Sunnyside & Morningside Grade Schools -Pittsburgh - Class 1959


Kindergarten:

      I started school at Sunnyside Elementary School when I was four and one half years of age. It was an old two-story school with basement located a block off the intersection at Stanton Avenue where Heinrecker's Market stood. Four classrooms on each floor surrounded a large central area or hallway. There was no gymnasium nor an auditorium at the school. I wouldn't have been surprised if I was driven to school or possibly escorted by my mother since it was a good six or seven long blocks (up and down hills) to the school.

      The kindergarten classroom was on the first floor in front. I attended the afternoon session the first year. I frankly don't remember much of what was taught other than we played with blocks, other kids, finger painted and learned the alphabet and numbers. I don't recall being read to as a child by my parents and there certainly weren't any children's books or even adult books in our house. I assume there was story time at the school, as it was a common teaching technique.

      I had to repeat kindergarten a second year because the state law required that children be six years old to begin first grade. The second year was a morning session, but they continued to teach the same stuff that I had in the previous year. When spring arrived I was so bored that I asked my mother if I could stay home for the rest of the term. The teacher visited my mom after a week or two. She explained the situation and assured her that I would attend first grade in the fall.

First Grade:

      First grade was taught by a woman named Miss Love. Fortunately my best friend Skipper was in my class of about 25 kids. They started the group reading in at least three different stages. I was never quite sure why certain kids were chosen to begin reading first. Since I vaguely remember that those who turned out to be the smartest kids learned first, there probably was some sort of test. I was in the second group. I recall Skipper was in the third group.

      We learned to read from the Dick and Jane reader. That is what I called it because it was about two kids named Dick and Jane and their dog Spot. Sample passage:

      Oh! See Dick. See Jane. See Spot Run.

It did teach you to read and spell. There was also arithmetic like adding 2 + 3.

      While we never had a recess period of free play, there was a daily gym class which met in the large hall on the first floor. We did calisthenics and when the weather was warm we played in the field below and behind the school. The male gym teacher wasn't much of a teacher. He decided we would either play kickball or softball and allowed the boys from both first grade classes to pick their teams. (I don't know what the girls did during this time.) There were twenty boys and several who were uncoordinated didn't play. While I was Ok at kickball, I couldn't hit the ball with the bat in the softball games. My father tried to teach me when I was two or three years of age but he gave up and didn't try again when I was older. Consequently I was left out and sat with the weirdoes like Howard Singer while the others played.

      Howard stood out because he was fat and weird. His short blood hair stood on end and he drew pictures always in only brown and orange colors. He was a Jewish kid as were nearly 85% of the kids in the school. Kids had normal names like Richard, Michael, Larry, David, Mark, Louis, Edward and Kenneth. The name Jeffrey was rare but in third grade there was a kid named Geoffrey.

Click on Photo for large 1st Grade Image

First Row: Kenneth Leonetti, Mark Simon, Nancy Sissenwain, David Blum, Heather Harris, Kenneth Sachs, Pauline ____, Paul Levin, Carol Shields, Edward Childs, Louis Middleman.
2nd Row: Arthur Love, Judy ____, Stewart Weinstein, Joanne Kane, Francis Burns, Barry Olin, Beverly Medcaff, Micheal O'Malley, Virgiinia Crew, Richard Ornitz, Robert Folette.
3rd Row: Miss Lool, Rene Lebovitz, Edward Pepple, Susan Reck, Jeffrey Stanton. Barbara Golden, Mark Pollack, Allan Cooperman.

2nd and 3rd Grades:

      Skip & I were split up in second grade. I recall having class in the rear right hand corner of the building. I only recall that we learned more of the same: arithmetic, reading, and spelling. We must have had subjects like art and science since I remember one report card in third grade where I received four A's and one D. The D was in a combination of art, science and gym class; the A's in reading, arithmetic, spelling and either social studies or geography.

Click on Photo for large 2nd Grade Image

1st Row: Pauline Antloger, Lynn Kurtz, UNKNOWN, Elaine, Carole Katz, Susan Persky, Laura Russela, Kenneth Sachs, Donna Fischer, David Bloom, Vivian Kushner, Morris Heller, Paula Klein, Paul Klein, Eileen Metcafe.
2nd Row: Michael Mussomelli, Georgiana M______, Jane Tunkel, Mark Simon, Joanne Kane, Stuart Buncher, Michael Levington, Nancy Sisenwain, Virginia Crew, Edward Childs, Richard Ornitz, Kathleon Fullerton.
3rd Row: Curtis Seltzer, Renee Leubowitz. Michael Berman, Jeffrey Stanton, Susan Reck, Hope Sue Adler, Edward Leonetti, Roslyn Saewitz, Howard Singer, Ronald Wolfson.
4th Row: Allen Cooperman, Paul Clemson, Howard Karp, Holmes Miller, Debaroh Rosenbaum, Donald Patterson, Robert Follett, Stuart Bleckman.

