I was made to think about the lovely 28 acre estate that was Cherry Lawn School, during the 1960s when Baz Burwell and the high school students did a wonderful production of a children's musical version of James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks written by my husband, Gene, and Peter Haas. Pete Haas and some other friends came with us to the performance, and as we were getting out of our cars, they were amazed by and commented on the beauty of the school grounds.
In 1932, when my brother Ralph entered Cherry Lawn, the drive from New York to Darien took two hours via the Boston Post Road. I entered in 1936 at about the time the Merritt Parkway was being completed. The drive then became much shorter. The Merritt was verdant and very pleasant. The fences lining it were wooden, and I can remember once seeing a horse grazing on the grass on the divider.
When I was at school Darien was in the country. It did not become exurban until about 1946. Now it is suburban and the roads and highways are congested! What was Cherry Lawn like? It was an outdoor school, post-progressive and structured, in Dr. Stael's words. The curriculum was a rich one. Along with the academic program there was an equally full program in art, dance, music and dramatics. Not many schools stressed the arts at that time.
Dr. Stael's history classes were fascinating and I want to comment on them. She taught three different history courses without notes. Her classes were held indoors only when it rained or it was actually snowing. If we were cold in the winter snow we could run around the outside of the Twins. If we were still cold she would give us Swedish massages, but by no means did we move indoors.
Our junior high and high school years took place during World War Two and the holocaust. There are two outstanding memories. First: Early in 1945 Dr. Boris left us to go to San Francisco for the founding of the United Nations and the beginning of a long career in the UN Permanent Secretariat. I believe he also was an observer for the Navy at the Nuremberg Trials. Then: In this present time of Slobodan Milosovic and renewed ethnic cleansing I would like specially to remember our many schoolmates who joined us when they were forced to flee Europe. Their presence benefited us. It has been a delight for me to see what productive and creative lives they have led, and the wonderful contributions they have made in the United States.
I spent the greater part of nine years at Cherry Lawn. It was above all a warm, caring environment, thanks in no small part to Roger and Clarice Strasser, the on campus representatives of the family that founded and ran the school. They dealt with students and faculty with tremendous grace. I fully understand what they did and am grateful.
I would like to think the reunion organizers for making this weekend possible. I'm glad to have met the alumni with whom I had spoken via the telephone or Internet over the past few years. The website is a pleasure. Placing a plaque on the CLS campus s a necessity. Cherry Lawn was a presence in Darien from 1919 until 1972 -- for fifty three years. It is most important that we be remembered!