areas in front of their homes.

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Reading Sergeant Rock and Superman comics while waiting to get my haircut from a barber at Whitman Park.

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Walking home from St Joseph’s Grammar School located on Mechanic Street, about a 1.50 mile trip one way. My mother did not drive and there was no bus so I walked home all the time. No problem in nice weather. Problem walking in bad or snowy weather!

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I walked home from school during Hurricane Donna in 1960. Since my mother did not drive, I had to walk home through the start of the storm. I remember nurses from West Jersey Hospital stopping me on Mt. Ephraim Avenue trying to get me to come inside the hospital but I was concerned that my mother would worry where I was or whether I had gotten hurt in the storm. Scary walk as I was concerned about power lines coming down as the wind gusts were strong.

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Listening to Joe Niagara, Bill Wright, Sr, Hy Lit and other disk jockeys on  WIBG-AM on my transistor radio.

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Playing music on 78 and 45 RPM records.

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Very uncomfortable summer days and nights of heat and humidity. No air conditioners, just fans in the house.

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Buying and eating babkas and chruscikis from Morton Bakery down the street.

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Bottles of milk being delivered to a mailbox on the front porch by a Sealtest driver.

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Eating and enjoying cheese, sauerkraut and potato pierogis made by my grandmother.

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The horrible smell of my grandmother making kiszka (blood sausage) that literally made me gag and run from the house.

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Playing little league baseball at Whitman Park. My first team was sponsored by the PACC (Polish American Citizens Club). I remember the parade through South Camden streets when the baseball season opened up.

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Being taught Polish in school. (As an aside, I never learned the language though my grandmother spoke it all the time. Her English was very broken.) My grandfather did not speak any English.

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I vaguely remember being in some type of second or three grade play where I played Johnny Jump Up (?) Surprisingly my acting career never got off the ground.

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Parades on Red and White day down Mt. Ephraim Avenue from the grammar to the high school to celebrate St Joseph. I remember the St Joe’s High School cheerleaders dressed in their red and white uniforms and pompoms. I guess other events took place but I still remember the cheerleaders.

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First girlfriend—age 7: Robin. She had blonde curly hair and blue eyes. Year younger than me but she spoke Polish. Age difference killed our relationship.

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Pulaski Day parades with bands and other marching starting at the Radio Condenser building and going past my house on Sheridan Street.

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Watching St. Joseph High School football at Farnham Park. I remember a caravan of cars with red and white streamers honking on the way to the game and if St Joe’s won, honking after the game and driving through town to celebrate. Back then I rooted for St Joe’s when they played Camden Catholic. A few years later that changed.

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Buying and trading baseball cards with my school friends. A pack of cards cost a nickel and you got a stick of gum too!

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Buying Yum Yums (water ice) from the Yum Yum man. He was usually drunk when he biked up our street with his cart. Sometimes he forgot to get paid. I was partial to cherry and orange flavored Yum Yums.

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Walking behind a Mosquito Control truck as it went down the street fumigating the area with a cloud of dangerous chemicals. All the kids on the block did it. No one stopped us.

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While playing football with my friends at Municipal Hospital (off Cope Street), Jersey Joe Walcott, (who was Camden’s Director of Public Safety and former boxing heavyweight champion) pulled up to where were playing with four police cars filled with men carrying shotguns and other weapons. Scared the hell out of us as we were trespassing on hospital grounds but Jersey Joe and the police officers were looking for escaped convicts who were spotted where we were playing. Jersey Joe asked if we saw anyone. We didn’t. He and the police left. We resumed our football game.

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Playing half ball, wall ball, wire ball, wiffle ball, stick ball and box ball at Stanley Klish’s (classmate’s house. (Coincidentally, my future wife and her family lived on the street and my future wife may have even played in some of the games. We have no memory of each other though we remember the games. She also went to St Joseph’s but we were in different classes.)

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Another coincidence: My wife and I were both baptized and married by the same priest (Father Ed Korda).

