This is a place for classmates to post their memories of growing up in New Hyde Park

and Great Neck.

If you wish to post anything here, simply send me an email ( )

and I will post it.


I'll start the reminiscing with comments about the overall GNS facility. Being one of the first classes to attend the new GNS, we were quite privileged. The Board of Education built a school that was truly impressive. Going into GNS on the first day was both exciting and terrorizing. Finding our way to our classes in the first week or two was quite a challenge. GNS was a spaghetti-bowl of small, interconnected buildings spread out all over with little rhyme or reason. My "favorite" memory was having gym class at one end of the facility and having five minutes to get to my English or German class at the other end of the facility. After graduation and going to college, it was an opportunity to see just how amazing GNS is. When meeting dozens of people in college and having an opportunity to see other high schools around the country in other yearbooks, it became ever more obvious to me just how privileged we were to attend high school at GNS.  Johnny Meyer  04/20/2023


We all remember Hamburger Express; Kriegles; Camp & Campus; Squires and the train station that had a mini diner with best hamburgers in town

But here are few that might have been forgotten

February break trips with Coaches Schulman & Neigel to Montreal & Quebec and then the trip to Washington- All of us huddled into their station wagons

Going to Memorial Field with 3 or 4 other guys to shag fly balls for hours then to walk to Dick’s to have malteds and best  floats in town ( old village)

Taking a pilgrimage to Ebbets Field - having to take LIRR and then onto various NYC subways that were foreign to us

Using our G O Cards to get into Ranger & Knick games  for 50 cents -for seats in upper balcony of the old Garden

Never asking out the most beautiful gals for fear of being ‘rejected’

Never even considering asking out a gal in our class for fear they were only interested in older guys

Taking school seriously as we competed for entrance into the ‘best colleges’

Probably being one of last generations that knew nothing about drugs

Taking group -mid winter ski trips to Stowe on the Penn Central ‘Montrealer’
- arriving at White River Junction, VT at 5:00 AM and staying at Round Hearth student hotel charging $5/night including breakfast & dinner!!!

And how about fact that many of us up to senior year still rode our bikes or walked several miles to and from school

And lastly mowing lawns as summer professions

Ours was a straight forward youth

Skip Lieblein  04/20/2023



Additional Oldie Goldies

The Friday Night basketball games where we all wore our White Buttoned Varsity G sweaters - watching really good basketball and then going to Pizza Pete’s for 2 slices and a Coke

We did it every Friday - even though we always burnt the roof of our mouths that took 6 days to heal - just in time to go back again to Pizza Pete ( slice @ 25 cents; 15 cents for a coke)

How we all ‘hated’ our arch rivals Garden City who were always in ‘our face’ in every sport

The high light of my life was when Bobby Kaplan and myself beat Garden City’s first doubles tennis team in the Fall of ‘59 only to have Garden City have the last laugh by No Hitting us in our final June playoff baseball game

Lastly - memories of the wonderful 35 cent lunches served in the cafeteria that included

Hot Turkey + Stuffing + Cranberry Sauce + 1/2 pint of milk and apple pie with some sort of orange colored cheese

I hope these memories bring some smiles as it warmed my heart to share them

Skip Lieblein  04/20/2023


Skip, you did a great job bringing back so many wonderful memories.  But how about filling up the car with gas that cost only 25 cents per gallon, including an attendant doing the pumping and cleaning the windshield?

Johnny Marcus 04/21/2003


My family moved to Great Neck in 1949, when I was in 1st grade, and I received a terrific education, especially from Lewis Love, my 12th  grade physics teacher. In just one week of his class, I began to dream that maybe I should be a physicist, rather than a medical doctor, and this dream came true.

