Organizing — are you sequential or random; concrete or abstract?


imageDue to my teaching at LaSalle University, I often used the Gregoric Style Delineator when I taught methods classes.  Gregoric set up two dimensions. First, how do we perceive information — concrete or abstract.  Second, how to organize information —  random or sequential.  Crossing the dimensions, he developed four learning, teaching styles — concrete sequential (CS), abstract sequential (AS), concrete random (CR), and abstract random (AR).  Through word choices, subjects plot their scores on the four styles. No one is 100% one style; no style is better than the other.  But we learn (and teach) differently.  CS is the most common; AS is the least common.  Some of us may be very strong on one style; others balanced between several.  CS people follow directions, how do you do this?  What is expected of me?  They plan, organize things in a logical order.  They don’t like to get too personal.  They are your typical  math or foreign language teachers.   In contrast AS people are readers, like authority, work independently, like to debate, always have the correct answer.  Maybe a HS forensics coach?  AR and CR types have problems with deadlines, following directions, following the plan.  CR people like working together, sharing, projects and motions.  Social Studies teachers tend to be more CR and AR.

You can check on line for a fuller explanation of each style. In my college class I sometimes established a CS group and an AR and CR group.  Assignment: plan a trip to Europe.  The CS group came back with a detailed itinerary, costs, times, places to visit.  The Random types said they agreed to fly to London and then see what individuals wanted to do.  No other plans.  In another activity, an CS group kept asking directions, “What are we suppose to do? What does the instructor want?   Is this correct?”  The Randoms agreed quickly, who cared about directions, we just need to give some answer, it really doesn’t matter what we do.  You probably remember both types from school. There is  teacher who deducts points for a late paper (CS) and the teacher who says turn in the paper  in when your done or it doesn’t matter if it’s late (CR).  What I am; what are you?

There are experiences in my life that point to a CS type of person.  My family ran an GE appliance store in Bristol Borough in the 1950-60s.  The first job I remember doing (self initiated, I think) was to organize  light bulbs.  First those displayed in the store; later boxes stored in the basement.  They were mixed up on the shelves, I organized them in neat rows from 25 watt, through 150 watt.  Little soldier bulbs in a row.  Some years later I worked in O’Boyles Ice Cream plant in Bristol.  One of my main responsibilities was to help unload product in a freezer (20 below) from a conveyor belt — ice cream sandwiches, chocolate pops, pints, 1/2 gallons, and the list goes on.  We had to organize and stack product so that the older product would be moved out first; every product line had to be accessible.  Kind of a CS task, I think.



My first and last position at Holy Ghost Prep was librarian. You know, Dewey Decimal System, organizing books on shelves sequentially, in order, according to rules laid down by the American Library Association.   When I first got the position in the early 1970s, the school’s library was pretty disorganized.  Many books had been donated and just shelved.  I spent quite a few hours my first summer (unpaid, no less) labeling and shelving books in Dewey order.  This was before computers and programs, call numbers were determined by consulting a cataloging book and labels were typed out on a manual typewriter.  Wonder how many of those books are still in the HGP library; does HGP even have a library?

My personal life may also exhibit some CS behaviors.  In HS, I (on a typewriter) I  began to catalog everything in my room — it may have started with books, but  continued to collections, stamps, coins, LPs, soon it was everything, even clothes.  I had a book that documented everything in my room.  Practical?  Strange?  Not sure.  For better or worse this activity was repeated when I was in my 30s.  It started again with books — my local history collection, then all my books, then LPs and cassette tapes, collections, of course, clothes, everything.  The HS catalog was lost, possible in a Yardley flood; the adult catalog was on a computer that became outdated and the data was lost.

I currently have have a very limited record of my things — several bibliographies of books, children, good reading in social studies, a DVD collection.  More importantly I have a record of our art (paintings and other prints), good craft pieces, and some of Diane’s jewelry.  There are investment and financial reasons for these lists, right?

Despite what seems to be a lot of CS tendencies in my life, when I take Gregoric’s inventory, I come up strong CR and AR (about equal).  My attitude toward deadlines — I was thrown out of Temple’s doctorate program because my time had expired; my favorite card from a close friend, Susan Taylor, quotes Mark Twain, “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.”  I like the 1960s, talk about you feelings, collaborative-cooperative education.  My dates for student assignments are movable; I’ve never penalized a student for a late paper project (maybe the extra time produced a better product).  This doesn’t sound like a typical CS learner-teacher.


This question of style — sequential, random, concrete or abstract — came up as I recently began my annual  Spring cleaning and organizing.  I am a collector, I like old things, I always believe there might be a use for something, better not throw it out (sometime I think I have 1930s Depression complex, don’t waste; or maybe it’s from the 1960s, recycle, think small.  Some might call me a hoarder.  We’ve lived in our Yardley house since 1978 — going on 40 years.  I will admit, we (no I) have a lot of stuff.  The Spring cleaning project is ongoing and repititive.  Go through clothes, what can be given to Good Will or turned into rags.  I refuse to get rid of the Harris Tweed sports coat I bought in Ireland in 1977.  Maybe I will lose weight and can wear it again. Maybe Eli can wear my BC sweatshirt (it’s almost new), the red dashiki, or the off white-ruffled Nicaraguan shirt.  These are part of history.  This year, before finishing clothes I moved to several drawers containing  rings, watches, pins, buttons, penknives, my father’s dog tags, Boy Scouts medals, assorted coins and other jewelry like items.  Fortunately I save, buy, and  collect a variety of containers and boxes.  It  can be a carved wooden box or a Prince Albert tobacco tin.  Most of the jewelry items are now organized and collected in these containers.  My justification for the containers is that my granddaughter, Vivienne, loves containers to save things in.  She will inherit may collection, maybe.

