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Dot and Johnny
This is a short, but sweet, story about my uncle Johnnie Boyan, and our perennial teacher of the English language, Dorothy Keefe.
Johnnie was the typical Irish lad; in a bit of a fog and almost always late for scheduled appointments or tasks. At Highland Falls High School on Mountain Avenue, morning classes began promptly at 9AM; and on the day in question, Johnnie was sneaking into the side door, hoping to get by any teachers while sneaking to class. Yes, he was late, but it was not unusual. Climbing the stairs, he rounded the corner, and ran headlong into his English teacher, "Dot" Keefe, as she looked at him and said ...."Late again, Boyan!". As Johnnie was quick with the Irish Wit, he answered with the words...."Yeah, me too"!
Well, that's the story.
Kevin Childs (12/19/17)
Teachers can have bad days, just as kids have bad days. This is a story of a bad day that was saved by the most unlikely person of all. Two teachers, one hallway, and one kid; that was the cast of characters on that school day morning.
The class at Highland Falls High School was one of the first in the morning; a class called "Civics", which taught us the way our government worked. On this school day, the sequence of United States Presidential succession was being discussed, and a definite point of contention emerged in the discussion. The teacher pointed out that in his opinion, after the fourth level (Secretary of State), the competence of any further proposed presidents should be in question. The confrontation would soon follow.
Little Kevin (about 5 foot 4 or so) sat in the first row right near the door; and as the teacher uttered his opinion, two short words were uttered. "You're crazy", said Kevin. Instantly, the teacher pounced and started slapping. Kevin covered himself, and gradually made his way out through the door and into the hallway. The teacher was enraged that a mere student would dare to say those words; words that were in a way, prophetic. As the teacher continued to lightly pummel Kevin with definite but light slaps about the head, the equally scary English teacher (Mrs. Keefe) emerged from her room next door. Mrs. Keefe quickly wrapped her arms around the slapping teacher, and yelled the words "run Kevin, run". Kevin did exactly as instructed, and ran....all the way to the quiet library at the end of the hall. The scary English teacher had saved little Kevin, and calmed down the "crazy" teacher....who wasn't really crazy...just a little peeved.
- kc -
Benjamin and Andy
After attending the University of Chicago, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1932. He was sponsored by Representative Oscar De Priest (R-IL) of Chicago, at the time, the only black member of Congress. During the entire four years of his Academy term, Davis was shunned by his classmates, few of whom spoke to him outside the line of duty. He never had a roommate. He ate by himself. His classmates hoped that this would drive him out of the Academy. The "silent treatment" had the opposite effect. It made Davis more determined to graduate. Nevertheless, he earned the respect of his classmates, as evidenced by the biographical note beneath his picture in the 1936 yearbook, The Howitzer:
The courage, tenacity, and intelligence with which he conquered a problem incomparably more difficult than plebe year won for him the sincere admiration of his classmates, and his single-minded determination to continue in his chosen career cannot fail to inspire respect wherever fortune may lead him.
He graduated in 1936, 35th in a class of 278. He was the academy's fourth black graduate (and the first graduate since Charles Young in 1889). When he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, the Army had a grand total of two black line officers — Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. After graduation he married Agatha Scott.
The preceding information refers to General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. during his silent years as a cadet at West Point.
Being an Irish father, Andrew "Andy" Boyan found it necessary to hold more than a few jobs in and about Highland Falls...and one of those jobs was as a West Point cadet "barracks policeman". Now, a barracks policeman was not a law enforcement officer, but was a fellow who saw to maintaining the cadet "quarters" in a neat, clean and orderly manner. In other words he could also be called a custodian, caretaker, or janitor. Andy was an affable working class Irishman; one who appreciated his own place in life, as well as that of others around him. Cadet Davis lived alone, and found that "Andy" would readily talk with him without being prompted or even required to do so. Over Benjamin O. Davis Jr's four years of cadet life, the one person who became a true friend was not a fellow cadet, but was this affable fellow from Highland Falls who, while leaning on his broom or mop, engaged Cadet Davis in friendly conversation that would be recalled in letter form many years later. In 1954 Benjamin O. Davis Jr. received his first star. Shortly thereafter, a letter made its way to Andrew "Andy" Boyan at 22 Drew Avenue in Highland Falls, New York. It was a thank you note for the friendship shown to him during his years as a West Point cadet. The newly minted Brigadier General never forgot the kind words and friendly banter that brightened the barracks room two decades before.
Kevin Childs - September 2015
John Shelley was the husband of Mary Brennan, and the proud builder of seven homes in a village with the colorful name of Buttermilk Falls. The village name had been changed to Highland Falls when incorporated in 1906; a fact that I find sad, as the former name had been attached to the area since being noticed by the Dutch explorers during the early settlement years. Since this memory is about my great grandfather, I'll address the village name at another time.
John and Mary lived in their home near the end of Redoubt Street at the north end of the village. A turnstile type entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point existed a short fifty feet or so, north of their home, and it may be interesting to note that Redoubt Street in Highland Falls became Wilson Road in West Point when the large gate was opened for events at the academy. This information is given so you may visualize a few of the events that took place in and around this home.
It was early September in the year 1912, and numbers wise, a gallon of gasoline was priced at seven cents, you could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel, and Pius the 10th was our Pope. Wars or skirmishes were being waged in various places around the world, with United States forces engaged in Cuba and Nicaragua. On the evening in question, a war was also being waged in the Shelley home, particularly at the card table. The game being played was Euchre, a popular card game at the time, and the jokers at the table were the typical group of Irish friends gathered together for a few friendly, and not so friendly hands.
