I was a history major in college. The past has always fascinated me. Especially the Middle Ages. I had an exciting history teacher in high school, Paul Tedesco, who stimulated an interest on my part in American history. And, it was my very good fortune to have had a great medieval history professor in college, Norman F. Cantor.
I never actually never learned that much history, from the point of view of factual knowledge. What I most liked, especially in the college courses I took, was great historical writing from the aesthetic point of view.
Be that as it may, I would like in this post to “expound” briefly on something that has occurred to me from time to time.
History is all well and good — and necessary (I don’t mean to show ignorance by detracting from it) — but if you want to know what the past was really like, fiction is the best, without question. It can tell you better than a nonfiction monograph, better than a work of scholarship, about the past, not only make you feel like you are there, but feel what it was like, experience it vicariously, and learn all sorts of little things about how those times were different, from how people behaved to their households and customs. There is no comparable way to experience and know the past; there’s no comparison.
To give an example, I have been reading Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837).
In Chapter V, Mr. Pickwick and his companions hire a post-chaise to take them from the town of Rochester to Dingley Dell manor, a distance of fifteen miles. “It was a curious little green box on four wheels,” Dickens writes, “with a low place like a wine-bin for two behind, and an elevated perch out front, drawn by an immense brown horse.”
That’s how gentlemen traveled in those days.
There is not enough room in the post-chaise for the entire party of four, so one of them, Mr. Winkle, has to travel on horseback. Mr. Winkle experiences difficulty mounting his horse, and it runs away. The other horse runs off with the chaise, which eventually crashes into a wooden bridge. The party end up walking the distance, leading by its harness “a dreadful horse that [the party of travelers] can’t be got rid of.”
The scene, as told by Dickens, is hilarious. And it illustrates what traveling was like in the English countryside in the early nineteenth century. You had to hire a coach and driver or rent your own horse to ride. (And people as a matter of course could ride on horseback in those days.) But, hiring the horse was often a problem. Yes, coaches would ply the streets of London, but, depending on your transportation requirements and where you were, you might have to find a hosteler. Then, travelling by horseback or coach was much, much slower than traveling nowadays. In Chapter IX, Mr. Pickwick hires a coach to pursue the fleeing scoundrel Alfred Jingle:
‘Pretty situation,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, when he had had a moment’s time for reflection. … Pickwick Club. Damp chaise — strange horses — fifteen miles an hour — and twelve o’clock at night!’
Also, in Chapter V, there is a description of the interior of a roadside public-house in a small town:
a large apartment, with a red brick floor and a capacious chimney; the ceiling garnished with ham, sides of bacon, and ropes of onions. The walls were decorated with several hunting-whips, two or three bridles, a saddle and an old rusty blunderbuss….
And, “an old eight-day clock.” This refers to a clock that could run for eight days without having to be wound. It feels so nineteenth century and unlike any lodging one would stay at in one’s travels nowadays. Certainly not a Ramada or Holiday Inn!
When you go to this page, the book will display. It may seem a little hard to navigate at first. But I found that if you simply left click once on the mouse, each time you left click, the book will advance one more page (will advance to and open up the next two-page spread).
When you do this left clicking thing, your pointer has to be on top of the image of the book.
If you left click on a RIGHT HAND page, the book will advance one page. If you left click on a LEFT HAND page, the book will go back one page.
Your pointer has to be in the page when you click on it, in the middle, so to speak. If you click on the margin, it will advance a lot of pages forward or back.
On page 14 is the English Department. Seated in the bottom photo is the department chairman, Mr. Tighe. I had him in my junior and senior years, and his influence on me was immense: the development of writing and critical reading skills. especially the former.
On page 15 is the Social Studies Department. Seated in front is the chairman, Paul Tedesco, a dynamic young teacher and recent Harvard graduate. He liked me and promoted me with respect to getting a scholarship for excellence in American history. I had him in my junior and senior years for American and European history. Somehow, he burned out or didn’t get along with the administration or other faculty members and he did not last long at the school, which was unfortunate.
The Mathematics Department is shown on page 16. The chairman, shown in two of the photos, was Mr. Badoian. He was an outstanding teacher. See
I had four years of math with Mr. Badoian: Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry and Advanced Mathematics. I was by no means his best student, but I did work very hard and did very well. It was of great value to me in future studies and endeavors.
On page 18 is the Foreign Language Department. I took four years of French and two years of Latin. Sadly, my favorite French teacher, Miss McCauley, was gone by my junior and senior years. But Miss Bertrand, the elderly department chairman, was still there. She is shown in a photo at the bottom of the page with language lab headphones. She liked my older brother and me. I took Latin and French with her. She was very nice.
The Guidance Department is shown opposite the Foreign Language Department on page 19. Miss Perlmutter, in the top photo, was an attractive woman who was very nice to me once in my senior year when we had a discussion in which I confided to her that I was overly anxious about my schoolwork. She was very understanding and tried to help me relax a bit.
On page 20, at the top, is the librarian, Mrs. Haines. She had a husband who was a popular history teacher. She was quite attractive for a middle aged woman. She was very nice. I had extensive library privileges because of my good academic standing. I could go to the library whenever I liked during free periods. Mrs. Haines had an attractive daughter, Linda Haines, who was in our class.
At the bottom of page 20 is shown the speech teacher, Mrs. Fertman, with whom I took an extra credit course in my sophomore year.
There is a story about Mrs. Fertman. She was very young, seemed quite motivated, seemed kind of insecure. A fellow student, John Bosanquet (who died tragically in his sophomore year; see below), played some sort of prank on her, put something over on her in class.\
Mrs. Fertman approached me later and asked me about it. I don’t recall exactly what she asked me, something like who did it or what was up? I said I didn’t know, which was not true, because I did.
A little while later, Mrs. Fertman encountered me on the stairs. She was crying and very upset. She had found out the truth and that a prank had been played on her. She said something to the effect that she had thought she could trust me, of all students, and now I had let her down, and she was completely shattered, and had given up all her faith and belief in teaching. I didn’t know what to say. I still feel bad about this incident. The reason I didn’t tell her anything was because I had been taught by my parents to never squeal on anyone and therefore felt I had to keep silent although I felt really bad for her.