      More new kids moved into the school. I remember liking a kid named Morris Heller (he was small for his age) who lived just two blocks away on Hawthorne Street. Third grade was also the last year Skipper attended that school since his family moved to the suburbs at the end of the year.

      I had to get my tonsils removed in third grade. They weren't infected, just slightly enlarged. Since I was thin and underweight, the doctor thought the operation would allow me to gain weight. It was the first time that I was in the hospital. They took out both my adenoids and tonsils and put me to sleep with ether. It was a smelly gas that makes you throw up when you wake up. My throat was sore and I was fed ice cream to sooth the pain.

      I was given a book as a present to read, `The Lone Ranger'. Although it was a children's book, it was the first book that I ever owned. It was a slim illustrated hardback book and I read it countless times. I soon convinced my mom to take me to a bookstore where during that year purchased two additional titles; `Wild Bill Hickok' and `Anderson Fairy Tales'. I don't recall getting any additional books until either 5th or 6th grade when we subscribed to a children's set of encyclopedias, which came one volume every two weeks. I soon began to read about all kinds of subjects.

Click on Photo for large 3rd Grade Image

1st Row: Morris Heller, Paula Klein, Vivian Kushner, David Bloom, Edward Childs, Carol Catz, Laura Russala, UNKNOWN, Francis __, Donna Fisher, Susan Persky, Virginia Crew.
2nd Row: Jo Ann Kone, Nancy Sisenwain, Lynn Kurtz, Marsha Cardiff, Mark Simon, Roslyn Saewitz, UNKNOWN, Jeffrey Stanton, Donna Potter, Holmes Miller, Curtis Seltzer, Michael Berman
3rd Row: Deby Rokntsun, UNKNOWN, Hope Sue Adler, Michael O"Malley

 

4th Grade:

      We moved into our new school, still called Sunnyside, but located off Stanton Avenue just as the road wound down the hill. The school was closer for me because I could hike through the empty field to the rear of the school yard. The school was modern, L shaped on a single sprawling level. It had in addition to a long hall of classrooms, an auditorium with permanent sloped seating, gymnasium and library. The large playfield in the rear was large enough to accommodate two softball games, so that the girls and boys could play separate games.

      I remember that many of the teachers were new and things were different; especially in gym class. The gym had a high ceiling and had a sliding partition between the two halves. Steps led down to it so it was obviously in the basement. It was equipped with climbing poles hung from a sliding track on the ceiling. Climbing it was part of getting kids in shape.

      The teacher was a woman who believed that all kids played ball whether they were coordinated or not. She actually explained the rules and demonstrated how to hit the ball when playing softball. It was about time that I learned to play ball like the other kids.

      Usually the boys had gym class separate from the girls except when it was Square Dance practice. The boys thought it was stupid. I had a crush on a girl named Barbara Hepner. Unfortunately she was never interested in me at that age or even when I was older.

      Most classes were taught by your homeroom teacher; except library, gym and art. We were marched single file to those classes by our teacher. The library was small but had lots of books. We were taught how to look things up in the dictionary and encyclopedia. We sometimes assembled in the auditorium.

     

Click on Photo for large 4th Grade Image

First Row: Katherine Fuelton, Laura Russela, Donna Fischer, Paula Klein, Kenneth Sachs, Carol Katz, Morris Heller, David Bloom, Vivian Kushner, Eileen Medcalf.
2nd Row: Howard Singer, Stuart Buncher, Nancy Sissenwain, Virginia Crew, Joanne Kane, Pauline Antloger, Lynn Kurtz, Susan Persky, Elaine Marcus, Barbara Edlestein.
3rd Row: Mark Simon, Paula Tolchein, Donald Patterson, Elaine Marcus, Renne Lebeiwitz, Sandy Fair, Robert Anserwitz, Rosyln Saewitz, Edward Childs, Hope Sue Adler.
4th Row: Miss Roth, Holmes Miller, Paul Climson, Geoffrey Gilbert, Curtis Seltzer, Jeffrey Stanton, Stuart Bleckman

5th Grade:

      That was the year of the great TV experiment. The school decided to use WQED, the local educational channel, to teach classes on French, English and Mathematics. It sounded like a great idea. You watched the TV teacher, then your homeroom teacher would supplement the lesson and drill you.

