BEFORE STARTING SCHOOL: 1949-1954... Born near East River docks in Brooklyn, NYC. Underclass neighborhood. Brownstone tenements. Cold house. Very sickly. But a real Brain (i.e. studious nerd). Taught to read by parents long before Kindergarten from a book about Microbiologists entitled "Microbe Hunters". (Mother made it to 6th grade and father to 9th grade. Stopped by parents deaths or disappearance during Great Depression)
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, PS 126, BROOKLYN 1954-1959 (John Ericsson School, He built the Monitor in Greenpoint):... Top classes in each grade. Top Honors Awards on stage. (Mother always worked so noone there to see). Years ahead of my age in Math, Redaing and all other subjects. Very sickly. All mind and no body. Small for age. Missed ten weeks of school a year due to illnesses. Homework brought to home. Only "only child" in very Polish neighborhood of big Catholic families. Only "Latch key" kid as all other mothers stayed home. Latch key kid from Kindergarten through High School. The perfect studious nerd. In the highest class of each grade of 12 levels. Started school early due to October birthday. Stayed indoors when not sick, too many nasty kids. Loved doing the best on tests. No grandparents, long dead or disappeared. Physician told parents to send me to Florida for my health and on first day there with my mother a kid made a dog chase us, led me up on top of the doghouse, and then pushed me off onto the dog and breaking my arm. As I yelled, "You broke my arm", he ran off laughing. This was typical of the way other kids treated me until I was 6'2". To this day I hate the sight of boys. Father worked in factories. Mother worked in 5&10 and A&P and other service jobs plus a factory one. Physicians thought it would help my frail health if I had my tonsils out. While waiting in a big room of toys with the other kids I built things with blocks and strings that caused them to call for the psychologist to interview me. Into Davy Crockett at age 5, 1955 and Zorro in 1957, age 7. But did not get involved in Hula Hoops in 1958 even though I helped bring the very first ones into the 5&10. From age 8 on I had contempt for what I called "conformists", refused to join any more brainwashed fads and called myself a 'non-conformist'. To get the Zorro cards, though, I used to go to the factories that surrounded my block of tenements on three sides and ask the workers for bottles for the deposits. Had a bath every Saturday night and I always got out in time to watch "Oh,Susannah" on TV (I mention this as Gale Storm met her husband in Bloomington, Indiana). Mother extremely Catholic, brought me up from birth the same way. Church 3x a week. Constant fear of divine punishment "for any thought, word, or action". Came straight home from school and did homework immediately at a specific desk in an empty house. Waited for parents. If they couldnt get home by Supper somone would bring food in and leave or Id find something in the refrigerator. Liked school. Teachers liked me. I had a fantastic attention span. Loved Astronomy. Constantly took out Astro books from library but they never taught it in school.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, PS 122, Queens: 1959-1961 ... In February 1959 moved up the East River to the Hell Gate area of Queens while half way through 4th grade. Still the same small, smart, sickly, studious only child and latch key kid. Worst thing that ever happened to me. New teacher in a new school and I enter half way through the term. Teacher was mentally ill. Terrorized me. Actually led her class in attacking me.(I later heard that it had something to do with her child getting killed by a car in front of her eyes.). Now terrified of school. I then feared school from 4th grade to 9th grade. Hated it. Just sat and watched clock and worried about being attacked at any moment. With same class of bullies in 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Then 7th, 8th, and 9th. Terrorized every day. Grades went down and later-teachers always lectured me about no longer living up to my potential yet none of them protected me from the daily attacks. Always sickly. I'd often miss 50 school days a year. Both homes in Brooklyn and Queens had little heat. My parents would pile clothes on me. Always small for age. Not tough enough for my neighborhood either but kids near house not nearly as bad as ones at school. Still, I stayed in almost all the time or I rode the subway trains alone whenever I could. My love of learning went down and my attention span collapsed. Yet they kept me in the highest class of every grade every year. So I had to deal with the same attackers every year. I kept scoring high on IQ tests so they kept me in the Top Class no matter what my grades hoping Id return to being the Whiz Kid I was in Brooklyn before the daily nightmare. "There is no heavier burden than a Great Potential". I thought things would finally change when I left Elementary School for Junior High School but they wouldnt let me out of those classes! They invented something a level above what I had been in from First through Sixth Grades called a "Special Progress" program that had to be applied to. I deliberately tried to avoid it so I'd be away from the bullies but they dragged my parents in and talked them into overriding me. I recall all the nightmares I had in the Summer between PS 122 and JHS 141. I had planned on finally getting away from them simply by staying at the same level and not rising. Now they would still be there for three more years AND in Junior High Schools they also had GYM class which would be an additional nightmare for me as the smallest, sickliest guy surrounded by enemies. Afraid every second for those years. Lost interest in schoolwork. Lost the fantastic attention span I had in Brooklyn school. Still loved Astronomy and wanted to be an Astronomer. Went to library for Astro books. Still a Latch key kid. Still an Only Child. Still an extreme Catholic with extremely strict morality. Rarely went out even in Summer. Nothing along the East River for kids but danger and corruption. Still alway sick, small, and puny. Always out sick. Sometimes I'd worry myself sick going to