As far as I know, Mrs. Fertman did not quit, fortunately.
On page 21 at the top is a photo of Mr. Judge, chairman of the Music Department, who was an extremely nice person. I took some kind of art course with him.
The Physical Education Department is on page 23. Mr. King and Mr. Kidd are shown in a photo on the bottom left. Mr. King was my track coach. He was very dedicated and a good coach. He was sort of reserved, wasn’t the easiest person in the world to get to know.
Mr. King once threw me a desperation pass, which was way off target, when we were playing touch football during gym class. Somehow, I managed to catch it at my sneaker tops. I don’t think he thought I ever would.
Mr. Kidd was the hockey team coach. He had grown up poor and made something out of himself. He inspired me and a lot of other kids in junior high where I had him for phys ed.
Mr. Gibson, the chairman of the Physical Education Department, is shown in the bottom center of page 23. He was an intelligent, well spoken guy and occasionally taught other subjects like English. He had been a star college athlete at Boston University, had been signed by a professional baseball team, and briefly played in the minor leagues.
Mr. Gibson was the baseball coach. He was very popular, but I can never forgive him for the way he treated me when I went out for baseball in my junior year. He didn’t want me on the team and let me know it. It was really unfair. I think he thought I was a scholar who had no aptitude for baseball, and maybe the fact that I wore thick glasses had something to do with it. But at least one teammate did wear glasses, Warren Kelson (who I learned at our 50th reunion is deceased, sadly), and that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Gibson.
I can never forgive or forget the way he treated me. I was deeply hurt but was resolved not to show it or quit.
My photo, etc. is on page 62 amidst the senior class profiles.
On page 52 is the football team co-captain Russell Minkwitz, the classmate of mine who recently died, tragically.
Page 68 is headed “In Memoriam” and is dedicated to our former classmate John Bosanquet. John Bosanquet was my friend. He died in our sophomore year in an accident; he was hit by a truck while on a newspaper route early in the morning before school. John and I had shared this paper route for a while.
John was in a coma for a day or two before he died. It was my first experience with death. I was a pallbearer at his funeral.
On page 77 is a photo of me with Jean Moore, daughter of the Science Department chairman, Mr. Moore. She and I were voted Most Likely to Succeed.
On page 81, there are photos of the staff of the yearbook, The Echo. One of the photos shows my classmate Russ Minkwitz again. Next to Russ is Robert Seavey, now living in Tennessee, who recently informed me of Russ’s death.
At the bottom of page 81, in the lower right hand corner, there is a photo of (1) Mr. Morrison, an English teacher who was yearbook advisor; (2) Carol Soule, my classmate, who was assistant editor; (3) myself (the yearbook editor); and (4) Jim Russell (business manager of the yearbook), an all around student who was class salutatorian (and a fine athlete).
Carol Soule, the assistant editor, married Russell Minkwitz, the classmate of ours who died on September 15, 2015 of ALS.
Carol was an honor student. She worked very hard on the yearbook and did a lot of the grunt work. At the end of the year, she became annoyed because she felt I was not on top of things and was falling behind deadline. She told me about a week or so before the deadline that she was not going to do any more work on the yearbook and was basically quitting. I had some bad feelings about this, but we have since met at high school reunions and the hard feelings are a thing of the past.
Mr. Morrison, the yearbook faculty advisor, was a good guy. He buttonholed me in the corridor early in my senior year and told me that I had to become his yearbook editor, there was no other choice. I was already overloaded with classes, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Page 103 of the yearbook is devoted to the National Honor Society, of which I was president. I am shown standing on the left of the photo at the bottom of the page. To my right is the vice president, Jim Russell, the class salutatorian, mentioned above.
Click on Browse. Then you will see icons (boxes) that let you click on and proceed to Next Page, Previous Page, as desired. (It’s slow. Each page has to load.) But you also have a Go To option at the top where you can indicate a desired page to be taken to.
On page 106, there is a section on the Debating Club with a photo of a debate at the top. The student with a tie standing in the middle and making a point in the debate is none other than myself. I do recall that I was on the debate team, for three years, but I remember practically nothing about any debates that I competed in. Almost nothing. Yet here I am in this photo, shown as your prototypical debate team member.
At the bottom of page 106 there is a photo of the debate team with our advisor, Mrs. Fertman (the speech teacher who got so upset in the incident I described above). I am in the front row, second from the right.
To my right in the front row is Priscilla Marotta. I have had some contact with Priscilla in recent years. She wrote me some very nice emails when I was depressed. I forget just how or why we happened to get in touch, but I think she contacted me. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in Florida and has written in a book. On April 30, 2009, she wrote me “I remember your keen intelligence…even at an early age.” In another email from the same time, she wrote, “I have fond memories of an intelligent young man who was not aware of his charm.” Very nice words indeed.
On page 108, there is a photo of the staff of the school newspaper, The Mirror. I am the third from the left, standing, in the back row.
I served in various capacities on the paper. I once wrote an editorial critical of our principal, Mr. Alvino, which I think did not go over well with the administration, although no one actually said anything about it.
A lot the faculty didn’t like Mr. Alvino. The school newspaper advisor, a female teacher whose name I forget, encouraged me to submit the editorial. It was brief but punchy and well written. It took issue with some remarks Mr. Alvino had made in an assembly prior to the Thanksgiving Day football game against our archrival, Stoughton.
There is a magnifying glass icon which appears on the screen which allows you to search inside the book. If you enter the search term “Roger,” you will get a few hits. One — the second of 4 hits which appear near the bottom of the screen as small yellow “buttons” — will take you to a page with a photo of the sophomore class officers. I am on the left. I was Class President that year. For some reason, I took off my glasses for the photo.
The fourth of the four hits (small yellow buttons), if you click on it, will take you to a page with photos of the Student Council. In the bottom of two photos on that page, I am the third from the left in the middle row. Again, I took of my glasses for the photo. You know, I wasn’t that bad looking! And, I thought I was definitely not good looking and was very worried about being so homely (as I perceived it).
