Boy Pranks at JHS 125
by Steven Wolfe
After PS 150, I went on to Junior High School 125. In the 7th grade, my home room teacher was Mrs. O’Connor. She was wonderful but did not always put up with all of my antics. Some more trips were made to the principal’s office, sometimes with my parents. Still, I liked her a lot and she taught well.
We skipped eighth grade because we were in the SP class, SP standing for Special Progress. My wife insists that this resulted in my not learning two things: (1) the number of days in each month – I still have to recite the nursery rhyme to get the answer right; and (2) how to parse a sentence. But I did not have to know the parts of speech to speak and write well. I was the son of two highly educated parents and by listening to them, learned all the grammar I needed. My mother corrected me when I went astray, and I never had to be told twice.
There were two SP classes and Sheila Feldman, the girl of my dreams in elementary school, was not in my class this time around. Sheila, however, was replaced in my fantasy world of affection by Ellie Paris who was in my class. She was a cute redhead, very bright and we often sat near each other since seating was arranged on the basis of grades. The kids with the poorer grades were seated up front. Seat number 1, in row number 1 was always occupied by Arnold Albert who was consoled in thinking he had that seat because his name began with “A.” He never figured out that we were covering up for him, and his grades never improved because of his proximity to the teacher.
My ninth grade teacher was a horror. Miss Margaret Crowley. She was an elderly spinster who looked and acted like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. She was irascible and a tad unbalanced. She taught math and had a wooden compass which was used to draw circles on the blackboard. On one occasion, one of the students was called to the blackboard to perform an exercise which required drawing a circle. She offered the student her wooden device. He promptly broke it, much to her dismay. She would have eventually forgotten about the incident, but every time she called that student to the blackboard, I’d remind her in a stage whisper that this was the boy who had broken her wooden compass, and she’d launch into a new tirade about the student’s clumsiness. I considered it very funny that this mere reminder could trigger anew her anger over the incident.
One time, she suffered from a slight infection on her middle finger. Her doctor had recommended that she keep the finger in warm water, so she kept a glass of water on her desk and periodically immersed the offending finger in it. Predictably, a student, while at her desk, knocked the glass of water over. And once again, when she called on that student to recite, I reminded her that this was the boy who had knocked over her water glass. Each time, she reacted with the same vigor and bawled the boy out again. This all sounds quite devilish now, but we found it fun to be able to repeatedly trigger the same emotional outburst from her by reminding her of incidents long gone. She was so malleable, and the class inevitably erupted into laughter when she launched into one of her minor fits.
It was not minor, however, when the pathos of her personal life came to light. In those days, there were advice to the lovelorn columns in the tabloid newspapers. Even in the ninth grade, we realized that these letters were written to the newspapers only by pathetic souls. One day, I found such a letter on the floor written in Miss Crowley’s handwriting. It must have fallen out of her pocket and she could not have been unluckier than to have me as the person who found it. I definitely did not like her. I somehow managed to circulate the basic contents to virtually every student in the class. The letter was innocuous enough and concerned some relationship with a man which had no substance to it. Miss Crowley was asking advice on how to develop a relationship with this man. Of course, it could not remain a secret for long that the letter had been found and shared. Miss Crowley announced that one of her private possessions was missing, that it was a letter, and that she would like to have it back. Fortunately, she never ascertained who the culprit was who found it. Returning it was too risky, so I simply destroyed it, leaving her to believe that it had never been found, let alone circulated.
It was definitely Larry Fiedler who provided us with the funniest moment in the school year. It started innocently enough when Fiedler started coughing and was apparently unable to stop. Miss Crowley ordered him to stop, but he could only manage to cough out the words that he was unable to. She then told him to leave the room until he was able to stop. Once outside the door, we were unable to hear him. However, the door opened regularly with kids either going to or coming from the bathroom and people delivering messages to Miss Crowley. And every time the door opened, we could hear Fiedler coughing in the hall. It became apparent to us that Fiedler was just standing quietly in the hall but deliberately coughing loudly each time the door was opened. It may not seem so now, but we found it hysterically funny.
On the last day of school, Miss Crowley got into her car to drive herself away and out of our lives. A group of students surrounded the car, and started to rock it back and forth. It was not threatening nor did Miss Crowley take it as such, perhaps assuming that this was the students’ way of saying goodbye to her. I perceived it as our way of saying we were glad to see her go, and that since we were on our way to high school, we would never see her again. Miss Crowley stayed in her car and smiled. Now that I think of it, perhaps her smile meant that she was just as happy to see us go.
Steve with younger brother Robin
Steven Wolfe is a partner with the law firm Eaton and Van Winkle. His interests include amateur photography, philately, tennis, card playing, reading history especially about World War II and the Holocaust, and world travel which has taken him to four continents.