Mr. Dooley and the Mysterious Envelope
by Bob Stonehill
In 1952, having left PS 150 in a positive mood, my newly assigned house of learning was JHS 125. While it offered grades 7-8-9, I later learned that it was once a K-8 school.
On my first day sitting in the assembly, we students were divided by class or homeroom number. Without warning, a voice from behind me asked if I were Bob Stonehill. I affirmed I was, hardly turning around to see the face. His next words set the tone for me for the next three years. Ominously he said, "I'm watching you," and then walked away. As he pulled back, I saw the distinctive white handlebar mustache, and one of my new classmates said, “That’s Mr. Dooley, the principal.”
That night over dinner, I related the story to my brother Lee who had just graduated from JHS 125. Lee fessed up. He’d had a disagreement with Principal Dooley and I would pay the price. During the three years I was there, Mr. Dooley never spoke to me again, but stared me down with a glare as we passed in the hallways, or so I thought. In ninth grade, I was elected home room president.
On the day of my graduation, Mr. Dooley finally spoke to me. In the quiet yet massive Bliss Theater on Greenpoint Avenue, the site of our graduation ceremony, he approached me with his finger to his lips. “Shush,” he said," and handed me an envelope which he pressed into my inner pocket. “Read it when you are home."
Little did I know that the envelope contained a postcard Lee had written and mailed to Mr. Dooley sometime after his own graduation. In it, Lee criticized Mr. Dooley's use of the words "God" and "Christ" at the ceremony, believing it to be too much religious influence on the young impressionable minds. In sending it, my brother was pushing back, revealing his atheistic philosophy. Mr. Dooley saved the envelope for three years as the hammer to keep me in line. But I was still in the dark about the specifics of the conflict between the two.
At graduation, I proceeded to carry out my duties as class president. On stage, with all my classmates lined up, Mr. Dooley handed me a bouquet of graduation certificates, and asked me to distribute them when we returned to our assigned seats. Out of the blue, I saw an opportunity to showboat. Still on stage, I gave the certificates out to each student, and as I did, I bowed and clicked my heels over and over. By doing so, I unknowingly carried on the Stonehill tradition of poking a symbolic finger in the eye of Mr. Dooley. I laughed all the way back to my seat, still without any knowledge of what the sealed mystery envelope contained.
At the dinner table that night, I opened the envelope and the full story was revealed. When Mr. Dooley retired, he no doubt mumbled the Stonehill name for years to come.