One further note: I was elected class president in my sophomore year, 1961-62 (as noted above). I was a popular candidate and I think I won in a landslide. I won because a classmate whom I didn’t know well, Janet Schermerhorn, decided I should be elected and campaigned vigorously for me. She came up with the campaign slogan, “vote the Jolly Roger” and put up signs all around the school.
Janet had a crush on my older brother and that got transformed into befriending me or at least taking up my cause. I was drafted to run by Janet. My brother, who was a senior, was still there. The election for sophomore class officers took place at the end of our freshman year (spring 1961).
Janet Schermehorn from that point on had no further relationship with or interest in me.
As I indicated above, the 1964 Canton High School yearbook is viewable online at
Page 9 shows the Assistant Superintendent, John O’Connell. I have a story about Mr. O’Connell.
John O’Connell, Assistant Superintendent
He was a very decent man and apparently a good administrator. He had a son a year or so behind me in our school.
I had very good attendance, almost perfect, and regarded the infraction of skipping school with something akin to horror. When kids got detention for doing this, I thought they were like criminals.
But once, in my senior year, I deliberately skipped school to participate in a sort of protest, a Civil Rights thing, in Roxbury, MA. There was some sort of “freedom school” that day along with protest activity.
I recall very little about that day. I do know that it mostly involved attending the “freedom school.” Most of the students were younger than me, and, of course, the blacks far outnumbered the whites.
I was sitting in the rear of the classroom. That evening, I caught a glimpse of myself (or at least who I thought was me) in the classroom in grainy black and white footage on the local news.
Anyway, a day or two afterwards, I was summoned, which I had not anticipated, to see the Assistant Superintendent, Mr. O’Connell. I recall that he was offsite, i.e., not in our school proper.
My meeting with Mr. O’Connell lasted longer than I would have expected. He didn’t come right out and say what he wanted to see me about. He was low key, but he obviously wanted to know the reasons behind my infraction of deliberately skipping school.
He asked me about my support for the Civil Rights movement. I answered him adequately. He had little to say, but I think he respected my idealism and sincerity. He did not make an issue out of my non-attendance and let the matter lie. I think he handled it wisely and very well.
Page 10 shows the principal, Daniel Alvino (nicknamed Brillo by the students because of the style of his hair).
I have recounted how I wrote an editorial in the school paper, The Mirror, critical of Mr. Alvino — critical, that is, of remarks he had made at an assembly. This was in my sophomore year.
When I look back on it, I feel that the editorial viewpoint of mine was reasonable, but that my overall attitude toward Mr. Alvino was not quite justifiable, perhaps. His big claim to fame seemed to be that he was a football star in his schoolboy days, and somehow I took this as evidence that he was an airhead. I knew or suspected that some of the faculty seemed to regard him with contempt or derision. So I looked down on him. He actually seemed to be a very hard working, dedicated administrator, always there and vigilant. I consider my view of him, in retrospect, to have been unfounded or at least a little unfair. It was prompted by snobbery on my part.
Page 12 shows the School Committee. Seated at the table in the right front of the photo is Dr. Erwin Gaines.
Dr. Gaines had been a high ranking librarian in the Minneapolis library system. He then came to Boston and held a similar post there. He was very respected for his erudition. He and his family lived about two blocks away from us on the same street, Chapman Street, the nicest street in town.
Dr. Gaines instituted something that was called Gaines Night. It was an extra-curricular reading group for high school students. I don’t know how they figured out whom to ask, but the participants were the smartest and most motivated kids in town. For the group, we read excellent literature and were able to read books that might be prohibited in the public schools. An example would be Orwell’s Nineteen Eighthy-Four. I don’t know if we actually read this book for Dr. Gaines’s group, but it was banned in our high school because of one sex scene in it, and I read it somewhere.
Dr. Gaines was very much the Sixties style academic. He would sit there smoking his pipe. He was low key and not overbearing; he would make comments at the end of the discussion. The discussions were always lively, and the books were very enjoyable. Dr. Gaines’s wife would take part eagerly (sitting with her knees curled up at the edge of a couch on the floor) and would serve refreshments afterward.
Page 15 shows the Social Studies Department. Second from the right in the top photo is a social studies teacher and coach, Warren Bowyer.
Mr. Bowyer was, with the possible exception of my sophomore English teacher Miss Roach, the worst teacher I ever had. No, I believe for certain that he was even worse than Miss Roach. I had him for Civics in my sophomore year, and from him I received my first ever B grade.
We began the year by learning, supposedly, about state government. We had a textbook which explained the Massachusetts legislative system and so forth. Then, we studied the federal system. We read the Constitution. Mr. Bowyer told us, stupidly, that we should memorize the Constitution. I took this literally and actually tried to do it over a weekend.
Mr. Bowyer didn’t teach. He would sit on his desk at the front of the class and ramble on about this and that. I believe he moonlighted and had no time to prepare, plus no motivation.
Mr. Bowyer coached freshman and junior varsity basketball and baseball. He was a horrible coach.
I was on the freshman basketball team coached by him. Why I went out for basketball I’ll never know. I was a big fan of the Boston Celtics, but I was a horrible basketball player with no experience or aptitude for the game. In fact, in most respects, I was completely unsuited for basketball.
Anyway, I sat on the bench, as did practically everybody else except for the starters.
In the very last game of the season, Mr. Bowyer decided to make the grand gesture of letting the bench warmers get into the game near the end as substitutes. I don’t recall, but we were probably losing. There were exactly 22 seconds left on the clock! I was so nervous that when the whistle blew and there was a tipoff, I ran the wrong way. But the game ended and no one seemed to notice.
I was on the junior varsity baseball team in my freshman and junior years. The team was coached by none other than Mr. Bowyer. During practice, he used to waste a lot of time having himself pitched to. During game, I sat on the bench; he never let us substitutes play.
Before the last game of the season in my junior year — we did not have a good team — Mr. Bowyer pledged that he would let us substitutes start the game. It seemed implicit that this meant we would play the entire game. I started the game at third base and got to bat two times. I also was involved in a couple of plays in the field. But in the middle innings, we were doing well, and it seemed like we and our team might actually win a game.
