Bernie Massar, Barnyard (1953-2019)

The Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs.

Bernard Massar.Jan KostyunKaren, Carol, Lois, Diane, Irene, Bill, Bernie and I all started kindergarten together at Daniel S. Dickinson, where we did K-9, and graduated from Binghamton (NY) Central High School together.

Because Bernie Massar lived in the opposite direction from most of us, down Clinton Street rather than up Mygatt Street, I spent less time with him outside of school than I did with most of the others. I’m not sure if I had even been to his house.

But he’d been to mine at least once. I had a birthday party when I was eight or nine. I don’t know if it was poor communication or something else, but only two people showed up, my Cub Scout buddy and classmate Ray, and Bernie.

He could be the life of the party, betraying his clean-cut look. I hadn’t seen him in a long time when he – and Karen, Carol, Lois, and Bill – attended a high school reunion c. 2006. I see this jocular fellow nicknamed Barnyard with a walrus mustache, who had been fighting fires for a living for 27 years.

Obviously, I have no current history with him. Yet however unconnected we had become, he’d show up unexpectedly in the back of my mind. Now, Bernie Massar, this guy I’d met when we were not quite five – his birthday is a couple weeks before mine, I still recall – has died at the age of 66 and I have this sense of wistfulness.

And from pancreatic cancer, making him the THIRD person I’ve known IRL who died from that dreadful disease in 2019, and the year’s not even half over.

It makes me want to donate to his designated charity, the Retired Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund, 4 Loretta Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905. It is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs, which has been doing great work, it appears.

Guide us our whole lives through

Back when I was in college, they tore down Daniel Dickinson school.

Carol’s wedding reception in 1979 with Vito, Karen, me, my friend Susan, Becky from DSD
My group from the K to 9 school Daniel S. Dickinson entered Binghamton Central in February of 1968, along with far more kids from West Junior and also MacArthur. I felt a bit overwhelmed.

But thanks in no small part to Karen, I found a whole coterie of new friends, left-of-center leaning, civil-rights-supporting, antiwar chums such as Vito, Jane, Michelle, Steve, Catherine and the two Georges.

It had been the tradition in student government that someone other than the candidate give the nominating speech. Apparently, my oratory for Karen when she ran for secretary was rip-roaring; I know it came from the heart.

The next year, they changed the rules, and candidates had to give their own speeches. Meh. I ran for student government president, gave what most thought was a mediocre speech, but won anyway. Carol was the vice-president. Dickinson rules!

But before my sister Leslie and her friend Christine, only a year and a half behind me, got to Central, they had to spend a year or two at West Junior.

The thing about old friends is that you don’t have to see them often to pick up on the relationship.

We went to our 10th high school reunion in 1981, and it wasn’t particularly interesting. But the afterparty was great. I DID get tired of Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones, however.

In 1982, Bill invited Karen, Lois, Carol and me over to his house. We stayed up nearly all night, talking. A year or two later, I went to Bill’s wedding as I had gone to Carol’s about a half decade earlier.

When I was at a low point in the fall of 1977, Karen came from the Boston area to New Paltz to proverbially kick my butt. We had some significant conversations when I’d visit her in the Boston area in the early 1980s. Though she had moved to New York City by then, she came to my 1998 taping of JEOPARDY! in Boston.

Karen has turned me on to music, always, from The Beatles to The Band to Los Lobos to latter Johnny Cash to Valerie June. She came to Albany to see Paul McCartney in 2014.

Carol lived in the Mid Hudson of New York State and I was working at FantaCo in Albany. Coming back from New York City, my colleague’s vehicle broke down on the Taconic, and Carol came to our rescue. Before she moved south, she went to one of the MidWinter’s parties I used to frequent.

When my high school class had a reunion – I want to say 32nd? – I went, primarily because Carol and Karen and Bill and Lois and Bernie were going to be there. Circa 2009, we discovered that Karen from NYC, and Carol from TX, and I from ALB would all be in Binghamton the same weekend, and of course got together.

In 2018, I’ve been in email contact with Carol and Karen. I spent two hours on the phone with Bill.

Back when I was in college, they tore down Daniel Dickinson school, which was weird because, by all accounts, it was better constructed than, for instance, Wilson.

But it was in that “bad” neighborhood. It never seemed that bad to me.

A panoply of reunion festivities

Sharkey’s is a contender to the throne of spiedie creator.

My sister Leslie decided to attend her ##th reunion from Binghamton (NY) Central High School. If MY class had one last year, I didn’t know about it, AND I’m not sure I would have gone. The last one of mine I went to be more than a decade ago, when the Daughter was very small.

Leslie flew to Albany on a Wednesday night, crashed my choir rehearsal on Thursday, then, on Friday, she drove us to the Parlor City, its old nickname, dropping me off with a high school friend and her husband, while she stayed with a grade school chum of ours.

