PS 41. I am told they don’t name schools like that anymore; I am not sure. But in New York City when Don and I were kids, that’s how they numbered the schools: PS3, PS28, PS 41, the PS of course standing for public school. For the most part Don attended Catholic schools (not called Parochial yet): St. Bernard’s, Cardinal Hayes High School, Fordham University (Ok I went to that one as well), while I went to public schools: IS 70 (that stood for Intermediate School 70) and Stuyvesant High School but we both attended PS 41, though obviously not at the same time. In the heart of the Village (everyone wanted to be known as being “in the heart of the Village”). I remember the teachers well: Mrs. Wordenschlag, Mrs. Paris, Miss LaRoche, Miss King (major crush there), Mrs. Dworkin (who actually followed me to IS 70). Each was unique and obviously memorable but I held a special place in my mind and heart for Miss LaRoche. How could I not? Every Tuesday morning, while the other classes were learning something silly like Math, she would hold a discussion of the previous night’s episode of The Man From UNCLE. We would talk about different scenes and how cool Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin were ( I think she had the hots for him) and about their latest triumph over the evil organization known as THRUSH. On and on it would go until almost lunch period, and then in the afternoon we would get back to the mundane business of education.
She had dark brown hair, and deep brown eyes; very attractive – I knew that even then. But she did have a stern side. Remember now this was before the present attitude of political and every other kind of correctness. Now if a teacher so much as says the wrong word in class, they are cashiered out; everybody’s feelings must be catered to. Then, the teacher was God; with ultimate power and discretion over how to handle her particular class. And Miss LaRoche enjoyed that power, and had a style all her own. The everyday disciplinarian would have you hold your hands open while they smacked your palms with a ruler – kid stuff. She had a ritual that became as legendary as the lousy food in the cafeteria. If she deemed you did something wrong, you were banished to the hallway. And that was just the beginning. It was humiliating enough having been caught doing something wrong, and having to do the walk of shame out of the room. But like I said, that was just the beginning. She would continue to teach the class as you waited standing alone in the hallway, dreading what was coming. By the time she joined you in the hall you were a sweating mess. And you knew something worse was coming.
“You were talking in my class” she would say almost sweetly. You could only nod, ready to accept whatever she was about to do to you.
“You won’t do that again will you?” Now you were whimpering, wondering where your Mom was. And then it came. She would reach out and with her thumb and forefinger pinch a portion of your cheek. And then she would twist it. Like really twist it. You would move your head to try to alleviate the pain, moving it in the same direction of the twist, but it was to no avail. Anyway you turned she held your cheek firmly. You felt yourself blushing at the embarrassment of it all, not to mention the pain. Your eyes teared up, your legs wobbled, you prayed you wouldn’t wet your pants, and then finally she would let go and you felt like kneeling at her feet and promising you would be a good boy from now on. And then she would hold the door open for you, smiling– back into the classroom! In front of your classmates, with a bruised and red face, tearing streaming down your face! You wanted to disappear. But you walked back into the room, your eyes on the floor, another victim of the LaRoche treatment.
She wielded power well.
I am not even going to go to what affect it had on a young person’s blossoming libido – no one knew what the hell a libido was at the time! But it left a lasting impression.
And not just on your cheek.