SAMUEL G FLETCHER
Class of 1946
Making money in the early 1940's wasn't very easy, although most prices were so cheap back then that you didn't need a lot of money. I did yard work for one of the Baldwin School Board members for one summer and earned 30 cents an hour for mowing, raking and edging his lawn. I'd work all Saturday morning and ride back home on my bike with all of a buck and a half. When my Math teacher, Mr. Reed, asked me whether I'd be interested in tutoring someone in Intermediate Algebra at a buck an hour, I jumped at the chance. Mr. Ezra Reed was probably one of the liveliest teachers in the whole school.
"Old Ez" as we called him, (behind his back) was about 5 foot 5 inches tall but he strutted around that classroom like a little bantam rooster. I remember that he wore bow ties, almost a flat top crew cut, and had the brightest eyes behind those glasses. He liked to challenge the students and would always offer up a "Double or Nothing" problem. If you took the challenge and got the problem right you had nothing- no homework for the next day, but if you got it wrong- you guessed it-- double homework! He also had students make up school and correct their deficiencies in class by taking a crew of them down to work off their punishment by sanding and painting his boat in the spring. He could tease the girls in the class to a point that they would burst into tears! In this day and age of political correctness, unlimited student "rights", and restricted teachers, Ezra Reed would probably have been drummed out of the school system. It is very interesting to know after all these years that Mr. Reed is now the most revered and loved teacher in the Baldwin School System- so much for political correctness!!
Anyway, Ez asked me if I would work with a kid named Bob Flanders. Bob was a big time athlete and played the three big varsity sports--football, basketball and baseball. He lived about a mile north of my house and I was not in his school clique. Bob's Dad worked for an airline and was very active in bringing programs to the school to describe various professions. Mr. Flanders took a bunch of us in to LaGuardia Airport once to tour the hangars and flight operations areas. I would usually ride my bike up to Flanders house one night a week and work on problems that he was having trouble with. Bob wasn't at all dumb, but he had too many other better things to do than study and he didn't try to get some help when he didn't understand a problem. I had to understand the work real well in order to teach him, so I would often stop by to see Mr. Reed after school to get straightened out. At a buck and hour, I could afford to spend some extra time to get things sorted out clearly.
We got near the end of the semester and the time came to take the New York State Regents exam, which was required for anyone who planned to go to college. The Regents exams lasted three hours and were always a source of great anxiety because they could make or break your entry into college. The exam was given in the biggest study room in the high school and everyone sat in alternate seats in order to reduce the temptation to see what your neighbor was putting down for answers-- not that students cheated in those days, like they do now.
I recall working through all the problems without bothering to check the big clock over the door. I finally looked up at the clock after I had finished everything and was stunned to see that I had taken barely an hour to do all the problems. I don't think that I'd ever finished an exam so quickly and thought that I'd probably screwed up somewhere in the problems. I accordingly went back to the beginning and redid every problem as carefully as possible. Don't remember that I made any changes, and when I checked the clock again, I'd now used up about an hour and a half. Should I sit there for another ninety minutes? The heck with that-- I got up and left the exam hall, with a few people looking at me in a curious sort of a way.
The weekend passed and I came in to class the next day and was greeted by Mr. Reed with a big grin and a "Hiya brain". "What's that for?" was my question back to Mr. Reed. "Go check the regents marks on the board” was his reply. There it was- a mark of 100 in the regents exam-- the only one that I ever pulled in school. The rest of the good news was that Bob Flanders got a 75 on his exam and which was much better than the minimum passing grade of 65 and good enough to be used for college entrance requirements. Mr. Flanders was so pleased that he gave me a $ 5.00 bonus! That was a lot of money in those days and it made the whole experience even better.
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