I moved to the balcony office.  There are 20 feet of floor to ceiling shelves.  Most are packed with books. There is some space for what might be called knock knacks.  Diane has a stronger name.  I work to integrate some new books onto the shelves or into piles near the shelves.  So many books have returned from my office at HGP (I am selling a few on Amazon and I sold 20 boxes to the Princeton bookstore, but that just the tip of the book iceberg).  I try to group the books, local history, books I haven’t read, books I might want to reread, books that should be lent, sold or given away.  This is a rough organization at this time.  Another day I attack the dirt and dust on shelves and the floor.  I remove all the non-book items, clean shelves and display some things on available space.  A row of Mercer tiles, pipes — Sherlock Holmes calabash,  hash, just an old tobacco pipe.  There is a antique microscope,  small framed photographs of family, ceramic statues that belonged to my mother or grandmother. It’s personal  history.   Most coins, stamps, postcards, political and other buttoms are placed in boxes or file drawers containing similar objects.  These are collections to be organized at some later date.  Remember, this is a rough go through.

The Spring cleaning and organizing has just begun.  It’s a bit more intense since we are retired.  What’s going to happen to all this stuff in ten, twenty years?  We have a bedroom that is still filled with Jenny things.  Rooms and rooms filled with our things.  From the bedroom and clothes, balcony office, I plan to move to our shed and our ground level garage and workshop.  These are areas that can flood.  In the past year I have moved boxes and boxes of stuff from HGP (some moved to school during previous floods) and I recently brought many of my father’s tools from storage.  There are hundreds of books, LPs, VHS , DVDs  and CDs.  And a wild assortment of teaching props, tools — you name it.

I’ve often invoked Socrates, ” Know Yourself.”  Sequential or random; concrete or abstract.  What am I?  How have these dimensions influenced my learning and teaching?  How will they influence my retirement?  Not just how I organized the things but how I organize my life?  How I spend my time?  Maybe I am randomly sequential.

More later, maybe, when. . . .









Crossing the River: Exploring New Jersey




Years ago — actually several decades ago — I was teaching an undergraduate social studies class at Holy Family University.  One assignment was to develop a lesson plan.  One young woman submitted a lesson about the Delaware River.  I asked her to explain what she was teaching about the river.  She answered that “the Delaware River seperated Pennsylvania and New Jersey”  I responded “yes, what else.”  She drew a blank.  She knew nothing else about the river.  From then on, my lesson plan templet had a section labeled “content.”

I have lived along the River (PA side) for most of my life.  Grew up in Bristol in a Mill Street apartment that looked out on the river; since 1978 in a riverfront house in Yardley.  Most families in the Philadelphia area cross the river at least annually for a vacation at the Jersey shore.  Philadelphians may go to Atlantic City or Wildwood; most Bristolians go  to Long Beach Island — LBI.  Whenimy sisters and I were young, we spent a week at Beach Haven on LBI.  We rented a house with my Aunt and Uncle, Ellen and Frank Mignoni.  We shared a house with  4 adults and at least 5 kids.  I remember my father driving a truck over the Bay bridge, with all our summer gear, including a second refrigerator.  My Aunt and Uncle ever eventually bought a breachfront house in Harvey Cedars.  During my HS, college, and the years immediately after, I spent many days visiting.  They were always extremely generous; we would call for a key off season; in 1977, pregnant with Jenny, Diane stayed at Harvey Cedars with my Aunt, August through September.




This past year, Diane and I discovered the $75 NJ park pass.  A great bargain. We frequently go to Island Beach, not just summer trips  but off season.  Winter brings out the Island foxes.  This year there was a snowy owl which unfortunately we didn’t get to see.  Many days we find a secluded area and Moe can run free.  Our trips  to Island Beach are often on back roads.  What will we discover? On the way home we like to stop at a seafood market and bring fresh fish home for dinner. One of our favorite discoveries  is Shore Fresh in Point Pleasant Beach — a bit of a ride from Island Beach but worth it.  This summer we were pretty amazed at the continued recovery from hurricane Sandy.  On other trips, particularly on the bay side we have discovered restaurants, farms and seafood stops.  Or maybe, birding at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

There were only a couple of NJ destinations when we were kids.  My father liked Batsto othe bog iron village in the Pine Barrens. We visited quite a few times.  Diane and I rediscovered Batsto and its hiking trails several years ago.  My parents also liked a shopping village in Rancocus.  They was a hardware/furnishings store; colonial style; a bit of an 1950s version of Restoration.  Seems like we visited frequently.  A few times Dad crossed over to Burlington, if for no other reason than to look across the river at Bristol.

During the late 50s and early 60s, I did some NJ explores with the Boy Scouts.  I remember camping at Lakehurst.  We were told the story of the Hindenburg airship disaster of 1937 and I think we got to go inside a blimp.  Most memorable on the trip, was breakfast cooked by Mr. Lodge on a huge iron grill.  He had been an army cook and took orders, a wiz short order cook.

Another scout trip was canoeing on one of the Pine Barren rivers — Wading or Mullica? I remember moving through different landscapes — marshes, forests, open river.  I was in a canoe with Andy Romano and as we approached the end of our two night trip, his brother, Chris, attacked us, capsizing the canoe.  Several years ago Diane and  I, Taylor’s and Rosenthals rented canoes for a trip down the Mullica.  It was several days after heavy rains and the river was running fast.  Trees blocked clear runs and trying to slide under them was  a big challenge –trying not to get beheaded or captize.