First Communion Picture 1960: Me, Stashu (best friend) and my sister, Sandra–side of the Morton St. house

My Dad: I Hardly Knew Ye

Dad

My father, Edward A. Burleigh and me (Gloucester NJ)

I don’t remember a lot about my father. Memories of sixty years or more are very suspect. However I remember his last day…

He and my mother were going to a Valentines Day event in 1960 that night.  I was seven years old. My second grade class was asked to make personalized Valentine Day cards for their parents. I gave my mother her card early in the day. I vaguely recall that I was mad at my father. I don’t remember why. I did not give him his card. He may have wondered why. But as my parents were preparing to leave for the event, I had a change of mind and handed him the card. My father was not the sentimental type for cards and most expressions of affections. He opened the envelope, read the card, smiled at me and said “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” However I did not see my father again. That night, he suffered a heart attack and died.

There is no consolation for a seven-year-old boy when he loses his father so suddenly. However, I was so glad that I gave him the card. I did not want my last contact with him to be of rancor. I wanted him to know that I loved and respected him. He gave me a wink and smile as he left the house. That’s my final memory of my father.

My father was not a big man. He might’ve been 5’6 in height and weighed less than 150 lbs. However he was a very tough man. I had heard stories from his brothers, other family members and people who knew him that he was good with his fists. My father noticed one day that I came running back into my backyard to avoid some bully out front. My father told me that I can fight the boy or that I would get hit with a belt by him. Not an easy decision for me but I went out and fought the bully (to the bully’s surprise). To the best of my recollection, the fight ended in a draw.

He was a devoted family man, not just to my mother, myself and my younger sister but also to his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.  He came from a large family, five brothers and four sisters. An example of his devotion to family was told to me by one of my aunts. My aunt was going through a bad and abusive marriage. She had three small children, no job and no alternatives to leaving. One night my aunt’s drunk and abusive husband beat her in front of her kids. That got my father involved. He confronted and “resolved” the issue with my aunt’s husband and found a place to move her and the three kids.

My father did not have a high school degree. He enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and fought in the Atlantic theater during World War II. I have pictures of him in his youth. He always had a smile on his face and an arm around a buddy or girlfriend.  I had heard he was a very good dancer. I guess those genes did not get passed to me.

I vaguely recall that he worked a number of different jobs and that his last one was working shift work at the New York shipyard in Camden. Not surprisingly, I do remember watching Friday night boxing fights with him. He enjoyed fishing with his brothers. This may have been the only recreation he enjoyed. I don’t recall him having any interest in football, baseball or basketball.

 I think he smoked to excess, drank too much and did not take care of himself very well and I think this led to his early death at the age of 35. I wondered how happy he was. He always talked of going to California. He had a brother, Elmer, who lived there and my father seemed to have a bit of wanderlust.

I often wonder how different my life would have been if he had stayed alive. My father was very personable and outgoing. I was quiet and shy, just like my mother. My young sister, Sandra, at age 3,  was starting to show her bubbly personality and verve. Sandra may have inherited his personality gene. My father did share one similarity—-we both lost our fathers early in our lives. His father also died early in his life. His mother ran a boarding house and did laundry to support nine children.

I would hope that my father would have been proud of how I lived my life. Like him, I took care of my mother and sisters and protected them the best I could. He may have appreciated how I handled his death and showed the toughness he had as life threw challenges at me. I hope so. I’m Ed Burleigh’s son, I would not have wanted to disappoint him.

 

 

I Hope You Danced!

About 50 years ago on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in June, I and about 480 classmates graduated from Camden Catholic High School. I don’t remember too much about the ceremony itself, I do recall feeling a bit anxious, excited and fearful as to what was coming next. It was not an easy time in our country. We were experiencing demonstrations and riots about civil rights as well as the Vietnam War. Students were shot at Kent State by National Guardsmen the month before. There were verbal and physical clashes between conservatives and liberals and there was a very unpopular Republican president. We had to deal with a lot of social and political turmoil. Some things never change, I guess…

So after 50 years, a few reminiscences…

Most of my memories at CCHS are pleasant. I enjoyed classes with Mr. Azores, Mr. D’Antonio, Mr. Budniak, Father Yorio, Sister Agnese, Mr. McDonald, Sister Victorine etc. I even survived a Latin class with Sister Wilfred. I also survived some good natured barbs from Mr. D’Antonio. I believed I got a very good education from CCHS.

