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    1930s Education —
    Summer School at Rhodes Private Prep School

    Somehow I managed to get through my freshman year at De Witt Clinton, but not without having to go to summer school to make up several subjects that I’d failed. I was just biding my time, but for what, I had no idea.

    In my sophomore year, I played hooky several days a week. At that time, my father was going to the office a little later in the mornings and slept in until almost nine. I’d type up an excuse for being late to school and take it into my folks bedroom for him to sign. Then I’d take off for several days and spend mornings and afternoons at the movies. It was a great way to live. When it came time to go back to school, I’d carefully scissor off the top of the late excuse letter and just above the signature type in a request asking to have my son excused for his absence the past couple of days. With almost sixty students in each class, what did the school care?

    By the end of my sophomore year, my grades were so bad there was no way I was going to get promoted. I could read well, I’d always done a lot of that, but math and the sciences were as foreign to me as an Eskimo to the French Riviera. Rather than send me back to public summer school, Dad realized this called for more drastic action, particularly when he found out about my outstandingly wonderful truancy record.

    He and my mother found a private prep school named Rhodes where I was enrolled for the summer. There were no more than twelve to a class and the teachers actually took a personal interest in each of us They were great teachers. My interest in school took off. In the fall, after a talk with the dean (a wonderful man named Mr. Goodman) my folks decided to keep me at Rhodes. My grades soared to Bs and B+s. Even my folks didn’t realize that it hadn’t so much been that I was a lousy student, I’d just been bored out of my skull. I became the editor of the school paper and president of my class. I even got involved in after-class dramatics and appeared in the school play. It was a comedy, and the laughter and applause gathered me up in a wonderful tight ball and I knew for sure where I wanted to be the rest of my life. Show business!

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