Other memories:

  • The brand new Saddle Rock School opened in 1950, and I spent 3rd – 6th grade there. I remember walking to school along Bayview Avenue, with Bobby Hamburger and Jerry Fensterstock. I remember my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Watkins, who gave me and 4 other boys, Bobby, Jerry, Billy Friedman, and Steve Einhorn, an advanced math book, “Railroad Arithmetic,” because we were “smart” in math. All 5 of us wore glasses, and we were dubbed “The 5 Blind Mice.”
  • The very new (North) Jr. High School opened, which I attended for 7th – 9th grade. My friend was Johnny Marcus, with whom I played tennis during the summers. I remember being jealous of him because he had a terrific science teacher in 9th grade, none other than Lewis Love, while I had a boring science teacher (can’t remember his name). Of course, that all got corrected when I had Mr. Love in 12th grade, his first year of teaching high school physics.
  • In 12th grade, Joel Pashcow and I played #1 and #2 singles on our GN North tennis team. We had an excellent season, losing only to Garden City who had a star player, Herbie Fitzgibbons. Towards the end of the school year, there was a tournament known as the Sectionals. Great Neck was in Section 9, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. This was the only Section where players who had played singles could team up to play doubles, which Joel and I did because we had little hope of defeating Herbie Fitzgibbons. So Joel and I won a very competitive Section 9 doubles tournament, qualifying us to enter the NY State Sectionals tournament, playing against the doubles winners from the other 8 NY State sections. This tournament was held at Cornell U. in Ithaca. Joel and I won the doubles tournament with ease. This was (I think) the only non-local tournament of significance that I ever won. Let me add that I still played tennis in the summers through to the summer of 1962, after my sophomore year at Harvard. In the Eastern Clay Courts in Hackensack, NJ, I came up against a future world champion, none-other-than Arthur Ashe. He defeated me with ease and went on to win the tournament. But that loss convinced me to look for a different “job” the following summer, when I started working with lasers as an experimental physicist, and I’ve never stopped. I always thank Arthur for giving me a good “kick-in-the-pants.”
  • Then there’s Donald Bloch, our super star “everyman.” I was a reasonably good student, but Donny stood out in so many different ways. I’m sure I worked harder to try to keep pace with him. We all knew that Donny would get into any college to which he applied, and he wisely decided to go to Harvard. Of the other ~10 boys who were of “equal caliber,” but a notch below Donny, I was the one who also got into Harvard. Looking back, I often thank Donny for setting a higher standard of excellence, which motivated me to work harder.
  • Of all the wonderful girls in high school, I have the fondest memories of Sally Levitt, Ros Avnet, Diane Rosenberg, Nancy Bronstein, Pat Jaffe, and Allene Rubin (whom we sadly lost in 1980).
  • And finally, let me recall that Carl Bender, my math and science competitor, wrote in my Arista “Jim, The only reason that you will be tops in math and science at Harvard is because I won’t be there.” Well, after college at Cornell, Carl joined me in graduate school at Harvard, and he was definitely better than I in math. As for science, he became a renowned theoretical physicist, and I became a successful experimental physicist.


I am so grateful for growing up in Great Neck, being educated in wonderful schools,  and having friends with whom I am still in regular contact.


Jim Wynne – 4/22/2023


Almost exactly 70 years ago (on June 2, 1953), Mrs. Fluharty, my 5th-grade teacher at Arrandale School, brought a television into our classroom (an unprecedented event). She wanted us to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Her reason: “You can see an inauguration every 4 years, but this might be the only coronation you will see in your lifetime.” For those of our classmates who unfortunately are no longer with us, that comment was prophetic. However, it was also true for many of us who are still here and in good health: I, for one, did not watch the coronation of King Charles III.   Ira Wolf  -  5/7/2023


Quite a few of my memories of Great Neck (5th & 6th grade, not high school), were embedded in one of my twelve published short stories, “What Happened to Mr. Morrissey,” which appeared in the Sunspot Literary Journal in the Fall of 2019. [I began writing short stories, and getting many published, in 2015 – partially on a dare from our classmate Steve Einhorn!]

I am taking the liberty of reproducing “What Happened to Mr. Morrissey” below. Those who were in Miss Stanlick’s 6th Grade class at Kensington School may remember many of the thinly-fictionalized details.


Steve Rosenfeld



            The spring of 1954 was the first time my father let me down. It was all about Mr. Morrissey.

When we arrived in school that May morning, we found a stern-looking grey-haired woman sitting at Mr. Morrissey’s old wooden desk. She clasped her hands together on the desktop and looked at us over half-rim glasses.