Coach Bowyer smelled victory. He took all of us bench warmer starters out of the game and put the regulars back in. I felt betrayed, angry, and frustrated.
If you use the magnifying glass search option and search for “foreign languages,” the first hit you get will be for the Foreign Languages Department. In the top photo on that page the department is shown. The first department member on the left — of the three standing behind the chairperson (Miss Bertrand) — is Eileen McCauley. She was my French teacher in my freshman and sophomore years, and I absolutely loved her class.
Miss McCauley was a demanding teacher.
I worked very hard at French and found that I had an aptitude for foreign languages. Besides being demanding, she was enthusiastic and nice (besides being attractive).
One day during class, Miss McCauley noticed with surprise that I was sitting there with a broad smile on my face. I was smiling back at her. She was momentarily dumbstruck and commented on what she observed to the class. “Roger, you’re smiling at me!” she said (or words to that effect). I knew it was a little absurd for me to be smiling like that, like a simpleton, but I did it to convey to her, nonverbally, that I was enjoying the class. I more or less didn’t care whether she thought me a fool or not. I wanted her to know how happy I was in her classroom.
My family had a big Irish setter named Rob who used to wander all around town and was known to the townspeople as Big Red. (Rob used to run on the field sometimes during football games and disrupt the game.) Rob used to get into the school sometimes and follow me in the corridor between class periods.
Once, during French period, Rob, who was outside, started barking at the shadow of a waving flag on a flagpole. Miss McCauley noticed it, stuck her head out of the window, and amused everyone by shouting at Rob in French to stop barking and shut up.
I took four years of French and was very disappointed when I found, in my junior year, that Miss McCauley had departed. I don’t know where or to what job she went.
On the left hand page, on this same two-page spread (the one with the Foreign Language Department on the right), the Science Department is shown. The bottom photo on this page shows Mr. Moore, the department chairman, at the blackboard.
Mr. Moore had a bright daughter, Jean Moore, who was in my class. His wife, as I discovered later, worked in a science lab at Brandeis University, which I attended.
I had Mr. Moore in my freshman year for general science. I had no aptitude for science and found it boring; nevertheless, I got an A.
We had Mr. Moore right after lunch and I always seemed to fall asleep midway through the class. He was low key and would drone on in a monotone. I would fight to stay awake to no avail. (For lunch in high school, I always had exactly the same thing for four straight years: two strawberry jam sandwiches on white bread that I made by myself in the mornings, plus two milks.)
If you search for “english department” in this yearbook, the first hit will take you to a photo of the department which is on page 13. Standing in the back, behind the chairman, Mr. Tighe’s, desk, on the second from the left, is Miss Clare Roach, a longtime English teacher. Next to her (to the right) is Mrs. Lowry. And, Mr. Tighe, the chairman, appears in both of the photos on this page. I have spoken of Mr. Tighe in a previous post
I had Mrs. Lowry for English in freshman year. The class wasn’t great. Mrs. Lowry was a conventional, uninspiring teacher.
What I most remember was reading Dickens’s Great Expectations. It was in a drastically abridged version and the plot seemed kind of ridiculous to me, plus you didn’t get many of Dickens’s master stokes of characterization. Only in my thirties, when I reread the novel, did I realize what a great book it is. I have read it around three or four times (at least twice in audiobook versions).
We also read Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, a standard high school book for those times. I remember exactly two lines from the poem:
But, unrequited Love! thy dart
Plunged deepest its envenomed smart,
As far as the overall story was concerned, I didn’t know what was going on.
I had Miss Roach in sophomore year. Next to Mr. Bowyer, she was just about the worst teacher I ever had. Because she was lazy and apparently didn’t want to be bothered with reading and correcting papers, we hardly ever did any writing under her.
I did practically no writing in high school until I had Mr. Tighe.
This response is from Roger Whittredge Smith, Canton High School class of 1964.
Where are you now? Family, jobs, special interest, whatever you would like to share.
I now live in Queens, New York City. I came to New York to work when I was 22 and have been here pretty much all of my life since.
New York at first awed me. I was a bit overwhelmed, yet fascinated. It was like no place I had ever experienced, certainly different from Massachusetts and much bigger, active, and cosmopolitan than Boston or Cambridge. (My family lived in Cambridge before moving to Canton when I was in the seventh grade.)
The most useful course I probably ever had was Miss Meade’s typing class at Canton High. It was a skill demanded for entry level and temp jobs in New York and got me in the door several times. It was a great class made so, I think, because of Miss Meade’s personality and energy and teaching skills. I did very well.
Most of my work life has centered around writing and editing. I worked for several companies and freelanced for a while in the 80’s. My last fulltime job was with a big multinational consulting firm in their New York office. I worked mostly in the marketing dept. and never really liked it. I was laid off in November 2001 after being there for over 12 yrs. Subsequent to that, I taught English for a few years as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University in Queens. It was a lot of work for the pay but I was very motivated and enjoyed it. Despite lacking an English degree (my college major was history), I found myself very qualified on account of my writing experience and wide reading to teach writing and literature.
I have published articles, some journalism, and book reviews. My book reviews have appeared in the New York Sun, the Indianapolis Star, Dreiser Studies, and Studies in American Naturalism.
I have been happily married since 1979. Met my wife in 1977 in a chance encounter and it changed my life. We have been blessed with two sons, Henry and Stephen.
I’m still a Red Sox fan.
I walk a lot (long distances). Have always been a walker.
I am an avid reader. I have developed a deep interest and acquired good taste in literature. I have a very good private library, built up over the years. Some of my favorite authors are Walt Whitman, Theodore Dreiser, Samuel Johnson, William Blake., and George Gissing.
I come from a musical family and am quite knowledgeable about classical music (an interest I shared with Arthur Contois in high school).
I like classic foreign films. I think my favorite film director is the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu. I love the film Au Hasard Balthasar by the French director Robert Bresson.
Where have you been? Location/work/travel…whatever you would like to impress us with. (After 50 years it’s not bragging, it’s writing it down before you forget.)
