Friday, February 14, 2014

And Whose Fault is This, Hah?

Yes, more snow.  Ya gotta problem wid dat?

Yes, that's how I imagine my erstwhile E. 78th Street neighbor Jimmy Cagney (albeit before I was born or moved in around here, but - whatever!) might have remarked when one of his mates commented on weather like ours yesterday (2/13/14).
This was yesterday morning at about 7:45 - and I thought I would be heading uptown to Fairway - but no!  Too much wind!  

But look at this: 
A walker with not one but two cups of coffee - powering herself through the growing snow - and maybe diminishing brain fog of her morning? - to work.  And I noted: the school buses are out - indeed! No more snow days for our munchkins! 

Which reminded me of a great story I relate when I give a tour down E. 78th St.   Some of you may remember that big storm in February of 1978, right?  Well, were schools closed then?  Oh, not all of them.  As the New York Times reported on February 7, 1978 in an article with this headline: 

Keep a Stiff Upper Lip, Chaps

"'It's a question of fiber," said Desmond F. P. Cole, headmaster of the Allen Stevenson School at 78th and Lexington.  "We never close," said the tweed jacketed Mr. Cole over coffee and chocolate biscuits in his study  "It's a matter of principle.  A little snow does a chap no harm at all.'"

And just who was this Desmond Cole?  Well, quite British, he was, indeed, and he was in his third year as headmaster.  According to his secretary he was quite "distressed" that 71 students were truant that day - and most of them lived in the neighborhood! Just the day before, when a mother was escorting her son out the school door, when she asked Mr. Cole if school would be open the next day (and most other private schools were planning to close), what did he say?  "Why, yes, what else would you expect?"  After all, the school's motto is fortiter et recde (strongly - or boldly - and rightly).

And, considering this is a school for boys K through 9, most of the absentees were older boys.  The shame! 

Just stay alert!  

But get this in today's headlines (that is, February 14, 2014 - Happy Valentine's Day!): 

Schools Stay Open; Mayor Gets New Headache

And why, you wonder?  Many things, you might say, if you are aware of the Bloomberg withdrawal symptoms that seem to be widespread.  In addition to questions about why DiBlasio called the police directly when they arrested a friend there were the comments by weatherman Al Roker, who blasted him for not closing school when he predicted a foot of snow, and predicted (and later apologized for) that he would be a one-term mayor. Hah!  

But, perhaps unconsciously echoing Mr. Cole of 36 years before, the new schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, had decided on Wednesday night to keep city schools open, declaring their plans earlier than the typical early-morning notice. The first paragraph in today's front page article in the New York Times captures the sentiment perhaps perfectly: 

[Diblasio's] education chief declared Thursday "a beautiful day" as sleet poured down on parents wondering why schools had not been closed.

Sound familiar?  But in fact, New York City has not had a practice of closing schools in most snow storms, so this should not have seemed so unusual.  (Anyone among my readers care to differ?  I welcome comments!) Builds character!  Ahem!  (I wonder if Ms Farina made that comment over coffee and chocolate biscuits.)

My suggestion here is: have we become spoiled?  Where is our character? Does a little snow do a chap any harm at all?  Only 45% of children were in attendance yesterday. I hope all of them had a good and memorable day! 

1 comment:

  1. Bill is a Great Tour Guide with plenty of actual NYC experience both in the schools and as an employee at Tavern On The Green in Central Park. I'd recommend him if you are looking for a nice informative and entertaining stroll in NY City. He has been supportive of my profession in both good and difficult times.