            “Good morning, class,” she said without a smile. “I’m Mrs. Davis and I’ll be your teacher for the rest of the year.”

            What happened to Mr. Morrissey?

            “I’m not at liberty to say,” Mrs. Davis told us, “but we’ll do our best to pick up where Mr. Morrissey left off and carry on.”

            But, of course, we didn’t.  Yes, Mrs. Davis finished the prescribed sixth grade curriculum, but it wasn’t the same. I missed many things about Mr. Morrissey, but what we surely didn’t carry on were our derisive parodies of the Army-McCarthy hearings we’d all been watching on TV.

            Before the live coverage of the McCarthy hearings, we didn’t even have a television in our house. My parents read the Herald Tribune and Dorothy Schiff’s liberal New York Post ─ my father often reading the Post editorials aloud at breakfast ─ and they listened to the radio, mostly classical music on WQXR and John Cameron Swayze’s nightly newscast. We all tuned in to Edward R. Murrow’s Hear It Now on Friday nights and, just for fun, Jack Benny on Sundays. But no television. My parents said it was a mindless distraction. “Intelligent people like us read books,” my father told us, “we don’t waste time watching television.”

My father’s study, just off the entry foyer of our house, was filled with books. Floor-to-ceiling shelves held complete sets of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Jane Austen, and much more. I wanted to believe Dad had read most of them. I too read books. ─ the ones my grandmother bought for me, like Illustrated Classics versions of “Treasure Island” and “Tom Sawyer” and scores of Landmark history books ─ and the more ambitious novels like Jack London’s and James Fenimore Cooper’s urged on me by Mom, who’d earned her degree in American Literature at Brooklyn College while Dad was overseas in the Army. I also read comic books, although my parents frowned on them.  They tolerated Archie and Bugs Bunny, but the ones I really loved, like Superman and Batman and Captain Marvel, were banned from our house. I had to buy them with my allowance, read them in school during recess, and then give them to my friends.

Even with no television at home, I had managed to see a few TV shows. My two best friends from school, chubby, jovial Andy and short, wiry Frank, both had 10” black-and-white TV sets with rabbit-ear antennas. Our three-bedroom colonial in the middle of a tree-lined side street, white with green trim and shutters, was only a few blocks from the old red brick elementary school, so I regularly walked to and from school with Andy, who lived on the next street over in a house very much like ours, except the trim and shutters were black.

When I went to Andy’s or Frank’s house after school, we’d sit in their living rooms, eat Mallomars and watch Superman or Roy Rogers or Captain Video. Once in a while, the three of us went to the Saturday afternoon movie matinees and then drank chocolate milkshakes at the ice cream parlor next door, although my parents carefully monitored what movies I could see. Westerns with John Wayne and Gene Autry and comedies with Martin & Lewis or Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were OK, but not the science fiction movies I yearned for.

“Those movies are too scary for kids, Davie,” my mother proclaimed. “They’ll give you nightmares and I don’t want you staying awake all night.” So I didn’t go to movies Andy and Frank were allowed to see, like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Man from Planet X.”

Although our town was staunchly Republican, I knew my parents were Democrats who were going to vote for Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 election. In fact, Dad was on the local Democratic committee and wore an “All the Way with Adlai” button, although not to work.  So when it was announced in school ─ I was in fifth grade then ─ that we’d be let out early the following Wednesday to see General Eisenhower’s motorcade come through town, I asked my father if I had to go.

“Yes, you do, Davie” he said.  “Forget his politics. The man led our Army that won the war against the Nazis and the Japanese. You may not get another chance to see a true hero.” My Dad had been in the Army during the war and considered himself a patriot. Tall and imposing, with thick curly hair just beginning to grey at the temples, he was a successful trial lawyer in the city. He wore gold-rimmed glasses, three-piece suits to work and a tan cardigan and slippers at home, where he sometimes worked in his study at night or tinkered at his basement workbench on weekends. When he laughed, there were crow’s feet next to his eyes.

Dad was very conscious of his standing in our community.  He participated in the campaign to raise funds for a new hospital and bought prominent seats for High Holy Day services at Temple Sinai. And he taught us to “respect the Stars and Stripes,” which he said symbolized “our sacred Constitution.”  So I went with my class to see Eisenhower, and we stood in the crowd on the curb waving the little American flags on wooden sticks they gave us, as Ike’s open limousine went by and he waved back.

