The other day, our grandsons Robbie, now 16 and a sophomore in high school, and Phil, all of 12 and in middle school, were at our house, and somehow the subject got around to teachers.
Fortunately, both boys said they liked their teachers, and I was delighted to hear that and equally important, I know that education comes much more smoothly when a kid has a teacher that they look upon as more than just an instructor, but as a friend.
Then Robbie asked grandpa if he liked all the teachers he had long ago in elementary and high school, and I guess I gave the boys a surprising answer.
I told the boys that the teachers and coaches I had at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, N.Y. not far from the Brooklyn county line, were first-rate with the sole exception of the school’s assistant principal — a very stern lady who never laughed, just barked and scowled as she made her way through the school’s hallways.
Phil asked a great question: “Did you ever get in any trouble with her, grandpa?” and I had to admit that I did and never forgot it.
In fact, after all these years I still vividly recall Oct. 3, 1947.
“Tell us about it — what happened?” Robbie exclaimed, and my story went back a very long time to a day I still can recall.
As a History period ended that long-ago afternoon, I was on my way to a study period where I could do some homework in advance when a school chum who played on Grover Cleveland’s baseball team with me stopped me in the hallway to tell me some startling news.
I learned that in the fourth game of the 1947 World Series was still in progress at Ebbets Field, not far from Grover Cleveland High just inside the Queens line, and that a New York Yankees pitcher named Floyd (Bill) Bevens was pitching a no-hitter against those Dodgers. Those words prompted me to dash to a public telephone in the school’s foyer for an update.
The New York Daily News that morning had posted a telephone number baseball fans could use to get up-to-date news on what was happening at Ebbets Field in old Brooklyn, and I had jotted the number down.
So into that telephone booth I went, and seconds after I dropped a nickel into the slot to call the number for an update on the game in progress. The telephone door was wrenched open, and there was the assistant principal, Ms. Fink, with fire coming out of her nostrils, ordering me to get out of the booth in no uncertain terms.
Ms. Fink, who took no prisoners, said, “Follow me, boy.” She had a face purple with anger as I trailed her down the hall, and while girl students giggled, a few brave boys in the crowd changing class shouted out from the back of the crowd, “Way to go, Ace!”
After what to me seemed my “last mile” we arrived at the principal’s office and a meeting with the school’s principal, Dr. Charles Tonsor, who ordered Ms. Fink to “take a hike!”
In the principal’s office that I learned that he, too, was a baseball fan and he turned on a transistor radio so we could listen to the game together.
The Dodgers won that day 3-2 on Cookie Lavagetto’s two-out double, and Bill Bevens lost a no-hitter, but I had made a friend in Dr. Tonsor.
A year later at the graduation of the class of 1948, Dr. Tonsor hadn’t forgotten me, and when we shook hands as he handed me my diploma, my “pal” said, “Congratulations,” and then “Justice and baseball triumphed, didn't they!"
Ev Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-9956.