THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter 15
We were bussed down town to the Julian Curtiss School for third; fourth; and fifth grades by John Purdy, our next-door neighbor who drove a Laidlaw Bus for the town of Greenwich. John Purdy and his wife had thirteen children so there was never a shortage of playmates in the back-country! As I remember, all of the Purdy children had a special talent for singing especially Rosemary, Peggy and Ruth. Their brother, PFC Louis James Purdy gave his life for our country in Vietnam, in 1967 and I want to remember him here. In the sixth grade, we changed schools once again, this time, to attend The North Street School for grades, six, seven, and eight. By this time, the town of Greenwich was growing fast. I was eleven years old, when the town was deemed big enough for it to be included on the road maps, given away for free, at the local Esso Station! This event was of course, a great cause for celebration! “Map Parties” were held all over town … Any excuse would do for a party in Greenwich Connecticut!
By the time Easy and I graduated from the North Street School in eighth grade, we were well prepared for life. Public school education for us was wonderful. I think we could have survived quite well, because the foundation provided to us was broad based, basic and sound. Every student, and I do mean every student, in our classes, was proficient in English, Math, and basic American History and Science by the time they graduated, even though, there were many in our class from very low incomes and several who, when they joined our class, spoke no English at all. We were also given a good education in music and art and sports. We loved our teachers who had given to us the building blocks on which to stand and build our own futures.
There are many events that shape one’s career. Ninth grade was one of them. Because our parents did not approve of co-education in the upper grades, the decision was made to send us to a private school in the fall of 1956.For the ninth grade. We were sent to the Greenwich Academy, a private day school for girls, carefully fashioned after traditional preparatory schools in England. Although The Brunswick School for boys was only a few blocks away, we rarely crossed paths. The administrations of both schools saw to that, excepting perhaps for a holiday dance, and then, only if you were lucky enough to be invited.
Our Uniforms were … and there is no other word to use here, excepting the word, ”Ugly!” Tan men’s, button down shirts, worn with swamp green, men’s ties which looked just lovely under shapeless, heavy green wool suits, finished off, of course, with brown leather buttons. Tan cotton knee socks, which were always falling down around our ankles, were worn with lace-up leather oxford shoes. To complete the picture … no jewelry or make up of any kind whatsoever was allowed. By God we were an attractive bunch!
The Academy was an excellent school however, and was intent on preparing its’ students for the Ivy League Colleges ... and this they did! The courses were rigorous and so were our schedules. We were up by six, every morning to feed and water the ponies before leaving for school. Our first class was at 8:30 am. The last class ended at 4:10 and then it was home to exercise the horses, do stable work, followed by dinner and home work until ten or eleven each night. The classes were small and our teachers, outstanding. In addition to Geometry, and Greek Mythology, we studied English,French, Latin and Current Events, Music, Art, Field Hockey, Modern Dance and Mensendieck!
The class called Mensendieck was a real kicker and obligatory for all students: No exceptions. All of our clothing was removed, excepting for our underpants. We marched around a gray rugged room, barefooted. Mirrors lined all four walls so that we could see ourselves, while our teacher Mrs. Jerik, corrected our posture. Silhouetted photographs were taken once a year and presented to our parents, so they might see the improvements from year to year. O’ the embarrassment of it all! When not teaching this class, Mrs. Jerik roamed around the school with her pointer, tapping us on whatever part was closest, reminding us, to stand up straight.
Chorus Conductor/composer, Louie White traveled once a week from New York City. He transformed our school into one huge chorus, which culminated in a magnificent Christmas performance, held in the Old Stone, Second Congregational Church on the corner of Maple Avenue and the Post Road. I was one happy camper at the Academy, especially because of the Music, Art, and Modern Dance classes that were taught by our beloved Mrs. Pethic and Madeline O’Neil. It was an auspicious beginning at the Greenwich Academy. Not for long, however …. our Ninth Grade year ended up being a tough one, and I mean… a really tough one ... you never know when life will throw you a curve ball.
Everything went along quite well for both of us until early in the month of February 1957, when my sister was invited to go horseback riding with her classmates at the Round Hill Stables. Easy was a very competent rider, so the Head of the Riding School, Teddy Wahl, asked her if she would like to tryout one of the new ponies in his stable. The class “moved off ” on a cross country ride, over field and stream, galloping through the Round Hill Woods when suddenly the lead horse pulled up short and the horses behind my sister, bunched up on my sister’s pony, forcing her pony into the back end of the lead horse, which did not in the least, like being shoved in this manner. Easy tried to turn her pony to the side to avoid the crush of the ponies behind her but the lead horse, shod with steel shoes, kicked out behind him, cracking into my sister’s leg just below the knee, resulting in multiple compound fractures. The leg was held in place soley by the stirrup and the fabric of the heavy English breeches which Easy was wearing that day. I don’t know how she stayed conscious, but she did and somehow managed to ride for forty minutes back to the stable on her pony. She was lifted off of the pony and taken immediately to the Greenwich Hospital’s Emergency Room.
The injuries were severe. The knitting together of the many fractured pieces was a slow and painful process. Gangrene had set in, and more than once I overheard discussions regarding the possibility of amputation. The outcome was in jeopardy for three or four months as I remember ….. It was touch and go. She came very close to losing her leg that spring. Easy missed most of the second half of her 9th grade year at the Academy, most of which was spent in hospital or therapy sessions. Thankfully, by the end of the school year, the fears of amputation had lessened. She would need to be watched closely for any returning signs of Gangrene and need many months of physical therapy in order to hopefully recover with full function.
Mummy and Daddy could see that they would be needed to manage her medical care for the next year.... and so It was then decided, that this could be best accomplished, if I was placed in a boarding school. That way, they could give Easy their full attention. The upshot was that I was sent to my mother’s Alma Matter, the Garrison Forest School in Garrison, Maryland.