Remembering Princeton: IV University Town in the 1940's (a poem)

Nassau Hall

Remembering Princeton

Princeton

What I remember most about Princeton

as a young boy is not the snobbery of

class consciousness nor even the island

reprieve of my father's bookshop where

German Jewish intellectuals, shunned by

other Princetonians, were most welcome

to give lectures at Parnassus on Monday

evenings--people like Erich Kahler and

Herman Broch as well as questing young poets

giving readings-- William S. Merwin and John Berryman.

No, what I remember most are not the taunting

school bullies and tough "townies," but the

blessed maple and oak woods above Lake Carnegie

where February buds emerged from grey ice and

snow still lingering on the damp ground from

fierce blizzards that almost blotted out the

town and Murray Dodge Theatre where my

mother, directed by Mario Silletti, acted in

"The Cenci," or "The Importance of Being

Earnest," or even Chancellor Green's circular

Reference Room, echoing my father's polite

laughter at some professor's or student's joke.

No, what I rember most is skating on Lake Carnegie

as free as Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond

and watching the dark woods race by or seeing

flickering flames of a shoreline fire warming

skaters who had had enough of pinched toes

and wobbly ankles and slips and falls on ice. But

of all the customers in Parnassus, Charles Bell

sensed most my need of woodsy relief and took

me on hikes to Devil's Cave and glacial ridges,

putting Princeton in a Pleistocene perspective.

There was also an ornithologist by the name of

Charles Rogers, known as the Bird Man of Guyot

Hall, who set up an exhibit at the American Museum

of Natural History called "The Birds of Shakespeare"

with well over one hundred-fifty species mentioned in

all his plays--well, Charlie Rogers took me and others

up to Hawk Ridge in the Kittatinnies to watch the

hawks ride the thermals above bright orange and red

forests on frosty October days--that's what I

recall the most of my Princeton boyhood days.


Both my brother and I had a difficult time adjusting to Princeton and living in the friendly little hamlet of Wernersville, Pennsylvania for the first part of our lives.

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Comments 4 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

This is a great poem and I can't believe that Jewish people were also badly treated in America. I am shocked and surprised. I know many Jewish people who came from Germany to England weren't all treated well. I remember my father always talked about a ship ' Exodus' more than full with Jewish refugees and the British wouldn't give the permission to land, knowing very well many German ships laying out there waiting to get hold of the ship. I don't know why people can't mind themselves and let others be?


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Unfortunately, my memories of college aren't nearly as memorable (perhaps in other ways). Thanks for the fond memories! You were very fortunate! I envy you!


juneaukid profile image

juneaukid 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado Author

Yes, Hello, Hello, it is a sad commentary


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Remembering childhood as being pleasant, in spite of negativity leads us into a happy life. Thanks for sharing your memories. I enjoyed the poem.

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