She picked me up a couple hours later and we attended a mixer at a place called Remlick’s. It was a bit overwhelming; a few dozen people from BCHS I hadn’t seen in decades, without the benefit of name tags. But it was a pleasant time, as the cobwebs of forgotten events began to dissolve.

Sharkey’s is a “contender to the throne of spiedie creator,” and that’s where we went Saturday at lunchtime, running into six of my sister’s classmates.

Leslie had attended to Binghamton University, then called SUNY Binghamton, and it was homecoming weekend. So we went to the campus and listened to three choral groups, each performing a piece my church choir has performed. The Women’s Chorus (Zion’s Walls by Aaron Copland), The Chamber Singers (Sicut cervus desiderat by Palestrina) and Leslie’s old group, the Harpur Chorale (Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal arraigned by Alice Parker).

Onto Thirsty’s, where Leslie sees her old friends Cathy and Bobby and their family, then to a separate room, where a bunch of my First Ward chums were gathering. That was likely the high point, as I recognized several of them without assistance. I got to talk about genealogies, and libraries, and book writing, among the topics.

Round Two of the BCHS reunion was at the Holiday Inn. Now that I had seen many of these folks the day before, AND they had name tags, I was in a much more comfortable situation.

Leslie made the trip specifically for the high school reunion. That it, the First Ward reunion, AND the SUNY-B homecoming were all on the SAME DAY was astonishingly convenient, and wonderful coincidence.

High school, rah rah rah, sis boom bah

“…a popular 1857 ballad by H. S. Thompson about a heroine dying of tuberculosis”

My buddy Chuck Miller posted this on Facebook: “Your SENIOR year of high school! The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be!!!! Let’s have FUN!” Well, OK, if you say so. Binghamton (NY) Central High School.

1. The year? 1970-1971
2. Did you go to prom? Yes – there are pictures out there. And six months earlier, I went to my then-girlfriend’s prom. The theme of hers was Colour My World. The theme to ours: All Things Must Pass.
3. What kind of car did you drive? I didn’t – I walked to school. It was only 0.8 mile. In fact, I walked almost everywhere.

4. It’s Friday Night Football were you there? Oddly enough, yes – a couple of my friends were the school mascots, and I did grow up with a couple players.
5. What kind of job did you have? I was a page for Binghamton Public Library, helping people put on microfilm, filing old magazines, and shelf reading.
6. Were you a party animal? I’d say no; sometimes parties and lots of people would overwhelm me. Others may view me differently because I had an agreeable facade.

7. Were you considered a jock? Goodness no. I did try out for football but quit before the third or fourth practice. I hated gym, and the sadistic teachers, until we got a decent guy in my senior year.
8. Were you in the Band? No, but I was in the main choir AND the male glee club.
9. Were you a nerd? Political nerd, I suppose. I was in a group called the Contemporary Issues Forum, where we dealt with racism and the war. I was president of student government and the Red Cross club at different points, and I was on stage crew for drama club, with occasional small acting roles.

10. Do you still live in the same school district? No, but in the same state
11. Can you sing the school song? Much of it – “Loyal sons and steadfast daughters… Victory be to BCHS, guard our color blue.” The tune was stolen from “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters“, Cornell University’s alma mater. Ithaca is only 49 miles (79 km) away. THOSE lyrics were “set to the tune of ‘Annie Lisle‘, a popular 1857 ballad by H. S. Thompson about a heroine dying of tuberculosis.”
12. What was your school mascot? Bulldog

13. If you could go back and do it again, would you? Heavens, no, even though I had a reasonably good time there.
14. Are you still in contact with people from high school? I’m still in touch with a few people from KINDERGARTEN, so yes. And Facebook has enhanced that. So has this blog.
15. Do you know where your high school sweetheart is now? Indeed yes. She’s married and living in our hometown. Saw her a few years ago, and my family stayed at her place.

16. What was your favorite subject? Trig, history, choir.
17. Do you still have your High School ring? I never had one. Did they do that sort of thing in my school? I had to check with folks on a Binghamton-based FB page to confirm that we were offered the chance to buy one, gold with a blue stone, naturally.
18. Do you still have your yearbook? Yes, I do. And for the two years previous. I know exactly where they are.

My parents, and my career choices

Did we HAVE scheduled meetings with guidance counselors?

les-trudyMy good friend Carol, who I’ve only known since kindergarten, has some follow-up questions about the Lydster’s career choices, which were really about My career choices.

Two questions based on this… why did you not go into law?

Because I did very poorly in a pre-law course at New Paltz. I loved the subject, but Bill Dunn didn’t love my answers. Or maybe it was because it was an 8 a.m. course and I was late sometimes. This failure threw me into a tizzy, because that was my intended life path, and then I had NO idea what I wanted to pursue.

Do you wish your parents had made more suggestions, not along the lines of pushing as much as of possibilities.
Continue reading “My parents, and my career choices”