Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can go home again (for just a day)

Quiznos Subs has replaced Barron’s Books on Hillel Place and a huge Target store now casts a shadow on the street which ends at Brooklyn College. Changes in the neighborhood and on the campus itself, however, were downplayed yesterday as the Class of 1959 recalled its four years there. The reunion brought graduates from as far away as Israel and some who still lived in Brooklyn.

Our group of five relived some of our experiences as if they happened yesterday. We all agreed that we received a wonderful liberal arts education from some great teachers. John Hope Franklin was chairman of the History Department. Burgoyne Diller was a member of the Art Department faculty. Most notably, however, was Bernard Grebanier, professor emeritus in the English Department and a highly respected Shakespearean scholar. One of his books, The Other Love, still sits on my bookshelf with his personal inscription. (Pulling it from the shelf just now, I see I also saved his obituary which appeared in the New York Times in May 1977.) He was just one of the many professors who had a profound impact on students. As we poured over the yearbook, we critiqued them all, remembering, too, the idiosyncrasies of some who left us cold.

Our courses included a year of science, history, a course in speech, a foreign language, classical civilization, art history, English, philosophy, economics, mathematics, political science, sociology-anthropology, psychology, education, health and physical education. The cost? $14 registration fee a semester plus books. A year later when the college wanted a 100% increase in the fee, student protests erupted throughout Boylan Hall!

Brooklyn College accepted its freshman class not by SAT scores but by the high school grades of applicants. And, since generally girls had higher grades than boys, girls made up the major share of the class. That is, until the administration decided they should balance the population and decreased the grade level needed by boys.

We reminisced yesterday and laughed about life outside the classroom, too - the sorority meetings, our brother fraternity and the beer rackets. Among the stirred-up memories was the cafeteria dress code for girls. Bare midriffs, navel piercings, and baggy pants are such common sights today that it’s strange to imagine that back in the 1950s, girls were not allowed in the cafeteria in pants. This presented a problem for many, especially in the winter, according to my friend Paula, who traveled by bus from Bensonhurst. She said she’d often sneak in past the guard, hide her legs under the table and ask someone to get her something to eat.

Life has changed us all, of course, but yesterday we were sorority sisters once again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Melody Lingers On

Listening to WNEW while growing up, I often heard the DJs talk about the big bands of the era that played at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook Ballroom in New Jersey. I imagined the Meadowbrook Ballroom as being somewhere near Weehawken, close to New York City.

On my trips from Albany to Cedar Grove over the past five years as I drove past Sts. Kiril and Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church on Route 23 I never realized that it had once been the Meadowbrook Ballroom. Even after I learned that the church had a ballroom attached, called the Meadowbrook, I didn’t connect it with the headliners who played there in the 1930s and 1940s: Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Count Basie, the Dorsey Brothers, Harry James, Doris Day, Helen O’Connell, Woody Herman, and so many more.

Now I see that the Glenn Miller Band will perform a benefit concert for veterans on Memorial Day. The evening will include dinner and dancing. So once again the strains of “Moonlight Serenade” will fill the Meadowbrook Ballroom.

To see the Meadowbrook’s full roster of entertainers and photos, see

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Page

The Book Corner is a new blog I’ve just created that will focus on language, writing, books and their authors. Though Footnotes will continue as a blog about personal experiences, The Book Corner will be devoted to my love of reading and good writing. I hope you’ll join in the conversation at

Turtle Back Zoo, Scene Two

An incident at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, last week reminded me of a similar – but more scary one – that happened several years ago when I was eight months pregnant with my youngest child. My husband and I and our two young children were in the petting zoo where we’d gotten feed for the chickens, the llamas, the goats and the sheep. My son and daughter delighted in putting out their little hands spilling with food pellets for the animals. When I decided to do the same, however, three large llamas rushed toward me. Fearful of being jumped on or knocked to the ground, I threw the pellets into the air and fled.

Fast forward to the same petting zoo last week. Dante, a Belgian draft horse, walked over to the fence where I was standing with my granddaughter, Maeve. She stepped back, somewhat apprehensive. As I turned to reassure her, Dante startled me as he began nibbling on my sleeve. This time I laughed, as did Maeve.