I remember demerit cards, Father Rock, pep rallies, small lockers, Sadie Hawkins day (I never got picked) pizza in the cafeteria, Kathy Hennessey as my lab partner (RIP), The Paper, Kreskin show, Communication Arts, pink, green and yellow women uniforms based on graduation year, music appreciation class, Farnham Park, “River rats’, gymnastics exercises during gym classes, building of a baseball field in the back of the parking lot, excellent school plays…

I vaguely remember that our class was sometimes referred by some teachers as the “most ill behaved ever.” Due to some prank or mischief, we had to sit quietly in the school auditorium for a few hours reputedly perpetuated by a member of our class. We did enjoy a class where there were various personalities, temperaments and characters.

Yearbook

My most influential and favorite teacher was Father Walsh (Quince). Initially I rebelled at many of his views and I often challenged him and several classmates who shared his thinking. He was relatively patient with “Brother Burleigh” and welcomed our verbal jousts on topics including Vietnam, religion, politics, history, philosophy, justice and morality. Quince got me to think more critically and analytically. He was the epitome of a great teacher, one who inspires you for further learning.

I maintained and made a number of friendships at CCHS. Bob Chrzanowski has been a friend of mine since we were both 6 year olds from the mean streets of South Camden. Bob has retired and is enjoying his addiction to golf. Mike Mensinger and I have been friends for over 50 years. I was pleased to be the best man at his wedding. Mike and I had a “cut” contest (missing class) during our senior year at Rutgers. Surprisingly we both graduated. I don’t see Mike as much as I would like but I am attempting to perform a “political exorcism” online currently. I’m blessed to have Bob and Joyce Leonetti as friends. When my wife Chris was going through breast cancer, they were very supportive to the both of us. Bob had rented a bus for the Breast Cancer walk in Philadelphia years ago, which meant a great deal to Chris. Bob and Joyce have a number of charitable contributions. They epitomize the best from our class.  Bob was also my “go to” receiver when we played touch football in our youth. 

I did not know Kathy Murphy, now Caldwell though we had graduated St Pete’s, CCHS and Rutgers together. My friend Ken (graduate of some defunct high school in Willingboro) had the great fortune and judgment to meet and marry her and I benefitted greatly from having her in my life also through Ken. Kathy is a great wife and mother of three very smart children and seven grandchildren. Kathy is a great friend, confidant and support for me. Kathy’s husband Ken has often expressed his disappointment that he did not attend CCHS.

I am pleased when I hear how many of my fellow classmates have done well in academia, business, government service, writing, the arts and charitable work. Two of my classmates have inspired me lately. Joe Mussomeli has inspired me to write. I have read some of Joe’s published essays and columns on politics and other topics and they are excellent. Jean Riberio Lizzio is my inspiration for health and athletics. Jean is an accomplished triathlete and maybe our class’s best athlete, male and female. What she has been able to accomplish in running and competition at this time in our lives when a walk around the block is sufficient exercise for many of us is remarkable.

I have been able to catch up with Jean and Donna Segrest Aristone at the mini reunions that have been held at Dooney’s. (I am prejudiced but I always thought that the young girls I graduated with at St Pete’s were the most attractive and nicest women at CCHS and beyond.) I also enjoy seeing Dorina and John Szczepanski, Patty Corbett, Bud Crane, Bill Foster and Rick Caruso at these mini reunions.

I am sorry that we did not have the 50th reunion as I would have liked to say hello and catch up with those I share comments and likes on Facebook including Rick Boyle, Sandi Weisel, and Ginger Breen.

Happy 50th Graduation!

P.S. I can remember the first two verses of our Alma Mater. I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday.