“Dad, what’s an egghead?” I asked one evening during that election season. “A couple of kids at school said our family were ‘eggheads’ because we’re for Stevenson. The way they said it, that didn’t sound too good.”

“Nonsense,” my father said with a laugh that brought out the crow’s feet. “An egghead is someone who uses his head. Someone who thinks. That’s exactly what we are, and you should be proud of it.” He tousled my hair.

I guess it was because we were all eggheads that Dad set very high standards for my sister and me, particularly how we were expected to do in school. If I came home with a 95 on a test, Dad would always ask, “so who got the other five points?” He enforced strict rules of behavior as well, but he rarely lost his temper. The closest he ever came was when I was ten. Andy and I got caught filching candy bars at the A&P, and they called our parents.

That evening, as soon as he got home from work, Dad summoned me to his study, closed the door and pointed to the chair opposite his desk. Then he sat at his desk with his grey-green eyes fixed on me. Before saying anything, he kept looking at me for several minutes, like Superman using his x-ray vision. When he did speak, his voice was calm but more intense than I’d ever heard it.

“Do you know what this is about, David?” he asked, not taking his eyes off me. He always called me “David,” not “Davie,” when he wanted me to listen carefully.

“Yes, sir,” I said, looking at the floor. “What happened at the A&P, I guess.”

“What happened?” my father said. “You mean what you and your friend Andy did, don’t you?”

“Well, I mean it was Andy’s ──” I started to say.

Now he raised his voice and pointed a finger across the desk. “Oh, no. The one thing I won’t tolerate is for you to try to blame this on Andy. Listen, son, we all are responsible for our own actions. Something like this most of all. Understand?”

I nodded, still looking down.

“Now I want you to look at me,” Dad said, lowering his voice again.  I looked up and he met my gaze.

“Your Mom and I didn’t raise you to be a thief,” he said. “I don’t expect ever to have to say that again. If I did something like this when I was your age, your grandfather would have taken a belt to me.”  Dad didn’t lift a hand to me. He knew he didn’t have to. Instead, my allowance was cut off for a month ─ which meant no comic books and no movies ─ and I wasn’t allowed to go to Andy’s or Frank’s house after school “until further notice.” So no TV, either.

But Dad was just as hard on himself. If he lost a client or a motion in court, he would berate himself for days, brooding alone in his study at night with his J&B on the rocks, hiding behind the evening’s New York Post. I guess if he could have, he would have docked his own allowance, too.

When we started seeing the name Senator Joseph McCarthy in the headlines of The New York Post and hearing it on Edward R. Murrow’s programDad sat us down and explained that McCarthy was spreading “a plague” that could strike anywhere.

“It’s not just Communists and liberals he’s after,” Dad said, “it’s also homosexuals.”

Homosexuals?  That was a word I hadn’t ever heard before. “What are homosexuals, Dad?” I asked.

He stopped for a moment, glanced from me to my sister, who was only seven, then looked away. “You don’t have to know everything, David,” Dad said. “Let’s just say that these days everyone has to be careful.”

The next morning, on the way to school, I asked Andy if he knew what homosexuals were.

“They’re fags, stupid,” Andy replied. That wasn’t at all helpful, but then Andy started talking about the Knicks game the night before, so that was the end of it.

Dad had said everyone had to be careful, but he was hardly careful when the school board tried to prevent Pete Seeger from giving a concert in the high school auditorium. He and a few others in town formed a committee and spoke out.  “Pete Seeger may have leaned pretty far to the left twenty years ago,” Dad told us, “but he and Lee Hays stepped up to support the war effort against the Nazis. Not letting him sing violates the First Amendment right to free speech.” In the end, Pete came and we all went to the concert. No one sang along more enthusiastically than my father.

As I turned eleven and started sixth grade in September of 1953, I had come to believe that my father was right about almost everything. But he was wrong when he said I might never see another true hero.  When he said that, I hadn’t met Mr. Morrissey.

