CHAPTER 2: I FINISH MY TEENS (1951-1955)
|I arrived in
Rochester, a city with a population less than one tenth the
size of New York to face this new adventure. As you will see
later this was nothing compared to what was to come. After a few
weeks in a hotel, my family was able to rent a house in a little
town called Fairport. The idea of living in a single family
house (even though rented) was a real step up from a three room New
York City Apartment. However, the house was out in the country
and required a trip to school on a school bus, and a long walk or
ride from my Dad to any other activity that I needed to
attend. It was a long walk home from baseball practice
since there was no such thing as a late afternoon activity bus
following the extracurricular activities. This move transpired
during the summer of 1951, so I was isolated for some period before
we investigated high school in the fall. When my credits that
I had accumulated were examined it was decided that I would be
placed in the junior class. In retrospect, this
was perhaps the worst scenario possible. At 14, I was way
too young to be hanging out with seniors, many of whom had
their own car or access to their parents vehicle. On the other
hand, as a junior, it was not socially acceptable to be hanging out
with Freshman and Sophomores. (Students closer to my
age.) Needless to say, this made for a very uncomfortable time
in my life to say the least. I had come from a city of
millions of people, able to walk to anything I needed or to use
public transportation if necessary. Now, here I was living outside a
village of about 5,000 people. Anything (such as varsity
baseball) I did required
dependence on parents, or a long walk back and forth to the village. Life improved a bit when during the summer between my Junior and Senior years, the owner of the house we were renting returned from the military and wanted the house back. This required my parents to go looking again and I was lucky that they found a house to rent on the hill on Main St. in the village. This was considerably closer to my activities and improved my life considerably since it was now just a walk down the hill to get to any desired activities. Later, after graduation I was able to walk to the village and take the Greyhound bus (the route to the city is now public part of the public transportation system) to work. In addition, later after graduation I was often able to ride back and forth to the city with my Dad when he was in the office. Dad was a representative of one of the oldest insurance companies in the U.S., the Home Insurance Company. His main responsibility was to represent the company to Independent Insurance agents throughout the central western New York area surrounding Rochester. Although he was often away from home 2 or 3 nights a week, these trips back and forth to Rochester (when he was in the office) gave us the opportunity for one-on-one time together. My two clearest memories of these trips concerned winter and snow. The first incident involved a group of my Dad's friends who belonged to a golf group that had to play at least once each month of the year. Dad, played once a year at an Insurance golf outing (fishing was his passion). Needless to say they often found themselves waiting for that unseasonably warm December or January day. I remember one particular trip to the city when he was chuckling that the month was running out and they would have to play that day, in the cold and snow. Of course, the world would not have stopped turning if they had not played. It was a guys HONOR thing. The other memory was riding home from the city one day in early to mid April in the midst of a typical lake effect snow from Lake Ontario. This incident preceded heated rear windows. Luckily traffic was snarled and moving slowly. This allowed me time to jump out every couple of blocks to clear the snow. Since it was a wet spring snow, by the time we got home I was quite wet.
I had graduated from high school at the ripe old age of 16 in June 1953. From there I went to work at the Rochester Civic Music Association. The Association was a non-profit support arm of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra as well as arranging for other travelling acts within the George Eastman Theatre. The whole operation was associated with the prestigious Eastman School of Music.
My duties were varied although my main responsibility was to get the newsletter addressed and ready for mailing. The technology of the time, which would now be considered primitive, involved trays of metal plates embossed somewhat like credit cards with raised names and addresses. These plates were fed through a machine. When the plate reached the proper position, application of pressure to a foot pedal caused a weight to fall on the newsletter. Between the newsletter and the plate was a typewriter style ribbon which applied the address to the mailing piece. This also caused the plate to move on and anew one to take it's place. I then sorted and bundled the newsletters for mailing. This was a far cry from today's computer mail merged mailing lists. In addition, I filled in for the switchboard operator/receptionist during lunch and vacations. This was a kind of heady responsibility for a 16 year old kid. The job also gave me the opportunity to hang out in the back of the theatre and listen to rehearsals of everything from the Philharmonic to the Stan Kenton Orchestra.
After a year or so I left the Civic Music Association to seek something with a bit more growth potential. I was also dozing through night classes at the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. It wasn't until years later that I would realize the value of higher education.
My search led me to a local bank where although I was originally hired in the mail room, there certainly appeared to be more growth potential. It was here that I made another of those decisions that in retrospect were not smart but we'll get to that in time. While at the bank I moved from the mail room to the coin vault (where I wrapped coin in the rolls we commonly see) and soon was a bank courier exchanging daily paperwork with other banks and law offices and representing the bank each morning at the Clearing House, a place where banks exchanged checks with one another for processing (perhaps another outdated process in this age of electronic transfer). Soon I found myself filling in for tellers at lunch time and helping on the teller lines of some of our suburban branches on Friday nights.This was the fifties in upstate New York. During this time banks were traditionally open from 9 to 3 five days a week (no Saturday or Sunday hours of any sort).When we broke new ground by staying open Fridays until six downtown and eight o'clock in some of our suburbs, I found myself filling in often between 3 and 8 in some of our suburban branches. During this time I also was assigned occasionally to an additional courier run which moved transactions and other paperwork between suburban branches and our downtown main office. In this technological age it is hard to remember that there was no networking at this time and no real time processing. All transactions were batch processed and we were at the leading edge since we were paid by direct deposit to a checking account which we drew on by writing a cardboard check that looked like a small IBM punch card.
It was right around Thanksgiving 1954 when my world began to unravel. My Dad had been doing some painting in the house. I remember that he mentioned that he had experience a bit of blood in his urine. Since he had been going out to smoke in the somewhat raw November weather, he assumed when he went to the doctor that the diagnosis would be some form of urinary tract infection. As I recall there was a lot of indecision about the diagnosis. As a matter of fact, the doctor even took his winter vacation. That further led to my feeling that all was routine. In retrospect, because of the indecision and lack of urgency, it appeared to be a classic case of what we now call MALPRACTICE. However, remember it was now early 1955 when doctors were still infallible and lawyers had not created their own industry of ambulance chasing. It is only now that it even occurs to me to consider it possible malpractice. Anyway, shortly after the first of the year the diagnostic process settled on CANCER in the bladder area. In 1955 we knew little about cancer compared to what we know today. As I recall, they started my Dad on radiation treatments. When those did not seem to be accomplishing the desired objective, the decision was made to perform what at the time was called radical surgery know as a colostomy. In those days they were not, as now, reversable so my Dad spent his last year in basic indignity. At the time, I was 18 and bullet-proof and it never occurred to me that he wasn't. Unfortunately, the surgery did not provide the answer. Things began to detiorate during the spring and summer of 1955 and my Dad had a couple of hospitalizations during this time. I'm not sure when the realization set in that this was a terminal illness. Perhaps I knew from the beginning, but as a bullet-proof 18 year old, refused to accept it. Anyway, during that year I watched as this once vital, perhaps slightly overweight man who had played stickball with me and my friends was wasting away to less