Another High School  NJ experience was going to John Terrell’s Lambertville Music Circus.  I went several times.  First a dinner date at a restaurant in town — I think it was Riverside or River’s Edge?  Quick internet check, it was River’s Edge and post cards are available on eBay for $3.00.  After dinner, off to the the Circus, with its tent box office and huge tent outdoor seating.  In 1964, I saw the Rightous Brothers  (You Got that Loving Feeling) and the following year Dave Brubeck. The Music Circus closed sometime in the 1970s

In the early 1970s, Diane and I rented a house with John and Barbara Paglione, outside of downtown New Hope.  We crossed the New Hope-Lambertville bridge frequently to explore  NJ.  Lambertville was basically a working class town — the New Yorkers, galleries, shops and restaurants came later as New Hope turned into a T-shirt, tattoo, chain store, and tacky tourist destination.  The artist culture migrated across the bridge.

Our favorite Lambertville restaurant (because it was affordable) was, Phil and Dan’s.  The couple literally took the front room of their row house and turned  it into a dining room.  The pasta was always good and it was a BYOB.  A few years ago, the Paglione’s were visiting.  We decided to go to Phil &  Dan’s — now it’s called Rick’s.  A few weeks later, I mentioned this in a Holy Family class.    After class, a young teacher approached, “Mr. Profy, Phil and Dan were my grandparents.”  They were still alive but had  crossed the river and we’re living in Bucks County.

Today Rick’s has the same BYOB, red checked table cloth,  home cooked pasta and meatballs atmosphere.  We’ve been back several times.  Another Lambertville restaurant from the early 1970s was the Swan Hotel.  Anton’s at the Swan was and is a pretty up-scale expensive restaurant. We may have been there once but more often have  gone to the Swan bar – – more affordable, then and now — its  a delightful, intimate space.

We go to Lambertville quite a bit.  Sometimes we wander around town, taking in the galleries, many with local artists. Some years we attend the Shad festival.  Shad migrate upriver in the spring to spawn.  The Lewis Fishery in town still license and can be seen seining for shad. I have been told that Delaware River shad taste of mud and what’s sold locally comes from Connecticut.  The roe is prized but I can’t interest Diane.  Eating shad becomes a bit of a dream for me.  But the festival is always fun.  This year I won a historic walking tour of Lambertville.

Today many of our Lambertville explores are culinary.  El Tule is a Peruvian-Mexican BYOB.  Some  traditional but also quite a few interesting dishes.  They have outdoor tables.  Another Mexican we like is Tortuga’s Cocina, located in Mitchell’s bar.  But they may have closed.  Fairly new is Cafe Galleria in a Victorian house, porch seating, fresh, organic, health conscious offerings.  Refreshing comes to mind.  Brian’s is well reviewed and rated.  We’ve eaten there once.  The Lambertville House has been redone and we recently had nice lunch there — the atmosphere is classic.  In the early 1980s, we spent New Years with the Gallaghers and Chapmans (HGP staff) at the Lambertville House. Memories.

There are quite a few Lambertville restaurants on our check it out list — Bell’s Tavern, Siam Thai, and the French, Manon which always seemed closed.



Currently our favorite Lambertville restaurant is Hamilton’s Grill, located on a small alley courtyard.  Back in the 70s, owner Jim Hamilton and his family lived in an old mill around the corner from our New Hope rental house.  Jim was a NYC  set designer; his wife was French.  They hosted annual glitzy parties in the historic mill.  We weren’t invited but knew people who attended.  For us they were part of the New Hope art and culture scene. The Grill has been around for decades; Jim is now in his 80s.  One daughter, Melissa, publishes a series of cookbooks — “Canal House Cooking.” His other daughter, Gabrielle, is one of the better  known woman NYC chefs.  On a recent trip to NYC (with Pagliones) we had dinner at her East Village restaurant, Prune.  It met all expectations.  John and I had pigeon!  We also have a copy of Gabrielle’s cookbook, “Prune” and her 2011 memoir, “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of A Reluctant Chef.”  A interesting story, particularly as we feel we know her.

In recent years, Hamilton’s Grill is where we go for our anniversary dinner.  We have also attended what Jim describes as cooking classes.  They are really demonstrations in a small apartment near the restaurant.  We attended a seafood dinner and an Italian Christmas seven  fish dinner with guest chef, Andrew Abruzzese and his son (Pineville Tavern). Both meals were fantastic.

This past year we also went to Hamilton’s Grill for their New Jersey shore meal — clams, mussels, lobster, tomatoes obviously.  Wow.  And for Thanksgiving we sat at the counter watching chef Mark Miller grill shrimp and tuna.  What a meal and experience.  Not to be outdone by her father, Melissa hosted a Sunday breakfast in an apartment she maintains for test cooking and I guess parties. We have never had lighter, more delicious pancakes.  The Grill is a BYOB but in the courtyard is The Boathouse, a small funky bar, with outdoor seating — the place to begin your Hamilton Grill experience.  Oh, regulars also know that off hours, you can park in the nearby lumber yard, along the canal.

Another NJ city to explore is Princeton.  We have many associations.  In the 198os and 1990s we subscribed to McCarter Theatre and eventually McCarter Dance — when Jenny was enrolled in dance classes.  We went so frequently, we even contributed a few dollars.  By the 90s, most pre-show dinners were  at Teresa’s — a small, very busy,  Italian style restaurant near the Nassau Inn.  Reasonable priced and tasty pasta dishes, pizza, brought us back again and again.  Another Princeton tradition is Christmas shopping.  I hate malls  — refuse to go to them unless absolutely necessary.  Princeton is enchanting at Christmas.  Although over the years the shops have changed,  there are still some that are quite classy and interesting.