Mr. Morrissey was the first male teacher I ever had, and nothing like the straight-laced middle-aged women, some tall and skinny, others short and stout, who’d been my teachers since first grade. Mr. Morrissey was in his late 20s, medium height, with a high forehead and thinning brown hair. He wore horn-rimmed glasses that he was always pushing back up onto the bridge of his nose. Occasionally, a sheepish smile would cross his face when one of us asked a question he didn’t know the answer to, or maybe didn’t want to answer.

I quickly concluded that Mr. Morrissey was an egghead. He had a soft voice that made you lean in to hear him, which we always did because we didn’t want to miss anything he said.  When he wrote on the blackboard, it was never rote rules for us to copy into our notebooks because they would be on the test. Instead, he used colored chalk to draw bold diagrams and cartoons that made us laugh, but also helped us remember the lesson ─ funny little characters in the shape of Vs and Ns and As to depict verbs, nouns and adjectives, or three square-rigged sailing ships gliding across the Atlantic to discover America, or Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence.

Nor did Mr. Morrissey ever stick entirely to what he was supposed to be teaching. One day, when we were reading The Count of Monte Cristo, he suddenly stopped and looked at his chalk drawing of sad-looking, bearded Edmond Dantes behind bars in the Chateau d’If prison, then stared out the window, as if he’d just seen something interesting in the schoolyard.

“You know,” he said, “in a way, Edmond Dantes reminds me of one of my heroes, Eugene V. Debs.” He turned back to face the class. “Has anyone ever heard of Debs?” None of us had. “He was sent to prison for leading a railway workers’ strike in 1894. While he was in prison, he became a socialist and when he got out he founded the Socialist Party of America and ran for President five times as the Socialist Party candidate.” Before we knew it, Mr. Morrissey was explaining what socialism was.

When I told my parents about that class, I learned something about my father and grandfather that I’d never known. Dad’s middle initial, E, stood for Eugene, after Debs himself. My grandfather had voted for Debs for President four times!

On the first day of class in September, Mr. Morrissey had told us he was a science fiction fan and urged us to read H.G. Wells, whom he called “the Shakespeare of science fiction,” although no Wells novel was on the sixth grade curriculum. Then, when we studied the great explorers, Mr. Morrissey pulled down a map of the world, but at the same time drew a diagram of the solar system on the blackboard. We knew from fifth grade science how far away the planets were from earth. Tracing the routes of Magellan and Vasco da Gama on the map, he then added a space ship to his drawing on the blackboard.  “The distances those guys sailed back in the 16th century were so huge, it was like someone today taking a rocket trip to Jupiter or Mars,” he told us. And suddenly we were discussing the feasibility of interplanetary space travel.

During the unit on the American Revolution, when we came to Benedict Arnold, Mr. Morrissey started a class discussion on the meaning of the word “traitor.” That led him to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who had been executed the previous June for giving atomic secrets to the Russians. “Were the Rosenbergs traitors, like Benedict Arnold?” someone asked.

“Well, if they really did what they were found guilty of, then yes,” Mr. Morrissey replied. “But a lot of people think they were framed and rushed to the electric chair as part of this red scare stuff that’s sweeping the country.”

            When I came home and told my parents what Mr. Morrissey had said about the Rosenbergs, Mom suggested inviting him for dinner the following Saturday night. Having unmarried teachers over for dinner was encouraged by the PTA, and Mom thought that, “as a bachelor,” Mr. Morrissey might “appreciate a home-cooked meal.” Mom liked entertaining, although it wasn’t often that Dad was willing to put up with dinner guests. This time, though, Dad agreed that we should invite Mr. Morrissey.  He’d said more than once how he worried the Rosenbergs were victims of anti-Semitism, so he was eager to find out if Mr. Morrissey agreed.

            As if we were expecting royalty, Mom polished the sterling silverware and took out the gold-edged china my father had shipped home from Japan. She made one of her best dishes, pot roast with mashed potatoes, and apple brown betty with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Once everything was ready to go in the oven, she went out to get her hair done.

