When I attended high school (1964-1968; Atlantic City, NJ), I participated in several after-school clubs: the school newspaper (reporter and visual artist), the chess club, the math club, the swimming team (varsity) and crew (varsity). On October 19, 1966, crew practice was cancelled because of rain and I was asked to help a friend repair a washing machine at his mother’s place of business, at New Hampshire and Atlantic Avenues at the Sunrise Laundromat in the Inlet section of Atlantic City. Crew practice was held in Ventnor Heaghts at the Viking Rowing Club, administered at the time by “Doc” Holland and his wife, who baked brownies for the crew teams and there is a very funny story that goes along with Mrs. Holland’s brownies but that will have to wait for another time and discourse. Maybe…
I lived in a 3-story walk-up, 3-bedroom apartment at Providence and Pacific Aves. with 1 older brother (16.5 months difference in age) and 2 “newlywed” parents (second marriage for both; two sons each; adopted by Lou Pergament in 1962). My friend and teammate, Ronnie P., lived with his mother; he was my brother’s classmate but rowed in my “4” on crew. He rowed “3.” I was varsity stroke for the “4” with and my “4” could beat my brother’s “8” with – Bruce was the varsity “8” stroke. We both were summer lifeguards. My brother was a champion rower on the Atlantic City Beach Patrol and I was head lifeguard during the summer of 1966 at The Strand of Atlantic City, the only CUE-rated venue in the city, with a 25 yd. salt water pool and a high a low diving board. The Steel Pier divers and clowns as well as several beach patrols practiced at my pool during that summer and every summer until the advent of hotel-casino gaming and then things changed. That, too, is another story or twenty for another time and webpage.
I never met Ronnie’s father and I only met his older brother a few times but enough for him to steal my 8th. grade science project and make a lot of money with Ronco selling the hot dog electrocutor which was my science project built with an extension cord, a plank of wood, bent wire coat-hangers and hot dogs connecting the circuit to complete the flow of electricity from the wall outlet through the coat-hangers and through the hot dogs and back around to electrocute and cook the hot dogs from the inside-out by a 110 volt electrical current. Ronnie and I started toward his house and his mom’s laundromat that October afternoon after stopping at my residence to change from practice clothes into jeans. We were riding a Yamaha motorcycle and travelling along Pacific Ave. from Providence Ave. toward the Inlet. We stopped at the red light at Michigan and Pacific Avenues heading toward the Inlet. The rain had stopped but the road was wet and the petro-based non-point run-off was percolating and made a slippery road surface, of course.
Pacific Ave. is 1 block from the beach and follows the shoreline and oceanfront surface pattern. As we approached the next intersection, Ohio and Pacific Aves., where the ACMC is located, a car moving in the opposite direction made the left turn in front of us without using a hand signal or turning on the blinker light for the turn signal to indicate the movement across oncoming traffic. I had the premonition and said to Ronnie prior to the impact that we were going right into that car as I screamed before she was turning, “She’s going to make that fucking left turn right in front of us, I know it!!!”
Ronnie agreed and we began to swerve to our left to avoid the impact with the cross-traffic turning vehicle but we were not 100% successful – my right knee struck the car’s left quarter panel and I went airborne above the street and off of the motorcycle, landing in the oncoming traffic lane across the intersection from where I had struck the turned vehicle. After I landed, I did try to get up and walk out of the street but I could not do that – my right femur had come out from the hip socket and was pinching and paralyzing my sciatic nerve and I fell to the ground again on my left side with my right leg out of the socket and squeezing my scrotum in a way that was rather discomforting. I saw the car moving toward the Boardwalk on Ohio Ave. and learned afterward that the old woman driving the car did not know she had struck someone and was on her way for her cocktail hour at the Marlboro-Blenheim Hotel, an anti-Judaic watering hole for the local Caucasians is a nice way to describe this venue. She thought she had lost a hubcap when she heard the noise but kept driving to her destination without stopping. This now is a matter of record in the court system in Atlantic County, NJ. I was screaming again, “Where the fuck is she going? Ouch; my balls!!!” endlessly until someone came with a 2″ x 4″ and carried me into the ER a half-block away from the intersection. He had witnessed the accident from a nearby hotel construction site (the Mt. Royal) and grabbed another co-worker and they carred me into the hospital. Rules are funny; insurance requirements are even funnier. The hospital could not bring a stretcher into the intersection to retrieve my wounded body due to not being insured along the way in case I fell off of the stretcher as the staff rolled me into the facility. Hence, they stood outside a half-block away and watched and waited until these two cosntruction workers carried my lame and injured 15-years-of-age varsity athlete body into the ER.