I have made frequent trips back to Massachusetts to see family and for other reasons. I always love coming back and find it easy to be there, so agreeable. Some things like the beauty of New England towns, Boston and Cambridge, the seafood (clam chowder! fried clams!) can’t be duplicated. I like New Englanders. They are polite and hospitable. I always feel kinship and rapport. Now my relatives have mostly died off and I have less reason to go.
I have been to Europe twice and Tokyo once (on a business trip). I love London and Paris. I liked Scotland a lot (went there mostly because my paternal grandfather’s ancestors came from there). I made a good friend in France on my first trip to Europe in 1972 and we have remained close friends ever since.
Modern languages I have studied are Spanish, French, and Russian.
I have traveled very little in the U.S.
What do you remember about Canton High School? Who what where when etc.
— about classmates (be kind)
Some classmates I remember fondly: Ira Priluck, Arthur Contois, Bob Seavey, Jim Scanlon, Tom Walsh, Judy Johnson, Priscilla Marotta, Russell Mankowitz; and my good boyhood friend Bob Harris.
I went through our yearbook online and was surprised how many people I remember. Most (with only one or two exceptions) I remember fondly.
John Bosanquet was my friend. His death affected me profoundly. He was going downhill on his bicycle in the early morning before school on his paper route, had just turned the corner onto Sherman Street, was near the Canton Junction RR station when he was hit by a truck. John and I had shared this paper route for a while. I think it paid $5 a week and we each made $2.50, which seemed like decent pocket money then.
John was in a coma for a day or two before he died. It was my first experience with death and I was shocked. I asked my mother, “he isn’t going to die, is he?” and she said he could die. I was devastated.
I remember the wake. John’s family was Episcopal. John was in an open casket in his Boy Scout uniform. His dream had been to go to West Point.
John’s funeral was so sad. I was one of the pallbearers. I vividly recall the burial. It was a cold, damp, dreary day. I remember Mr. Badoian standing there in a threadbare coat in the cold with his hat in his hand. I remember Judy Johnson standing behind me in tears. I remember that I was dismayed because I heard two guys (one whose name I recall, but whom I will not name) discussing the upcoming basketball game that night and whether “they [the opposing team] will play man to man defense.”
John was energetic and bright, full of vim and vigor. He was always joking and liked to tease me. We sat at the same lunch table. He liked to talk about TV programs (in which I was not at all interested). One of his favorite programs, if I recall correctly, was “The Flintstones.”
— about teachers/staff (almost anything goes)
My experience of Canton High was that it was like attending a very good prep school. Most of the teachers I had (several of them new or recent hires) were outstanding. I think it was the school’s Golden Age.
I learned by far more than I ever did in college and most of my intellectual development seemed to happen in high school.
Mr. Tighe and Mr. Badoian have to go on top of the list. While I revered them, I believe that on rare occasions they could be insensitive and mean to students (myself included).
What can I say about Mr. Tighe? Nobody ever influenced my intellectual development more. I learned from him what today would be called critical thinking skills, developed through his tutelage into a thinking adult. From him alone I learned to write (a skill I polished over the years) and also learned to read intellectually challenging material.
He would have us read something brief like a quote or magazine article in class. Then he would have us write for 15 or 20 minutes about it. It was like pulling teeth — early in the morning (we had Mr. Tighe first period) — but it was great (if strenuous) intellectual exercise, thinking and writing on the spot. He would say to the class, “Say something witty and clever about this.”
The next day Mr. Tighe would have typed up and printed on rexograph sheets (with their pleasing inky smell) excerpts from four of the previous day’s in-class essays. We would then discuss, analyze, and critique them as a class. It was great training and feedback, taught me to critique my own writing.
I learned so many ground rules for good writing from Mr. Tighe. Some of his precepts were implanted forever.
When Mr. Tighe had us critique our own writing (excerpts) in class, he would make them anonymous, leave the name of the writer off. One day in class in senior year when we were involved in this sort of analysis and discussion, Pamela Boyd was vigorously commenting on one of the pieces and strongly taking the writer’s side, it seemed. We all concluded, I don’t know how, that it was Pamela’s own piece.
I actually first took Mr. Tighe in the summer after my sophomore year, in summer school. There were only three of us, males, in the class. I took the course not because I had to but because I wanted to learn to write. We had only written two or three compositions in sophomore year with Miss Roach.
I learned an awful lot from Mr. Tighe that summer. All we did was write, practically every day. Early on, he said something complimentary to me. He said, in his usual ironic way, “I hate to have to admit it, but you’re good.” (He told me, though, that I had to improve my spelling.) But then he gave me a C+ in the first marking period of junior year. This seems, in retrospect, to have been very unfair, especially since I was a very hard worker. I think he was trying to send me a message not to be too conceited.
Mr. Tighe really prepared me for college. At the liberal arts college I attended (Brandeis), most of the courses had a term paper and most of the exams were essay exams. The writing skills I had acquired were critical to success in college and I found myself better prepared than a lot of other freshmen. The critical reading skills developed in Mr. Tighe’s class were essential too.
Mr. Tighe basically used the Socratic method to teach. He lectured when appropriate, but usually class seemed to involve a sort of dialogue. Not that much would have seemed to be going on to the casual observer, but there was actually an intense interchange of ideas occurring. He did not give homework if there was no point in it. A lot of what was accomplished got done in class.
I have never been good at reading poetry, but Mr. Tighe gave us the confidence to read and enjoy poems like Blake’s “London,” Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” (a particularly tough poem to understand without a guide), and Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” His technique was as follows. He would get us to identify words and phrases in the poem that we were mystified by. These he would write on the board. We would then discuss them until we had an idea what was being said or implied. An example would be “charter’d street” and “charter’d Thames” in the poem “London,” “dull sublunary lovers’ love” in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” or “vegetable love” in “To His Coy Mistress.” Slowly (by elucidating what the tough words and phrases meant), the poem would begin to make sense. He would say, “It all depends on asking the right questions.”