There are a lot of reasons to go to Princeton.  Great shoes stores — my Birkenstocks, Clarks, and other shoes have come from Princeton.   In fact my grandfather ran a shoe repair shop on Nassau Street.  Address in hand, I found the location this year.  This summer I sold 20 boxes  of books to Labyrinth Books.  I hope to return with more and eventually I want to sell some of my LPs to the Princeton Record Exchange.

We have also found some great food stops — on the way to Princeton there is Tehune Orchard.  A variety of crops and kid friendly activities.     On Route 206, don’t miss Lucy’s Kitchen.  Homemade  ravoli and pasta (fresh, dried and frozen).  Heaven.  Can’t believe we only discovered Lucy’s  a few years ago.  We also like to stop at Nassau Street Seafood.  Fresh fish and usually varieties that we don’t find locally.  Next door to the market is the Blue Point Grill.  Recently we had octopus — it was fantastic.  And we learned that the same could be had with pre-cooked, frozen octopus from Buckingham Valley Seafood (ops that’s in PA).  There are many other good restaurants in Princeton — check out Mediterra (same owners as Teresa’s) and Agricola.  The Nassau Inn is always a classic lunch stop.

In the past few years, our drives to Princeton are on back roads.  We avoid I-95 and wander through Pennington and Hopewell. These NJ explores have turned up a number of interesting discoveries. Food wise, we go to the Brick Farm Market in Hopewell.  Meats, cheese, some fresh produce and a small, expanding cafe.  A great find. We also enjoyed tea class and a few breakfasts in Paint the Roses — unfortunately I think it just closed.  Another farm market is Blue Moon Acres.  They grow a variety of micro-greens (also have a farm on route 413 near 202 in PA).  At the Pennington market in addition to their own produce they feature anything local — honey, meats, cheese, popcorn, just anything local.  You can get a Griggstown pot pie or Cherry Grove Farmstead cheese.  Both NJ farms.

Actually if you want to explore NJ farm products, go to the Trenton Farmer’s Market. Cross the river at the Calhoun Street bridge and head north.  The market has all NJ produce and a few speciality stores.  The butcher made pork roll from Cartlidge is amazing. There is a good baker and an Italian deli.  Olsen’s cheese was there until they moved to Palmer Square in Princeton.  I usually  buy a lot of my garden plants at the Trenton Market. My other garden plants come from  NJ — Dragonfly Nursery and Mazur Nursery and Garden Center.  The later family owned has a good selection of Fall plants.  A good place to know.

And there are still things to do in Trenton.  I went to a lecture about the gardens of Jefferson’s Monticello at the Trent House. There was a tour of their garden led by Charlie, a volunteer who lives a block away from us.  Diane and I also went to the Trenton Barracks, built for Bristish soldiers during the French and Indian War.  Both of these sites host a variety of activities.  One day after we read a book on the Battle of Trenton, we took a car trip attempting to follow the historic route.  Then  we saw signs, Washington’s March to Trenton.  They took us to the Trenton Battle Monument overlooking the scene of the historic battle, turning point of the Revolution.

On another trip, in  Cadwalder Park, we discovered the Trenton Museum with several interesting exhibits — one was on Italians (Porfirio’s pasta company was mentioned) and another on the Abbot Marsh which we always pass on the way to the shore.

Chambersburg, Trenton’s historically Italian community has shrunk as businesses move out to Hamilton township but I still want to explore it. My grandfather took us to several Trenton restaurants — I believe on was Marsilio’s Kitchen (still open).  And he went to the Italian People’s Bakery every Christmas for cookies.  When I  began teaching Local History in the 1980s, I used a fantastic documentary on the Chambersburg neighborhood.  And I haven’t done it yet, but Abbot’s Marsh is on a list of  this year’s explores.

In the past year we have been doing a lot of driving and walks exploring Mercer, Hunterdon and Somerset counties across the river from Bucks County.  We frequently drive to Stockton (an interesting if expensive Farmers Market), park and walk along the Delaware and Raritan State Park trail.  One destination north is Prallsville Mills, a small collection of buildings opened for special events. continue on to Bulls Island Recreation Area, the beginning of the D &R canal feeder.  Years ago we took HGP Explorer’s Club camping there.  It was part of a Delaware River canoe trip.  The kids crossed the foot  bridge to buy dinner at the Black Bass Hotel.  Next day none of them had money for a soda.

There is Washington Crossing State Park (NJ), we usually go in on back roads where Moe can run free.  Baldpate Mountain and the Ted Stiles Preserve is another great area for walking and dog running.  Our big NJ surprise this year was the Goat Hill Overlook.  It’s a small park area with fantastic views of New Hope and Lambertville.  Also very dog friendly. Moe’s favorite trip, however, is to Rosedale Park near Pennington.  There is a free, no permit, well maintained dog park.  Run Moe, run.

Howell Living History Farm offers a different type of experience.  Saturday activities may include sheep shearing, cheese making, maple syrup making, wagon rides.  Great place for kids.  One day at Howell, we took a tour with Larry Kidder, author of “Farming Pleasant Valley: 250 years of life in rural Hopewell Township, New Jersey.  Serendipitous drives in the area and you feel that you have stepped back in history.

