Fast Times at Medfield High School – Part II
In 1963 at Medfield High School two distinctive groups of teens showed their separate ideas of our culture as related to education, music, fashion, and legacy – the college-bound Collegiates versus the blue-collar trade-bound Greasers.
Some of the culture was shaped by rebellious American teens who had had enough of their parents and the unhip 1950s. Some was shaped by two groups of British teens, the trendy, upscale mods, and the gritty, blue-collar rockers. Some was shaped by the Beatles.
But our high school teachers were woven into the fabric of those memorable years in the mid-sixties and helped define our culture and high school experience.
One of newcomers was Mr. Paul Carbone, who started teaching at Medfield High in 1961, teaching commercial subjects. He was a former Marine who graduated from Boston State College. He taught business subjects with fundamentals like general and business math and typing. He was a disciplinarian and wasn’t about to tolerate any unruly behavior from problematic, delinquent students.
Mr. Carbone always made the point to eventually type by not looking at the keys of the typewriter. He was a superb athlete and often joined the faculty when playing against the Medfield basketball team, a play for fun, first game before the beginning of the basketball season.
After Christmas in 1961, Mr. Carbone, never at a loss for words, entered a classroom full of students and remarked about the pleasant aroma of all the new after shave received as gifts over Christmas, opening up a conversation with all the guys who had recently started shaving. Mr. Carbone was a big fan of Elvis and remarked that Presley’s career could have been even bigger if he had performed more overseas with stops at Japan and eastern Europe. Mr. Carbone’s teaching career and hard work were headed in a great, forward direction, as he soon became the director of the Massachusetts Board of Education.
Mr. Larry Loughlin taught freshman English with Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and the novels of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Mr. Loughlin was a very vocal Medfield High football fan. A US Army veteran with many personal boot camp stories of his own – he mentioned that he helped teach fellow soldiers how to improve their writing skills with the letters they were sending home. He also became a peace activist as the Vietnam War dragged on, and his photo appeared in a Life magazine story about protestors.
Ms. Paula McDonough was a BC graduate and a beautiful woman who taught junior English. She introduced us to the favorite New England play, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Those works were all great classics and are still taught to this day.
Ms. Myrna Serfilippi was our sophomore English class teacher and taught the American classics by Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck with The Pearl and East of Eden. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was a part of the wide array of English literature. During that 10th grade year she placed a heavy emphasis on class recitations in order to build students’ confidence in public speaking. She was also an enthusiastic fan of Medfield High baseball.
Mrs. Elaine Pederzini taught senior English with Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Alan Peyton’s Heart of Darkness and Cry the Beloved Country, among other classics assigned. When discussing Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Mrs. Pederzini stressed that the novel had a greater significance with symbolism, other than an old man out fishing in a small boat and hooking a huge fish. Much of the class was also devoted to creative writing, with emphasis not just on content – correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling weighed heavily on our grades.
Mrs. Janice Adams taught American history in our junior year, including topics like the First and Second World Wars, the French and Indian Wars, and the exploration of Lewis and Clark. She too emphasized public speaking and kept us on our toes with pop quizzes. Some students quoted The Boston Globe to present a convincing and refresh argument about Massachusetts politics.
Mr. Stephen Rudin made biology fun for the sophomores and advanced biology to seniors who thought they were destined for a career in the sciences, and he led us in dissecting white rats. He encouraged students to take part in the annual Medfield High Science Fair, with recognition to the sophomores who eventually graduated in the class of 1965, all contestants who won the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, as well as honorable mentions.
When Principal Charlie Mains was handing out the winning prizes, he laughingly remarked that all the winners were at the back of the gymnasium, just so they could revel in the applause all the longer while walking to the front of the podium. Some of the science projects were unusual: Macro-Dissection of Fruit Flies, Coat Color of Hamsters Based on Fenotype and Genotype, and an especially memorable winner: Results of a High Protein Diet with Hamsters. Those hamsters were cute, robust, and amiable – and the biggest hamsters ever seen in Medfield!
Mr. James Morris started teaching both advanced math and science and soon became the assistant principal of Medfield High School. The first impression one got of Mr. Morris was that there was a veneer of order, perhaps dating back to his years in the US Marine Corps. One day during class he asked loudly, “What’s the war cry of the marines?” The entire class yelled back loudly, “Medic!” Mr. Morris laughed – he could definitely take a joke. He was a strict disciplinarian with a good sense of humor. Over time, he became much more casual and informal. He turned out to be a great role model and was very well appreciated with both staff and students.
Mrs. Julia Warburton taught chemistry and physics. She knew the periodic table thoroughly and expected the same of her students. She often said that learning that table would allow anyone to thoroughly enjoy seeing how all the elements interacted on the planet. Mrs. Warburton also said all high school students should be out in the sun and fresh air during the afternoon, saving studying for the early evening.
Ms. Laura Smith taught world history and French. She was a graduate of Vassar and Radcliffe College. She had traveled all over the world and the class could always call upon her personal knowledge of ancient history with the Greek and Roman empires. Ms. Smith could sit in front of the class and give an oral dissertation on the dawn of civilization, where the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World once stood. She was an expert in telling the class how Mount Vesuvius destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii and suggested the class to go see the Pompeii exhibit on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. When Ms. Smith graduated from college, she visited the pyramids and became an expert on Egyptian society. Ms. Smith showed the class photos she had taken of the Great Sphinx of Giza, the mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.