Once, as an experiment, Mr. Tighe selected four of us in the class, myself included, to read a difficult poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot for homework and to be prepared to discuss it in class the next day. The next day, he had the four of us sit in front of the class (our desks moved there). Then we began a discussion which was getting nowhere. None of us had understood the poem. Mr. Tighe pointed out a line: “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” He asked me a leading question: “So you think the speaker in the poem is a courageous, heroic figure?” Not knowing what I thought or what to answer, I said, “Yes.” Mr. Tighe said, “That does it. The experiment is over. You [meaning me and the three others] are obviously not competent to understand the poem.” He took the poems away from us and returned us to our places.
Early in our senior year, Mr. Tighe wrote a list of about a dozen books on the board one day. He said, “I’m not going to say anything more about them. These are works one ought to read in preparation for college. At the end of the year, you will be given an extra credit quiz which will be designed to determine merely if you have read the books, nothing more.”
What books were on the list? I can’t recall exactly. Nor do I recall exactly all of the books I may have read.
I think the list included Herodotus, Thucydides, Suetonius, Plutarch. It also included the following books that I do remember I read: The Iliad, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, St. Augustine’s Confessions and Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. (I absolutely loved the Confessions.)
It was my impression that the rest of the class did little of the reading.
I thought I did okay on the quiz based on these readings, but Mr. Tighe never returned them or said anything about extra credit.
I have tried to describe Mr. Badoian to outsiders and can’t seem to. What a great teacher and what a great math teacher! How does one do him justice? I was so well prepared by him for the college boards (as they were then called, I think they are now called the SAT’s) and I scored high on the advanced math achievement test, which wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Badoian. When I attended grad school, I had to brush up on math and found I was very well prepared, had retained much of what had been drilled into me in Mr. Badoian’s class.
Mr. Badoian was so industrious and conscientious. He carefully checked every homework assignment, checked all your work. Every night. (Always returned the next day.)
With Mr. Badoian it was very important to show your work. He always emphasized that he wanted to see that you understood what you were doing. If you got all the steps right and made a calculation error at the end of the problem, he would not take much credit off, if any.
Early in our freshman year, Mr. Badoian asked the class why the sign changed when a term in an equation was moved from one side of the equation to the other. A student answered that was because you had to change the sign when you “crossed the bridge,” which was what Mr. Brady had taught us in the eighth grade. Mr. Badoian retorted angrily that that was NOT the answer. The reason was that whatever you did to one side of the equation you had to do the other side to preserve equality. If you subtracted 3, say, from the left side, you had to also subtract 3 from the right side.
Mr. Badoian was no clock watcher. He was always available after school for as long as students wanted to see him. He held a sort of after school open house in his classroom. A lot of students took advantage of this, say, to follow up on something you hadn’t quite understood in class. He encouraged us to do this.
I had Mr. Tedesco junior year for American history and senior for European history. He was a dynamic teacher and friendly. He lectured college style and this seemed very exciting. We had a great American history textbook, Thomas A. Bailey’s The American Pageant, which, among other things, had great political cartoons.
I think Mr. Tedesco alienated someone (other teachers or administrators) and that led to his leaving (shortly after our class graduated). I don’t know this for a fact, but from my limited knowledge had intimations of it.
We had Mr. Bowyer for civics in sophomore year. What a waste! Mr. Bowyer was one of the worst teachers I ever had. I also had him as junior varsity coach in basketball and baseball and he was a lousy coach.
In sophomore year, I had Miss Roach for English. She was not a good teacher. But I do remember two positive things about that class. The first was that we read Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. I absolutely loved them.
The second is that I wrote a short story in class. It was closely modeled on Ring Lardner’s great baseball story “Alibi Ike.” My story, like Larder’s, was written in the first person in the language of an uneducated ballplayer. It was about a one-armed pitcher.
I got to read the story in class and everyone (Miss Roach and students) liked it. But the bell rang before I could finish the story. Miss Roach said I could finish in a subsequent class perhaps. The next day no mention was made of my story and I timidly asked at the end of the period if at some point I would be allowed to finish the story. Miss Roach said time had not permitted but maybe it would be possible in the future. It never happened though.
I had Miss Bertrand for Latin for two years and loved it. She was very nice, was near retirement then.
I took four years of French and had Miss McCauley the first two years. I absolutely loved her class. It was so much fun and she was a great teacher. Students, who always seemed to have something unkind to say, said she wore too much makeup. I thought she was attractive and had a great personality. She liked me a lot because of my enthusiasm. Also, I did very well in French. (I recall her midterm in sophomore year, when the administration decided to have us take end of term exams college style. It was a very comprehensive and tough exam.)
I found Mr. King a little difficult to communicate with at times but thought he was a fine and conscientious Phys Ed. instructor and track coach. I found Mr. Kidd to be an inspiring phys ed instructor. I know Mr. Gibson was a beloved figure in Canton but he was very mean to me as baseball coach in my junior year and I can never forgive or forget it.
— about classes/events/pranks (not to worry: statute of limitations in play here)
I remember Mr. Badoian doing the twist with a student at a student dance. I remember that two of Mr. Badoian’s all-time favorite films were Henry the Fifth with Laurence Olivier and Cyrano de Bergerac. Mr. Badoian loved the actress Sophia Loren and had a big picture of her on the wall. Mr. Badoian used to tell us that it becomes a lot harder to study new subjects and learn new things as one gets older.
Bob Seavey and I participated in the science fair as a team in our freshman year.
Bob urged me to participate with him. I should say “do a science project” with him, but to tell the truth, we hardly did any project at all. I was an indifferent science student and in fact a poor one. I hadn’t thought of participating in the science fair until Bob suggested it. With his strong persuasion and feelings of guilt and obligation on my part, I agreed. Bob needed a partner.
Maybe we got extra credit for participating. Probably. I forget.
We scoured around for a topic – we only had a few days – and Bob finally came up with one, Soilless Gardening. I don’t know how he came up with it! We made up some kind of placard and textual material that we probably lifted from some publication. Then, for our exhibit, we took some plants and put them in a container of water! That was the extent of our “scientific work” and that was the whole of our exhibit.
The judges strolled around from exhibit to exhibit. When he got to ours, the judge was a bit consternated, then asked if we had grown the plants ourselves by a soilless method. We admitted reluctantly that we hadn’t. The judge seemed amused and he moved on to the next project.
