Remarks on the Occasion of Reunion'99

Dear Cherry Lawn Alumni and Friends:

I attended Cherry Lawn for only one year -- my 9th grade. I went from Cherry Lawn, with a total of 49 children in grades 1 through 12, to a New York City public high school where there were, literally, 49 students in one classroom. Nevertheless, one of my teachers at James Monroe High said to me one day, "Miss Turitz," (that's how they addressed us in those days, even a 12-year-old sophomore), "how come you are so young, yet you are so at ease with teachers?" All I could answer was, "I've come from a school where we were not afraid of our teachers." (To be sure, today that remark would have different, sinister connotations.)

I attended Cherry Lawn for only one year. Cherry Lawn was not the kind of board school where the socialites sent their kids. Indeed, the day my parents came to investigate Cherry Lawn, when they asked someone on Brookside Road for direction, the man said, "Oh, you mean the Jewish School." No, we were not the sons and daughters of socialites. Many of us -- not all -- had problems, whether it was parents divorcing, or what we now call ADHD, or, as in my case, my mother was ill. Others were sent to Cherry Lawn because it was an outdoor school (boys and girls wore knickerbockers at Cherry Lawn, to keep warm!) a "progression school" with an unusual, interesting director.

And an unusual, interesting director it was, one who chose unusual, interesting teachers. Every child was a respected individual.

Having come from a New York City public elementary school, where girls took sewing and cooking and boys took "shop", I was not about to go to shop! One day, as I was cutting shop class, I was sitting on a step of "The Twins" (our outdoor classrooms), Dr. Goldfrank came by. "Where's your class?" he asked. "In shop," I replied. "Why aren't you there?" "Don't want to! I'm a girl." There followed a discussion, the details of which escape me. But -- "Tell you what," Doctor said. "Try it for a month. If at the end of a month you don't like it, come talk to me." That sounded reasonable enough. Only after half a month, I was hooked. And to this day, 70 years later, that end table with book trough that I made is in my son Philip's home on Bexley, Ohio!

Yes, I attended Cherry Lawn for only one year. But I kept going back to visit, year after year, until I was too busy having and raising children. Then something happened. My eldest child, Julia, was unhappy at her high school in Bridgeport. Where did my husband and I turn? You guessed it -- to Cherry Lawn. Julia went as a day student and stayed for two years, not like her mother. A few weeks ago, I was visiting Julia in Oak Park, Illinois, and we were talking about her salutatory address at her Cherry Lawn graduation. The subject: "The House Un-American Activities Committee." Only in America? Only at Cherry Lawn!

Now, a word about Dr. Staël and Dr. Boris, two more remarkable, interesting directors at Cherry Lawn. Julia used to come home daily, describing and imitating Dr. Staël in History class, where characters of long ago were made human by Dr. Staël's enthusiastic, dramatic presentations. And if as child happened to be sleepy -- well, a Swedish massage by Dr. Staël was in order!

One thing Dr. Staël taught me that I hope I'll never forget: my husband and I were visiting at her home when a student came in. Dr. Staël immediately turned to the child to find out what was troubling her. After the child explained her plight, Dr. Staël said, "We'll have to solve that. There has to be a solution!"

Today, I live at a Continuing Care Retirement Community, and I am president of the Residents Association. When old people come to me with complaints, they invariably say, "What's the use? You can't fight City Hall!" My answer always is, "There has to be a solution. We'll have to solve it!"

Now, why did I attend Cherry Lawn for only one year? Because there was an "Upper House" (the Manor House) and a "Lower House (the Stein House). The Manor House was for the High School students. I was in high school! But I was only 11 years old. Fortunately for the Cherry Lawn authorities, there was another very young 9th grader (Adele Weil). All the 9th grades, except for Adele and me, were in the Manor House. I can now appreciate the wisdom of Dr. Goldfrank and the staff, that an 11-year-old belonged in the Stein House, especially since my older sister, Esther, a high school senior, was in the Manor House. But when it came time to re-register at Cherry Lawn, even though my parents wanted me to return, I refused. And to a high school with over 8,000 students I went!

I was "mad" at Cherry Lawn for putting me with the younger kids, but I couldn't help loving Cherry Lawn for what it gave me: co-ed baseball, co-ed football, co-ed soccer, co-ed basketball, social dancing every evening, English country dancing, including the Folk Dance Festival in New York City, where we were a TEAM!, preparing for and performing in an operetta, Thursday night singing with Mrs. Haigh: The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies, The Keeper, One Man Shall Mow My Meadow , all songs (and many more) that I sang to my children, then taught to the children in my classes when, at 49, I became an elementary school music teacher, and still later, I sing to my grandchildren.

I'll close with a song that one of our teachers, Pa Rae, sang to us. It didn't make it to my music teacher or Grandma's repertoire, but I'll share it with you:

No matter how young a prune may be,
It's always full of wrinkles.
You may get them on your face,
Prunes get them every place!
Babies like to close their eyes
To a mother's lullaby.
No matter how young a prune may be,
You'll never hear it cry!

Sonya Turitz Schopick, CLS'29