Remembering P.S. 150
by Marilyn Schapiro
I was in the 2nd grade class with Mrs.Easton in 1956. We were the Baby Boomers so classes were large - it was typical to have 36 kids in one classroom. Children who were good at reading were urged to skip a grade to create more space for pupils coming up. I was among these so that I was in 2nd grade at 6 years old. Once the Queen of Angels parochial school opened around 1958, the number of Roman Catholic pupils diminished. At 2 pm on Wednesday afternoons, early release, about 25% of the class would go to their place of worship for Religious Instruction. The remaining kids would do arts and crafts activities for that last hour.
The ethnic composition of the classes were predominantly Jewish, Italian, Polish, German-Austrian, Irish and Greek – there were no African Americans or Hispanics or Asians at that time - reflecting the neighborhood composition. Many of the teachers were Irish American and many were Jewish. Classes were tracked by academic ability so, for example, in fourth grade, 4-1 were the good readers and more "gifted and talented" children, 4-2 were of average ability and 4-3 were considered the slower learners.
After the Hungarian uprising in 1957, we had some Hungarian immigrant children in our class who at first could speak no English. They just sat quietly at the back of the classroom and eventually (quite quickly) caught on and could speak quite fluently without foreign accents by the next year.
Big events reflected in classroom activities were the Soviet launch of Sputnik, statehood for Alaska (think dioramas with sugar cube igloos) and Hawaii (making leis and saying Aloha) and the election of the young, handsome John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960. Mrs. Musnik spent some time with us on reflecting what the President meant to imply with his "New Frontiers" and we were excited to be at the dawn of the Space Age.
Of course, girls wore skirts or dresses only to school, no pants allowed, and once a week, there was a fairly formal Assembly where boys wore blue or red ties and girls wore midi-blouses with red or blue neckties. The flag was marched into the auditorium by a "color guard" (only a 6th grade boy could carry the flag). We pledged allegiance and sang the national anthem in the upper grades, followed by a Bible reading - usually one of the psalms - considered acceptable to Jews and Christians alike. After the Bible, we sang a hymn of a non-sectarian type, such as, “We Gather Together.” Although we were in a 99% white school, "brotherhood " was a big theme especially in National Brotherhood Week, and we made posters with multi-colored "diverse" children holding hands and being friends playing together.
We were from mostly lower middle class families with immigrant grandparents. I was quite old before I realized that some American grandparents spoke unaccented native American English. Mrs. Musnik took
our 6th grade class to the Metropolitan Museum and afterwards invited the whole class up to her Park Avenue apartment for juice and crackers. We were very impressed by her luxurious lifestyle and her French husband.