MEMORIES OF MANASQUAN HIGH SCHOOL.
Here I sit at age 85 trying to remember things about Manasquan High School which I entered in September of 1944. I find it interesting what comes to mind first. I recall that we had several teachers with ‘provisional’ teaching certificates since the men were off to war leaving a vacancy in many positions that were filled by young women who had not yet finished their university studies. One such was the science teacher. I am afraid I gave her a hard time as I was always correcting her and finding fault with her attempts to teach us basic scientific principles. Finally she told me that I would get an “A” in the class but would have to spend the rest of the year in the library during the normal class period doing independent reading. That turned out to be the pattern with a number of my classes.
The school was blackboard jungle. The administration was a mess even ending up with the principle in a fist fight with one of the teachers in the hall way. The tools in the woodworking shop were all stolen by the students and in many classes the teachers could not maintain discipline. The German language teacher had an especially hard time with returning servicemen who had fought against the German army. When the teacher was at the board these veterans would throw chalk or blackboard erasers at the board next to the teacher. Finally the poor guy just burst into tears and ran out of the room never to return. Teachers, at times, were grossly indifferent and did minimal work at teaching. I got to dislike school and finally, rather than fight the teachers I ignored them which caused my grades to go down.
Then there was a school board election which became very heated as many citizens were aware of the deteriorating condition of the school in many ways. One of the candidates for a seat on the school board was the father of a friend of mine and I asked if I could talk to him about what was happening in the high school. He was shocked and asked if I would be willing to be his informant of what was happening. I did so and he got lots of press coverage for his charges and was elected to the school board.
Meanwhile, though, I was doing a lot of independent studies. One of my teachers was going to Rutgers University on Saturdays for classes and I would ride with him and spend the day exploring the campus and spending a lot of time in the museum and in the science buildings. There I got to know some of the faculty and staff and with their cooperation organized an exhibit for our high school library of various scientific material, especially in the field of minerology and paleontology. About once a month I would bring in a new exhibit.
I was on the Library Council and editor of the student newspaper. I took the Scientific Agriculture curriculum which prepared me for college admission but was not the ordinary Science Curriculum. As a member of the Future Farmers of America and an Ag major I had to have a summer project. Most of the kids in this curriculum lived on farms and had project related to their farm experience. I decided to raise a 1/8 acre of annuals to produce cut flowers for hotels and restaurants in our small tourism centered beach front town. I developed a regular route for delivering bouquets of flowers to the hotels and restaurants and ended making more money at that than any other student in the ag classes.
Our Ag teacher was planning on going up to Cornell University to attend a function there to be held on a Saturday night. He offered to take three of us Ag students with us to see this famous Land Grant College. I was one of the three that went. We drove all day Friday and settled in to our hotel rooms that evening. The next morning and early afternoon we toured the campus which was awesome! The campus was on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Cornell, New York. The buildings were what I would have imagined one would find in Oxford or Cambridge, England. We were all truly impressed. Then, that evening, while our instructor attended his formal function, we three teenagers went exploring by ourselves. We noticed that some of the streets from the university went straight down the hill to the city below. Wow! we thought, what a sleigh ride that would be. Then we got the idea to roll several of the recently emptied garbage cans down the hill. Without giving thought of the damage to an automobile, much less to a person if they crashed into them, we let several go clattering and banging down the hill. We ran like hell and got back to the hotel before anyone caught us and sent us to jail for the night. Looking back I know it was a pretty stupid thing to do. At the time it was high adventure.
There was a massive greenhouse complex about a mile from my house that was closed down as the owner/operator had died and with all the guys off to war there was no staff to run the operation. I approached the widow and asked if I could rent one of the greenhouses, about 60ft. by 100ft in size, for raising chrysanthemums. She let me use one free but it had no heat, only water but since the crop would come in before winter set in I had no concern. Well, as luck would have it a major greenhouse operator from another part of the state leased the entire operation from the widow and planned to open the place to commercial production. The widow informed the new operator that I had the right to one of the greenhouses for one year which sort of got in the way of his plans so he asked me to see him. He offered me a job with his company for as many hours as I wanted to work. I accepted the offer and gave up on my plans for raising mums and instead helped him do so. This was during my Junior and Senior year of high school.
My worst subject in High School was Physical Education. I was over 6′ tall and skinny. I was a P.E. wimp with little strength but lots of endurance. I was not involved in any high school sports such as baseball, football or basketball. The P.E. teachers were the coaches for the various varsity sports and during PE class time separated the kids who were on the school teams and gave them half the gym and the new equipment while 80% of the class was given the other half of the gym and basketballs that were only half-inflated, etc. One of my good friends in our Boy Scout troop was one of the football heroes of the school and active in other sports as well. Many years later I told him how much I envied him for his physical prowess and success at sports. He astonished me by saying that I was his high school hero, that I was doing things that no other kid in the school would have dared to do! He felt that my taking off at age 16 with a knapsack and sleeping bag in June of 1947 and “hitting the road” and hitch hiking around the nation for three months between my sophomore and junior years was an incredible adventure that no other HS student would have dared to do. My excursions up to New York City by myself on the Jersey Central train or hitch hiking up and exploring the museums, art galleries and the many market areas of the city (leather markets, feather markets, etc.) had him in awe. He wished he had the guts to do something like that…. but he was a tiger turned loose on the football field.
When I graduated high school I donated to the science department all of my natural science collections which included hundreds of specimens of rocks and minerals, fossils, animal skulls and many other objects that I had collected in the preceding four or five years. During my last year in high school I made plans for my great adventure, a bicycle trip to South America.