      It was easy to learn the first few French words and expressions. But I soon began to get behind in my French vocabulary. That becomes a problem since I could no longer understand what the French teacher was saying. Eventually when I was hopelessly lost I began to doodle. I was particularly fond of designing mazes.

      Math was fractions that year and although I understood most of what was taught, the class and I didn't do well on tests. My grades fell, but I think they took the experiment into consideration.

      Most of the students were also involved in the polio vaccine experiment with Jonas Salk. Doctors and nurses came very three weeks to give us a shoot. Some got the real vaccine, others got just sugar water. Eventually we all received the vaccine. Most parents enrolled us in the experiment because polio was a dreaded disease that crippled children especially. One day the nurse was having trouble finding a place on my arm to give me the shoot and Jonas Salk walked over to give it to me himself. I asked him for his autograph, but naturally I didn't have a piece of paper nor pencil. He took out his tablet and signed his name on the pad. Yes, I still have the autograph!

      I got glasses that year. My dad discovered that I couldn't see while we were at a Pirates baseball game. I was asked to read the scoreboard and had to use binoculars to read the scores. I was immediately taken to the eye doctor who prescribed glasses. You don't notice it when your eyesight slowly gets worse, and I obviously sat close enough to the blackboard to get by.

      I was amazed when I came home wearing my new glasses. I discovered that trees had individual leaves that you could see. I just used to think a tree was a solid mass of green. Everything had detail, even countless bricks in houses. Of course I was teased as a four-eye geek.

Click on Photo for large 5th Grade Image

Seated: Donna Fischer, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Susan Persky, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Kenny Sacks, Louis Middleman, Ricky Kaplean, Morris Heller, David Bloom, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN
Standing: UNKNOWN, Nancy Sissenbaum, UNKNOWN, Teacher, Mark Simon, Edward Childs, UNKNOWN, Jeffrey Stanton, UNKNOWN, Curtis Seltzer, Geoffrey Gilbert, UNKNOWN, Heather Harris, Holmes Miller, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Stuart Bleckman, UNKNOWN, Larry Rock, UNKNOWN, Robert Answerwitz, Arlene Glickman, Howard Singer, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN.

6th Grade:

      I don't remember much about sixth grade except that I had a wonderful teacher that helped me make up some of the lost ground that occurred in the great TV experiment during the previous year. I was also transferred to the smarter of the two classes of kids.

      The teacher once assigned a very long report in geography class. It was expected to be over 50 pages, which if you think about it was a lot for any 11 year old to write. I choose to do my report on South America, all 13 countries. I copied the entire 100+ page report out of the encyclopedia. You would think the teacher would have been mad or even commented on the obvious plagiarism (sentences were spelled right and grammatically correct). I guess she figured you learned something while you copied it. In retrospect I think it would have been better if the report were shorter and she made it clear that what you wrote was your own.

      I was good in geography and since I began collecting stamps that year, could locate almost any obscure country on the map.

      Once when I was in library class, I misspelled the word `thunder'. The teacher demanded that I look the word up to correct its spelling. It took me the entire period and I couldn't find it anywhere under the `tu' words in the dictionary. I thought it was pronounced `tunder'. I never learned to spell despite getting an A in spelling in some grades. I could memorize the 18-20 words for the test and two days later couldn't spell them.

Click on Photo for large 6th Grade Image

1st Row: Gloria Ciscro, Barbara Edlestein, Susan Persky, Kenneth Sacks, Ricky Kaplean, Murray Siegel, Paul Levin, David Bloom
2nd Row: Mark Simon, Marsha Cardiff, Robert Smith, Arlean Glcikman, Marsha Heller, Edward Childs, Lynn Kurtz, Howard Singer, Ann Weiner, Barbara Hepner, Buron Kelesky, Louis Middleman, Elaine Marcus.
3rd Row: Robert Answerwitz, Mia Louik, Marc Pollack, Jeffrey Stanton, Mark Mizeffsky, William Cabin, Stuart Smith, Holmes Miller, Jeffrey Gilbert, Heather Harris, Corky Seltzer, Larry Rock, Beverly Medgaus.

I remember taking part in a school play that year (5th grade??) where I played the part of a robot. My mom helped me make the costume using silver poster board and rolling it into tubes for my arms and legs. It had to be flexible since I needed to walk on stage. Both the body and head parts were boxy shaped. Afterwards I would wear it and walk around near my house like a zombie robot. I think some of the younger neighbor kids would pretend to be frightened.