Maybe a stop at Gravity Hill Farm for some fresh produce. Driving north of Stockton on one  trip, we saw a sign, Tullamore Farms, The Farm Cooking School.  In an funny coincidence, Jenny read about the school and for Christmas gave us a gift certificate.  I went to a cooking beer centric demonstration and dinner.  The school’s chefs, Ian and Shelly are fantastic.  In this particular dinner, Triumph Brewery provided beer in many of the recipes as well as beer to drink.  Some were brewed specifically for the dinner.  A month later, Eli went to a class, Latino breakfast. They made everything and then served it to parents who came to pick them up.  At events like this, there are always interesting participants.  We will return to the Farm Cooking School.

Back in the 1990s, I read a book “Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike.” It was a fun book.  The Garden State gets mixed reviews.  Is NJ chemical companies,  dying marshlands, a stop on the Interstate, an asphalt strip between NYC and Philadelphia.  I  think our NJ explores reveals more. These local field trip show just how much there is close to home in NJ.   I suspect there will be many more explores in Retirement, year two.


Goat Hill Overlook

Goat Hill Overlook


Remembering school field trips?

imageWho remembers school field trips?  Did you  want to sit in class, read from a textbook, listen to a lecture or would you rather go on a field trip.  I suspect most students would choose the field trip.  And if well planned and organized, the trip would probably be  more memorable and a richer educational experience.  This is not to say there aren’t interesting texts to read and captivating lectures.  But seeing and doing will usually trump classroom activities.  

My first field trip as a teacher was taking elementary 7th graders to Gettysburg in the early 1970s.  It was an annual trip associated with a United States History course.  Another teacher organized the trip, so I was pretty much a chaperone.  I remember the big map with lights that showed the movement of troops and battles during the three day campaign but not a lot of specifics.  I participated in this trip several years.

Beginning in 1974, for 40 years, I worked at Holy Ghost Prep. There were many  trips.  They fell into several categories – entire class trips, personal class trips, and trips where I  helped other teachers.  Field trips were usually  to Philadelphia, New York City or Washington, DC.

For several years, sophomores in World History went to the Cloisters in NYC.   The building is impressive and the docent tours were always good.  Kids also seemed to enjoy free time to explore. They also enjoyed going to the gift, book store.

Another annual trip for many years, took Freshman students to Saint John the Devine on the Upper West Side.  Sometimes docents guided the kids through architectural exercises; some years the organizing teacher, Father Chris, prepared a scavenger hunt.  I always enjoyed pointing out the Nakashima altar.  George Nakashima, a Bucks County woodworker,  had a project to create peace altars — one on every continent; one altar is in Saint John’s.

Free time on trips was always important. On the Saint John’s trip, students were allowed to explore the neighborhood at lunch time.   I believe this free time in a new environment was particularly valuable.  For several years, students led me on a trek, blocks away, to what they identified as the Seinfeld Soup Nazi restaurant.  They were correct that “Tom’s” was a favorite Seinfeld restaurant where the gang frequently gathered and Elaine got a favorite Big Salad but it was not the original Soup Nazi restaurant which was located on 55 th street.  But what did I know?

Follow ups to field trip are always exciting.  I have gone to Winter Solstice concerts at Saint John’s for several years.  And it was the HGP field trips that led me the concerts.

One of the most interesting NYC trip I took with students was arranged by a parent who worked on Wall Street.  One big advantage was  that we took a small class rather that all the Freshman or all the Juniors.  Another teacher and I took maybe 15-18 students.  We went to the New York stock exchange, met with bankers from Morgan in a room that had over a dozen TV monitors flashing stock, bonds, and a variety of other indexes. We went to the Federal Reserve — the gold vault was amazing.   After a morning exploring finances, we wandered around Chinatown and Little Italy.  A big advantage is we didn’t need to make a bus and be back in Cornwells by 2:30.  We returned by train or maybe vans in the early evening.

Another great NYC trip (maybe for two years) was to PBS studios.  HGP graduate Joe Quinlan worked for the McNeil-Leher report.  Joe organized a  fantastic tour of the studio for a small class of about 15 students.  We were on sound stages, watched some taping, explored the building and the neighborhood of Rockafeller Center.  For someone like myself who has had dreams of writing and film making, this was a trip.  I wonder what are the memories of the students who made this trip.  Do they remember?

Washington, DC.  For several years, I  accompanied  a teacher (I believe Jan Nolting) who took her students on a DC, political trip.  Other years,  I took political science classes to the Capital.  Although it varied a bit, our itinerary usually included a visit to the Capital building.  I recently found photographs of my class with  Representative Jim Greenwood.  Some years we had meetings at the DNC and RNC.  I remember seeing Newt Gingrich walking out of the RNC one year — he didn’t acknowledge us.  Oh well.

My first Philadelphia Partnership class went to DC after the school year was ended.  We met with some people on Capital Hill who interviewed and photographed students.  Then we went to my cousin Ellen’s lobbying firm to talk with clients interested in service learning.  One of my students (Carl Wentzel) told the group, “Doc Profy didn’t teach us anything this year; but he made us  learn.”  On the way out Carl began to apologize to me.  “Carl, that was fantastic, it was a great compliment, thanks.”  Have any of these kids gotten involved in the political process?

For many years, Jim McCullough arranged a senior class trip to DC.  The morning was spent at the memorials — Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, Roosevelt.  The kids were pretty much on their own to explore.  We then boarded buses to have lunch at a HGP parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, in Arlinton, Va.  Ironically, considering recent history at HGP, Our Lady Queen of Peace is considered one of the most gay friendly parishes in the US.  Spiritans do tend to be among the most liberal orders. In the afternoon, kids were free to visit one on the Mall museums.  Most went to the American History museum.