In my sophomore year, we had a new speech teacher, Mrs. Fertman. She was very young, seemed quite motivated, seemed kind of insecure. John Bosanquet played some sort of prank on her, put something over on her in class. Mrs. Fertman approached me later and asked me about it. I don’t recall exactly what she asked me, something like who did it or what was up? I said I didn’t know, which was not true, because I did. A little while later, Mrs. Fertman encountered me on the stairs. She was crying and very upset. She had found out the truth and that a prank had been played on her. She said something to the effect that she had thought she could trust me, of all students, and now I had let her down, and she was completely shattered, and had given up all her faith and belief in teaching. I didn’t know what to say. I still feel bad about this incident. The reason I didn’t tell her anything was because I had been taught by my parents to never squeal on nyone and therefore felt I had to keep silent although I felt really bad for her.
I think Mr. Judge was the nicest teacher ever, a really nice man as well as dedicated teacher. He once asked me to attend a concert he was giving one evening to help him out. It turned out he wanted me to do a simple task involving opening doors to the auditorium when he gave me a signal from the stage. Somehow, I screwed this up and didn’t carry out instructions. Afterwards, instead of complaining or finding fault with me, he said, “Thank you so much for being there and helping me. I really appreciate it.” He never said anything about my messing up.
In Mr. Tighe’s English class, the term paper at the end of the senior year was a big deal.
Mr. Tighe taught us how to do research using index cards. My paper was on J. D. Salinger. I did research in the Boston Public Library. But, being a procrastinator of the worst sort, I had to stay up all night the night before the paper was due and barely got it written and typed. That night I smoked my first cigarette, a Lark, bummed from my older brother, and felt like I was going to pass out. (It felt like my head was buzzing and ringing when I took a drag.) I finished the paper late and got to school at about 8:20 a.m. School started at 8 and Mr. Tighe’s class was first period. I got to school a little late, as I have said, and one of the secretaries, Mrs. Berteletti, said to me, “nice of you to come to school today, Roger!” You were supposed to get some sort of punishment (detention?) if you were late, but nothing was done and I went straight to Mr. Tighe’s room. He greeted me as I entered and said, with gentle sarcasm, “Well, well, Mr. Smith, you’re here! Mr. Russell and Mr. Kelson [referring to Jim Russell and Warren Kelson] were saying some very uncomplimentary things about you [indicating they thought I had skipped school on the day the paper was due].” I replied to Mr. Tighe, “A heavy weight of hours bears me down.” This was a pun referring to the fact that I had pulled an all-nighter. Mr. Tighe was very amused. “A heavy weight of hours” is a phrase from Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” a poem we had recently been studying.
At graduation, I got a $100 scholarship for excellence in American history from the American Legion. I was very pleased to get this award. I think Mr. Tedesco may have had something to with it.
Two exams with Mr. Tedesco in which I did particularly well stand out. One was an essay I wrote in my junior year comparing the public reaction to John Glenn to Charles Lindbergh. I started out by making a brief outline for my own benefit. Mr. Tighe had taught us to do this, make an outline before you write. (I no longer do this.) Mr. Tedesco really liked the essay, singled it out, and gave me an A. He apparently told Mr. Tighe because Mr. Tighe complimented me too. (It was not easy to get compliments from Mr. Tighe.) The other was an exam in our senior year when we were studying the French Revolution. The exam included a famous quote from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” There were several questions on the exam and then at the end, at the bottom of the page, there was a bonus question: “Do you know who wrote this passage?” I have always had a keen memory for odd facts that stick in my mind and it seemed like I might know the answer, but I couldn’t think of it. I kept racking my brain. We had read A Tale of Two Cities in freshman year with Mrs. Lowry and that may have helped because I suddenly thought, Charles Dickens!, and wrote that down. I was the only one who got the correct answer and I got an A on the test.
I used to fall asleep in class. It was a real problem and was embarrassing. I was over programmed with after school sports, various activities, and homework. The falling asleep started in freshman year with Mr. Moore’s science class. Mr. Moore was a very decent man and probably a good teacher but he droned on in a monotone and I couldn’t stay awake. We had him right after lunch. I got an A for the course, but I didn’t really learn anything, stunk at science, didn’t have a clue. (I did do the work.) It was very embarrassing because I would fall asleep during class, then wake up with a start and kick the chair in front of me, calling attention to myself.
Mr. Badoian was very vigilant and it was very hard to nod off or wander during his class, but I once managed to fall asleep there. I was right next to Jean Moore (a very smart, quiet girl). Mr. Badoian was amused. He said to Jean, “Catch him! He’s going to topple over!” Or something like that.
Football games were great to watch at Canton High. You could stand on the side of the field and get a great close up view of the action with no problem. You could hear the slap of the pads as the players collided and actually hear the players curse each other.
In our sophomore year, something exciting happened to our offense. The coach in a daring move decided to play Billy Gardner at quarterback. Prior to that, Joe Kelleher had been the quarterback (he had by now graduated) and he almost never passed. All he ever did was hand off. Thus, I was excited to see Billy Gardner drop back into the pocket, set up, and throw passes, a high percentage of which he completed. We didn’t have a great team, but it was a whole new dimension to the offense which made the games a lot more fun to watch.
I remember the student-teacher basketball game. Mr. Gibson was serving as play by play announcer/color commentator on the PA system and when Mr. King missed a shot, he joked, “a little high, Sky.” I remember Mr. Badoian, who was a standout player at Brown, playing in the game and taking distinctive, high arched two-handed set shots. The game drew great interest.
I recall Mr. Gibson using navy lingo in gym class (“topside,” for example). (He was a WWII Navy vet.) He liked words and always called us cross country team members the “harriers.”
I was elected class president in my sophomore year. I was not a good class president. However, I was a popular candidate and I think I won in a landslide. I won because Janet Shermehorn decided I should be elected and campaigned vigorously for me. She came up with the campaign slogan, “vote the Jolly Roger.” If I remember correctly, Janet had a crush on my older brother and that got transformed into befriending me or at least taking up my cause. I was drafted to run by Janet. (My brother, who was a senior, was still there. The election for sophomore class officers took place at the end of our freshman year.)
