School Days

                East Islip Teachers and Friends

Arlene Swartzberg Weiss

Audio file of Arlene reading this story

I’ve often thought of East Islip teachers as an extension of my own family. My family album is a reflection of this. Photographs of teachers who taught at East Islip in the 1930’s are still to be found there.

The other day I noticed one particular picture as if I were seeing it for the first time. The photo is of an attractive lady in a summery white dress, smiling into the camera as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Under this picture the words were written, "My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Reid", in my sister’s childish fourth-grade handwriting. It suddenly dawned on me that how unusual it was for a teacher’s photograph to be a part of a family album. How many other fourth grade teachers were so lovingly remembered in other family albums? That led me to the realization of the vital role that East Islip teachers have played in my life, and the lives of my brother and sister.

I’ve often amazed both family and friends by reciting to them the names of my grammar school teachers: Miss Jones, Miss Funk, Miss Anderson, Miss Sealey, Mrs. Montgomery and, Miss Reichart in the seventh grade. Miss Reichart had taught both my brother and sister, and when I told her I would be leaving to move to Bay Shore, she was genuinely sorry to see me leave.

While I was attending the lower grades, my brother and sister were living in that wonderful, fantastic, marvelous world called high school. They attended dances, they cheered at basketball games, they performed in plays, they went on exciting class trips to such far-away places as Washington and Boston, and they had teachers whom they thought of as friends. Indeed, I still remember some of their names – Miss O’Shea, Miss Keller and Mrs. Walker, to name a few -- and their photos are to be seen and treasured in my album.

EI teachers Miss O'shea and Miss Keller late 1930's.jpg (49633 bytes)

Since we all lived close to each other, we even visited their homes. Mrs. Walker impressed me (for life) saying how surprised she was that people were so wasteful – hardly any one she knew measured out the soap granules before they washed their clothes. See, I still remember! The principal of the school, Neil Quakenbush also lived on a nearby street. Of course, whenever I walked or rode my bicycle past his house, I was on my very best behavior. In those days, the principal was in charge of both the grammar school and the high school. Mr. Quakenbush’s smiling face is still to be seen in my album.

EI Principal Neil Quackenbush 1939.jpg (44626 bytes) 

Even the school nurse was a friend. Her name was Miss House, and I remember once she came to my home when my sister told her that I had come down with a painful case of measles. How happy I was to see her.

Then of course there was the legendary Coach Rogers, who was everyone’s friend – even first graders followed him around everywhere. We have two or three pictures of Coach Rogers in our album – one has a caption typed in blue ribbon on top of the photo – "Coach Rogers, Produced 12 Winning Basketball Teams."

One teacher made a particularly strong impression on my sister. Her name was Miss Whipple, and she was surely what nowadays we would call a "role model". One day my sister came home crying terribly. Miss Whipple’s beautiful younger sister had been killed in an automobile accident near Patchogue. Miss Whipple left the school shortly thereafter that tragic day.

One year, a most glamorous male teacher joined the faculty. He had a glamorous name, too. Warren Delmore. His picture is also in my family album. He didn’t last too long, leaving the halls of East Islip for the considerably more famous halls of Barnard College in New York.

Miss O’Shea, Mrs. Walker, Coach Rogers -- their devotion and dedication are with us still.

Arlene and Herbert graduation day 1939.jpg (57725 bytes)


November 1999

Arlene can be reached at