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October 30, 2014


joyce stillman ps 217 class of 56

Mrs. McGowan , on the other had, was the only teacher of my six teachers that treated me fairly, without fat, or add prejudice. In my case she was elevated to sixth grade. Mrs Horenstein (sp) was my undoing in fifth..


Teachers come in all types. Some are fair, some are indifferent, some are bullies.  We all know this. But occasionally you will see a teacher who for whatever reason needs to bully another teacher. I witnessed this as a student at Erasmus Hall High School.

It took place at a gathering of the Program Committee, where students supervised by teachers would assign the next semester's classes to all students in the school. We students were FORBIDDEN to diddle our own assigned classes or those of our friends.  The penalties, determined by a despotic math teacher (he will go unnamed but I had him for Calculus), were draconian but never applied so everyone took the opportunity to assign popular teachers to our friends and ourselves, and psychopathically flat affects to those we didn't like.

Two of the mainstays of the Program Committee were English teachers Mr. Walter Balletto and Mrs.  Edna Forsythe. They really didn't seem to do much except gossip and suck on Charms all day long. Charms, for those who don't remember, were similar to Life Savers -- only square in shape, without holes, and individually wrapped. Clearly they were less cost effective than Life Savers and they eventually went out of favor and stopped being produced. Anyway one day the math despot became uncontrollably angry at Mr. Balletto, an effeminate theatrical man, and began yelling at him in front of everyone for some presumed mistake. The crowded room became silent.  

What I can't forget is that he shouted out bullet-style "Balletto! - Balletto! - Balletto!" not prefacing his name with "Mr." -- as if Mr. Balletto did not deserve this title. Mr. Balletto, not to be outdone, did a theatrically pop-eyed double take, jumped like a scared rabbit, and saved face in his own way by murmuring an apology for whatever was wrong. It was an awful moment and taught me that there were right ways of interacting with people and there were wrong ways.  I'd just witnessed the wrong way, carried out by a classic bully. He was reasonably OK a few semesters later in math class but he never had my respect after his ill-considered outburst. And damn him to hell, I thought more than once.

Richard Mothpan

Actually, recent research in nineteenth-century baseball history provides some justification for Mrs. McGowan's call. On July 16, 1876, during the Pioneer League season, the “crotch catch” was executed by Ed “Moaner” Sonnenfeldt (also a third-baseman). According to contemporaneous accounts, the catch was made exactly as you describe, and the ball was held by the fielder in such manner for a prolonged period. The umpire ruled that the ball had thus been rendered “malodorous and unfit for further use,” and that Sonnenfeldt's spectacular play was therefore “not a fair catch.” Sonnenfeldt's professional baseball career was short (that one line drive was just about it) but curiously, years later he re-emerges in the world of baroque music, singing countertenor roles with the New York Pro Musica.

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