By Bob Batch
Whenever I’ve written an article for this paper I’ve vaguely imagined the people who might be reading the piece and directed what I’m saying to them. Among the people I’ve always imagined writing to, beside you, was my seventh grade teacher Mrs. Hanusek.
Mrs. Hanusek wasn’t just my seventh grade teacher; she was everyone’s seventh grade teacher in town for years. She lived in one of those big old houses that overlook River Road south of North Street across from Hudson Harbor. It was the area my friend Marie Von Dohln use to call the ‘Silk Stocking District of Edgewater’ when she talked about growing up in one of those houses.
Along with teaching in Edgewater for many years Mrs. Hanusek was a sort of conservator of the town’s history, with family roots in the early days of its inception. In fact, when this publication was still in a magazine format dedicated to nostalgia and town history, the editor at the time, Doris White, was anxious to have Mrs. Hanusek write some pieces outlining Edgewater’s early history and her own remembrances. For whatever reason, she declined, but I always wished she had contributed over the years.
I suppose some of the reason I included Mrs. Hanusek among the ’audience’ I was writing to was that years after having been in her classroom, I wanted some imaginary approval or recognition from the teacher who had once graded my unremarkable efforts in school.
In a way it was like reliving a time when I was in front of the seventh grade class delivering a book report on Amelia Earhart, pretending I had actually read the book instead of leafing through the chapters the night before picking out highlights to mention in the presentation.
In seventh grade all the book reports were pretty much the same. You were expected to write at least a page of information and then get up in front of the class and do an oral report. In retrospect I can see that these exercises were meant to be the building blocks upon which we would someday develop the skills to deliver reports complete with charts and power point in board rooms across America.
As it was, we were mostly sweaty, stammering kids reading hastily in monotone to our smirky classmates, some eager to hurl projectiles should the teacher turn her back even for moment. Time itself would seem to pause in sadistic delight as you fumbled for each word on your notebook paper. Mrs. Hanusek would sit cross legged looking suspiciously… waiting with questions.
Would you be exposed as a jacket reader? Or by some fact only an actual reader of the book would know? As far as we knew, Mrs. Hanusek had probably read every book in the school library herself!
When I finished my report Mrs. Hanusek sat forward and said, “Robert, I have a question for you”…
Uh oh! All my limited knowledge of Amelia Earhart was quickly slipping into a void of panic and unpreparedness!
“Robert, this is another book report on something to do with planes”. “Is this something you are interested in”?
What! Interested? Planes! I couldn’t tell her I was just picking books from the same spot in the library out of pure laziness. “Eh, no, just a coincidence I guess”. I was saved for the moment… but I was never really sure if she knew or not!
Years later I had the opportunity to talk to Mrs. Hanusek as an adult. I was a little surprised that she’d even remember me considering all the kids that went through her class. Yet, she seemed like she remembered everyone she taught.
I have to admit that writing these pieces, I was half dreading getting graded by my old seventh grade teacher whenever I ran in to her, but she was gracious enough never to do that.
Back in the beginning of the year I learned from Mike McPartland that Mrs. Hanusek passed away. Mike has been her neighbor for a few years so he saw her on a regular basis. He told me that her house was filled with nostalgic treasures from years gone by.
I remember when I was a kid that Mrs. Hanusek’s husband, Arnold ,had a plane with wings that folded up in his garage on Glen Lane the little alley of a street that runs north and south between River road and Myrtle Avenue. I can only imagine what the house was filled with.
I’ve talked about it before, but it’s too bad that there is not an Edgewater Museum. It would be great to have a place to keep some of the things we all remember about growing up in town for viewing once in awhile. The old pictures, items still salvageable from Landmarks…
In the Teacher’s hall of fame wing there would be a memorial to one of the great teachers and residents of the town, Gertrude Hanusek. But unless one of us acquires the resources of Bill Gates to make such a thing reality, we will just have to remember.
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