Biography and Manumit school recollections
By John Weinstock
For the past few years I have been trying to reestablish connections with my Manumit school past with no success, until I stumbled across the Manumit home page. What a site!
My congratulations to you Aulay, your efforts are greatly appreciated.
I started at Manumit in 1936 and went straight through until 1942 when I entered the NYC public school system at George Washington HS. What a shock that was! Going from the casual atmosphere of 15 people in a class to 30 or more, rushing up and down stairs when bells rang to change classes or go to lunch ( I was used to the gong of a railroad engine wheel sitting between the main house and the barn at meal time) having to learn how to write script, printing being the only form of written communication I knew, and struggling with proper English grammar and construction which I viewed as a foreign language. It was an awful lot to absorb!(and it still is!)(my wife insists on being my word check for anything public I send out!). I must say though, that I was probably the only one of the 3,000 students there who knew what a silo was. How is that for being unique?
I was sent to Manumit because my parents were far too involved in what they thought were the important things in life. They were very active in trade union activities and the American Communist Party, hoping someday to establish a communist society in America. They were not successful in this effort but it did take up a great deal of their time, For his efforts, my father was convicted of attempting to overthrow the US government by force and violence in 1953 and spent 2 and a half years in the federal penitentiary in Danbury CT. The prison overlooked what used to be the site of the Danbury Fair. This fair, which I remember from my time at Manumit, was without a doubt the largest country fair on the east coast with rides, freak shows, parades and a large track for car racing and farm animal exhibits. The main attraction was a huge area where local farms, including Manumit, set up exhibits of their farm products and activities every fall.
Like many things it gave way to progress and is now one of the biggest shopping malls on the East coast with an appropriate sized parking lot. Capitalism and free enterprise marched ahead. How is that for irony!?
I loved being at Manumit. Classmates I remember included Gwiffy Brown, Craig Johns, Dale Evans , Kolya von Hoffman (I recall reading a book by a relative of his about African exploring), John Joanne and Carol Lindlof ,Barbara Dutton ,Joan Stevenson, David Asch, Ellen Adler, and Marco Ross (his mother was a teacher) Klaus Breitbarth, and Joan Stevenson. There were many more whose names don’t come to mind at this moment.
Teachers include Ben Finke, the Petrullo sisters ,and Chet Hendricks. One of the unfortunate episodes that happened to me when I was at Manumit(I was probably 9 or10) was that I developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized at Danbury Hospital and came close to dying, as this was before the era of antibiotics. It was this, I think, that initiated the phenomena of all students lining up before breakfast having to take a tablespoon of cod liver oil. If I recall, the same spoon was sterilized by swishing it through a bucket of cold water between students. But, what the heck, we all survived
More pleasant activities included sports, participating in plays, the glee club, social activities and parties.
Besides a few pictures what also survive are a number of my “report cards” which consist of wordy descriptions of my progress or lack thereof in all my activities at school; reading, writing, creativity, personal habits, art, sports, dramatics, shop(Ben Himmel was the instructor), nature studies, farm life, group responsibilities etc.. It makes very interesting reading even in those areas where, as current jargon might say, I failed to reach my potential, reports were written in glowing terms. I think this was done to encourage parents to continue to send their kids back to Manumit for the ensuing year. This was not a problem in my case as my parents had no more knowledge nor desire to raise children than they did about Olympic ski jumping. Any way, Manumit saved me.
Random thoughts…….watching sheep being sheared, learning to drive tractors 10 years before getting a drivers license, planting and tending my own garden (radishes were my favorite-they required the least work and produced a crop faster than anything else), a mumps epidemic which I participated in, going caroling with the glee club around Christmas time and hoping we would be invited into a home for hot chocolate and cookies ,sleigh riding down Cobble hill at night and having a crush on a couple of girls but being much to shy to let on. Anyway it was 6 great years.
Life after Manumit
After high school not quite knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up I started at the City College of NY studying electrical engineering. After 3 years I decided it wasn’t for me and switched to the school of liberal arts and science, graduating with a degree in physics. Over the next few years I worked in varying capacities, in machine shops as a tool and dye maker, draftsman, precision parts inspector and electronics manufacturing.
It was during this time in 1952 that I met my future wife- to- be on a blind date. Connie and I got married 6 moths later. She was all of 18 at the time. Marrying Connie was the best and most important decision of my life and continues to be.
I was out of work a lot probably because of the radical background from which I came (it was the McCarthy era and I worked in shops that often had something to do with the defense industry).
Eventually I got a job at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in a research lab where they made their own equipment and they needed someone who knew how to operate a lathe, drill press and other types of machine shop equipment. I fit the bill, got the job for virtually no salary, but a nice perk was that I could go to school at Columbia University at night for free. As I had never taken any biology or chemistry courses at City College I took advantage of this so as to know something about what I was working on. During the course of a gathering with some friends I was talking about getting an advanced degree in biochemistry when Connie suggested that if I was going spend all that effort for a doctorate so I could do research, why not go for a medical degree ( at that time government grants were more often given to people with MD rather than PhD degrees). She said she would put off her goals for a doctoral degree in developmental psychology and work to support us ‘til I finished, which is what happened.
After I finished medical school at NYU ,and my residencies in Internal Medicine, I joined H.I.P. of Greater New York and worked in the Bronx at the Grand Concourse group for over thirty five years. Connie went back to school (and continued to work at the same time) getting her doctorate in developmental psychology from Columbia University Teachers College where she also taught courses in Adult Development and Gerontology development .She subsequently went through the program at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and became a psychoanalyst which she presently continues to do part time. What a woman!! We have 2 children. Our daughter Lisa was born in 1963, 11 years after we got married (that’s why I went to medical school, to figure out how to have children ) .She is a psychiatrist working in Mt. Kisco. She and her husband Ron (who along with being Canadian, is also the head of ICU at St Barnabas hospital in the Bronx) have 2 children Lauren and Ben, and they live about 1 mile from our house, which is really nice.
Our son Ken was born in 1965. He decided at the age of 35 to go to medical school, at which time he was married to Jeanne and already had 3 children, Chloe, Simon and Clare. He presently is a resident in psychiatry at the University of California in Davis. Needless to say we don’t see him as often as Lisa but we get out there as often as we can. We will get to see him on 2 week ends this February as we are going to California where Connie will be attending a conference in San Francisco of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.
Presently I am 99% retired, occasionally taking care of and giving advice to friends and relatives, while Connie continues to work part time. We travel as much as we can having gone to Russia last year and China the year before; get together with family as often as we can for holidays, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Passover and Christmas. We celebrate the Jewish holidays as well as Christmas, as my wife comes from a mixed marriage (Swedish-Lutheran Communist father and Russian Jewish Communist mother). Holidays are celebrated in a secular fashion rather than any formal religious way. We stopped celebrating the 1917 Bolshevik Russian revolution as nobody was really interested.
Anyway, we live in a small hamlet in northern Westchester called Goldens Bridge, about 40 miles north of NYC. If anyone is coming our way please let us know as we would love to have you drop by to reminisce and get acquainted (or reacquainted).
Best wishes to all John Weinstock
33 Main St.
Goldens Bridge NY 10526
P.S. The few pictures I found will follow. John