Letter from John Rozdilsky to the CLS Community

Dear Cherry Lawn Community,

In early 1965, I drove the back roads of Darien from the Merritt Parkway to Cherry Lawn School. As I approached the school, I noticed swastikas painted at two different intersections. They were puzzling intrusions into an otherwise tranquil, tree lined, stone wall bordered drive. Dom Mastrapasqua interviewed me and hired me as a tutor. My pupil was Howie (Howard Klugman?), a red headed, awkward, and trying young man who tested me mightily, but held my concern and attention. I had recently graduated from college, and his distracted state was not that distant from my own experience.

Learning more about Cherry Lawn, its mix of young people from different races and ethnicities, and the antipathy some of the locals had for the school, I understood the swastikas a little better. After my stint at tutoring, I was hired for the next year as a math and astronomy instructor. (Most of the students thought that it was going to be astrology! So, it was changed to trigonometry and calculus.) My tenure was just one year. Many of the faculty were young and enthusiastic. We appreciated the older hands such as Basil Burwell, Mr. Zuber, Toddy (?), and others. I've forgotten that I wore a jacket and tie and that many to the students dressed in a similar fashion. I remember being addressed as Mr. Sir since Mr. Rozdilsky did not glide easily off the tongue of a young lady from the Bahamas (?). It was the fifties merging into the sixties and I hadn't a clue where any of it was heading. I have fond memories of students whose names I've forgotten and those whose names have shown up on the CLS web page such as Hank Gans, Alex Popow, and Louis Bleier. I'm sorry to hear of the passing of Basil Burwell. For me, he, Mr. Zuber, and the art teacher were the soul of Cherry Lawn.
Looking back, I appreciate Cherry Lawn's idealism, its attention to reflection, as practiced in morning meeting, its spunkiness, and its commitment to bringing young people of different backgrounds together. All of this was energized and complicated by youthful hormones.

There are 2 faculty members, whose names I've forgotten, to whom I give my warm regards. One woman I dated. We attended the other's wedding in Hartford. Reading of Basil's retreat at Pendle Hill struck a chord with me because ever since I moved to Seattle in 1967 I have worshipped with the Society of Friends.

All of my ramblings would not have come about were it not for the success of T. S. Monk. I saw him in Seattle on my 56th birthday 2 years ago. I sent a note to him on stage mentioning Cherry Lawn. After looking at me intently he said, "Yeah, I recognize your eyes." I told him how I remembered him practicing his drums on the Stein House fire escape, playing riffs to the football practice below, and his duo with Andy Albert. Ramsey Lewis' "In Crowd" was one of their standards. Thelonius informed me that Andy was an NYC subway commissioner. I laughed for I recalled taking a group of students to NYC to see Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible." After the movie, I was alarmed to find that Andy and another student were missing. I was calmly informed that Andy had taken him on the subway to Queens to get a "really fantastic view of the city," and that I shouldn't worry since they would return shortly! I love it that Andy and Thelonius's youthful passions are being fulfilled. To my good fortune Thelonius returned to Seattle in June. I caught his show, and he informed me of Cherry Lawn's reunion, which I can't attend, but can share a letter with.
As for me, I'm a curator at the Burke Museum of Natural History at the University of Washington in Seattle. I have a wonderful wife, a daughter, two sons, a grandson, a turtle, a cat, a cordon bleu finch, and an implanted cardioverter defibrillator. For the latter, I am grateful to all the cyber tinkering techies!! For those of you who may recognize my voice, feel free to look me up.



Submitted 29-July-1999