Judy Van Wicklen

Judy Van Wicklen Memories of Manumit

Judy VanYes, things are triggering me like mad.  Tar Baby, yes, that was the horse that died.  Remember, I was back at Manumit for the second time.  I was there first when I was 11 to 13 and then went to California with my mother.  Subsequently, I left school and got a job as an usherette at the RKO Pantages Theatre on Hollywood and Vine earning 75 cents an hour.  I worked the Academy Awards the year “Born Yesterday” won.  We traipsed across the country in a trailer.  Stopped in Arizona where I car-hopped at the Root Beer Stand in Tucson.  Ended up in Southern Jersey at a backward, conservative High School and was miserable.  Wrote a letter to Billy Fincke (ohhh the nuthatches) saying how much I missed Manumit.  He, unbeknownst to me, went to NYC and beseeched my Father to pay tuition (which in itself is a miracle).  One day my mother came to me and said:  “I didn’t know you had written to Bill Fincke”.  “Oh yes” I said, “just a note to say hi to old friends”.  “Well it must have been some note cause your going back to Manumit… he gave you a scholarship and got your father to pay the rest”.  Boy, talk about happiness.  Wow.  Although coming from Ca., to Manumit, wearing makeup and tweezing my brows did not sit well upon arrival.  I got made a lot of fun of about that.  I had a makeup sponge in my drawer.  Judy Wolfe used to pull it out and pretend it was a falsie.  God we could be mean in those days.  Barbara… I remember you now!!!   This is all very amazing.  Hi guys.  Judy VW

Dear Liz;  I remember Peggy very very well.  There was a girl, Susie (is that the right name)?  She was a dear friend and we always danced together at the dances.  I led.  We did a smashing lindy.  She got sick.  Aunt Lilly thought it was just a flu.  I and others visited her in the infirmary the night before she died.  She was terribly ill.  We were worried and angry that Aunt Lilly didn’t call an ambulance.  She was dead the following morning.  I and others were devastated.  They held an assembly and I cried thru the whole thing.  It was the first death that was personal for me in my life.  The instant snuffing out of a life so young and lively.  I would sit up at night on the balcony and look at the stars and talk to Susie. Subsequently Peggy had a meeting of the English Class and we decided to build a library in her memory.  I wrote the eulogy and helped organize the library.  It was tiny.  A room in the Quadrangle.  We donated books and solicited donations from staff etc. Peggy taught english lit.  And we would sit in spring under the blossoming trees and read Shelley and Keats and Byron.  I became an anglophile subsequently and read English poetry, history and literature for years to come.  Peggy left shortly thereafter.  She was not happy at Manumit is what I remember.  There were things that upset her… but I don’t really remember what.

And how about the horses.  I think we should name the horses.  Major was ‘my horse’ and Patty Speer had “Tony” (as did many others I might add).  There was a short fat whitish horse that died in the meadow. We used to get each other up in the middle of the night… Bianca and Thelma mainly I think…  and sneak out by the light of the moon (oh yes and especially Nancy Peake) and get on the horses and ride.  It was so exciting, it was illegal.  As was breaking into the infirmary to steal and drink that codeine cough syrup.  Gee, the memories keep coming and coming.

Steve Maas was madly in love with Margie (forgot her last name (Feldman)) and would sit at the foot of her bed and beg for attention.  She was ruthless with him.  Judy Wolfe was mad about Al Martinet.  There was another Judy.  Judy Miller.  We were rivals for the affections of the counselor Ricky.  Who remembers Ricky?  I wrote him poetry and he took me to Chinese Restaurants in NYC on vacation…  that is till Ben got wind of it ( he was my ‘counselor’ at the time) and implied I was “not a virgin”…  which sent me into torrents of rage and I never went back to counseling again.

Who remembers the play “Time of Your Life” by Saroyan   It was a great acting moment for me as I screamed “I’m a whore, you son of a bitch, you know what I do……… AND I KNOW WHAT YOU DO” to the cop who was accusing me.  Who played the cop.  I can see him but can’t remember his name.  He had a brother at the school… ahhh  Barry something.  Who remembers?

The next year Ben took over the school and wanted it not to be so Lefty, so he picked a play (in which I starred) that was about White Russians…  a read come down from Saroyan.  Alan Manion lent me his guitar so I could play and sing “o Chichornia”  ( have no idea how to spell that song ).  I got to kiss Al Martinet as he played my husband and I thought I’d faint.  Then he went around telling everyone what a lousy kisser I was.  ( I hadn’t dained to open my mouth… I was saving myself, at the time, for Prince Charming).  Ahhhh memories.  We need to get more down to the nitty gritty here.  Give it a try. Got to run.  Fond memories, Judy VW

Ohh my goodness.  Weren’t you called Hildy?  It was Ricky MacDonald who later married Joy Goldstein.  Believe it or not, I was riding a Motorcycle to Pennsylvania (to visit my aunt near Phila.) years later, after college and pulled into a gas station past Langhorne. Guess who came to the pump!!!!  Ricky owned a small gas station.  He didn’t speak much… was astounded to see me astride and made it clear he didn’t approve.  What a co-incidence.  Every time I hear a
name I remember more and more.  I was in charge of the Franklin Stove, and almost every stove since.  I spent much time in the country as a child tending to wood and coal fires and was really good at ‘banking’ and so I was elected ‘fire-tender.  Boy, you really needed a good fire in that room of glass doors.  I loved that room. Ahh yes, the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna.  What a good memory you have.

So you went to Hollywood High!  I was living in San Fernando Valley, horrible High School, like 4,000.00 students.  I was chosen for a lead in the Senior Play there and was only a Junior (I recited Kipling with an english accent and was chosen…  “You may talk ore gin and beer when you’re quartered safe out here…. Gunga Din”  The seniors hated me and I was an outcast.  A position not unfamiliar to me.  My mother was first Vice Superintendent of the Ventura School for Girls (The California State Reform School) and subsequently Superintendent of El Retiro, the Los Angeles County Reform School (where Lana Turner’s daughter was sent after she supposedly knifed Lana’s boyfriend).

I think Nancy Peake must be responsible for so many Manumiters.  My first visit she took me around everywhere and then we were in the woods sitting on a log and she asked:  “Do you believe in God?” I had just come from a small town where not to believe in God was tantamount to murder, and had learned my lesson there so of course I said “yes”.  “I don’t” announce Nancy… and with huge excitement I leaped up screaming “REALLY!!!!  NEITHER DO I, NEITHER DO I!!!.  I raced upstairs where my Mother was being indoctrinated by the Fearful Faye and yelled, Mommy, Mommy, she doesn’t believe in God!!!!   At which point my Mother was completely embarrassed.  “That’s nice dear”, she said.   I was in love with the school, Nancy, the horses and the fact that this was as far away from small town America as I could get. As for John Lindloff, ahhh what a teacher… in he would stroll to history class, hair atousle, sleep in the eye, coffee cup in hand…  feet on desk, he would open a book and say:  “Today I’m going to read you the Love Letters of Marie Antoinette”.  He was amazing and I remember him to this day.  Didn’t know you were related. I’m in the midst of moving and am passing out over this computer so I’ll say “goodnight”.  Gee, are we all in our 60’s and 0’s?????
Hard to believe.  Judy VW