P.P.S. I am also mindful of classmates who have passed away. Most I did not know well. I do have some good memories (and stories) of Joe Williams, a great guy. Kathy Hennessey was my Chem lab partner and a very personable young lady.

Hats

I was going through old work files to purge them. This effort triggered some memories from the early stages of my career that I have not purged…Some work memories make me smile. Some make me wince. I think I had good relationships with most people I worked with despite having an INTJ work personality. One of my friends in giving me a recommendation noted to a prospective employer that I “did not suffer fools gladly.” She was dead on.

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I’ve experienced a number of bad bosses. These were men (and women) whose ambition, greed and often stupidity made it tough to work with them. My worst boss came very early in my career. After college, I was part of a management trainee program for a financial company. I was doing very well after being there for 1 1/2 years. I got very good reviews from a number of managers and supervisors. But that would change. A new manager was coming in to the branch I was working. He came in with a reputation as  being rude to both employees and customers. I chose to be optimistic. All my previous managers were very happy with my job performance. On his first day in our branch, I came in early. He was there with our office manager. He was about 10 years older than me and much shorter. I came up after they finished talking and introduced myself while also extending my hand in welcome. He stared at my outstretched hand, ignored my greeting, spun and walked away. That awkward moment turned out to be the high point of our business relationship. He wound up either firing or having all the management trainees in the office quit. He terrorized the female clerks in the branch with his yelling and caustic remarks. I was the lone survivor. At 23, I wasn’t sure how to handle conflicts. I largely ignored his sarcastic remarks towards me until the one day I couldn’t.  One morning, he yelled something at me across the lobby floor but I couldn’t quite hear it as a print terminal was spitting out some paperwork. However he added an epitaph to his yelling he thought I would not hear. I saw the women close to him stiffen up. They hoped I did not hear it. I smiled, put down the files I had in my hand, walked over to where he was standing  and opened the branch door, “Let’s go outside and you can repeat to me what you said.” He turned red and glared at me.  I called his bluff. Wisely he chose not to go outside. Wisely I found another job fairly quickly…

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While I was in college, I worked for a retail store named S. Kleins’s. One of the things I enjoyed to do was to write promotions and sales ads and announce them over the store intercom. I think I just loved to hear the sound of my own voice. But I also was very clever with the ads at times and got shoppers interested in the sales I promoted. Store Manager loved it and gave me free reign to do them.

I also “fixed” the Miss S. Klein’s contest so that a young woman I was interesting in would win. She got the sash. But  I did not get the girl. I also earned the enmity of the HR Director who wanted her daughter, who worked in the Records Department, to win. This would not be the last time I pissed someone off in HR.

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My favorite corporate job was managing the Purchasing Department for a bank. I was basically brought in to improve the poor internal audit ratings and reduce the expenditures for technology, office supplies, forms and other supplies. I also merged two operations and improved efficiencies. I accomplished those goals fairly quickly and was pretty much left alone in how I did my job. One of the benefits of doing my job was meeting with various sales representatives. These sales representatives tended to be female, young, stylishly dressed and very pretty. The parade of these young women through the corridors of the bank to my office made me the envy of my male counterparts. One of my friends had asked me to set up a date with one of the women. The best I could do was set up an appointment so he could discuss copier needs for his area.  I made it a rule not to accept lunch invitations or socialize after work with anyone so no one could accuse me of being unduly influenced.

When I was offered a position in Marketing and leaving the Purchasing Department, I did agree to have lunch with one of the sales reps who I did business with. I enjoyed conversations with her. She was a bit flirtatious but it was the 1980’s and I was often amused. At the lunch, she wanted to show me pictures of her recent trip to one of the islands. I leafed through the pictures which were mostly beach scenes and her in a bathing suit. Until I reached one picture ,,, she was topless on the beach by a bar holding a drink. I reddened. She noticed my reaction and inquired with a smile, “What do you think?” I slowly handed the pictures back and smiled, “Wow those were big…the drinks I meant.”

