THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #15
We were bussed down town to the Julian Curtiss School for third; fourth; and fifth grades by John Purdy, our next-door neighbor who drove a Laidlaw Bus for the town of Greenwich. John Purdy and his wife had thirteen children so there was never a shortage of playmates backcountry!As I remember, all of the Purdy children had a special talent for singing especially Rosemary, Peggy and Ruth.Their brother, PFC Louis James Purdy gave his life for our country in Vietnam, in 1967 and I want to remember him here.In the sixth grade, we changed schools once again, this time, to attend The North Street School for grades, six, seven, and eight.By this time, the town of Greenwich was growing fast.I was eleven years old, when the town was deemed big enough for it to be included on the road maps, given away free, at the Esso Station!This was of course, a great cause for celebration!“Map Parties” were held all over town…any excuse would do for a party in Greenwich!
By the time Easy and I graduated from the North Street School in eighth grade, we were well prepared for life. Public school education for us was wonderful.I think we could have survived quite well, because the foundation provided to us was broad based, basic and sound.Every student, and I do mean every student, in our classes, was proficient in English, Math, and basic American History and Science by the time they graduated, even though, there were many in our class from very low incomes and several who, when they joined our class, spoke no English at all.We were also given a good education in music and art and sports.We loved our teachers who had given us the building blocks on which to stand and build our own futures.
There are many events that shape one’s career. Ninth grade was one of them.Because our parents did not approve of co-education in the upper grades, the decision was made to send us to a private school in the fall of 1956.For the ninth grade, we were sent to the Greenwich Academy, a private day school for girls, carefully fashioned after traditional preparatory schools in England.Although The Brunswick School for boys was only a few blocks away, we rarely crossed paths.The administrations of both schools saw to that, excepting perhaps for a holiday dance, and then, only if you were lucky enough to be invited.
Our Uniforms were…and there is no other word to use here, excepting the word, ”Ugly!”Tan men’s, button down shirts, worn with swamp green, men’s ties which looked just lovely under shapeless, heavy green wool suits, finished off, of course, with brown leather buttons. Tan cotton knee socks, which were always falling down around our ankles, were worn with lace-up leather oxford shoes. To complete the picture…no jewelry or make up of any kind
whatsoever, was allowed.By God we were an attractive bunch!
The Academy was an excellent school however, intent on preparing its’ students for the Ivy League Colleges, and this they did! The courses were rigorous and so were our schedules. We were up by six, every morning to feed and water the ponies before leaving for school. Our first class was at 8:30 am. The last class ended at 4:10 and then it was home to exercise the horses, do stable work, followed by dinner and home work until ten or eleven each night. The classes were small and our teachers, outstanding.In addition to Geometry, and Greek Mythology, we studied French, Latin and Current Events, Music, Art, Field Hockey, Modern Dance and Mensendieck!
The class called Mensendieck was a real kicker and obligatory for all students: no exceptions. All of our clothing was removed, excepting for our underpants. We marched around a gray rugged room, barefooted.Mirrors lined all four walls so that we could see ourselves, while our teacher Mrs. Jerik, corrected our posture. Silhouetted photographs were taken once a year and presented to our parents, so they might see the improvements from year to year.O’ the embarrassment!When not teaching this class, Mrs. Jerik roamed around the school with her pointer, tapping us on whatever part was closest, reminding us, to stand up straight.
Chorus Conductor/composer, Louie White traveled once a week from New York City.He transformed our school into one huge chorus, which culminated in a Christmas performance, held in the Old Stone, Second Congregational Church on the corner of Maple Avenue and the Post Road.I was one happy camper at the Academy, especially because of the Music, Art, and Modern Dance classes that were taught by Mrs. Pethic and Madeline O’Neil.It was an auspicious beginning at the Greenwich Academy.Not for long, however…. our Ninth Grade year ended up being a tough one.I mean… you never know when life will throw you a curve ball.
Everything went along quite well for both of us until early in the month of February 1957, when my sister was invited to go horseback riding with her classmates at the Round Hill Stables.Easy was a very competent rider, so the Head of the Riding School, Teddy Wahl, asked her if she would like to tryout one of the new ponies in his stable.The class “moved off” on a cross country ride, over field and stream, galloping through the Round Hill Woods when suddenly the lead horse pulled up short and the horses behind my sister, bunched up on my sister’s pony, forcing her pony into the back end of the lead horse, which did not like being shoved. Easy tried to turn her pony to the side to avoid the crush of the ponies behind her but the lead horse, shod with steel shoes, kicked out behind himself, cracking into my sister’s leg just below the knee, resulting in multiple compound fractures. The leg was held in place by the stirrup and the fabric of the heavy English breeches which Easy was wearing that day. I don’t know how she stayed conscious, but she did and somehow managed to ride for forty minutes back to the stable on her pony.She was lifted off of the pony and taken immediately to the Greenwich Hospital’s Emergency Room.
The injuries were severe.The knitting together of the many fractured pieces was a slow and painful process. Gangrene had set in, and more than once I over heard discussions regarding the possibility of amputation. The outcome was in jeopardy for three or four months as I remember, it was touch and go.She came very close to loosing her leg that spring. Easy missed most of the second half of her 9th grade year at the Academy, most of which was spent in hospital or therapy sessions.By the end of the school year, the fears of amputation lessened.She would need to be watched closely for any returning signs of Gangrene and need many months of physical therapy in order to hopefully recover full function.
