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Growing up

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  • Thomas E. Hepler
    This is a vignette of my never ending task -- growing up. As Bernie said when he adjourned the rather small February gathering, Growing up could be a monthly
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 18, 2010
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    This is a vignette of my never ending task -- growing up. As Bernie said
    when he adjourned the rather small February gathering, "Growing up could
    be a monthly assignment." I thought, "he's right, that is what we are
    about."
  • Stanley Levin
    GROWING UP - by Stan Levin At the age of thirteen, or, fourteen I played basketball for the 55th street Police precinct in the Police Athletic League. We wore
    Message 2 of 7 , Feb 18, 2010
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                                   GROWING UP - by Stan Levin

       

      At the age of thirteen, or, fourteen I played basketball for the55th street Police precinct in the Police Athletic League. We wore fancy yellow basketball uniforms with navy numbers on the back. A patrolman named Mr. O’Neill, one of the organizers of the League, would pick me up in his bright red police car and take me to the game of the day. Games were usually played at a high school gym in different precincts around the city. I was a starter and played well, but for some reason I quit the team. After playing a few games, I told Mr. O’Neill I no longer wanted to play. He could not understand why as I had no real explanation and tried to convince me to keep playing for the team. I remember the last game I played at a facility named Father Divine Hall in a “tough” black neighborhood. In the balcony we were constantly booed. I was a young teen, felt menaced and I think that experience influenced me to quit the team, a fact I apparently was ashamed to tell Mr. O’Neill.

       

      As a young teen I acted self assured but apparently lacked self confidence and in particular determination.

      I was considered an excellent basketball player in the school yard arena, playing and competing with established college and high school stars on a regular basis. Yet, when I made the basketball team in high school as a freshman, I quit the team because I wasn’t on the starting five. Instead of striving to prove myself and earning a starting position I made a snap decision to quit, no discussion with coach or anyone, just quit. This was a bad pattern of behavior that was not in my best self interest. I was totally unaware of this negative behavior at this point in time.

       

      In 1948 I was chosen to play in the Narberth independent summer league on the West Philadelphia team. The coaches Ralph Gamble and Joe Tomlin apparently had been made aware of my ability playing in the school yard in West Philadelphia . The league consisted of all established well known college  stars, including Paul Arizen who was the star on my team. Arizen eventually became a star player in the NBA and was named to the professional hall of fame. I must have had some talent or I never would have been selected to be on the team.

       

      The first game I played in I was assigned to start the game. The coach wanted to see how I would perform being guarded by a player named Cecil Mosenson who played for Overbrook High and Temple U. He later became coach of that team and was the coach of the immortal Wilt Chamberlain.

       

      As the game started I had the ball in my hands and made a move that faked Mosenson out of position. I drove to the center of the court, leaped up and had a clear shot at the basket. Usually I would make a shot like that nine out of ten times but this time I shot the ball too hard and missed. Soon after, the five best players came on the court and I sat the rest of the game on the bench.

       

      My friend, Joe Schimmel, an excellent player who was in the stands as a spectator, came to me after the game and said “I thought you were going to make that shot”. I felt inept and said “so did I”.

       

      I can’t help thinking if I had made that shot it would have instilled the confidence I needed when playing before a crowd, which I was not accustomed to. Possibly I would have been permitted more playing time. Although that one missed shot was in 1948, it must have been significant to me as I remembered it 60 years later when writing my memoir. I was the youngest player on the team, the tenth man in line, with the least amount of experience playing at a team level. I should have been proud to be on the team. I did not realize I would have further developed my skills by being exposed to experienced players had I been more patient. Unfortunately for me that was not my mind set.

       

      In the next game I was again a starter and was matched up against Marty Zippel who played professionally for the Wilkes Barre Barons. I did feel honored to be playing against him but only played a few minutes before I went back to the bench. Again, I should have been elated to compete with these established stars and to better learn the fine points of the game. I, without discussion quit the team after only two games because I thought I wasn’t playing enough. College coaches scouted this league. I did have a friend who had the stick to it quality and received a college scholarship to Gettysburg for basketball.

