Beyond the Byline: They taught their children well

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Bill O’Boyle -

WILKES-BARRE — When I saw the picture, I stared at it for several minutes.

I knew most of the names of the people in the group — they were all teachers I had in high school.

And the first thing that came to mind was that here were the very people who shaped not only my life, but the lives of thousands of other students who wandered the halls of old Plymouth High School.

I can’t begin to tell you how many memories came back looking at these faces. I can clearly recall sitting in each of their classrooms — the women teachers were always dressed up and wore jewelry, while the men always wore a suit, shirt and tie. And we were sitting in those uncomfortable seats — girls in dresses and boys in dress pants and Oxford shirts with button-down collars.

This was education in the 1960s. It was serious and it was professional and most of us learned a lot, while some of us just couldn’t grasp things like algebra or chemistry or the French language.

Myrtle Wharmby — a very short woman who drove a Rambler. I can still see her driving through the PHS parking lot, sitting so low that she had to look through the steering wheel to see where she was going. A most delightful woman.

Alberta Born — I didn’t have her because she taught physical education to the girls. I knew her mostly because she was J.C. Born’s mom. J.C. opened a pizza/hoagie shop in Plymouth’s Lower End and he sponsored our softball team.

Regina Robaczewski — Our librarian who was always there when we had questions about books we needed to read for assignments. She was very proper, but if you ever thought about talking loud in her library, look out.

Paul Proski — One of our custodians and the caretaker of the athletic fields. This man knew how to get any playing field ready for a game. Paul knew what he was doing and we all appreciated how he cared for the district.

Walter Sweetra — This man tried to teach me French for three straight years. All I can say is that when I visited Paris, I used what little French I managed to retain. In a bakery in Paris, I entered and I said, “Bonjour,” to the woman behind the counter. She returned the greeting. I then asked her — in French — how she was doing. She said she was doing very well, also in French. At that point she recognized I was struggling. She then spoke to me in English, telling me that she appreciated my attempt to speak her language. She said it showed that I respected her. Thanks, Mr. Sweetra.

Sam Cohen — This man made biology not just interesting, but fun. His presentations in class were always informative and easy to understand. And he did it day after day. You could tell he enjoyed his job and he loved to see us learn.

Gaise Lacek Sr. — He taught us driver’s education. He had the patience of a saint. I always wondered why he went through so many smoking pipes, until I saw him bite one off when I tried to parallel park. Almost every PHS student can thank Mr. Lacek for getting us prepared to take our driver’s test.

William “Zip” Noble — So many memories of this gentleman. He would walk to and from school each day while reading a newspaper and smoking a pipe. In class, he spoke a language only few could understand. He would ask us questions, and kids like me would stare into space. Chemistry was not my forte, nor was it easy for most. “Zip” never got mad. I think he realized that chemistry was out of the learning reach for most of us, but he persevered. A few of my peers actually went on to do well in various fields that actually require a knowledge of chemistry.

Joseph Evan — He taught us civics and he was our basketball and baseball coach. This was a talented man, although we didn’t quite get that back then. Coach Evan was successful in all he did. Some of us had a difficult time under his tutelage, but I can tell you that we are all much better people because of Coach Evan and his passion for teaching and coaching.

Abner Millard — “Time to change the air,” he would say as he opened all the windows in his room in the middle of winter. That woke us up, for sure. And Mr. Millard really did know how to teach geometry.

These were all great men and women. And there were many more. All of them taught us everything we needed to learn — and much more.

“For the valor of Plymouth High.”

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]