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June 15, 2011


K. T. Maclay

Thank you so much for taking me on a wonderful trip down memory lane. I remember loving Discussion English and delving deeply into Voltaire's Candide so that the class could discuss it. I also remember my written work coming back with red corrections and, in one instance, a note saying that I was too much style and not enough substance. I'm happy to report that the above mentioned defect has supported me for four decades, three books and a number of articles. Thank you Mr. Balletto.

Joyce Smith


Your disparagement of witty, fun, erudite Dr. Wedeck (sp?) is your bad, lazy, non-learning opinion. He & Mr. Cussens (sp?) were my Latin teachers c. 1955-58. Who knows ~ we may have been in some of the same classes! I remember them both well and fondly; you, not at all.

I don't see the names of some other good teachers I had at EHHS whose names I can recall: Mr. Allen - Ceramics, Mrs. Gordon - Honors English, Señora Vaughn - Spanish.

I went to PS 241, a different area: Prospect Heights, and JHS 210, a very different one. In the 1970's-'90s, as a teacher in Sunset Park, then a librarian at Tilden & FDR, I occasionally used the Ave. J library while living on Ave. N. Have now lived in Tucson AZ for 25 +/- years; gracias a Sña. V, considering that I'm only 70 perilous Sonora Desert miles from Mexico.

The point is, I've been in the process of looking up some Latin words & phrases, for an online 241 "reunion" project which has reconnected a bunch of us who were in 4th, 5th, & 6th grades together ~ some also 7th-9th, then separated in EHHS, + Madison et al ~ 60+ years later. (A mere eyeblink!) Thanks to 2 or 3 dedicated Sherlock former classmates.
Sadly, some of the group are known to be deceased; others haven't been located, let's say yet.

Joyce Brenda Smith EHHS '58

Bob goldstein

Miss Deihl was my 217 sixth grade teacher.

A very tough lady with NO favorites, who assured you your efforts would be fairly rewarded. No “girls in front row get the A’s “

She gave me the confidence for a lifetime of education and service.

Robert goldstein

Mrs Ennis was wrong ly depicted. She taught sentence diagraming and was quite a fair teacher. Mr Kaminsky as well was shop teacher with patience.( I won the shop medal)


I believe that Mrs Ruth L. Berkowsky Bonime did indeed commit suicide.

Doris Teichler Zallen

I don't quite know how I found my way to this site but I feel I must comment on an unfortunate comment made in it about Ruth Berkowsky Bonime, a math teacher at EHHS who I had for the second half of geometry. Mrs. Berkowsky was a wonderful and patient teacher. She encouraged us (girls included) to understand, to learn from mistakes, and to actually appreciate the subject. Thanks to her, I began to enjoy mathematics and have been able to use math in my research in the decades that followed. At graduation in 1957, I received the math medal established in her name. I treasure it to this day.

Bob Reiss

I adored some of my Erasmus teachers. My years of attendance were 1952-55. An English teacher, Mrs. Brattig, taught us similes and metaphors by teaching us the words to "I'm as Corny as Kansas in August" from South Pacific. Mr. Berg, history, asked why aren't all men equal if it says so in the Declaration of Independence. And Mr. Goldenberg, math, obsessed with magic squares. On and on. Well, true, there were a few clunkers but overall I got an excellent education at Erasmus.

Howard Carlin

Vivian, I am amazed at your negative portrayal of EHHS, and your bad experience. I attended at the same time as you. To this day I thank my wonderful teachers there, as well as at PS 139 and PS 246, for inspiring me to this very day with progressive values and a caring for others. ALL of my friends who were classmates went on to excellent colleges and excellent careers. I do agree with your conclusion....that is was your own fault. But denigrating a truly great school is not the proper answer. For example, I believe we had more Merit scholars than almost any other school in the country. Guess what, if you study, and if you respect education, you succeed. If not, you don't.


Psalm 23 was often read in the auditorium at PS 241. We were made to sing The Lord's Blessing and other religious hymns. Was this wrong!
The journalism teacher at Erasmus was also anti-Semitic. She yelled at students for being absent on Succoth.

Don Z. Block

Surprised to learn about Kieselbach's anti-Semitism. I never witnessed such an outburst and thought that she was nice compared to the McNultys, the Ennises, the McGowens, and the Prentkys ("I have a terrible headache today": I wonder how many times Mr. Prentky heard that).

Regarding the religious hymns we sang in the auditorium, like "Faith of Our Fathers," it never occurred to stupid little me, a believer back then, that there was anything wrong with that or with the "under god" line that was added to the pledge. Those Lutheran hymns were fun to belt out.

But it does seem clear now that religion belongs in the privacy of one's home, and if different faiths insist on inserting themselves into politics or the public school classroom, they should be stopped or taxed.