That evening, there was lots of conversation, with Mr. Morrissey the center of attention. The grown-ups drank wine and talked about the Rosenbergs, Eisenhower, Pete Seeger and the “red scare.” At one point, Mr. Morrissey made me blush by saying what a good student I was. But what I remember most is when he told my mother it was OK for me to see those science fiction movies.

“Most of them have some grounding in scientific fact,” Mr. Morrissey said, “they’d be educational for a smart kid like him. For example, my roommate, Matt, who’s a real movie buff, says “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is a serious allegory about the threat of nuclear war. David’s old enough to understand that, so don’t hold back his intellectual curiosity.”

When Mr. Morrissey mentioned his roommate, a strange look came over my father’s face, and he shot an odd glance across the table at my mother. And Mr. Morrissey showed one of those awkward smiles I’d seen so many times in school. Soon after that, he thanked my parents for a lovely dinner and said it was time for him to go home.

            “What a nice man,” my mother proclaimed right after Mr. Morrissey left. “He’d make some lucky girl a fine husband.” The way she said that, it sounded like she’d been rehearsing the line in her mind for delivery the minute he was out the door.

I’d never thought for a minute about Mr. Morrissey getting married, but for several days after that, I wondered if Mom had fallen in love with him and was going to leave us so she could be that lucky girl. Nothing like that happened, of course, but thanks to Mr. Morrissey, Mom did change her mind about sci-fi films. So that winter, I got to go with Andy and Frank to “Invaders from Mars,” “It Came from Outer Space,” and my all-time favorite, “War of the Worlds.”

  When I told Mr. Morrissey one Monday morning in December that we’d seen “War of the Worlds” the previous Saturday, he reminded me that it was a novel by H.G. Wells. “Fine that you saw the movie,” he said, “now get the book and read it.” All I had to do was mention that to my mother, and for my birthday she gave me Seven Novels of H.G. Wells. By the end of the summer, I’d read them all ─ starting, of course, with The War of the Worlds. In the introduction to the Seven Novels, I learned that Wells was a socialist, just like Eugene Debs. But by that time, Mr. Morrissey was gone, so I couldn’t tell him.

After the Christmas recess, it didn’t take long for Mr. Morrissey to go from Debs and the Rosenbergs to Senator McCarthy. Hardly a day went by when he didn’t find some reason to mention McCarthy, tell us how the man had made a career of forcing honest people out of the government and ruining lives based on unsupported accusations, and how “innocent folks all over the country are getting surprise visits from the FBI.”  He said he was disappointed that President Eisenhower refused to confront McCarthy. “He says he doesn’t want to get down in the gutter with that guy,” Mr. Morrissey said, “but that’s just an excuse. The man who defeated Hitler’s army in Normandy could get rid of McCarthy if he wanted to.”

Then, in the spring, when McCarthy took on the United States Army in those televised hearings, my parents finally bought a television, which they put in the wood-paneled basement rec room so we all could watch. And Mr. Morrissey came up with the idea of staging our own version of the hearings on Friday afternoons.

Because most of us had been watching the hearings or the nightly news excerpts at home with our parents, we all knew the main cast of characters. Even if we weren’t exactly sure who was who and what it was all about, we knew who the bad guys were ─ not only McCarthy, but also a rodent-like guy named Roy Cohn, and someone called G. David Schine ─ and that among the good guys were Army Secretary Stevens, the kindly old committee chairman Senator Mundt, and a Boston lawyer named Welch. When Mr. Morrissey handed out the parts, Freddy, the smartest and funniest boy in the class, was chosen to play Roy Cohn, and he cracked us up with his weaselly imitation. Jimmy, whom I’d always thought of as a good basketball player but dumb, nailed it as McCarthy. One of the girls, Vicky, who’d been the star of the school Christmas play, took the part of Schine. She dressed up as a shoeshine boy who kept forgetting what he was supposed to say, including his name ─ G. David Shoeshine. She was constantly rummaging through her shoeshine box, looking for her lines. My friend Frank was picked to play Welch, but he couldn’t compete with Freddy, Jimmy and Vicky’s antics. I got the part of Secretary Stevens, but I played him straight. At one point, Freddy, ad-libbing as usual in the role of Roy Cohn, pointed at me and said “I have reason to believe if you look in that guy’s desk, you will find RED crayons!”

