Guest Author: Skip Cohen ‘67
When I first contemplated, months ago, about contributing to the Online Log, the word “pandemic” was not in our vocabulary. Now, after nine months of hunkering down, I’ve found taking a look in my rearview mirror is therapeutic. “Throwback Thursday” is happening a little every day, with great memories going back just a few months, let alone years.
But staying connected to my hometown, Painesville, Riverside, JRW, and digging back to Clyde C. Hadden maintains a particular place in my heart. There’s a smile on my face just writing about it. So, turn back the clock to the 50s and Clyde C. Hadden. Here’s a taste of what makes those days so unique and the memories so vivid.
My wife Sheila and I met in second grade. My parents moved to their first real house on Coventry in November of ’55. I started the school year as the new kid, almost three months after everybody had already been in school. Being the new kid, Mr. Paxton, the principal, assigned somebody to show me around.
Whether it’s because he had a soft spot for this young girl or simply knew she had five brothers and was tough enough for the task, Sheila Fetterman was assigned to give me the tour. I remember it like it was yesterday – “Here’s the gym…that’s where we have lunch…this is Mr. Paxton’s office…there’s the playground…that’s the Boy’s Room…see ya!”
The photograph above is from the 1956, 3rd grade class at Clyde C. Hadden, and both Sheila and I are highlighted. I’m in the top row, second from the right, and Sheila is in the bottom row, third from the left.
For the next ten years, Sheila and I would often be in the same homeroom and went from Hadden to JRW to RHS together but were never really good friends. We just didn’t run in the same circles.
Meanwhile, those years at Hadden represented one life-lesson after another. One of the most semi-traumatic moments was the first music class with Mrs. Herman. As she bellowed our name and sang, “Yoo-hoo,” we were expected to sing it back and on key. And because she went alphabetically, I was called on early and bellowed back completely off-key, “Yoo-hoo.” There was silence in the room and a look of horror on her face, which only made things worse. Now she had to take the time to teach the new kid to be on key. For what felt like an eternity, my not-quite-Harry-Belafonte voice was on display.
In that same music class, everyone had previously been taught about the beat of the music. We were called up in groups of three, and as she played the piano, we were supposed to clap to the beat. I didn’t know what the beat was and clapped for every note while everyone else was on the beat. I pretty much beamed, thinking I was the smart one and got it right. *sigh* Another classic moment of trauma.
Other memories? See if any of these take you back:
- John F. Kennedy speaking from the roof of Hellriegels
- Johnny Marzetti or American Chop Suey being served for lunch
- Exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day with the entire class
- A time capsule being buried in the front of the school
- The annual May Day celebration with streamers around the flagpole that inter-twined as we skipped to the music – Mrs. Herman was in her glory on that one day each year when her quest to be a Broadway producer was closer to being realized.
Those years at Hadden were instrumental in some of my greatest life lessons, including one in fifth grade, where I learned never to write anything that you didn’t want other people to read.
Rosemary Timbrook had an autograph book, and everyone got to sign it. Thinking I was outrageously creative, I mimicked the Coke commercial at the time and wrote, “Feel refreshed, have a s_ _ t.” Little did I realize the teacher would be asked to sign the book following my page. Even more painful was that she played bridge with my mother, and the torn-out page of the now “ruined” autograph book was delivered to Mom.
Like the scene in Christmas Story, I was marched into the bathroom, and the giant bar of Ivory soap came out. My mother was mortified and demanded to know where I had heard such language. As the tears flowed down my cheeks, I whimpered, “Grandpa uses that word all the time.” Mom bought the story, and for the moment, I was off the hook.
A day later, she cornered my grandfather and screamed at him to watch his language around me. My grandfather took the heat, winked at me, and later whispered, “You owe me!” It was another building block in a remarkable relationship with my grandfather.
Robert Fulghum wrote a book years ago All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Well, I can honestly say the same, except I learned most of what I needed at Clyde C. Hadden.
Meanwhile, Sheila Fetterman went her way in life, and I went mine. Fifty years later, at the fortieth RHS reunion, the friendship started. That was in 2007; we were married in 2010.
I give Principal Elmer Paxton more credit than he deserves for introducing us in 1955, but the truth is, he is responsible for so many great memories we both share looking back.
Skip Cohen is a photography industry executive. He has served as past president of Hasselblad USA, Rangefinder magazine, the Wedding and Portrait Photographers Association, and in 2009 founded his own educational consulting company. In 2013 he launched Skip Cohen University, dedicated to helping artists build a stronger business. He has co-authored six books on photography, is a regular speaker at a variety of conventions and writes for several different magazines. He and his wife Sheila live in Osprey, Florida.