Don Z. Block

Teachers in PS 217: I went there from 1948 to 1956. 1st grade: Mrs. Berg and Mrs. Weinstein (Berg went on maternity leave), Wengraf in the 2nd grade (it was a bad class and I made it worse), Schwartzberg in the 3rd (my only A ever in conduct), Feldman in the 4th (she taught me how to add fractions), Goldstein in the 5th (she was a terror who refused to take us outside to play ball), McGowen in the 6th (she insisted on the "Miss" before her name), Ennis in the 7th (a godawful teacher and person), and Kieselbach in the 8th (she did get me very interested in good music but was not very good at teaching grammar). When I think back, those were the most important educational years for me. I have been teaching for 51 years now, 46 in college, and can see clearly that the first 8 or 9 years are the most important ones in school; that is where the damage is done. The teachers in 217 minimized the damage. For that I thank them. (Prentky was appalling, always complaining about a headache.)

Nathaniel H. Goldman

There were a number of other teachers, whom I remember during my eight years at P.S. 217, from September, 1949-June, 1957. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Robinson. She was one of the kindest teachers that I had at that school. In the second grade, Miss Selco was not that kind. In 1950, I was playing with a peg board set, along with another student. One of the legs of the peg table was accidentally knocked over, and the leg partially broke. When Miss Selco found out who was involved, she kept me in after school. It was a very traumatic experience for a six year old, as I don't even think that my Mother was notified. I was the only student detained, and I didn't like being alone in that class with Miss Selco. I don't remember if she detained me for 30 or 60 minutes. It seemed as if it lasted forever! In any event, I don't think that a teacher could legally do that today. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Reagan was not a very personable individual. I remember that she told me that "I want to talk to your Mother". I don't know what her complaint was. However, in those days, we were guilty until proven innocent. In the fourth grade, I had Mrs. Wengraf, who was excellent. In fact, I recently sent an e-mail to Mrs. Wengraf's daughter, telling her that her Mother was the nicest, kindest and the best teacher that I had at P.S. 217. I regret that I didn't know that Mrs. Wengraf had retired to Boca Raton, FL, as I would have liked to have seen her, before she passed away. In the 5th grade, I had Mrs. Goldstein, who I remember dressed very well, and always was wearing very strong perfume. I remember that she had very strong opinions concerning juvenile delinquents. The 6th grade class was presided over by Mrs. Mandeberg. Also, we had a shop teacher by the name of Mr. Kaminski, who we also had in the 7th grade. I don't know why they forced us to take shop for two years. Carpentry and woodworking were not something that I was good at. Also, Mr. Kaminski had a habit of publicly humiliating students when correcting them. In the 7th grade, there was a new Principal, a Miss Driscoll, who was always screaming at students. Some of those teachers and administrators were never married, and they took their personal frustrations out on the students. In addition to Mr. Kaminski publicly rebuking students, there was another teacher (whose name escapes me), who publicly rebuked a student because of his handwriting. When he stated that he would type a lot of his work, she embarrassed him in front of the class by stating "you can't go around with a typewriter handcuffed to you". Again, that particular teacher took out her personal frustrations out on an unfortunate student. It was not right, but it was tolerated in those days. Today, it would be a different story.
In the seventh grade, we had a number of teachers. There was Mr. Harry Trapane, who was an ex-Marine, and who treated the boys in the gym class, as if they were in basic training, and he was the drill instructor. We also had a Mrs. McGowan for Music, as well as for gym. Mrs. McGowan used to march us in cadence in the gym, and told us to use proper posture. There was also a Bernice Galitzer who played the piano, and was very good. There was Mrs. Nellis for Art. In the seventh grade, I had Harry Shapiro for Science. He could be very charming one minute, and the next minute could become quite nasty. For example, in 1955, during the final game of the World Series, with the Dodgers playing the Yankees, the students begged Harry Shapiro to let them listen to the radio, as the final game was winding up. Harry Shapiro screamed NO!
A number of the teachers transferred to the new Ditmas Junior High School in 1956, and left P.S. 217.
In Sept., 1956, we had a new Principal at P.S. 217, named Nathan Dessot. He was a real gentleman, and I liked him. He presented us with our diplomas and awards, during the graduation ceremony, in the auditorium, in June, 1957. Unfortunately, Mr. Dessot died of a heart attack in 1960, at a relatively young age.
During my final year at 217, we had a host of teachers, including a Miss Cebli, Mrs. Warshauer, and others, whom I can't remember. Finally, Mrs. Henrietta Prentky took over our class for the final months. She was a good teacher; in those days, we had to have recommendations to enter the academic program at Midwood High School. I remember Mrs. Prentky used to speak about that. Eight years later, on a trip to Israel, there was a girl in our tour group with the last name of Prentky. When I asked her if she knew a Henrietta Prentky, she told me that was her Mother. She wrote her Mother, and her Mother remembered me. I last saw both of them in New York City, in 1967. In fact, Mrs. Prentky and her husband drove me back to my home in Brooklyn, NY.
It was only in 2002, after forty five years, that I finally received a transcript of all of my grades, at 217, as well as various reviews from teachers, which I had never seen before. I kept writing P.S. 217, for information about my permanent record. All of my letters were ignored. Finally, I sent a letter to the Chancellor or the New York City Board of Education. My letter finally produced some action, as I finally received a response from 217. They told me that they didn't have any record of my attendance (I couldn't believe it), even though I sent them a copy of my diploma. In any event, they told me to contact Midwood High School. I contacted Midwood, and they sent me a copy of my transcript, and various reviews. However, there were some sections, which were redacted. I don't know why that was done; however, I was pleased that 98% of the information which I wanted was sent to me. Incidentally, I attended Kindergarden from 1948-1948, in Borough Park, at P.S. 264. When I asked for a copy of my record, in 2002, they actually had my records, and sent me a copy. They even sent me a copy of the large painting in the auditorium (since I mentioned that I recalled the large auditorium), and invited me back to visit. The difference between the response between P.S. 264, where I attended for one year, and P.S. 217, where I spent eight years, was like day and night!