       

      As I look back at that police league experience and other basketball playing opportunities that I allowed to elude me I feel certain the void in my sports activity life was the absence of a mentor to push me to be a team competitor. This might have given me more self confidence.

       

      An absence of determination and inability to communicate with the coach or anyone who might have been able to shape my thinking in a positive direction was a bad pattern of behavior. Where did this behavior come from? Was I embarrassed to sit on the bench although playing amongst established stars? I think so. Was it possible I subconsciously thought I wouldn’t make it? I don’t know. I do know in the school yards I played with supreme confidence with skilled, more mature players. I think I probably may have been initially too nervous to play in front of a crowd. What I didn’t know then, and know now, everyone who first starts to play has the same feelings until they get into the game. I became aware of this fact many years later when I read in a sports column that the great basketball star, Bill Russell usually threw up from nerves before every game. And, he was a great player in college and in the pros. Also, many years later I had discussed this phenomena of mine with Hook Wallace, a high school and college basketball star in the nineteen forties. He told me the feelings I had in front of a crowd were natural and would go away once the game begins. I probably would have been able to overcome my negative feelings if I had further confided in someone that could have been a helpful mentor. Talent undeveloped is an unfortunate story. At the time, long ago, I didn’t know it.

       

      Excellent reflexes, good hand - eye coordination and agility in movement are not skills that are teachable. I had a “feel” for the basket and was a very capable shot maker for that era of nineteen forties basketball which was a much slower moving game than it is in the modern era. A person either has it or doesn’t have it. I did have the inherent skills but never allowed myself to have the patience to become a team coachable player. My athletic skills served me well in sports participation on an individual level throughout my life. At the age of seventy I was still shooting basketballs on the court of my Moorestown property. I still had a variety of shots including left handed “hook” shots.

       

      My regret is I never became a player in a team sport. I would never know how far my basketball abilities might have taken me if furthered developed under a coach’s tutelage.

       

      My track record as a quitter because I told myself I wasn’t getting enough playing time was too extensive and certainly was a bad pattern.

       

      I quit the Police League at the age fourteen, quit the high school team at the age of sixteen, quit the Narberth League at the age of seventeen, quit a team in the Brith Sholom League at the age of eighteen. And even quit the tryout after two sessions of practice on my college team at the age of twenty three. Playing on all those teams should have been an opportunity for me. Either I lacked the drive to prove myself or couldn’t face the possibility that maybe I wasn’t as talented as I thought, certainly not as an organized team player. I remember being annoyed t myself when I witnessed competing on my high school team, and college team, that I easily outclassed playing against them in our schoolyard games. But, they had the necessary stick to it attitude that was missing in me.

       

      The only time I did not quit a basketball team was when I played on a team in the army while in basic training. In that scenario I was determined to play.  By competing well on the army team it enabled me to avoid K.P. (kitchen police). It also gave me the rare opportunity to be independent of drill instructors, even if only for an hour or two. Quitting was not an option in the army. My two years of service enabled me to learn to face situations and not be a quitter.

    • Pete Hunter
      Hi! Hep; This is rather ironic, I had my first taste of beer and got drunk when I was seven years old. We had just moved back to Philly from Runnemede, NJ to
      Message 3 of 7 , Feb 19, 2010
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        Hi! Hep;
         
        This is rather ironic, I had my first taste of beer and got drunk when I was seven years old. We had just moved back to Philly from Runnemede, NJ to a house on Keyser Street. It was right around the corner from the Happy Hollow Play ground on Wayne Avenue, 
         
        Within two months, DeLuca's Italian Bakery, at the end of the our street celebrated the Christening of their three new ovens. It was open house to the entire neighborhood and the festivities went on for three days. Everything they baked, cooked or otherwise made was free. including the kegs of beer and wine.
         