One of the friends from the "Old Sod" was Martin Maher, Sr., patriarch of a clan that included his five sons...all engaged in military service or employment at West Point. Others sitting at the table included Mr. Shelley's neighbor Jack Cody, as well as another friend, Bill Bennett. There were one or two other locals in attendance, but their names don't come to mind at this time. The game was "Irish friendly", which means the craic or banter was flowing, and each of them intended on being the one possessing a majority of coins at the end of the evening.
For those not familiar with the game of Euchre, simply think of Bridge. It was an earlier version, and was widely popular across Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Of course, refreshments were provided, and a bottle or three were undoubtedly available and readily consumed during the games. Card games don't have innings or quarters or halftimes, and if one has to take leave to care of bodily needs, one would simply stand and indicate that they would shortly return by stating the words "seeing a man about a horse", or some other similar phrase.
The "Necessary" or "Facility" was located outside, and a proper distance from the rear of the house in order to accommodate the bodily elimination needs of the household and guests. Martin stood, and making his way to the back door, stated that although he'd be taking his leave at that time, he'd soon return to the Euchre card game wars. As the game continued, each player stared at the cards, the table, the walls, or whatever distraction used to gain the small advantage. In time, John stood and declared that they should take a break, and await the return of Martin from his duties in the facility.
Ten minutes turned into twenty, and soon more than thirty minutes had passed since Mr. Maher had made his necessary jaunt to the small, rickety one room building. John rose from the table, and stating that "business" shouldn't take that long, walked to the backyard. I a few short moments, John walked back to through the door, muttering that Martin would not be returning, and they may as well fold his hand.
Martin had played his last hand, and a few days later, the family held a service for the late Martin Maher, Sr., also attended by more than a few of his local friends as well as quite a few who had known him from their days back on the old sod. It was a celebration of an Irish life, well lived.
Kevin Childs - 2015
Purple Heart Day
Anna aka Babs?
--- (A true story.....some locals will know the last names of the players)
Little Eileen wsat with a smile on her face in her 2nd grade classroom, happily anticipating a new teacher and a new school year. The first day of class was always the most exciting, when you met the "new" kids in town, as well as your friends from the year before. As the new teacher had yet to enter the room, the kids were their usual loud selves, sitting in the proper seats; but yelling to each other across the room.
Suddenly, the door opened with a subtle squeak that instantly quieted the air. The kids sat forward, with their hands clasped on desktops; looking straight forward at what could be said was a seated attention. The new teacher cleared her throat with a little cough, and said "Good morning." Thirty voices sounded what seemed like an echo greeting, followed by absolute silence.
The teacher looked at a paper that listed the name of each student and their desk assignment. Starting at first seat of the first row, the teacher asked a single question, and the student stood, giving his or her answer. The question was simple and to the point. "What is your mothers name?" The question from the teacher and answers from each child went on, until it was little Eileen's turn. The proud little girl stood and stated in a loud voice..."My mother's name is Babs". The teacher looked to Little Eileen and said.."Oh, no. Your mothers name is Barbara". A tear fell from Eileen's eye, and she said..."...but my mother's name is Babs". The exchange went on until the exasperated teacher told the child to go to the blackboard and write...."MY MOTHER'S NAME IS BARBARA, over and over, until I say you can stop". With tears streaming from her eyes, Eileen stepped to the blackboard and began the task at hand; writing over and over....."MY MOTHER'S NAME IS BARBARA", as the rest of the class continued with their studies. When the school day ended, the teacher told Eileen to go home, and that she hoped she had learned her lesson.
The next morning, two people appeared at the school; and made their way to Little Eileen's classroom. "I understand that you didn't believe my daughter when she told you my name", said the mother. The teacher defended herself, saying that she had corrected Eileen because she thought it would be better to use the actual name rather than the nickname, and that her daughter had refused to use her mothers name of Barbara.
The mother smiled and proceeded to inform the teacher that her name was NOT Barbara, and it was actually Anna. Her nickname to family and friends was, indeed, Babs or Babbie. A lesson was learned that day, not by the child; but by the teacher.
Kevin Childs (9-4-16)
Our Little Village
Edward Tom Donnery, aka
Tommy came upon a large H
signifying athletic prowess and achievement.
Regarding acquisition of the various pins, Tommy's explanation follows:
(The corrected version...updated by Tommy)
Now lets see if I can remember how I won all these Pins.
Well I finally got the cheer pin thanks to Linda Matz. She gave it to me for dating a cheer leader but I really dated three. Arlene Spellman, Pat Tupacz, and Peg Sorge, RIP. THREE of the loveliest young ladies that ever shook a pom pom for good old HFHS. I hope that Arlene and Pat are still cheering their family's and friends on to do good. I know Peggy is up in heaven cheering us all on to be better husbands, wives, parents and grandparents.
Now every time I look at that big H, I will have a smile on my lips and love in my heart for everyone I knew on high school. I want to thank Linda for giving me her cheer pin, as it makes the whole letter come together. I hope we can all get together again soon. Let's not wait to long.
Kevin Childs, you can now add this to make the story about the H have a happy ending. Hope to see everyone soon. I hope everyone can remember High School as the good days from long long ago. (Done...kc)
With love to everyone....Tommy
Albie's Car & Cigarbox Stories