Nathaniel H. Goldman

Sixty years ago, in December, 1955, I was in Mrs. Kieselbach's 7th grade music class, at P.S. 217. At that time, the class was comprised of about 30-40% Jewish students, and the other 60-70% of the students were divided among Irish and Italian Catholics. For weeks, she was teaching the students various Christmas Carols (i.e. Deck the Halls, Silent Night), as well as the L-d's Prayer). One day, one student brought in a Chanukah dreidle, which some of the students were playing with. I was not one of them. All of a sudden, Mrs. Kieselbach screamed at us "DON'T YOU BRING RELIGION INTO SCHOOL". What nerve she had! I guess that she didn't consider the teaching of religious hymns and other songs, as having to do with religion. In sixty years, I'll never forget that intense look of hatred in her eyes, when she screamed at us, as well as the way that she looked at me. About twelve years later, I mentioned the above incident to my eighth grade teacher, who I met at a reunion. She told me that Mrs. Kieselbach was an old time, anti-semite! The latter incident in 1955, was my first experience with anti-semitism. Unfortunately, it was not the last.
Incidentally, regarding Mrs. McNulty, I also had an unpleasant incident with her. I was looking for another student, during a change in classes, and I happened to peer into the window of a class, in the hallway, while we were changing classes. This was also in the 7th grade at P.S. 217. All of a sudden, Mrs. McNulty came along and screamed at me "I"LL KILL YOU". She did it with such venom, and hatred. Today, if another teacher said something as harsh to a student, as she did, they would undoubtedly be suspended.
Mr. Proshan was not a bad teacher. Unfortunately, there were some students who took advantage of his timid personality.
There were some excellent teachers at P.S. 217, notably Mrs. Wengraf, who was my 4th grade teacher, and was probably the most compassionate, and kind teacher that I had at that school. There were several others who were were kind, and who motivated students.

Harry Myers

Water Balletto molded sentences as a gifted sculpture. When he thought we did not understand something he would use the expression "you do not have a rudimentary illusion". He was a genius and an inspiration. I am 73 years old and have never forgotten the effect he had on us.

barbara mortensen aka barbara wolowitz

i too went to ps 217 and remember the following teachers names: mrs cares @grade, mrs berkowitz 5 grade who then went out on maternity leave, mrs cassidy 3 grade, mrs mcnulty 7 grade mrs rubin 8 grad (my home room teacher who was also in charge of the library at the school and wore too much lipstick) mrs kieselback who taught me little songs to remember the names of some of the great music we heard) mrs bilderslee the blue haired miseralbe lady of a principal. why teach if you hate achool and kids so much? mr shapiro, taught something , i just remember what he looked like. mrs eniis but i didnt know she had a sister. i knew mrs berkowitz had a sister who substituted, and my fourth grade teacher who taught me my great love of geopgraphy and for every country we talked about at length, we made papier mache puppets. i cna see her no: Mrs teitelbausm was short and stocky and could be your favorite aunt or grandmother. and acytually, mrs rubin put me in charge of her library room and i have been a library freak (i was already a voracious reader) I also remember playing the piano in duets for assembly with my best friend maryann abrahams who alas went to erasmus while i went to midwood . i finally stopped palying for auitoriums when they wouldnt let me play the drums or the trumpet. Those instruments werent fit for girls!

Denis Sullivan

I, too, remember Walter Balletto. He was one of the better teachers at Erasmus, even if there was some theatricality in his delivery (he sometimes reminded me of the Caligula character in "Demetrius and the Gladiators"). He lived in Forest Hills, only a couple of blocks from the Stadium where he liked to play tennis. As for the rest of his private life, I neither know nor care.

DS (EHHS '55), Writer

C R Payne

I remember Walter Balletto, too. But my recollection is of an intelligent and dedicated teacher, who managed to make us aware of the world outside the Erasmus classroom. And he taught us how to organize our writing for clarity and preciseness, which turned out to be a very useful skill. Whatever his private life, 60+ years later that doesn't seem to be nearly as important as his real accomplishments.



How do you remember their names so clearly a century and a half later?????

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