Mr. Dooley and the Mysterious Envelope:

McCarthyism for Children

by Lee Stonehill

          I am looking over my 1952 JHS 125 autograph book with the photograph of the school principal, Rafael C. Dooley.  I never heard anyone say anything praiseworthy about Mr. Dooley.  Mere mention of the name stirs an unpleasant memory, a memory of an incident that gave me a slight understanding of what it must have been like to be targeted during the McCarthy witch hunt.

 

          One year after I graduated from Junior High, I attended the graduation ceremony of my neighbor, Eric Fried. Standing in the back of the Bliss Theater, I listened and had a negative reaction to the prayers and religious tone of the proceeding.  This was in an era before court decisions required that public schools not promote religion.  I wrote a protest letter to the principal (in actuality, it was a postcard) and mailed it, without mentioning anything about it at home.

 

          The consequence was unhappy.  My brother, who was still a student at JHS 125, was summoned to the principal's office and was subjected to a harangue that concluded with the stern warning "I am watching you!"   My brother was thoroughly intimidated.  He had no idea what Mr. Dooley was talking about.  Either Mr. Dooley thought Bobby himself had written the postcard, or the principal was attacking the sole remaining Stonehill who was still within his grasp.

 

          I urged my brother not to mention this incident to our parents, advice which he did not follow.

Lee (Lenox) Stonehill grew up in Sunnyside Gardens, attending PS 150, JHS 125 and William Cullen Bryant High School (June 1955).  He retired in 2009 from the NY City Human Resources Administration.  His avocation is local history.  He is married and the father of three adult children.  He currently lives in Astoria, Queens.