That day in my life ended my varsity athletic existence to a great degree, and began a life as a disabled person, someone with partial paralysis and physical limitations that are compensated daily to continue to grow and progress. I am not typing these words for any reason other than a back story for the inspiration to write tonight’s blog in the first place. In 1968, as a senior and student reporter for the school newspaper, and as the son of the father that adopted me, I lived a very interesting life on Absecon Island that began in September, 1961. Robert F. Kennedy was coming to Atlantic City to speak before the AFL-CIO UAW Convention in the world-famous Atlantic City Convention Hall. As a high school reporter for The Viking, I was able to attend that convention and sit on the stage behind Robert Kennedy to watch and listen to his speech; I sat two chairs away from his chair and to his left as he faced the crowded room to speak. I was 17 years of age; I walked with a leg brace hidden under my bell-bottom pants on my lower right leg (as Tom hanks wore in the Gump film) and used a cane. I was no longer the star athlete and did not attend my Junior Prom as I was hospitalized and at home recuperating and being tutored from October 19, 1966 – March ?, 1967. despite these peer-based challenges during high school, I was sitting onstage at the UAW Convention in 1968 and watching and listening to who may become the next US President. Wow!!!
I also had the privilege and honor of meeting Robert Kennedy the evening previous to this speech as he stayed at a friend’s father’s home during his time in that area of the USA during his campaign and 2 weeks before his murder in Los Angeles. The tapes of his UAW speech were never released yet it was the first and only time that the entire union stood, clapped and endorsed a candidate for POTUS 100% unanimously. That was record-breaking and the “enemy” was running scared – again. 5 years after – fear re-appears against the enemy of freedom and open capitalism with unmanipulated markets and a free economy based on value, quality and service level and not monopoly and sole source provisions through antagonistic means, neptism, kick-backs and patronage.
The picture at the top of this discourse is a detail from an acrylic pigment painting that I created and now is in a private collection in Boulder, CO. I had used the image as my monitor background image and this is a jpeg from a screen capture that I created several years ago. It is a painting that I executed from a sketch I had made that was a portrait of a former friend of mine from Hollywood, FL. In our later years, I learned of his hatred for Jewish people and had to block this person from my life. Irrespective of that action, what we shared and learned from each other and the experiences and situations with which we had been involved in our younger years were wonderful, enriching and not regrettable in the least. I love mathematics. My 7th. and 8th. grade math teacher (the same woman) told my mom that I was G-d’s gift to mathematics. When I took my GRE in Mathematics, I did receive a 756 out of 800 for graduate school. I also was accepted to law school but I also was a single father of a minor child – a daughter – and I could not afford to attend the law shcools that accepted me and because I was a Caucasian Jewish male, I was not an “AA” statistic who qualified for any sholarships at the time of application and acceptance for admission.
Ironically, the only law school that I could afford to attend did not accept me for that same reason – becasue they needed to raise their “AA” stats!!! A lawyer friend of my family asked me to re-apply to initiate a law suit similar to the California medical school lawsuit by the Caucasian applicant who was denied admission due to skin color. I did not re-apply; I remained and remain to this day an independent multi-media artist, creative writer, educator, entrepreneur and person of service to others. I have been partially crippled for 50 of my 65 years so far. I will be 66 in March, 2017. I was born in March, 1951.
