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.

***

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…

***

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.

***

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.”

***

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.