I was on the staff of the student newspaper, the Mirror, in my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. A couple of things stand out. The first is that in my sophomore year, I wrote an editorial critical of a speech (remarks at an assembly prior to the 1961 Thanksgiving football game) made by our principal, Mr. Alvino. The editorial was short and well written. The Mirror faculty advisor, a woman whose name I do not recall (Miss Bailey?), said it was okay to publish my views. She was liberal and I think a lot of the faculty didn’t like Alvino. I sensed this and didn’t approve of him myself. In retrospect, I think I was being kind of snobbish and that my views (about Mr. Alvino in general) may have been kind of unfair. But I don’t regret the editorial.
However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the editorial may have prejudiced the administration and especially Mr. Alvino against me (though he never mentioned the editorial to me). When the National Honor Society was selected that year, I was not chosen. The lowest grade I got in my freshman and sophomore years was one B+ in civics for one marking period. I seemingly had good moral character and participated in many school activities. So, it was odd that I wasn’t chosen. (I was selected to the National Honor Society later and in fact became National Honor Society president in my senior year.)
A nice thing that happened with the school newspaper was that I was sports editor for a while and in my junior year we did an especially good job. (We also had a new and better printing format for the paper.) Mr. Tripp, a science teacher and the basketball coach, buttonholed me in the corridor and told me enthusiastically that it was the best sports section he had ever seen in the Mirror.
I became yearbook editor because Mr. Morrison drafted me for the job. He told me I had to do it.
By the end of the year, we were running behind schedule, I was having trouble keeping on top of things, and the assistant editor was pissed at me. Came the night of the senior class banquet, which I think was on the day before graduation, and several students were muttering and expressing discontent because the yearbooks weren’t there. Then they arrived (during the banquet)! The printer came through big time and suddenly everyone had a good word to say about me.
My family had a big, awkward Irish setter named Rob (known as Big Red by many townspeople) who used to run all around town attracting attention. Rob used to raid garbage pails and he would run onto the field during football games. One school day when I was in the corridors between classes, Rob got into the building and started following me. I was muttering under my breath “go home Rob!” while trying not to attract attention to me or my dog.
One day during French class, Rob started barking at the shadow of a waving flag in the parking lot and Miss McCauley stuck her head out of the window and started talking to Rob in French (telling him to go home). I must have told her he was my dog.
In the summer of 1962, the school came up with a reading program. We were to read three books over the summer and write book reports. The reports would be graded by parents in Canton who had volunteered for the job, not teachers.
I recall that two of the books I read were Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Fear Strikes Out by baseball player Jimmy Piersall. I don’t recall the third book.
The parents were harsh graders. They took their job too seriously. The Shakespeare play I read was in a Folger Library edition paperback costing 35 cents. I mentioned in my book report that the book was a very good deal at the price. The anonymous parent grader wrote on my paper, “What are you trying to do? Sell the book?”
Nothing was said about the extra credit we were supposed to get on our first term grades for these book reports and I believe they were ignored.
President Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, in our senior year. Mr. Alvino came on the loudspeaker shortly before the end of the school day to announce that the president had been shot. We did not know then that the wound was mortal.
On Tuesday, November 26, in Mr. Tighe’s first period English class, we were given the assignment of writing a brief impressionistic piece on the Kennedy funeral. We were told that one piece would be selected to be read at a memorial assembly on the next day, Wednesday. Linda Castellarin’s piece won. I recall her reading it and the haunting lines she had written as a refrain, “And the caissons kept rolling.”
I was on the debate team in my freshman and junior years. The only debate I recall (in my junior year) was against a powerhouse team from some top high school. I do not remember what the topic of the debate was, but it was held after school. Mr. Tighe was the referee. There were two students on each side.
I was not prepared to debate the topic. The other team looked very confident, in fact arrogant. They went first. Then it was our turn. I got up and said that the other team’s arguments were irrelevant because they were debating on the wrong topic! With that, Mr. Tighe said it was true, they had chosen the wrong topic, and he had no choice but to declare us the winners. The other team was flabbergasted and annoyed. I was very pleased that we had won, especially considering that I was totally unprepared.
I would like to conclude by mentioning the 1959 Thanksgiving football game against our arch rival Stoughton, which occurred while we were still in junior high school. That was the most memorable sporting event of my life, ever! (This is saying something. I was at the game when Havlicek stole the ball. And, I was at the last game of the 1967 season when the Red Sox clinched the pennant.)
I’m certain that everyone remembers what a big deal the Thanksgiving game always was. The day before, Wednesday, was always a half school day. In the fall of 1959, we had an assembly in the morning which was a pep rally and that evening a pep rally and big bonfire which were exciting for a kid. That was Wednesday, November 25.
The new high school building had just been completed and the adjacent building, the old high school, had become the junior high school, which we had moved into. We junior highers were allowed, because of the special occasion, to attend the assembly in the building across the way.
The assembly/pep rally was really an inspiring event, with all the team on the stage. I vividly recall when one of the players, Kenny Oles, got up to speak. He was not a polished speaker. He was small for a football player. He kept saying, nervously (because he wasn’t accustomed to speaking in public) but confidently, “we’re gonna win!” “we’re gonna win!”
The other players spoke too and they were inspiring.
The game was great. Canton scored two touchdowns but the extra point try failed both times, so we led 12-0. Then Stoughton, which had lost only one game all year, scored and got a 2-point conversion, making the score 12-8 Canton. It seemed inevitable that Stoughton was going to come back to win.
In the fourth quarter, Stoughton had the ball a lot. They kept doing end runs and it kept looking like a running back was going to break free. Yet each time some Canton defender would come out of nowhere and make a crucial open field tackle.
Finally, near the end of the game, Canton got the ball back deep in their own territory. They kept moving up the field. Time was running out. Then fullback and star Charlie Patriarca made this amazing run that broke the game open. He went 40 yards into the end zone, twisting and turning and refusing to be tackled. When he scored, there was a rumble at the goal line and the officials declared the game over. I think there were only seconds left on the clock. Canton never got to attempt the extra point. The final score was Canton 18 Stoughton 8.