Philadelphia field trips have ranged from docent led trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Museum and a few Arden Theatre trips. Then there was my own Philadelphia field trip.

Sometime in the 1980s, I participated in a National Endowment of the Humanities program on local history.  For weeks I took the train to the University of  Pennsylvania.  Walter Licht, a historian, guided us through local and new social history.  It was eye opening.  Amazing.  For several years I had been teaching a course titled  American Studies. During the Endowment  program I took the train to Philadelphia and spent several hours exploring and photographing the city.  Classes  which started at 9 involved lectures by a variety of local historians and of course field trips to sites throughout the city.  Soon my HGP course was titled Local Studies.  Field trips were integral to the course. For many years we took two field trips each semester.  Unfortunately,  in the last few years that I  taught the course, I wasn’t allowed to take the kids on field trips.  Are you kidding?

Its interesting to realize that what became my standard Philadelphia field trip had its roots in an elementary school trip.  In the early 1970s, I recruited parents and older siblings to take my class on a Philadelphia explore.  I gave each guide a handout with stops and ideas, and turned them and a group of ten students loose.  The idea was to explore the city.

I did my  local history tour with many high school classes, college classes and the entire Freshman HGP class.  We would start at Penn’s landing, wandered through Old City — Christ’s Church,  Elfrey’s Alley, through the historic area, Jeweler’s row, Reading Terminal Market for lunch, depending on the day, onto the Rittenhouse neighborhood. Lots of side streets.  Then the death march back to Penn’s Landing.

I also took the Local History class on a Bucks County field trip.  It usually began and sometimes ended in Bristol Borough.  There was so much.  Bristol history echoed Philadelphia history.  Town planning, ethnic groups, different types of architecture. Kids were always amazed when cars drove by and the driver hollered out to me.  Small town. But not something that they experienced in the suburbs.  Some years we went beyond Bristol, to Levittown, Makefield, maybe a bit of Yardley with a lunch at my house along the river.

For  seven years, I participated Ted Hershberg’s University of Penn High School Partnership program. A suburban class (from HGP) partnered with a city class (Philadelphia’s  CAPA).  I will share more about the Partnership program in another blog.  But it was the ultimate field trip experience.  Classes from the schools met at least one a month for the entire  year.  Meetings  initally involved “get to know you activities.”  Other meetings engaged students in community service projects.

Kids seem to remember field trips.  I certainly hold them among my best teaching experiences. What is your memory of field trips?

I still use the term “field trip”  to describe my urban adventures in Philadelphia and explores that Diane and I make in Bucks County and New Jersey.  But that’s another story.



List making and other life choices!

image image

We all keep lists — things to do, to buy, places to visit, movies and books, addresses, birthdays, a list of lists is endless.  I think I even remember a “Book of Lists.”    But the question today is, do you keep a pen (or pencil) and paper list or do you keep an electronic list on a phone or pad?   This isn’t an idle question.  The way you keep a list reveals something about you — I think.

Pen and paper list makers tend to be methodical.  They appreciate tradition, home towns, gardens, and meals cooked at home.  They shop at local, possible family owned businesses.  They tend to be collectors.  May have a box or can of nails and screws — some salvaged.  In fact they find it difficult to throw things away. They reuse.  Old clothes are rags. Scrap paper is for notes or well as lists.  There are many uses for newspapers which by they way, they like to read.  And books, LPs, and photographic prints still have a place in their lives.  Pen and paper list makers tend to have a limited number of close friends, some from High School (maybe even elementary school).  A few from college.  They like to travel but plan their own trips, explore, like a bit of serendipity.  They tend to be cautious, don’t jump into the water until you know how deep it is.  Most don’t move far from where they grew up and don’t quickly change job or career.  They like to be together with family and friends — at home or for a night out.  Politically they can be liberal or conservative.  They believe in independence and a do your own thing philosophy.

I-Phone and I-Pad list makers can be a bit random.  Despite the technological promise of organization, they move quickly from task to task, sometimes missing the sequence.  They celebrate the new and innovative and  like  to be at the cutting edge of everything — neighborhoods, restaurants, cooking classes, organic, style.  They don’t save the past.  If an object or an idea’s time has passed — say goodby.  What comes next will be — bigger, smaller — but always better. Increasingly they shop on line.  If something breaks ( or is more  than 6 months old) it is probably ready for the trash (recycling).  No need to collect, save.  Tomorrow is another day.  Experience  is transitory,  e -books, digital photographs, MP 3.  Like pen and paper list makers, they like to travel.  But it’s travel to exotic places, Eco-tourism, planned adventure.  They also tend to be cautious.  Don’t jump into the water until you have checked the temperature, salinity, turbidity, whatever.  Technological list makers are always on the go.  Grass doesn’t grow where they stand.  They move on when opportunity arises, and seek out new and challenging experiences which can lead to new jobs, new careers.  Relationships  are often defined by social media like Face Book, or instant messaging.  Politically they can be liberal or conservative.  They believe in living life with the established norms.

I’m not sure this makes any sense.  But. . . .

