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  • I wouldn’t trade the education I got growing up for anything, as it has served me well through the years. I would never want to go through it again, and I never liked how it was set up, but it was a good education - a good Catholic school education.

    In Grade School, as we called it – many call it Elementary School – (back then, we just had Grade School and High School, there was no Middle School or Junior High) – we went up to the 8th Grade, then High School began in Grade 9, or Freshman year, then you had Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years.

    In Grade School, we were taught by mostly Catholic Nuns, but there were also a number of lay teachers, mostly all women. The ones I remember most are Miss Pushcar, for whom I was really hot in 4th Grade – she was a knockout, and dressed rather provocatively for a Catholic School teacher – we were in her 4th Grade class, actually watching a science program on one of those Televisions on a cart, when the news flashed on the screen that John F. Kennedy had been shot. I remember when I found Miss Pushcar in the hallway crying, I just wanted to hold her, and make it all better. She just looked at me, dried her eyes, shook her head, and said, “Oh, Peter – I’m so sorry, honey - this will change everything.” And, she was right. It did change everything. I still wished I could hold her and make it all better, but I knew I couldn’t. She was so hot.

    The other Grade School teacher I remember is Miss Hoffbauer, a dried up old biddie we had for 7th Grade, who was stern, unsmiling, and dreaded by us, but who drummed English into our young noggins in a way that I can still spot a grammar error or misspelling a mile away, and every time I do, I remember Miss Hoffbauer.
  • The teachers at South Hills Catholic High were all either weird old Christian brothers, or young, callow, too cool for school male teachers who would be snarky and sarcastic most of the time. I really hated those guys. The best class I had at that school was Typing, in my Freshman year. I was always very competitive, and I competed to be the best typist in the class, and I was. Ever since that class, I have been able to type 40 – 75 words per minute, with a minimum of mistakes, and I have used those skills all my life.

    I was a conscientious student up until my Sophomore year, when I decided that it was all a bunch of hogwash, and I just wanted to do what I had to do to scrape through the next 3 years with passing grades, get my diploma, and then join the Navy to see the world and learn a trade. I hadn’t had a single teacher who inspired me, or made me want to learn, who revealed the true value of education, beyond the fact that, to get anywhere in this society, you had to, at the very least, have a high school diploma. Education, for me, was completely fear-based, and by Sophomore year, I just didn’t care, anymore.

    My oldest brother had graduated after his Junior year, the first in school history to do that, then went on to Notre Dame with a full scholarship, the only way he could have afforded to go there. The next three siblings in line all went on to college, after having finished their full curriculum of Grade School and High School in the Catholic school system. By Junior year, I just wanted out of the Catholic school system. I’d had enough of the snarkiness, the tired old brothers who didn’t give a shit, and most critically, the not being around girls all day.

    The Catholic High School was all boys. Ughhh – who ever thought that was a good idea? I hated every minute of it. My last year there, I had spent mostly hiding from the bully jock crowd, whom I had snubbed and gone over to the “dark side”, hanging with the heads and the long-haired hippies, smoking and joking around out in the parking lot during lunchtime. I cut a lot of classes that year.
  • I finally made my break, in Senior year, and decided to go to the Public High School, where all the “dummies” went, so we were led to believe. I felt like a dummy, so I should fit right in, there. The curriculum there was, in fact, much dumbed down from what they’d been teaching at the Catholic school, but I was so wasted and uninterested by then, and cutting as many classes as I could get away with, it didn’t matter. I still pulled mostly D’s and F’s the first half of the year there. I was in serious danger of not even being able to graduate on time. I would probably have to go to summer school to make up the difference.

    Then, I threw the party to end all parties, where half the school, it seemed, showed up, and when Dad got transferred to Connecticut, instead of staying behind to finish up school in Pittsburgh, I had to go with the family to Connecticut for my final months of high school, if I wanted to remain a part of the family. So, I went.

    There, I met Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone was an English teacher who gave a shit. What a revelation he was! Granted, I showed up in his class wanting to pay attention and pull down a decent enough grade to be able to graduate in June. That was really my only motivation, but it was a lot more than I’d had for 3 years. Mr. Stone made “The Man of La Mancha” come alive, right in that class room. I was right there with Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills, falling in love with Dulcinea, believing in the impossible dream.

    Mr. Stone woke me up. We did a play in class, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail”, which revealed the life of Henry David Thoreau, what he was all about, and I went up to Walden Pond, and had a transcendental moment there, where I felt like I was Thoreau, reincarnated. As you can tell, my imagination was really fired up. All due to one teacher who gave a shit. He infected me with a love of learning that I’ve carried with me the rest of my life. He fired up my imagination, and I’ve never been the same, since. One teacher, and one keg party, made all the difference in my world. He changed everything.

    Yeah, I remember Mr. Stone, most of all. I did graduate in June with the rest of the class, and I even decided to give college a try, before finally joining the Navy after one year, but only because I couldn’t afford another year of school, and the Navy had the GI Bill, and training in a trade that I could fall back on, while I finished my higher education. I never did finish it - I'm still learning, and still love to learn - thanks to Mr. Stone, a real game-changer.
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