Waxing Nostalgic II

“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” 

― Milan Kundera, Ignorance

The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan’s Heroes, Match Game 75, Barney Miller…these are all 1960 and 1970 television shows enjoying a revival. Many viewers, generally in the Medicare and Social Security eligible categories, are eschewing current produced media fare for TV shows of their younger years.

Why? The reasons may vary but for many it’s a portal to a simpler time with less stress and drama. People need a break from Covid 19, Trump rants, smarmy Fox commentators and an endless stream of violence, disasters and deaths on their TVs and computer screens.

Photo by Andre Moura Pixels

I too pine for simpler times and have compiled a short list of memories, places and people that take me back to a simpler time.

  1. Cherry Hill Mall food court with Nathans, Arthur Teachers and Bassetts Turkey
  2. Drive-In movies
  3. Emma Peel
  4. Local minor league hockey (Jersey Devils, Ramblers)
  5. Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings and Chet Huntley
  6. Extensive coverage of college and high school sports by local papers
  7. Fish’s (Abe Vigoda) asides on Barney Miller
  8. Summer League Basketball at Wood and Memorial Parks (Cinnaminson NJ)
  9. “Missed by that much”
  10. Pat Paulsen running for President
  11. Gladys Ormphby and Tyrone on Laugh In
  12. Barbi Benton
  13. U.S. Pro Indoor Tournament at Spectrum
  14. Chief Jay Strongbow
  15. Lindsey Nelson and Ray Scott announcing college and professional football games
  16. Old Republican party (Everett Dirksen, Hugh Scott, Gerald Ford)
  17. Apologies
  18. Soupy Sales
  19. By Saam and Richie Ashburn broadcasting Phillies games
  20. Petula Clark
  21. Diving horse at Steel Pier
  22. Sparklers
  23. Tinsel
  24. Hill Street Blues
  25. John Larroquette’s (Dan Fielding) leers on Night Court
  26. Mike Wallace interviews on 60 Minutes
  27. Playboy interviews
  28. Sport magazine
  29. Archie Bunker
  30. Phyllis George
  31. The Grassroots

Reader, how many from this list do you remember and know?

Observations on reaching the last year of my seventh decade

From left to right, Sandra, Eric, Joanne and two other unnamed cousins

Feeling wistful, ruminative and a bit thankful…

If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car. 

All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.

I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.

My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.

Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.

Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.

Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.

I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.

I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?

The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.

I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.

Sign of the Times:  We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. 

Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?

Dinks and Smashes

Now that Pennsauken has the new courts on River Road, I am somewhat nostalgic remembering the start of my pickleball playing at the Browning Road courts. Cookie Sey introduced a number of us to the game including Rita and Art Lattanzi, John Babcock, Bill M., Celeste Bub, Fran Mick, Lisa Heisler, Shira Carroll  etc. Lots of good memories, great people…Browning Road was our entree to other pickleball venues like Lions Den etc.

Every local pickleball venue (DeCou, Berlin, Hainesport, Pennsauken, Runnemede, Willingboro, etc.) has its own unique personality and characters. There are varieties of competitiveness, social interaction, formality, protocol and atmosphere. Each site is blessed with a good Meet-Up host.

Finally a pickleball player whose BMI is closer to many of us! Eden Lica is 6’5 and about 250 lbs. Despite his size, he has very good foot movement on the court as a singles player and he offers a nice touch and a finesse game to go with his power shots. Watch Lica’s recent singles match against Frank Anthony Davis at Delray Beach to get an idea of his agility and touch. Video starts with Lica-Davis match and continues for about 21 minutes. Note: lots of good action of other players including Ben Johns throughout video…

Experiment of one: I’ve played with a $150 Selkirk paddle but it doesn’t translate to a 100% performance improvement from playing earlier with a $75 graphite paddle. It’s often the archer, not the arrow.

Locally, informal scouting reports on players are being shared even at the intermediate level. The word of mouth reports are not only based on a player’s skills and performance but also, ominously for some, about their attitude and temperament on the court. Anecdotally I’m sad to hear stories where some players are made to feel uncomfortable because they may not be at the playing level of their fellow or lady competitors.

I commend Mindee Goldstein Hewitt for her continued improvement. She’s a pickleball dynamo and whirlwind. Not big in size, but big in heart. I’ve played with her on the Pennsauken courts. She is about a foot smaller than me but possesses a spirit and enthusiam for the game that complements her ever increasing level of skills and performance. She always has a smile on her face and has an energy level that belies her age.

If you measure your game solely by wins and losses instead of the opportunities for improvement, having fun and meeting friends/new people then you don’t understand the game.

The current performance gaps between Ben Johns from other men’s professionals and Simone Jardin from other women’s professionals are huge. Both are dominating pickleball like an early Mike Tyson with boxing and Simone Biles in gymnastics. Both players need rivalries and with new talent moving in from tennis and other sports, they soon may find it. Johns is dominating current pickleball like Bjorn Borg dominated tennis in the 1970s.

I’m amused that some of the topics (paddles, illegal serves, rules interpretions) on various Facebook pickleball forums draw as much heat as those on political topics.

I’m noticing that the streams and commentary on YouTube and Facebook from different pickleball venues and tournaments continue to improve. Those improvements will generate a wider audience and interest from casual fans.

The one exercise that may be most helpful for pickleball players is hitting a speed bag. Many pickleball shots, at the net, are like a boxer’s jab, requiring no wind up but quick flicks, reactions and jabs. Advanced pickleball players need the hand speeds and reflexes possessed by top amateur and professional boxers when parrying hard shots and volleys at the net.

My pickleball goals for this spring and summer are simple. I want to reconnect and play with old friends who I have not seen due to the Covid outbreak, improve my serve, try singles play and stay healthy.

See you on the courts!

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.

***

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.

***

Ben Johns: Pickleball = Michael Jordan:Basketball

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

***

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

***

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?”

***

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.”

***

( 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.

***

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!

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.)

***

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.