school knowing how they'd all be out to get me. Only kid in the neighborhood to have his own toys as I was the only Only-Child and the only one whose mother also worked. Had to have something to do while all alone in the house so often. Had a dog since age 9 for companionship. Watched a lot of morning TV shows as was home from school sick so much. (The very first one in succession was, "My Little Margie" also staring the woman of Bloomington, Indiana fame). Had a couple of thousand comic books. My reading had actually gone backwards in terms if what I chose to read. Still went to church three times a week and was #1 in my Catechism Class as always. Played a lot of board games by myself and liked to redesign them. Always expected by everyone to go to college but noone ever told me where the money would come from as no one in that neighborhood had any. The difference between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Astoria, Queens was that people who started making slightly better incomes could move to Astoria and live in a less cramped neighborhood of "Two-Family Houses" made of plywood but once the rent was paid it ate up all the extra income and one still lived the same way as in Greenpoint, just less squeezed together. The Astoria rowhouses I lived in were 'temporary' houses made for the workers who built the Triboro Bridge in the late 1930s. At night we'd sometimes get into my fathers rattletrap car and drive around Queens and Brooklyn but we couldnt afford to actually go anywhere but sometimes we'd stop to get 12c White Castle burgers. My parents had the only car until a kid's father around the corner got one. I was so worried about the bullies around th ecorner from my home that in order to get comic books I had to go out to the tiny backyard by a big restaurant parking lot and check to see if noone was around. Than I'd squeeze between the fence and the house and run there quickly and back before being seen by the thugs. Did that for five years. Had same problem when I wanted to go on the subway. Went out front and peeked out door to make sure noone was there and then I'd run until I was out of sight. I started shoveling coal in the unlit, unheated coal cellar when I was still in PS 122 but I dont recall how old I was when I started. 9?,10? The old lady I'd shovel coal for had a little wooden house in Selden, Long Island. Sometimes we'd drive out there in those days before the highway and when it was really country. It was in the middle of Long Island. At night I'd lie in bed listening to the cars overhead on the Triboro Bridge, the tugs going through the Hellgate Strait between the East River and Long Island Sound (The General Slocum sank in those whirlpools around 1914 and its in the Almanac), the cars, truck, buses on 21st Street which was a big avenue, the planes landing at LaGuardia Airport, the trains over the Hellgate Bridge, the strongest RR bridge in the world, and the elevated trains. And I slept easy as it was a continuous hum. I never heard quiet at night until I was 14 in Pa. Sometimes my parents would take me fishing out on Long Island or to Coney Island. Coney Island was then dying and things were moving out to Rockaway and then Far Rockaway. My mother and I were there in 1963 and the Steeplechase closed in 1964. I was also sometimes taken to Freedomland, NYCs answer to Disneyland and a lot bigger and way up in the Bronx. It also died in 1964. It existed 1960-1963. I'd invite the kids of my fathers friends to my birthday parties and they'd always steal from me, break my gifts, and even badly injure me. One of my fingers is still a mess from being crushed. I hated other kids as all evil degenerates but it was either put up with their rotteness or be alone all the time. I was terrorized every school day in 4th grade in 1959 when I wasnt home sick. I was terrorized every school day in 5th grade 1959-1960 when I wasnt home sick. I was terrorized every school day in 6th grade 1960-1961 when I wasnt home sick. I almost died of illness a couple of times in Elementary School.
JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, JHS 141, Queens 1961-1964 (Steinway JHS, as in the piano manufacturer):... The same small, smart, sickly, latch key kid, only child in the very top class of each grade. But now they invented something higher than the numbered classes called a "Special Progress" program for the 'best' students in the Borough/County of two million. There were 40 of us in the beginning and 23 in the end (only 7 were boys and most of the 23 were Jews. They were studious and didnt stop studying when school was closed for Christian holidays.) I got a perfect score on the National Reading Test, the only one in the school to do so. I'd still have to sneak a peek to see if it was safe for me to leave the house and get to the candy store or elevated train and get past the bullies. I spent a lot of time in our little back yard which was the smallest one on the block as it was at the end where it was diagonal. I was into planting things and burying 'Time Capsules' like at the 1939 Fair. In 1962 I recall the Mars Invades cards came out and they coincided with my love of science, sci-fi, and Astro. But they were banned quickly enough. They also came out with equally gory Civil War cards that year. I was always expected to go to college no matter how much I was abused and no one ever told me where the money would come from. "There is no heavier burden than a Great Potential", it hung over my head since before Kindergarten. Still had occasional trips to Selden, Long Island which is more than the other kids had. A few times we'd bring another kid along of the very few who didnt bother me. They had siblings so the parents couldnt afford cars. Freedomland opened up in 1960 and it was amazing! It was bigger than Disneyland and in the North bronx which took hours to get to via trains and buses. It lasted until Fall 1963 when the Worlds Fair finished it off. Once some kids caught me across 21st street when i didnt see them coming and tried to hold me down to stick hot metal in my eyes but I got away. Another time it happened a block in the other direction but I also slipped away. I was smart enough to wait until peoples guards were