        It was evening and just starting to get dark. I stepped inside the bakery and sat on a stool near the ovens to sniff the wonderful aroma that filled the room every time one of the oven doors was opened. I helped myself to just about everything that was on the tables or that someone brought to me.
         
        In the midst of the Great Depression, this was fantastic. My father was raised on English cooking. When his Mother made spaghetti, she must have used Campbell's Tomato Soup for her sauce because the spaghetti pasta entered your mouth snow white...not a drop of sauce on it. My Grandmother taught my Mother to cook them the same way. 
         
        With a tall glass of beer in his hand, the owner, eighty-one year old Poppi DeLuca, parked himself on a stool next to me. Together, we savored each tantalizing smell as they waifed across our noses. He left for a moment to refill his glass at one of the kegs. When he returned a few minutes later, he had a glass of beer in each hand. He sat down then turned to me and said, "Here, when you eat Italian food made by the ovens, you must show your respect and honor them with a toast. Raise your glass and say 'Salu-tae,' then you drink." 
         
        After 12 or 14 or maybe 18 toasts...about four glasses...I fell off the stool just as my older sister, Helen, appeared in the doorway. I looked up at her from the floor as I smiled and waved, then crawled back to the stool. Poppi DeLuca arrived with two more glasses of beer, saw my sister and said, "Helena!!! welcome to the celebration of my new ovens, here, take this. We drink a toast. Wait, I don't have beer to toast with. I get 'nother one. I be right back. Don't drink." With that he tottered away toward the kegs to get one more beer.
         
        Helen, squinted her eyes and said, "OOH!! I'm going to tell Mom." and she disappeared.    
         
        It took me several minutes to climb back on the tall stool just, but I finally made it, Several minutes more and Poppi DeLuca came back and handed me one of the three beers. But before I could take it, I was grabbed by my left ear and yanked off the stool...It was my Mother. Shaking her finger viciously and vigorously in Poppi's face while she loudly read him the riot between slaps to my head, she ranted non-stop for six or seven minutes. The only thing Poppi was able to say was, "But...but...but...but...but...but...but,,,but...but." 
         
        Unable to stop smiling, she slapped me on the head every time she looked at me. Still holding on to my ear, she marched me out the door and up the street toward our house. Still smiling, the head slaps didn't seem to bother me any more, in fact, she became predictable. She fell into a rhythm, she'd rant for six steps and then slap me on the head. Six more steps and another slap. She broke her cadence when we got to our porch steps, then I got a slap as we ascended each step. Five steps, five slaps, it was almost neat. In my mottled state I had a weird thought, was it possible that my Mother was gear driven...like a machine. Was I in a Flash Gordon movie, was I dreaming, or was I drunk?
         
        Through the fog, her loud voice answered my question, "Joe!!! Come down here, you have to see this........OUR SON IS DRUNK." 
         
        The last thing I heard before I fell asleep, with a smile still on my face, was the sound of a crazed elephant stumping down the stairs trumpeting a string of slured words that I was never allowed to say.  
         
        Hep. your memoir activated a long ago memory of my own. Mine was more brief than yours but still just as important to both of us....Thanks.  
               
        Sorry I missed another meeting...all kinds of problems these last couple of months...but we're hangin in. Hope to see you at the next one.
         
         
        ....PETE HUNTER

        From: Thomas E. Hepler <teh.himself@...>
        To: Senior Memoirs <Seniormemoirs@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Thu, February 18, 2010 9:53:16 AM
        Subject: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up [1 Attachment]

         

        This is a vignette of my never ending task -- growing up. As Bernie said
        when he adjourned the rather small February gathering, "Growing up could
        be a monthly assignment." I thought, "he's right, that is what we are
        about."