My sixth grade class did the honors each morning of leading the opening exercises over the loud speaker system. Four pupils were chosen to perform. One read the bible, another the lord’s prayer, etc. Then everyone sang the Star Spangled Banner. Trouble was that my voice was being to change, so when it came time to sing, my voice broke up. Kids were rolling in the aisles in their classrooms. It was hilarious. The principal quietly informed me that I couldn't sing the rest of the week.

      I graduated that year and had to give a speech at graduation.

 

7th Grade:

      Since the school didn't have a 7th or 8th grade, my entire class had to go to Morningside the following year. It was an old school in a non-Jewish district at the bottom of the hill. The kids were bused from the Sunnyside parking lot, but I soon gave up that idea because, except for the steep hills, I lived nearly equidistant between the two schools. Besides I would have to get up earlier to catch the bus.

      The two-story school with basement resembled the old Sunnyside except it was larger and had both a gymnasium and auditorium. The school yard was small, very small and narrow. At least we were 7th graders, big shots - except for the eighth graders.

      They were the ones that picked on many of us. Lunch time was dangerous because many of the weaker kids were barreled in the boy's bathroom. That meant getting stuffed in a trash can and rolled down the hall. I narrowly escaped the humiliation when a teacher who happened by broke up the event before I got rolled down the hall.

      It was too difficult to go home for lunch within the one hour lunch break so I mostly packed a lunch. Sometimes I and others ate at the lunch counter at the drug store. You could get a sandwich and milkshake with real ice cream cheap. The drug store also sold postage stamps. I often bought the latest commemorative 3 cent stamp plate blocks; always trying to get one with the perforations perfectly centered.

      There was a grass football field behind the pharmacy which the older kids used to play softball at lunch. I don't recall spending much time there because only sports talented 7th graders played ball. The rest of used the small asphalt schoolyard. When the weather got cold or snowed, we usually spent the lunch hour in the auditorium that served as a lunch room. There weren't permanent seating, just folding chairs.

      The school didn't have a large enrollment in the lower six grades. Just one class for each grade. I think there were three 7th grade classes. I was with the smart kids. Home room for both years was Miss Curan. She looked like the typical school teacher with glasses that hung from a chain when she wasn't wearing them. She taught mathematics and English. Miss Schreiber, across the hall, taught social studies. She was inspiring and always showed travel movies, even at lunchtime. She ordered so many extra movies that there wasn't enough class time except if we stayed indoors at lunch to watch them. A teacher on the first floor, Miss Bursick taught music and science. I couldn't hold a tune and my voice was still unstable. As for science I liked the astronomy classes, even had my own telescope. Most of her science was memorization.

Miss Bursick was an avid amateur astonomer and encouraged me and Louis Middleman to join the atronomy club at Buhl Planetarium on the North Side across from downtown Pittsburg. I already had a TASCO (Japan) 3 inch refractor that I purchased for $200 wholesale. It took me two years to save for it, earning money by running a candy / ice cream store in my garage and selling to the enighborhood kids. I also shoveled snow in the winter and worked once for my dad at his vending machine business for a week. Many of the club members built their own telescopes by grinding their own mirrors. My teacher made an 8 inch mirror and Louis began work on a 6 inch mirror. His friend Darrell was more ambitious and began grinding an 8 inch mirror.

The astronomy club had use of a 13 inch refractor at the Allegheny Observatory on Sunday evenings. Since none of our parents were interested in attending, the three of us would take buses and trolleys there on clear nights. I remember seeing the planet Uranus and distant galaxies like Andromeda. The problem was getting home before the buses and trolleys stooped at midnight. We always had to call my dad at midnight when we needed a ride hom from East Liberty.

      One winter night there was lunar eclipse that laster for several hours beginning at 1 AM. Louis Middleman came over and we watched it from my snowy backyard. That was the winter I had built a huge snow fort. All that I remember was that it was cold, and that the moon had an eerie yellowish cast, but nearly dark.

      We only had three or four Morningside regular kids in my homeroom. One was Ricky Mascaro, a good-looking Catholic kid that I liked. Another that I got along with was Tom Kennedy, a portly homely kid. These were some of the few non-Jewish kids that I associated with.

      We also attended Rodgers School for wood-shop half-day a week. That school was far away that required a streetcar ride plus a walk. We made small things like a foot-rest. One couldn't make anything big because the school only allotted so much lumber per student. I had three semesters of wood-shop, then a semester of metal-shop at Peabody High School. We made a punch tool on a lathe then heat-treated it and quenched it to make it harder.

8th Grade:

      Since I didn't normally hang out with many kids in my own grade, I was pleased when many of my 7th grade friends started Morningside that year. Besides Harold and Marty from my neighborhood, there was David Kline who moved in about two blocks away, and Billy Fairman who I liked alot. Then there was Bobby Stein and his friend David Brinn. While I didn't have class with them I did see them at lunch and sometimes walked home with David Kline. These kids tolerated me much more than my own classmates.