Mr. James “Shop” Morris taught Industrial Arts and Mechanical Drawing. The students gave Mr. Morris the nickname of “Shop” in order to distinguish the two teachers with the same last name. He showed us how to work with sheet metal and taught us arc and acetylene welding and brazing, which was actually soldering with either brass or aluminum. He was extremely safety conscious.
Mr. Bernardo Higuera taught both Spanish and French. He often had his classes reciting aloud the various pronunciations of both Spanish and French. His classes were orderly and both subjects were taken seriously.
At one point during class, Mr. Higuera noticed that one troublesome student had drawn the disparaging word, “Spic” on his Spanish book cover. Mr. Higuera was noticeably offended, especially because he had been born in Spain. The student taunted Mr. Higuera by asking him if he knew what the word meant. Of course, Mr. Higuera knew and told the student that if he continued the harassment, he’d take the student out in the corridor and bounce him down the corridor like a basketball. That student ended up being very embarrassed and speechless. Aside from those disrespectful moments, Mr. Higuera would often present a cultural aspect to the class by playing music that was sung in Spanish on records from Spain and South America. This was a lesson in music appreciation that added a light moment to a Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:30 pm at the end of classes.
Mrs. Estelle Stahl taught English class to juniors and seniors. She also directed some of the school plays that were a part of the Drama Club. Mrs. Stahl had a vast knowledge of world history with a special interest for World War Two. On one occasion, Mrs. Stahl was walking up an isle of her class and happened to notice the Nazi swastika etched in pencil on the book cover of one of the students. She confronted the student and asked he knew what the symbol meant; he had only a vague understanding. Mrs. Stahl then told the entire class that the meaning and conflict behind the swastika was responsible for the deaths of sex million Jews. Not only did the students attend Mrs. Stahl’s English class that day, but also received an impromptu history lesson as well.
Mr. Charles Laverty taught both Latin and English. He was also our teacher back at the North Street Junior High, where he taught English and math. Latin class was taught with declensions in the present, future, and past tenses.
All things considered, Latin was an intense and hard subject to master. The one interesting aspect to class was the English derivation from the Latin. Many words in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as modern Italian, were derivatives of the Latin language. (Lingua, for example, is Latin for language.) Mr. Laverty had a laid-back teaching style and even suggested that the class try and see the movie, Cleopatra, that was playing in movie theaters back in 1964. This Academy Award blockbuster, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was showing at the Framingham Cinema.
Mr. Robert Hersee was our music teacher in the Medfield School System since 1958. He began teaching music classes in 1958 on the new grand piano in the auditorium at the Memorial School. He loved music, and he loved teaching music. Mr. Hersee also taught elementary school students who wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. With a very humorous and upbeat personality, Mr. Hersee was a tireless and very well-loved teacher, one who not only had us singing songs but also kept us laughing in music class nearly all the time.
Mr. Hersee was introduced as “a music teacher who could play every musical instrument.” That description that had Mr. Hersee saying, “Right, every instrument like radio, television, walk-man, stereo, and any other electrical device that played music.” Mr. Hersee would spend hours with the glee club, getting the students ready for the Christmas pageantry and the Memorial Day celebrations. Mr. Hersee was as solid as a rock, a teacher who gave his remarkable devotion and dedication for 50 years with the Medfield School System.
All of our teachers were great role models for us.
In hindsight, people would probably be asking themselves what became of the Collegiates and the Greasers during the fast times at Medfield High School. Well, one answer might be the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Perhaps the times involved the class levels within our society. The Greasers knew they were as cohesive as the Collegiates, but they never desired to make a show of it.
The Greasers were a laid-back bunch of teens who all just wanted to live comfortably without all the fanfare. They were mostly the students who were quick, quiet, and on time. They had decided to sit back and participate in the world from a close vantage-point while also being fully involved in Medfield High’s fun electives like the drama, band and glee clubs.
The boys became very skilled in carpentry and welding in their Industrial Arts classes. The young women were excellent typists on their way to their first good-paying secretarial job after graduation. One young student became so good at truck driving that he later became a professional Mack truck driving instructor on Route 1 in Norwood.
Some of the young men enlisted in the US Armed Forces, while one became a top chef working at the Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton. Another great student chef worked for the Pillar House at the intersection of Routes 16 and 128 in Newton. Others went to study liberal arts at Mass Bay Community College at night while working in a foundry during the day.
The Greasers were not out to prove anything, and they avoided all that flash, peer pressure, and compliance. They became the quiet nonconformists of the school system and knew that slow and steady could just as easily shine. Ultimately, they were never the nameless, faceless students who the other privileged prep-school students thought the Greasers were.
Meanwhile, nearly 60 years have gone by and the Greasers and the Collegiates are now merely a footnote to the deep and dark past. When we see a former classmate in Medfield, many of us exchange pleasantries and can’t help ask, “Where did all the time and years go? Can you believe we’re 70 years old?”
Something is missing! We have become disconnected! In the last half century, we have witnessed an erosion of intellectual character. Can we establish a new wave of change all around us? If we can right and steady our ship, we can change our course in history and achieve our goals. Our energy will be empowered and revitalized. We are forever like the stars that come falling and crashing to our Earth, forever leaving our mark upon the world and the eternity of time.