      • ELAINE PROCIDA
        Hi Stan:   Reading your memour of how you would quit each basletball team without giving yourself a chance to see just how well you would do makes me
        Message 4 of 7 , Feb 20, 2010
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          Hi Stan:
           
          Reading your memour of how you would quit each basletball team without giving yourself a chance to see just how well you would do makes me wonder.  When you were on the army team and quitting was not an option, how did you do in comparison to the other players?
           
          Elaine
        • Stanley Levin
          Elaine: Thank you for your response. When I played on a team in the army it was a great opportunity for me. Being an athlete and representing my army company,
          Message 5 of 7 , Feb 20, 2010
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            Elaine: Thank you for your response. When I played on  a team in the army it was a great opportunity for me. Being an athlete and representing my army company, during basic training, had an element of prestige to it. More importantly, I loved to play basketball and performed well on the team. Of course I was now 21 years old and certainly more mature. If you were to reread my essay please note I usually quit a team when I was not given enough playing time by the coach, that was most unmature and was not in my own best interests. At that point in time I was unaware of the negative aspect of my behavior. Stan
            --
             
            --- Original Message -----
            Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2010 9:25 AM
            Subject: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up

             

            Hi Stan:
             
            Reading your memour of how you would quit each basletball team without giving yourself a chance to see just how well you would do makes me wonder.  When you were on the army team and quitting was not an option, how did you do in comparison to the other players?
             
            Elaine

          • Pete Hunter
            Hi! Stan; I hope you don t mind my butting in, but your e-mail to Elaine opened the lid to my memory box marked STUPID.   When I went to Moorestown High
            Message 6 of 7 , Feb 22, 2010
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              Hi! Stan;
               
              I hope you don't mind my butting in, but your e-mail to Elaine opened the lid to my memory box marked STUPID.
               
              When I went to Moorestown High School during the mid to late '40s, My two best friends and I tried out for the football team. I won't mention their real names---I'll just call them Moe and Larry and for this e-mail, I'll be Curly. The three of us were pretty darn good all round athletes. In an era that still allowed multiple sports participation, Moe would have definitely been a four letter man, Larry, three, and me, Curly, two...maybe three.
               
              Even at that young age, Moe was my hero. He was always the fastest and  hardest hitting player on the field regardless of what sport it was. Later in life when I reminisced, I likened him to Dick Kazmier (spelling?), the greatest football running back that Princeton ever had. Larry, was tall and lanky, A great pitcher and equally talented in basketball and football. I always ran second to both of them, but in the trenches, football was my game. 
               
              On the first day of our tryouts, we, the scrubs played defense against the varsity and stopped them cold. Little by little the coach, "Worm" Wershing, put in his starters. On one play in particular, I nailed the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage and we stopped them cold just as before. Being easily aggravated, he ordered the same play to be run again. And again I stopped him for no gain. He called that play two more times with slight variations but we stopped them each time for a loss. 
               
              He was so disgusted that he gave us the ball and told us to run the ball any way we wanted to...run or throw. He then put in his team on defense, which was the way you played football in those days...both sides of the ball, offense and defense. We actually had to ask the scrubs for volunteers to play position. Moe was the left halfback, Larry was our right halfback and I was the pulling left guard. We called a simple running play...a hand off to the left halfback around the left end. The ball was snapped, I pulled, and was the lead blocker, with Moe right on my tail. I blocked the defensive end and Moe juked several would-be tacklers and was off to the races...untouched. 
               