One of my favorite books when I taught HS economics was Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” Friedman’s thesis is that we are constantly making choices between what he labels the “Lexus” and the “Olive Tree.”  The Lexus is modern, high tec, box stores, franchises, computers, speed, standardization, fast food restaurants, international brands.  McDonald’s, Coke, Disney are the Lexus.  The Olive Tree is traditional, low tec, mom and pop-family stores, local, sustainable agriculture, farmer’s markets, unique.  Hamilton’s Grill, craft beer, and independent films are the Olive Trees. Friedman doesn’t make any value judgement.  He doesn’t elevate one over the other.  But he claims, we are constantly faced with the choice.  Do I go to the local Yardley Hardware store or Home Depot?  Do I call someone on a landline phone or write a letter or message them?  Do I drink Coors or a locally brewed beer?  I frequently had students make choices — Lexus or Olive Tree?    Some were hard core Lexus; others strong Olive Trees.  Many swayed between the poles.

imageMy choice of paper and pen or electronic lists is a take off on Friedman’s Lexus and Olive Tree.  And I find myself with the swaying students.  I keep a daily paper and pen “to do list.” It is revised almost daily.  And I take great pleasure in crossing off items accomplished.  But I also have many electronic lists  kept in “reminders”  — gift certificates and coupons, travel ideas, major house projects, local field trips, restaurants and food experiences to explore, books to find in the library.  Most of these lists are longer term and I don’t get much gratification when I complete and eliminate one.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree; pen and paper and electronic lists; provide different experiences.  The choice is ours.  If pushed I believe I would chose the Olive Tree and pen and paper lists.  I think the Lexus and electronics can easily dominate our lives and bring about changes which we don’t fully understand. This will not stop me from using computers and buying some processed foods. I am careful.  But I will continue to buy and read books, visit libraries, listen to LPs, send letters or cards via the U.S. post office.  I will drink craft beer, make bread, have a garden, and try to buy from local hardware stores.  In the end, I won’t give up my pen and paper lists. Where are you?



HGP Graduation – 1965 to 2015


On Staurday May 30, I attended graduation at Holy Ghost Prep.  Having worked there for 40 years, I’ve attended about 40 graduations.    I recall missing one a few years ago because I was teaching a Saturday class at Holy Family University, but I think attended all others.  Saturday I enjoyed seeing a handful of graduates that I taught Junior year in  an American History class. They were a great class.  Also enjoyed seeing and talking to faculty and staff — some I haven’t seen since retiring last year.  And I enjoyed listening to the commencement speaker, Tom Kardish — a graduate, successful businessman, humanist and student from my perspective.

But there was another reason I attended this year’s graduation.   The Alumni office reminded me that it was the 50th anniversary of my own graduation from HGP in 1965.  There were 48 in the graduating class of. 1965.  On Saturday I had the pleasure to reconnect with six– Alfred Dubeck, Herb Harris, Stan Orzel, Ed Smith, Gerald Smith, and Ron Sosinski.  There are other, unable to make it, that I have some contact.  John Paglione and John Mundy (both Bristol boys) remain close friends. In the past few years, I saw John Jaszczak at Holy Family University where we both worked.    FB has kept me in touch with George Afflerbach (back at HGP several months ago for his induction into the Hall of Fame), and Chuck Spezzano.  I don’t know if any others are in touch with the Alumni office but I should check.  Charlie Howard, Bob McIntyre,  John Blanch,  Paul Demski — where are you — can’t mention everyone but you know who you are.

After Saturday’s commencement, our group was given a tour of campus.  Memories flooded back.  Everyone remembers when the current Art Room was the Gym.    Backboards mounted on the brick walls.  Anyone who drove too hard on a lay-up bounced off, or dropped by, the brick wall.  The main corridor of the second floor was the residence of the priests (Spiritan Hall came in the 1980s).  Today classrooms on that hall have multiple doors since they were small bedrooms.  The current Physics Lab on the second floor was a beautifully paneled library (Ed Smith called it a bar, and I suspect the Fathers had a few drinks there).  In the 60s the third floor was for the seminarians.  Until 1967, HGP was a junior seminary.  About seven members of our class were seminarians.  I don’t think any professed (became priests, I think that’s the word).

In the basement, Ed and I recalled turning all the lockers around, hiding the door, annoying and amusing our classmates. Giving Father Brown a mystery to solve.   In the cafeteria, Brown sat at a table raised on a platform watching over the masses.  It’s interesting how history explains the present.  Current faculty and staff enjoy free lunches as a benefit.  Not a typical benefit.  But history.  The kitchen in the 60s was staffed by several of the Father’s cooks.  They made lunch and the small lay staff were invited to join in.  For today’s staff there is “a free lunch.”  Maybe.  Ed Smith quipped, “Salary or free lunch. At HGP you get a free lunch.”  Classrooms brought back memories of who taught what in what room.  Everyone remembered Fr. Kettle, Biology teacher, beheading a chicken in class in preparation for a dissection class.  Or Fr. Curtin, English, sitting cross legged on a desk in the front of class.  McNally’s Modern mathematics and Sullivan’s singing Latin declensions.  Francis Meehan was Principal In our senior year.  He started me  journaling and sent me off to Boston College to major in English. And David Marshall taught us a great course in American Literature.   Everyone remembers Father Henry Brown, who taught religion, and in an earlier incarnation, he claimed “kept the Japs out of your backyard (actually communist Koreans).  Many of the Spiritans teaching at HGP in the 60s were back from the missions in Africa.  Their teaching style varied — some very good; some, well, not so good.  But all taught us an independent, open thinking approach to living and learning.  We were encouraged to be ourselves.


A walk outside brought back other memories.  What happened to the tennis court (oh, Founder’s).  Do you remember the pond, the hill (casualties to the HGP track). I didn’t tell the story but I remember a student council election (maybe 1964) when candidates were accused of being communists (this was at an outside rally at the Gazebo).  Remember the 1960s — the Cold War.  The Field House was actually built in our sophomore year.  The Sports program was limited.  Coach Bob Custer was alone.  He was basically a basketball coach.  John Mundy (’65) would be the track coach and George Afflerbach (’65) was baseball coach.  We were encouraged to be ourselves.