down to suddenly jump and run all at once. I learned to spend long, long periods of time hiding in very small area without moving or making a sound to survive the boy-monsters. To this day whenever I hear of a boy getting killed my very first thought is that he would have been attacking me if he had known of me as a kid. I loathe boys. I know what 99% of them are when their parents arent around. I became an avid stamp collector about 1962 or 1963. I'd go to lower Manhattan above Wall Street or to Gimbels, 34th St (usually Gimbels) and buy them one at a time as they had each one under glass. I sometimes had problems with perverts going after a young boy travelling alone on the subways. I think I was first allowed to ride the subways alone at age ten in October 1959. I started going out of the house more in Summer 1963 when I was 13. Before that I almost never came out. Then I started going out more regularly. That Summer I also went to Coney Island for the last time before it died. And I'd ride my bike all over Queens and also go watch them build the Worlds Fair, Shea Stadium, and the new Grand Central Parkway access roads. In Summer 1963 my mother also went to accounting school and she was such a whiz with numbers she rose rapidly to being an executive at Macys Central which had a tie-in with the Fair. My mother was making a lot more money now due to the Worlds Fair and I had saved money and with her connections with Macy's I got a large telescope. Both my parents finally reached the middle-class in either late 1963 or early 1964 by BOTH of them working so long AND the wages paid to get the Fair done in time. Now they were REALLY gone for long periods but I was old enough to fend for myself. My father since 1961 also carried another job as a ballpark usher. Unlike other kids I never had any interest in sports and music, only scientists and very moral people. (On those rare times I went out to play stickball I'd also be the umpire and would call myself out when others thought me safe. Catholic boys fear Purgatory.) But my ballpark usher father eventually wore me down and got me interested in the teams he worked for although I never had the hero worship the other guys did. However, my interest in sports stats started and began to grow. Since age ten I started to ride the subways alone and check out NYC, especially Manhattan. Now every Sunday I'd go to the American Museum- Haydn Planetarium alone. I went to the Astoria libraries and took out every book on Astro as they still did not teach anything about it in school. Got soft-covers from the Planetarium. From 1961-1962 in 8th Grade I was terrorized every day I was in school and wasn't home sick. From 1962-1963 I was terrorized every day in school in 8th grade whenever I wasn't home sick. From 1963-1964 I was terrorized all of 1963 whenever I wasnt home sick but it slowed down as I grew and dropped off to almost nothing by when the Fair opened in April 1964. I almost died a couple of times of illness in Junior High School as I was so sickly. I especially recall when I almost died of pneumonia in early 1963 as I feared the other kids and waited until the night to sled alone at the park in the dark. I got overheated and the temperature dropped. Between 4th grade and 9th grade I would sometimes make spending money by shovelling coal in the building's coal cellar. The coal truck would pull up, dump it down the chute into an unlit, unheated coal cellar and Id go down there in the coal dust cloud and shovel the pile into the coal bin. Some apartments in NYC still ran on coal. The trick in the winter was to get it in fast enough before the sun went down as the only light was through the little wired coal chute window. MY LAST YEAR IN JUNIOR HIGH: I must have hit physical puberty as I grew 14 inches in a year between 1963 and 1964. The bullies started to back off and even invite me to their homes. I went from the shortest to the tallest. I stopped being sickly all the time and havent even had the flu since. My parents feared that I was becoming a freak as I was growing so fast. They took me to a Jewish doctor with a Concentration Camp number on his arm. He told me father I looked like the kids in the Camps and put me on a weight gaining diet. I had waited for the Worlds Fair for as long as I could remember as my father always spoke of all the science at the 1939 Fair and he was also working on this one. My father put up numerous pavilions and my mothers job at Macy's was tied in with the Fair. So I was allowed to go alone to opening day of the Fair. That same Senior year in JHS at age 14 Columbia University invited me and gave me a tour of the campus due to something I did in some sort of IQ tests. My parents, having been impoverished orphans of some kind, were into that Ivy League stuff for the prestige but I didnt care. I was impressed by scientists and they werent created bt Ivy League schools. Those schools later hired them after they were trained by larger universities. Ivy league schools didnt even have Bachelor Degrees in Astronomy/Astrophysics back the. They were mostly for Law, Medicine, and Business. But I took the tour. I remember how happy I was on the day I graduated from Junior High as I'd now be away from those kids who were there from early 1959 until mid 1964. In late 1963 or early 1964 my parents started trying to move out of NYC. Theyd drive out of town and check small homes for sale in the suburbs. My mother hated NYC even though she made good money there now at last. My father never liked moving at anytime. We almost moved to a place called Kunkletown in Eastern Pennsylvania within commuting distance of NYC. I think my parents went there, and perhaps other places, the day after the Worlds Fair opened. Because it opened on a Thursday and I was there from opening to closing without eating. Then I ate a slice of cherry pie at night and wrote on the plate for the first time. I still have that plate next to me bed 36+ years later. Then they were gone all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday looking at homes. I wasnt hungry so I didnt eat during those days. Later when I became allergic to Penicillin the thing started about my "looking like a Concentration Camp Victim".