              The coach was so mad, he ordered us to run the same play three more times. Three times I led the interference, and three times Moe ran untouched around left end for a would-be touchdown.
              Tryouts were terminated, we scrubs assembled to see who made the team. Moe's name was read and he approached the coach to receive his uniform jersey. "Welcome to the team." The coach said.
              Suddenly, Moe turned to Larry and said, "I don't want to play for this guy." He turned back to the coach and said, "Stick it, I don't want to play for you."
              Stunned, and embarrassed the coach asked, "Why not?"
              Moe answered, "I'm from Maple Shade, remember?" 
              Larry was next and said, "That goes for me too."
              Befuddled, when my turn came I said, "Whatever they said goes for me too." And I ran off to catch up to Moe and Larry. I asked them, "Why did we do that?"  Moe said , "Don't you remember what he said to class on our first day of gym...about us being from Maple Shade?"
              I said, "Yeah! He wasn't very nice."
              "Wasn't very nice? He was a jerk and Larry and I made up our minds, we're not playing for any jerk. If we made the team we were going to tell him o stick it."
              "Why didn't you tell me, I would've liked some time to think it over.'    
              "You can still play if you want to, but we're not." 
                 
              And so I didn't. A stupid immature thing to do even at age fifteen. My father hated football so I didn't tell him anything. Besides he was a baseball man, his whole family was. I did however play football for an independent team all through the rest of my high school years and continued to play semi-pro for five years after I got out of the Navy.
               
              I did a lot of stupid things in the course of my life but none that could have possibly changed my life...if not as an athlete, then academically.
               
              The lesson I did learn was, Don't be a follower, be a leader.    
               
              It seems that even at an early age we have the ability to make decisions that can drastic affect our future.
               
              Ah! That's enough of that.
               
              Have a great day
               
               
              ....PETE HUNTER
               
               
               
               
               


              From: Stanley Levin <salmoors@...>
              To: Seniormemoirs@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Sat, February 20, 2010 2:14:43 PM
              Subject: Re: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up

               

              Elaine: Thank you for your response. When I played on  a team in the army it was a great opportunity for me. Being an athlete and representing my army company, during basic training, had an element of prestige to it. More importantly, I loved to play basketball and performed well on the team. Of course I was now 21 years old and certainly more mature. If you were to reread my essay please note I usually quit a team when I was not given enough playing time by the coach, that was most unmature and was not in my own best interests. At that point in time I was unaware of the negative aspect of my behavior. Stan
              --
               
              --- Original Message -----
              Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2010 9:25 AM
              Subject: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up

               

              Hi Stan:
               
              Reading your memour of how you would quit each basletball team without giving yourself a chance to see just how well you would do makes me wonder.  When you were on the army team and quitting was not an option, how did you do in comparison to the other players?
               
              Elaine


            • ELAINE PROCIDA
              Thanks Pete.  I am not a football person but I really enjoyed reading this.  Life consists of learning lessons and the lessons never stop.  Now you got me
              Message 7 of 7 , Feb 23, 2010
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                Thanks Pete.  I am not a football person but I really enjoyed reading this.  Life consists of learning lessons and the lessons never stop.  Now you got me thinking if there is anything really "stupid" in my life.  Good subject to write about. 
                 
                Smile,
                Elaine

                --- On Mon, 2/22/10, Pete Hunter <brokenpen99@...> wrote:

                From: Pete Hunter <brokenpen99@...>
                Subject: Re: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up
                To: Seniormemoirs@yahoogroups.com
                Date: Monday, February 22, 2010, 12:33 PM

                 
                Hi! Stan;
                 
                I hope you don't mind my butting in, but your e-mail to Elaine opened the lid to my memory box marked STUPID.
                 
                When I went to Moorestown High School during the mid to late '40s, My two best friends and I tried out for the football team. I won't mention their real names---I'll just call them Moe and Larry and for this e-mail, I'll be Curly. The three of us were pretty darn good all round athletes. In an era that still allowed multiple sports participation, Moe would have definitely been a four letter man, Larry, three, and me, Curly, two...maybe three.
                 
                Even at that young age, Moe was my hero. He was always the fastest and  hardest hitting player on the field regardless of what sport it was. Later in life when I reminisced, I likened him to Dick Kazmier (spelling?), the greatest football running back that Princeton ever had. Larry, was tall and lanky, A great pitcher and equally talented in basketball and football. I always ran second to both of them, but in the trenches, football was my game. 
                 