Mummy and Daddy could see that they would be needed to manage her medical care for the next year or so. It was then decided, that this could be best accomplished, if I was in a boarding school. That way, they could give Easy their full attention.The upshot was, that I was sent to my mother’s Alma Matter, the Garrison Forest School in Garrison, Maryland.
THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #16
Garrison Forest and Dr. Schlogen!
Although The Garrison Forest School was already in session, Headmistresses, Jean Marshall and Nancy Offutt were kind enough to grant a late acceptance and a scholarship to boot. New uniforms were ordered, and Mummy and Daddy delivered me in person. Mummy cried.I settled in with my new roommates, Timmie Scott and Becky Morgan.Remarkably, the friendships developed in boarding school, stay with you for a lifetime. Our fiftieth Reunion happened in 2010. Our class gathered together once more on campus and there, we picked up our friendships again, just as though no time had past at all.
Looking back, my year at Garrison was exciting because our teachers were crackerjacks: each and every one of them!We were introduced to binary numbers and computers with our math wizard, Miss. Porter. I didn’t understand any of that stuff, but Boy-o-Boy, Mary-Deas Boykin sure did! She sparkled in that class.Remember, this was way back in 1957.Bravo and Hooray for Garrison for keeping us up-to-date on the digital world to come. I Studied Latin, French, English, Vocabulary, Math, Music, Art, Dance, Field Hockey and Horseback Riding.Best of all, any unused tickets to the Baltimore Symphony and The Lyric Theater were given to anyone who wanted to go and I wanted to go!
I heard my first performance of Puccini’s“Madam Butterfly, ” and was steeped in the notes of Bach and Mozart with the Baltimore Symphony. I learned to cherish Shakespeare because of Miss Donaho, and was introduced to Art History and Sculpture with Margaret Rice. Mrs. Van taught Latin providing a foundation for English and composition and Penny Delafield taught us French. I could not understand a word of French, but by golly I could pronounce it well!Every day at Garrison offered new challenges.It opened unexpected doors, giving us a glimpse, into the possibilities for our future.
After a long and busy day, and after dinner, students would repair to the library or study hall to complete their homework assignments. If you finished early, you were allowed to go next door to the adjoining art studio, to work on whatever project you wished.Plasticine, an oil-based clay that never gets hard and can be used again and again, was provided to anyone who wanted to work with the stuff. I started off making a horse of course, my most favorite subject.
One day, Our art teacher, Margaret Rice said, “Sterett, You are always drawing horses, horses, horses! How about something different this time?I have an armature for a figure. Would you like to give it a try?” “Yes, Please,” I replied! At this very moment, my career in sculpture began, although I did not know it at the time.Right away I connected with the clay and started to build a male figure, about eighteen inches high.This male figure however, upset the headmistresses who suggested that it might be more appropriate if I made a female figure, since I was in an all girls’ school. Miss Marshall said, “Please Dear, make a female figure instead,” in a tone that indicated that I had absolutely no choice.However, since I was a fairly co-operative little rascal and anxious to please in those days. I said “Sure. Ok.Why not?”
I started to work on a female figure using the very same armature. Sculpture for me was immediately addictive.So every spare moment, you would find me in the Wendy Smith Art Room, working away, on my now, “female figure.”The problem arose with this figure, when I started to work on it in the evenings after study hall.The problem was this.All the closets were locked up for the night by the school’s janitors.There was no place to put away your tools.It was not, of course, a problem for me however, because plasticine is always soft and malleable.So my solution was to very carefully stick the knife in the top of the head of the female figure. Very…. very carefully of course, so as not to disturb the design of her hairdo.This seemed a simple and satisfactory solution, until Dr. Schlogen, the School’s psychiatrist, happened to walk into the art room and spied the sculpture.Right away, he alerted the head mistresses that I was clearly, a disturbed individual and was thinking of, or perhaps planning to kill myself, or worse, some one else!Everything was kept hush, hush. No one ever asked me why the knife was stuck in the top of the head of my sculpture. To me, it was a very reasonable place for the knife to be.I mean, if one wanted to be horrible, just think of all the places one could stick a knife!Anyway, no one ever mentioned it to me.The next thing I knew, I was in Schlogen’s office, taking Rorschach’s inkblot tests.Shortly there after, I was asked to finish up the final two weeks of school and not to return.This was very confusing. I had good grades and had assumed that I would be attending Garrison for the next two years.
I was so happy there!
In the meantime, Miss Rice asked me if I had ever thought of going to Art School. I replied “No. Not really, I am going to be a Doctor”“Well, she said, “If ever you do, remember the name of “The Rhode Island School of Design.It is the finest school in the nation for fine art.”This was the first time anyone had ever suggested to me that I should think about art school. In tenth grade, I did not really think much about anything excepting my horse. With the heavy workload, I was much too busy to think. The word “college” had not yet entered my vocabulary or my mind!
And so the end of the year came, and went, and I was home again, being outfitted with another new, blue, uniform.I was now a Day Scholar at Rosemary Hall School in Greenwich, Connecticut