Mr. Morrissey insisted on being Sen. Mundt, probably so he could keep us from getting totally out of hand. He bought a plastic hammer at Woolworth’s so he could gavel the weekly session to a close after half an hour.  It was great fun, but Mr. Morrissey made certain that we were learning at the same time. The Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, as our mock hearing wrapped up, I raised my hand.

“Mr. Morrissey,” I asked, “are you sure we’re OK doing this? I mean, aren’t you afraid the FBI might come after us?”  He started to show one of those half-smiles, as if he didn’t want to answer the question, but then he changed his mind.

“No, I’m not worried,” he said firmly. “I think Senator McCarthy is finally on the rocks. That guy Welch” ─ he pointed to Frank ─ “has his number.” Everyone laughed. “Seriously, though, I hope some Friday soon we’ll be able to play our version of The End.”

At home, when I told my parents what Mr. Morrissey had said, Dad nodded. “Yes,” he said, “Hopefully, McCarthy is nearly through.”

Just as Dad and Mr. Morrissey predicted, the hearings soon ended ─ badly for Senator McCarthy. But the happy ending was never played in our classroom. Jimmy never got to point his finger at Frank and accuse one of his associates of being a Communist, and Frank never got to recite lawyer Welch’s famous comeback ─ “Senator, you've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”  By the time that dramatic exchange flashed on our TV screens, Mr. Morrissey had vanished, somber Mrs. Davis was sitting at his desk, and our Friday afternoon lampoons were no more.

The day he disappeared, the talk in the cafeteria, during recess and after school was all about Mr. Morrissey. Each of us had a theory about what had happened to him, although everyone agreed it must have something to do with what we’d been up to on Friday afternoons. The most common opinion was that somebody’s parents ─ there were lots of guesses on whose ─ had sent an anonymous note to the Board of Ed, just like in The Count of Monte Cristo, and gotten him fired. Others thought Mr. Morrissey had received one of those visits from the FBI after all. Maybe the agents had been sent to his house by Roy Cohn, or by Senator McCarthy himself. There was even a view that Mr. Morrissey was in jail, like his hero Eugene Debs.  We needed to know the truth and, if Mrs. Davis wasn’t at liberty to tell us, we’d get our parents to find out ─ not only find out what happened to Mr. Morrissey, but bring him back to us.

So when my father came home that evening, I knocked on the door of his study. “Dad, I need to talk to you,” I said. “It’s about Mr. Morrissey. There was a substitute in class today, and she said she’d be our teacher for the rest of the year.”

“Yes, I know,” my father replied.

“You know? How?”

“I think all the parents know. We all got phone calls this morning, after you’d left for school.”

“So then you’re going to get together, form a committee and get Mr. Morrissey back, right? Like you did last year when they tried to stop Pete Seeger from singing?”

“No, son, it’s not the same.”

“Why not?  You told us then that it was all part of ─ you called it ‘the plague’ that Senator McCarthy was spreading.” I could feel my blood rising, and my voice went up an octave. I repeated all the schoolyard theories about what might have happened to Mr. Morrissey. “We can’t just sit here and let them turn Mr. Morrisey over to the FBI,” I pleaded. “You said just last week that McCarthy was good as done for.”

“Yes, let’s hope that’s true,” my father said.

“So what are you afraid of, Dad?”

“Look, Davie,” my father said, not looking at me, “this thing with Mr. Morrissey isn’t that simple. It’s not like it was with Pete Seeger, not at all. Your mother and I just can’t do anything this time.”

By now, I was in tears. “I don’t understand,” I said.

He got up from his chair, put his arm around my shoulder and hugged me. “I know you don’t.  But you will when you’re older.” And with that, he poured himself a J&B and sat back down to read the Post

Over the next few days, I found out I wasn’t alone. Andy, Frank, Freddy, Jimmy, Vicky had all had more or less the same conversations with their parents. We still didn’t know what had happened to Mr. Morrissey. All we knew was that we weren’t going to get him back.

