They Buried His Clothes 6 Feet Deep, Avoided Skunks Week After Week

Editor, Old Timers: One fine morning in 1881, sixty years ago, my mother decked me out in a starched white waist, corduroy knickers, leather boots with brass toecaps, and set me forth with my elder brother, Walter, on a mile-and-a-half hike to my first day at school. We trudged up Cooper Ave, Glendale, over the railroad tracks past the Croucher, Furman, Kinsey and John Schmidt farms to Dry Harbor Road, where we shortcut through St. John’s Cemetery, mostly woodland at that time. The song of the robin, the bob-o-link, the song-sparrow, the thrush, the plaintive note of the catbird, the noisy blue jay, the tapping of a flicker on a hollow tree trunk; all could be heard as we wended our way along the shaded bypath. At last, we came to the old fieldstone barn, and then we passed through an opening in the fence, out onto Trotting Course Lane (now Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Hills West), where Whitepot Schoolhouse was located. Whitepot got its name through a real estate deal in which the Indians got “gypped” out of a lot of land in exchange for a few white pots. We had a couple of them, but we couldn’t find an Indian, only a wooden one of the cigar-store tribe. He didn’t seem interested, so we had to buy our property.

That Was no Pussycat
Alas! One day our pleasant stroll through wood and field came to a sudden end! A schoolmate stopped to pat a “sweet” little pussycat that stood in the path. Well, his duds had to be buried, and, in the words of a popular ditty of the day, “They had to dig ’em up again and bury ’em six foot deeper.” After that, we detoured up Williamsburg Road (Metropolitan Avenue) past John Wolfhorst’s Tavern and the Vanderveer farm, to Trotting Course Lane, where at one time we discovered an old burial plot with headstones dating back to the 18th century. In the schoolyard was a carriage shed where the young acrobats (Barnum was in town!) swung by the heels from the beams, chinned the bar and did all the stunts that healthy youngsters usually do, just to prove that Darwin was right.

Jim Got His Reward
Our teacher was Miss Ketcham, succeeding Mr. Ellis, who taught before my time. It seemed that “Pop” Ellis was a stickler for promptness. He had promised a school holiday if ever he failed to be present when the clock struck 9. Jim Vanderveer climbed through a school window early one morning and set the clock ahead. I don’t know what punishment Jim got, whether it was the rattan, the birch switch, or the black-walnut ruler. I do hope the tattletale got his! Of course, the dunce cap and high stool were in use in those days. How we did enjoy those funny-hat parties! Unless one happened to be the star performer, himself. What we dreaded most was the “Chamber of Horrors,” where the culprit was placed in durance vile. That dark room with its unknown terrors spooks, hobgoblins, and whatnot! did more to keep us on the straight and narrow path than all the other forms of discipline combined, especially since the skunk episode. I am glad to say I never landed in that hoosegow.

He Stood Out Like a Prince
There was one young Whitepotter, Irving Squires. Oh, how I envied him! When his lunch was spread out, it resembled a display window in a ritzy pastry shop. My tongue hangs out now at the mere memory. Yes, folks were careless about their eating even in those days. Instead of getting snapped off while only in their 90s, they could have lived to a ripe old age if they had only known their vitimans! The woods were full of ’em, but nobody had gumption enough to catch’ em, tame ’em and classify ’em. Other schoolmates whom I remember were the Crouchers, Knapps, Choppings, Wyckoffs, Vanderveers and Dan Conklin. The Vanderveer fine old home, always painted white with green blinds, still stands at the and Woodhaven Boulevard southwest corner of Metropolitan Ave and Woodhaven Blvd.