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Junior High Years

by Lily Jean Rombough-Froese

           While I entered JHS 125 directly from PS 125, there were four other public elementary schools that fed into the Junior High part of PS 125.  As I recall, these were:

- P.S. 80 – a much older building close to the border of Brooklyn which I understand is now a hotel!

- P.S. 150 – located on 43rd Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street.

- P.S. 11 – located in Woodside.  I seem to recall that Fidel Castro Junior attended this school.  Anyone know any details to verify this?

- P.S. 199 – located between Greenpoint Avenue and 48th Avenue from 39th Street to 40th Street.  This school was the “new” school, completed in about 1954-1955.  When it opened, it only went as far as fifth grade.  By that time I was in the sixth grade and still had to walk the eleven blocks to PS 125.

          The only other elementary school that I can remember from those days was the Catholic school, St. Theresa’s, on 44th Street and 50th Avenue.  There was a school building there even before they had a church building.


          Entering junior high school, everything changed, or so it seemed, when we finally became one of those “Big Junior Highs” ourselves.  For one thing, we were allowed to go into heretofore forbidden parts of the building. Even though I was one of those who had done my elementary schooling in the same building, somehow it all seemed so different.


          When I entered, they had started some much needed renovations on the building itself.  To my great disappointment, it seemed that they started with the Home Economics Lab.  All those six years of waiting to finally get to take a class in that most interesting seeming room, and when it was finally my turn, we did “Home Ec” in a regular classroom, cutting out pictures of food instead of getting to make it and eat it.   One of the only “practical” classes I can remember was when the teacher Mrs. Latham tried to show us the proper way to mop a floor.  She used one of the huge pails and mops that the school custodians used.  I remember she told us to first rinse the floor with plain water, then add soap to the bucket water to wash the floor, and finally, use more clean water to rinse the floor.  I have never washed a floor that way in my life.


          While the boys got to do more interesting classes such as sheet metal cutting, we girls were relegated to sewing or hat making classes. People scarcely believe me now that we were actually supposed to learn how to make our own hats.  These were two skills I sadly lacked. My memories of both classes were always of the teacher telling me to rip out whatever I had just done and do it over again.  When I got married years later, my father gave my husband a kit with a gadget to attach buttons when needed.  We used that kit for years!  Obviously, I was not a star student when it came to anything having to do with sewing!


          Mrs. Buxbaum and Mademoiselle Sarquis were our French teachers. 

Whenever I attempt to speak in French, people who are fluent in that language always ask me, “where did you learn to speak French, you have unique accent!”  I guess you can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take that New York accent out of the girl!


          I had Mrs. Lillian Moss for Homeroom, and remember she had the same first name as I do!...And that Mr. Mace liked to assign projects…Mr Eisenson taught my favorite subject, Science.  I followed in his footsteps by teaching high school sciences for over 10 years.  He always had an “attention getter” to start the class.  I tried to do the same when I taught…Mr. Cooley, my English teacher, attempted to teach us how to diagram sentences.  I was not sure why we had to try to learn this.  I finally only learned the parts of speech when I had to teach it…I really enjoyed Miss Muriel Sullivan’s music classes, since I was one of her favorites…I remember Miss Irene Reinshagen for Business Practice; she was very nice!  When I had to fill in for a term as a business teacher, I remembered her kindness and tried to emulate her.


          Our two principals, Mr. Raymond Dooley and Mr. Joseph Biegen were always loudly applauded during the assemblies in the auditorium, and I thought it was expected of me to do the same.


          There is a good account of the school production of “The Mikado” in The Woodsider, June 1956 edition.  What I remember about it was that some kids got to be the principles, some were the on-stage chorus, and then there were the rest of us!  Never mind, we all had a grand time and learned a lot.


          Remember those green gym suits with the "bloomer bottoms?"  We had to dress and undress on our places in line right in the gym.  We had to have clean white socks and sneakers.  I remember doing exercises.  Did we ever get to play any games?  I don't remember.


          The graduation ceremony from junior high school was a big deal.  When we graduated, the ceremony was held in the Bliss Movie Theatre in order to accommodate all the graduates and their guests.  I remember that the theatre had nice, thick carpets and a fancy (we thought) Ladies’ Lounge. It was so interesting to be there practicing, and to see the theatre with all the lights on.  For many of the girls, this graduation was the first time we got to wear high heeled shoes.  We had to be very careful climbing the narrow stairs up to the theater stage.  I still have some grainy black and white photos of me with my proud family taken that day, on 44th Street and Greenpoint Avenue outside the Fish Market - what a backdrop!

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