                On the first day of our tryouts, we, the scrubs played defense against the varsity and stopped them cold. Little by little the coach, "Worm" Wershing, put in his starters. On one play in particular, I nailed the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage and we stopped them cold just as before. Being easily aggravated, he ordered the same play to be run again. And again I stopped him for no gain. He called that play two more times with slight variations but we stopped them each time for a loss. 
                 
                He was so disgusted that he gave us the ball and told us to run the ball any way we wanted to...run or throw. He then put in his team on defense, which was the way you played football in those days...both sides of the ball, offense and defense. We actually had to ask the scrubs for volunteers to play position. Moe was the left halfback, Larry was our right halfback and I was the pulling left guard. We called a simple running play...a hand off to the left halfback around the left end. The ball was snapped, I pulled, and was the lead blocker, with Moe right on my tail. I blocked the defensive end and Moe juked several would-be tacklers and was off to the races...untouched. 
                 
                The coach was so mad, he ordered us to run the same play three more times. Three times I led the interference, and three times Moe ran untouched around left end for a would-be touchdown.
                Tryouts were terminated, we scrubs assembled to see who made the team. Moe's name was read and he approached the coach to receive his uniform jersey. "Welcome to the team." The coach said.
                Suddenly, Moe turned to Larry and said, "I don't want to play for this guy." He turned back to the coach and said, "Stick it, I don't want to play for you."
                Stunned, and embarrassed the coach asked, "Why not?"
                Moe answered, "I'm from Maple Shade, remember?" 
                Larry was next and said, "That goes for me too."
                Befuddled, when my turn came I said, "Whatever they said goes for me too." And I ran off to catch up to Moe and Larry. I asked them, "Why did we do that?"  Moe said , "Don't you remember what he said to class on our first day of gym...about us being from Maple Shade?"
                I said, "Yeah! He wasn't very nice."
                "Wasn't very nice? He was a jerk and Larry and I made up our minds, we're not playing for any jerk. If we made the team we were going to tell him o stick it."
                "Why didn't you tell me, I would've liked some time to think it over.'    
                "You can still play if you want to, but we're not." 
                   
                And so I didn't. A stupid immature thing to do even at age fifteen. My father hated football so I didn't tell him anything. Besides he was a baseball man, his whole family was. I did however play football for an independent team all through the rest of my high school years and continued to play semi-pro for five years after I got out of the Navy.
                 
                I did a lot of stupid things in the course of my life but none that could have possibly changed my life...if not as an athlete, then academically.
                 
                The lesson I did learn was, Don't be a follower, be a leader.    
                 
                It seems that even at an early age we have the ability to make decisions that can drastic affect our future.
                 
                Ah! That's enough of that.
                 
                Have a great day
                 
                 
                ....PETE HUNTER
                 
                 
                 
                 
                 


                From: Stanley Levin <salmoors@comcast. net>
                To: Seniormemoirs@ yahoogroups. com
                Sent: Sat, February 20, 2010 2:14:43 PM
                Subject: Re: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up

                 
                Elaine: Thank you for your response. When I played on  a team in the army it was a great opportunity for me. Being an athlete and representing my army company, during basic training, had an element of prestige to it. More importantly, I loved to play basketball and performed well on the team. Of course I was now 21 years old and certainly more mature. If you were to reread my essay please note I usually quit a team when I was not given enough playing time by the coach, that was most unmature and was not in my own best interests. At that point in time I was unaware of the negative aspect of my behavior. Stan
                --
                 
                --- Original Message -----
                Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2010 9:25 AM
                Subject: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up

                 
                Hi Stan:
                 
                Reading your memour of how you would quit each basletball team without giving yourself a chance to see just how well you would do makes me wonder.  When you were on the army team and quitting was not an option, how did you do in comparison to the other players?
                 
                Elaine

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