Gray-haired Mrs. Davis dutifully led us through the rest of Oliver Twist, Robert Frost’s poems and whatever math and American history we still had to cover to be ready for Junior High School in the fall. And then the school year was over. Andy and Frank left for summer camp, but I wasn’t going to camp that year, because Dad had just bought a new ’54 Chevrolet Bel Air and we were going to spend six weeks seeing the USA in it, just as Dinah Shore sang on our new TV. The trip was planned for late July, so I had a few weeks to kill on my own. I rode my blue bike around the neighborhood, pretending I was Captain Video and the bike was my spaceship. I shot baskets in the driveway and read H.G. Wells’ novels. And I went to the movies. It was the summer of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Monster from the Ocean Floor,” “The Stranger from Venus,” and “Riders to the Stars,” and I wanted to see them all.

So there I was by myself one Wednesday afternoon in July, at the air-conditioned Orpheum Theater on Main Street, munching popcorn and riding to the stars. It was an amazing trip. But then, as the lights went on and I got up to leave, I saw something even more amazing. Sitting two rows in front of me was Mr. Morrissey. But he wasn’t alone. With him was a young man about his age. I figured it was Matt, the roommate he’d mentioned at dinner that night, but, as the lights went up, I noticed that they had been holding hands during the movie.

“Mr. Morrissey!” I blurted out. He turned around, but as soon as he saw me, he turned back and slumped down in his seat. My first instinct was to come forward to speak with him, but I quickly realized that he was trying to pretend he hadn’t seen me. Before I could decide what to do, the two of them got up, hurried down their row in the other direction and left the theater through a side door.

I skipped the milkshake and rushed home to tell my parents what had happened. Luckily, Dad was home early from work and sitting in his study reading the Post. I knew I was supposed to knock before disturbing him there, but I was too excited.

“Dad!” I blurted out as I barged in. “Guess who I saw at the movies? Mr. Morrissey!  So he’s not in jail after all. He’s still in town.”

“I remember he told us you were one of his best students,” Dad replied. “I’m sure he was pleased to see you.”

“Well, that was the weird part,” I said. “I know he saw me, but he pretended he didn’t. And he and the guy he was with ran out of the theater without talking to me.”

“The guy he was with?” Dad asked. A strange look crossed his face, like when Mr. Morrissey mentioned his roommate at dinner that night.

“Yes. I guess it was his roommate, but I think I saw them holding hands during the movie.”

“Sit down, David,” Dad said, folding his newspaper. “Your Mom wanted to tell you this when Mr. Morrissey was fired, but I thought it would be better to wait until you were a little older so you could understand. But you may as well know now.”

“Know what?” I asked.

“Do you remember a few months ago when you asked me what homosexuals are?” Dad replied.

“Yes. You wouldn’t tell me, so I asked Andy. He said a homosexual is a fag. Some kids in school were calling Adlai Stevenson a fag, so I figured it was like an egghead. Isn’t it?”

“No, David, it isn’t. First of all, that word, fag, is a horrible insult, and I don’t ever want to hear you using it again, OK?”

“OK, but then what’s a homosexual?”

“David, it’s a man who is attracted to other men, not women. It turns out that’s what Mr. Morrissey is, as you saw at the movies today, so the school board had to let him go. They had to do it to protect you and the other boys in the school.”

“Protect us? From Mr. Morrissey?” I couldn’t believe I was hearing him right.

“Yes, David. Homosexuality just isn’t normal, it’s unnatural.”

“But Dad,” I persisted, “you said Senator McCarthy was against homosexuals, and you hated him. You were so glad that he lost at the hearings. So why do you agree with him about this?”

“Look, David, I’m glad we’re finally rid of McCarthy, but as I told you, this isn’t the same thing. This country isn’t ready to accept homosexuals, particularly not as schoolteachers. And, to tell you the truth, neither am I. In fact, if you must know, your mother and I ended up signing the parents’ petition to get rid of Mr. Morrissey.”

That ended the conversation.  For weeks, I was devastated. I couldn’t shake the feeling that my father had let me down. But I guess he was right about one thing. Back in 1954, I really was too young to understand. It would be many years before I could fully comprehend what had happened to Mr. Morrissey, and why, 15 years before Stonewall, my own father had helped to make it happen.

Steve Rosenfeld (Posted 5/8/2023)