For all the folks who know me personally—or by way of attending a class or series of classes I’ve taught in the past—most likely you’ve been made aware of my keen interest in history, and how important it can be as a tool for survival, as well as a personal method of modification of one’s behavior in order to excel and succeed at what life may or may not place on our individual paths.
All of what you’ve just read may seem like phycological gobbledygook, and frankly, most of what a wide variety of people experience in their personal lifetime endeavors can be corrected by the simple magic of the truth. And so my friends, let’s take a short trip back in time, and examine some historical truths; not really long ago, and far away, but they are mine to relay!
Back in Brooklyn, again: It’s an easy enough thing to do— the remembrances seem to stay with big-city kids for a lifetime, don’t they? There were thirty of us in our classroom at P.S. 233. Without choice, we all knew each other intimately. Most of us attended every event our school had to offer. Our parents, all at one time or another, attended a school open house where private parent-teacher meetings took place, usually not to my liking. But, that’s not part of what I intend to share with you all today.
Almost without exception, all of us kids were first-generation born in “these great United States of America”, as said, with an assumed and undeniable pronouncement of fact. Our folks (parents) weren’t there to make America great again. Across the board they, to a man, agreed to become American citizens, assimilate and add to their new country’s continued growing respect for human freedoms. After all, we were already great!
Our TEACHERS, COPS, and FIREMEN were treated within our mutual culture as respected members of society. The thought of rising up against any of these providers was absolutely unheard of by kids within our community, be they black, white, brown, or whatever the mix.
Note: I, Harvey Kalmenson, must admit my respect for these three groups was not by any means a balanced one for my personal tastes to tolerate. The cops and firemen were all fearless athletes as far as I was concerned. Some of them took part as returning soldiers in weekend softball games in the schoolyard at P.S.233. (I was often asked to join in with them. It made my dad very proud when he watched me participate with the grown men). My teachers, by and large, became my adversaries. For whatever their reason was, teachers never seemed to want my help. (It didn’t matter to me. Whether they, the teachers, liked it or not, I gave it to them anyway! I’m not going to offer much more about my teachers. I was taught not to say anything demeaning about the dead (in writing).
And one more really big thing………..
And yes, it was 1947, and Harvey Kalmenson had a habit of, without teacher solicitation, pointing out some salient facts many of my teachers failed to point out to my fellow classmates. But, they just didn’t get it; they never did, they never would, and all because none of them were equipped to understand. I was never the class clown, just a kid who explained to all of them, I considered myself to be a humorist a la “Robert Benchley”. One of my dad’s favorites.
“Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889 – November 21, 1945) was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his acclaimed short films, Benchley’s style of humor brought him …
Occupation: Writer, critic, actor, film director”
…And I’d like to add: Any person who wishes to help stimulate his or her desire for culture while allowing the nurturing of their sympathetic and humorous bent towards life as it is dealt to us, might seriously consider the efforts of Mr. Benchley, especially if you’re over age twelve.
…A happening at P.S.233, still 1947
A particular teacher made the mistake of challenging my integrity, during a class she was conducting. The class was called “Choral Speaking”. The way she did it seemed to me at the time to be kind of stupid. It wasn’t because I didn’t like poetry, it was because she had the entire class reciting the poems out loud as a group. When she pointed out the importance of what she was teaching, I raised my hand and asked her what I thought was a simple question.
“Why is it important?”, I asked. Before she had a chance to answer, I asked her abruptly if she didn’t think baseball was far more important for me to know about than poetry. She became extremely red in the face and raised her voice as she told me to sit down immediately. I did what she told me to do without reservation; well, maybe just a little, I guess. “Why don’t you have our class sing, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, as I obeyed her wishes to sit down, simultaneously.
Note: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game ” is a 1908 Tin Pan Alley song by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer which has become the official anthem of North American baseball, although neither of its authors had attended a game prior to writing the song.
By the way…I had become a member of the PAL, “Police Athletic League”.
In 1947, most of Major League Baseball was being played during the daytime hours. During the summer months when school was out, I would find myself traveling alone to Ebbets Field to watch the then Brooklyn Dodgers play during the day. PAL members would line up in a street area designated by the cops, and we would get in free of charge. (Those left field grandstand seats were regularly priced at $1.20 each.)
It was at one of the 1947 Dodgers home games, my father had purchased us the best tickets he could lay his hands on. It was my night to remember and recall many times during my life—a history lesson in the making—while past history was being explained to me by my dad. Even with only his third or fourth-grade education, he was so much brighter than most of the school teachers I’ve come across in my lifetime of experience within the confines of formal education.
I do believe it was the first night game I saw in person. As a reminder: in the early days of 1947, I was not yet 14 years old. I was overcome with emotion. Every sports page of every newspaper in the country was talking about the man who stood before me—his name was Jackie Robinson. His day had come, and like my dad made sure in the simplest of terms, this was going to be a life-changing time for everybody in our country, not just one colored man. (As a reference, please keep in mind, the term “colored man” was the correct and accepted usage of the period.)
In retrospect, I guess I already had cultivated a romantic approach towards things. Today, people would have to refer to Jackie as “one handsome dude”. When the team traveled, the players always dressed with respect for the fans; they looked good, all clean-shaven, and in restaurants, most wore a jacket, shirt, and tie. Jackie was a total gentleman.
To this day, it remains an inward spirit constantly being nurtured by fans not only in these great United States of ours but all around the world. Anywhere and everywhere, baseball is played and enjoyed by people, it stimulates goodwill for all.
In 1954, I pitched for an army baseball team in Seoul City Stadium, South Korea. There were thirty thousand Korean baseball fans in attendance. I wish I had a recording of the fans singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in Korean. It was heartwarming and awe-inspiring.
Today, Korean boys have made it all the way up the chain and are well-represented as professional baseball players right here in the USA. Sports in South Korea have consistently blossomed. American fighting men and women helped them achieve their country’s peoples’ goals. We can all take great pride in our usefulness. AND YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM US!
“The KBO League (KBO 리그), officially as Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League for sponsorship, is the highest level league of baseball in South Korea.”
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