      The launching of Sputnik had a profound effect on the school systems of the day. There was an immediate need to accelerate the learning curve in math and science. My school decided, at least for the smart kids, to compress the year's math curriculum into one semester and teach algebra during the spring term. I was good in math but not that good. I found algebra somewhat baffling at times. I remember having some difficulty with all those word problems. While I wasn't flunking or even getting poor grades, I always felt that I was near the bottom of my class.

      While I never had much of a sense of humor, I did find slapstick funny and would often go through spurts of uncontrollable giggles where I fell out of my seat in class and laughed so hard that my stomach hurt. My classmates either found it amusing or simply found me weird.

      I developed a persistent spasmodic cough in early January, severe enough to see a doctor. In those days the family doctor made house calls. Unfortunately I was the only pupil in the school, perhaps in the entire district to catch whooping cough that year. It forces one to cough endlessly until you can't inhale to get fresh air. After a minute or two, you start turning blue. It was easy to understand why young children often died. I was confined to the house for two weeks while it was contagious, then sent back to school during the remaining four weeks of severe coughing. Nobody was told what I had, and fortunately no one suspected it. That was how rare and obscure the disease was in 1958. Sometimes in class my lungs would go in to spasm and I literally couldn't breathe as I couldn't get air into my lungs. The teacher, suspecting that water from the drinking fountain would help, sent me into the hall. It didn't help. I usually chocked at the fountain.

Click on Photo for large 8th Grade Image

First Row: Eileen Medcalf, Morris Heller, Sandy Scatter, Richard Mascaro, Laura Russela, Murray Siegel, Paula Klein, David Bloom, Nancy Aaronson, Eileen Barish, Darrel Siegel, Vicky Sirroco, Charles Siegel.
2nd Row: Donna Fischer, UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Carol Katz, Paul Levin, Gloria Cicero, Nancy Sissenwein, Susan Persky, Arlene Glickman, Beverly Medguas, Michael Levington, Karen Finklestein, Pauline Antloger.
3rd Row: UNKNOWN, Howard Singer, Hope Sue Adler, [GAP], Ronna Levinson, Lynn Kurtz, Barbara Edlestein, Marsha Heller, Barbara Karp, Eileen Mdecalf, Sandy Lewis, Barbara Hepner, [GAP], Rosseln Saewitz, Burton Kelesky, Ann Ester Weiner.
4th Row: Donald Patterson, Allen Cooperman, Bobby Follett, [GAP], UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, Ronald Wolfson, Robert Answerwitz, Larry Rock, Louis Middleman, [GAP], Holmes Miller, Stuart Smith, UNKNOWN
5th Row: Kenneth Sachs, Geoffrey Gilbert, Susan Edlesburg, Judy Olmstead, UNKNOWN, Mia Louik, UNKNOWN, Edward Childs.
6th Row: UNKNOWN, Paula Mullin, Paula Tolchin, UNKNOWN, Heather Harris, Sandy Fair, Renee Harris
7th Row: Robert Smith, Mark Simon, Mark Mazefsky, Ed ____, Thomas Kennedy, Chris Katzefanas, Jeffrey Krawik.
8th Row: Jeffrey Stanton, Arthur Love, William Fair, Jesse _____, UNKNOWN, Howard Karp, Stuart Bleckman.

          In the spring, after I recovered from my illness, my gym teacher discovered that I was an extremely fast runner. I could outrun almost everyone in games of tag in the school yard. In fact when we played touch football, if they could get the ball to me, I could outrun everyone. I was asked to tryout for track. Only Bob Smith and Art Love were faster. Billy Fairman was also on the team and I often ran sprints against him in the school yard. In the only meet we had, I ran on a four man relay team. It was at some Junior High in the Butler district. I can't remember if we won the race or lost. ( I think we came in second?)

Harrisbugh PA - State Capital - Governor's Office

Gettysburg - Civil War Battlefield - Classmates on Cannon

      My eighth grade class went on a day trip to Gettysburg and the State Capital in Harrisburg that spring. I remember touring the battlefield by bus and stopping at the various monuments to take pictures. We graduated shortly afterwards.

8th Grade graduation speakers

8th Grade Graduation performance

Some of the 8th Grade graduates didn't go on to Peabody High. Ricky Mascaro and several of his Morningside friends went to a Catholic High School, and others, who weren't very bright, learned careers like bricklaying, plumbing, etc. at a trade school. A few like Howard Singer moved to Squirel Hill.

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