After the campus tour, we had a luncheon in Sager — back room of the library.  There were  copies of the 1965 yearbook.  Someone brought their personal copy so we could all re-sign it.  I pulled out mine today.  Sure enough everyone in the class had left a note. Most wished me well, at Boston College, some Attested to what a great a guy I was.  I liked the Smiths’ comments.  Ed (politically incorrect) called me the “strappiest wop at HGP.”  I take that as a compliment.  Gerry Smith wrote “To a great writer; have fun at Boston.”  Unfortunately I not a great writer but I did have fun in Boston.  As to Ed Smith, what did you mean?

It’s hard to believe that we graduated from High School 50 (fifty) years ago.  I am glad I went to the graduation and luncheon.  And hope I can make contact with other  member of the HGP class of 1965.

Where is everyone’s?  What have you been doing the past 50 years?


Retirement — the second year begins

Diane and I are gradually adjusting to a retired life. I was always amazed when I heard about people who didn’t know what to do with all that non-work time. If anything the past year, has been busier. Work frequently defines our day. I usually arrived at 7 and left about 3. Home at 4, cook, eat, read, watch a movie — and tomorrow is another day. Free time, limited to weekend and holidays. Although a teacher, I worked most summers.

Since June that familiar work- weekend routine disappeared. Although we traveled nearly 2 months; the other ten months were spent at home.

A typical day starts with coffee (or tea) and reading the digital Philadelphia Inquirer (print Inquirer and print New York Times on weekends). I have noticed a creep in the get up time — it was six, in the past weeks it has been 7 even 7:30. I usually write in a daily journal for about 15 minutes, then a walk. My walks can be a mile or three. Depending on weather, my mood, and Mosley’s attitude.

There are several options for the rest of the day. The first is some type of house project. This may be garden work, cutting the grass, organizing stuff in the basement, garage, closets, there are minor house repairs, and lots of painting projects in the next few weeks.

I might decide to bake bread, make yogurt, can and preserve in season fruits and vegetables — from a market or the garden. Pickles, sauerkraut, jams, tomato sauce, pickled beans and peppers, peach and apple butter, apple sauce, pumpkin purée, whatever is in season or available.

Some days are “shopping days.” Diane and I usually go to McCaffrey’s — Tuesdays — senior discount day. What’s amazing is that grocery shopping can become the major activity for the day. We unload the car, empty the bags, cook some lunch, and it’s 1 or 2 o’clock. No more major projects for the day. Some food shopping days involve trips to Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Whole Foods (all off of Route 1). Even more interesting are our rambles through Bucks County and New Jersey, stopping at farm stands, farmer’s markets, speciality bakeries, and seafood markets.

Another possible activity is what I call field trips. Diane and I may do something together; or I go solo while she does personal projects at home. One great benefit of being 65 is the one dollar SEPTA train ride. I frequently board at Yardley for an urban explore. I might go to a museum or a city neighborhood. There may be a plan or just serendipity. The National Jewish Museum, Comcast building, PA Horticultural Association Library, Masonic Temple, Rodin Museum, Chinatown, Old City, Constitution Center, Main Library, Barnes Museum — are a few city experiences this past year. Each trip is also an opportunity for a lunch in the city. Not hard finding a place.

Diane and I also do quite few Bucks County and New Jersey field trips. We have found quite a few walking trails in Jersey. Many are good for letting Moe off leash, running free. We were amazed to find Washington’s Overlook, a short walk and fantastic view of the river valley, outside of Lambertville. In Doylestown there is the County Theatre, Mercer Museum, Mitchener Museum. Further up county we can go to Peace Valley, Nockamixon, or just wander Upper Bucks roads. Never know what you will find.

Some days we just relax. If we are in Yardley, two o’clock, time for a rest. Maybe a nap. Reading. In winter, build a fire, enjoy. In summer, turn on the AC, enjoy. 5 o clock and it’s time for wine and dinner. Maybe a movie, a bit of reading. Tomorrow is another day.

It’ s amazing how quickly our days are filled.

We have done a lot this past year– quite a few travels, local field trips, garden, bought a new car (Toyota Highlander), painted the house (well, the painter did). Adopted Mosley and spent more time with Viv and Eli.

There are many things we need to do in retirement year two. Exercise — walking isn’t enough — we need to bicycle, kyack, yoga — more, more. Travel — there are many 2 or 3 night Bed and Breakfast trips. But we also need to decide on longer, more adventuresome trips. Do we want to go to China, Vietnam, India, Africa? And there are European trips — Paris, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Greece. In the U.S., the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, extended New England.

House projects must move inside. Every room needs to be painted. We should be able to do this ourselves. And (my albatross), get rid of things, sell books,records, coins, just get rid of stuff.

Another objective is to buy a new Nikon camera and get back into doing some serious photography. I did spearhead the formation of a Yardley photography club this year. And I’ve read a lot and joined a Great Books discussion group. But I want to do more serious writing (this blog is an attempt to get me in the habit). Although I don’t need a part time job, I am glad to be working on a curriculum project related to the book, “On the Run.” And I should probably get involved in some type of volunteer work.

Probably the most enjoyable part of retirement is having the time, more time, to be with family, Diane, Jen, Rob, Viv and Eli. But also the contact I’ve had with friends, including many alumni from HGP. Years ago I learned that people are the most important part of our lives. Hopefully retirement, year 2 , will provide many more people opportunities.