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There are those people in life who cannot hold a job. And then there are people like me where a job can’t hold them. I got bored easily. I could never perform a job well where I did the same things every day. I was very poor, especially in my early career, of promoting myself. I felt that doing a great job was sufficient for moving ahead and getting appropriately compensated. Unfortunately I found out that many of my managers took credit for things I accomplished. I’ve given this piece of advice to those who are working, “to promote yourself within a company, promote yourself well outside it. Create your own personal brand.”

Hats

Picture above is me with Tere Hoyt Chattin. I worked with some very smart and great people. Tere is at the top of my list.

Whenever I Close My Eyes, I Still Can See Your Smile

You never forgot my birthday. I will never forget yours. (I still remember you getting diners at Cinelli’s to sing me Happy Birthday.)

It’s been a little over 25 years since you have been gone. The pain in my heart from your death is not as severe but there are always reminders of what I miss. Christmas has never been the same. I remember your unbridled joy for the holidays. You loved the lights, decorating the tree and playing all the Christmas songs (starting with Thanksgiving dinner.)  We loved counting all the presents under the family tree on Christmas Eve. However you always held one gift back for everyone—-the one that you knew would bring the most surprise and the most joy.

Even though I was four years older, you were the wiser. Yeah, I had the better grades in school  but you were so good and so loved by so many people. You loved life. You took chances. You traveled. You risked your heart. You always smiled. You had so many friends! You were an inspiration to me.

You and I did have some battles. We both knew how to needle one another and sometimes we would have huge verbal wars. But we always had each others back and woe to those who would say something bad about one of us if the other was present.

At my wedding, you happened to get lost finding the park where we were going to take pictures. The wedding photographer wanted to take pictures without you there and I refused to take any pictures till you showed up. It did not make my new wife, Chris happy. However, you did show up, a bit late and had started to party before the rest of us did. 

At your funeral service, one of your neighbors mentioned to me how you told them that there was no one else you trusted more than me. I told your neighbor that no one’s opinion or judgment meant more to me. We both leaned on each other for support and that support and love are what I missed so much the past 25 years.

You were my kid sister that I had to protect. I remember you calling me in my early 20s. You were working alone at a Dunkin Donuts, frightened from being harassed by some guys. I hung up the phone and sped to your job wielding a baseball bat and rushing through the store door like a scowling Buford Pusser. Fortunately for them (and me) they had left but you knew I would did my best to always protect you.

However I could not protect you when the nurses told me that you had died during your surgery to have a tumor removed from your brain. It was not an easy surgery. You had noticed my concern prior to your surgery and were even amused that you heard that I, a committed agnostic, had gone to mass. I would have made a deal with the devil if it would have kept you alive. You passed away 10 days after Christmas and a month before your 39th birthday.

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A Bit of Nostalgia

I have maintained a journal since college (1970). A reader may be amazed and amused by entries I wrote forty to fifty years ago about purchases I made or prices that existed decades ago. Below is a brief sampling of entries…

August 9, 1973

Pair of glasses cost me $44.

Friday, March 22, 1974

Bought an $85 suit on Monday. Pretty snazzy!

Tuesday, April 17, 1979

It’s very hard to find encouraging news. Gasoline prices are close to $.80 for unlimited, $.74 for regular. Many gas stations are gouging consumers and raising prices higher than what the government guidelines call for.

Tuesday, July 31, 1979

Prices:

Flounder $2.29 a pound

Eggs one dollar a dozen

Bread $.53 a load

Steak $2.49 a pound 

Pepsi 64 oz. $.99 

Lettuce $.59 a head

Milk $.86 for a half-gallon

Hamburger $1.99 lb.

Movies $3.50

Saturday, April 12, 1980

Price trivia:

Gas $1.27 per gallon unleaded

Egg McMuffin, hash browns, OJ $1.94

Sunday Inquirer $.60

Sunday Courier $.35

Gatorade $.69 a bottle

Thursday, January 15, 1981

I paid $1.49 for a 45 RPM record today. Only a couple years ago, you could buy a 45 for $.79.