Germantown High School * Philadelphia, PA. * Class of 1957


Miriam Brody

Memories of GHS

***I remember those days all too well. Me – I remember as a mess, ink-stained fingers (why did we carry bottles of ink around in pocketbooks?), blouses hanging out, socks riding down inside my shoes, my hair refusing to curl (I never expected to be pursued through life by that yearbook picture.) I daydreamed my way through most of my classes, couldn’t keep an assignment book straight, my notes were always falling out of my 3-ring binders, and I was hungry almost all of the time. Couldn’t eat the food in the lunchroom – it made me ill. Got up too late to pack a lunch. I was overcome with joy when I graduated. Things just had to get better.

***Okay, there were some good times. I loved doing layout for the Clivedon Clipper and writing editorials with, I thought, lofty prose, conspiring with Corny Briskow to become the Brenda Starrs of the GHS newsroom, getting Linda Kosmin to do cartoons. I even loved writing for the class yearbook. Those are my words at the bottom of the Big Story picture, but I was kind of kidding when I wrote them. (I didn’t expect them to follow me through life on the internet.)We had fun at lunch letting Selma Spector write songs to help us memorize info for tests. Am I the only one who remembers “I am Attila the Hun, when people see me they run?” or that biology class hit called “Paper, poplar, pine” to rhyme with “whitepine/iodine yellowpine/turpentine.” I almost won the I Speak for Democracy contest (Elga, you won. Remember?) and then I did win the contest to write the valedictory “Peace, an Individual Responsibility.” (Harrison, that means I was a valedictorian too.) Nadine Nicholson once lit a match to our desk in homeroom to show me that the desk was too thick to burn. Mr. Kline was apoplectic, but Nadine, our physicist, knew what she was doing. Judy Lefkowitz wore a kilt to school one day and was almost suspended for showing a portion of bare leg below her knee. How did any of us survive? I remember taking ballet to get out of gym class. We got to be the horses that pulled Cinderella’s coach, those of us who never had a single dance lesson. We looked good in our black leotards, plumes and tails. I have a picture. I’ll bring it with me to brunch.

***But, let me admit it. It wasn’t such a great time to be in school. Ye gods it was the fifties when “intellectual” was a dirty word and people who read too many books were thought strange, call someone an “individualist,” you were suggesting they were subversive - a time of Senator McCarthy, the Cold War, and the Bomb. We had a history teacher named Mrs. Duffy who loved Senator McCarthy. I remember our whole class yelling at her, while she looked with sorrow upon us as lost sheep. I remember too when Mr. Mishalove (sp?) compelled us to buy that Cold War rag The American Observer for the current events part of that senior year class Problems of Democracy. Four of us refused to buy it – Lois, Harrison, Valerie, and who was the fourth? Does anyone remember or wish to come forward? Our heroes, I remember thinking.

***Some teachers were splendid. Mr. Wagner was inspired. I’m so sorry I was too thoughtless in those days to have thanked him for every class he taught. Mrs. Raecke changed my life as she apparently did so many others, intervening just before graduation to suggest I apply to Penn when she knew (and I didn’t) that I’d win one of those city scholarships.

***Well, they say the past is a foreign country. I take that to mean we won’t ever completely understand it. I guess we did get off lucky. No metal-detectors at our front door, no random searches of the lockers. Meanwhile, three cheers for this reunion. I’ll be there.

Life After GHS

***Life got better and better. Well, I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t mind having my own color hair back and getting rid of some of the wrinkles, but in every other sense I’m grateful to be on the other side of all the figuring things out that went on in those early years. I went to Penn, lived in France, lived in Boston, picked up a graduate degree, got married, spent some time in England, lived in New Haven and moved to Ithaca New York in the early seventies. My life’s partner, father of my children, and all-around best buddy is Isaac Kramnick who teaches at Cornell University. We’ve led a proverbial academic life and have beat an academic trail around the East Coast. I taught at Ithaca College for many years (in a writing program), picked up my PhD at Cornell, and raised three children. Life was madly full and chaotic, but the kids were worth it (less so reading all those freshman essays). We’ve got grandchildren now, the “dessert” of life.

***Yes, this stage of life feels different. It’s suddenly quieter, I have so much more time. I’ve always been writing and have been lucky enough to have published, mostly women’s history. I’m the editor of the Penguin edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman and have written a book about gender and language (“Manly Writing”). I’ve written a biography for young adults on Victoria Woodhull (19th century feminist) and am writing about Emma Goldman just now. I’ll probably write till I drop.

***I live in this remote midland of upstate New York on a street at the edge of a world-famous campus with a world-class library. Not a bad mix, actually. Perfect, no. I wish it were two and a half hours closer to Philadelphia and New York. But then it wouldn’t be Ithaca.

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Special Thanks to Lois Addison for Scanning Yearbook Photos &
Special Thanks to Katherina Kripl Bonner for sending Lois Her Copy of the June 1957 Yearbook
& to George Palmer for sending Lois His Copy of the January 1957 Yearbook.

This Page Updated 07/03/04 gwf