I began to work to pay my own way at age 11, in 1962 during the summer. I started by cleaning the area pools and retrieving all the used towels from around the pools at the end of each day of the summer. By 1966, I was head lifeguard and made 35 cents an hour for ten weeks, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. 70 x 12 x $0.35 = $294.00 only. I now advanced to hose holder to wash the pool deck at the end of the day while I allowed a local younger person to swim in the pool in exchange for his or her towel pick-ups at the day’s end. If I liked them, I gave them some of my tip money as well, or we hung out at the pool and did what 12-15 years of age beachside children do – play pinball machines and talk with the opposite sex summer guests if straight or the same sex if not straight. The tips were the real deal!!! That summer, 1966, the US airlines went on strike and the East Coast had a heat wave which drove everyone from the urban areas of Philadelphia and throughout New Jersey to the seashore and Atlantic City was jumpin’ and jivin’ like it never had since the Roaring Twenties, Thirties and Forties. The city did some surface changes in the Fifties after the Atlantic City Race Track opened following the 1946 pari-mutuel wagering legislation that allowed horse racing in New Jersey. My life and direct experience as a year-round resident began in 1961. Prior to that, my mom was a single working mother and we used to rent a house at Windsor Ave. and the bay in Atlantic City when I was younger. In 1960, my brother and I went to Hunetr’s Run Day Camp in Pennsylvania and in 1961, we went to Penn Valley overnight camp. That summer, my mom met a man at the shore who had been introduced to her by her good friend and lawyer, Eddie Helfant. (Also another chapter for another time and webpage) “Mr. Smooth” with a pencil-thin mustache, worsted wool suits and Countess Mara silk ties called my mom late one night after she had returned to Philadelphia from the shore and while she was on the phone, a rose arrived at her door. BINGO!!! When Bruce and I were returning from overnight camp at the end of the summer, we were told the surprise announcement – that my mom now was married and we were now going to live where we used to vacation. To tell you thaat my entire world over-turned would be an under-statement. The hext five years were a learning curve, for sure and the next trauma was the motorcycle accident in 1966.
I made $3,000.00 in tips against my 35 cents per hour salary. None of that was reported. The accepted rate was $2.00 per hour so I had to add $1.65 per every 35 cents to calculate my total gross wages earned during the summer as a US tax-payer and seasonal employee, despite my 15 years of age. $1,386.00 is the taxable amount earned that is accepted from the $3,000.00 I actually collected in tips and flippers, masks and snorkel rentals, swimming and diving lessons and special services for special guests of the hospitality venue.
Let’s return from the segue to Robert F. Kennedy – to watch his televised murder two weeks after sitting onstage with him and listening to a magnificent speech that changed the entire UAW into a unanimous collective. The murder of my “last hero” has caused my generation (some of us) to act accordingly from that moment forward because things definitiely changed. I recently discovered someone who had been next to Bobby Kennedy when he was shot and killed. This person also was struck by gunfire and to this day, speaks to the reality of more than 1 shooter. I also know what occurred earlier that day – that Bobby Kennedy had rescued his son from drowning and his son was in the hotel room watching hs father who had saved hs life that day be shot and killed later that same day!!! This is a story that must be a part of our public education’s American History chapters of study. To fast forward from 1968 to 2017 and to reflect upon the 8-years legacy of President Obama turns my stomach, frankly, and as Clint Eastwood allegedly proclaimed, was “probably the greatest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people.”
Paul Schrade is the person wearing eye-glasses and standing behind the person standing behind RFK on RFK’s left side. He is taller than most and he also was shot and wounded by a bullet; there were caliber shells different than Sirhan Sirhan’s gun shot shell casings at the scene.
My primary purpose, depsite all my anecdotes, is to share with all of you again, the speech that Bobby Kennedy delivered on the night his good friend and a world leader also was murdered – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK):
Senator Robert F. Kennedy
April 4, 1968
I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black–considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible–you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people
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