Shine On Harbison Poole!!!

It’s entirely possible I had some learning problems.  Or did I?  I got by in school, barely.  School was never inspiring except during recess and lunch.  For me, it was all about being social.  In fact, I don’t think I ever stopped talking while in my classes.  Math and Science really threw me.  They both still do.  They are like a foreign language.  I got by though and my report cards usually were all B’s, C’s, or even some D’s, and always an A in PE.  I almost got an F once in Dunker the Flunker’s second grade math class and that is when my mom when into full-blown protect-her-child-mode.  She showed up at school with the results of my IQ test to prove… not sure what?  But, it worked.  Then in high school, I actually did get an F and it was in a filmmaking class.  Again, my mother showed up at school to fight that grade.  This time, she lost. You get the idea; I maintained a strong C-plus average.  Hey, I didn’t know I was there to learn.  I assumed I was there to sharpen my already A-plus social skills.

me and Mr. Poole at his New Jersey school in 70’s

And then one fine day, when we were starting the sixth grade, a new teacher came to town.  His name was so unusual, as was he.  Harbison Poole.  To write or say his name brings a smile to my face and a flood of wonderful memories to mind.

To be one of the lucky ones to land in his homeroom class was a coup.  I have my entire life been a hysteric.  You can ask me what someone looks like and I will not be able to tell you.  I get the essence of the person.  I don’t look closely at the details.  If someone is, let’s say, unattractive but charismatic, they are gorgeous to me.  Like, my dad.  And, I’m thinking, like Mr. Poole.  He was chinless and, I guess, somewhat homely.  But to me, as to the rest of his class, he was so compelling he was stunning.

There was not a student that didn’t love him.  He inspired us to do our best.  Suddenly, I was more apt to pay attention in the classroom.  He didn’t seem so bothered when, and if, I was chatting with my neighbor.  Every other teacher wrote copious notes home about my incessant talking each Report Card Friday.  Those were miserable days for me, but not with Mr. Poole.  This might have been the only time in the history of my education where it wasn’t only the top students who were teacher’s pet.  We all were.  Harbison Poole had the ability to make each and every one of us feel special.  Then he hatched a plan in which anyone who wanted could join his new after school club dedicated to creative writing.  Do you think I’m the after school club type?  I’m not!!!  We got to decide what it would be called and collectively we came up with the WORDS Club.  It was an acronym — and, no, I do not remember what each letter stood for — but I’m hoping one of my old friends will post a comment to explain.  Sorry, as you can see, I’m not that interested in research.

So, on Thursdays (I just made that up, but I might be right) we stayed after and shared creative writing.  I was feeling very good about myself that year, though it wouldn’t last long.  The school system was in a panic over Mr. Poole’s style of teaching and how deeply he affected us kids.  They moved him the following year to Hawthorne, a nearby school in the district, where others got to fall madly in love and have one great year with him.  Then, they tossed him for good.  He was just too ahead of his time.

I remember that there was another inspiring, original teacher in my sophomore year of high school, Emanuel Lombard.  Sitting in his classroom one day, I saw Mr. Peters, the superintendent, checking Lombard out.  I sensed danger.  Like Mr. Poole, he was very advanced in his style of teaching.  I stood up, walked over to Peters and accused him of trying to do it again — getting rid of a great teacher.  Big mouth that I could be.

In my early-to-mid 20’s, I became obsessed with finding my old teacher Mr. Poole.  I called the Beverly Hills school system, which claimed to not know what happened to him after his short Hawthorne reign.  Finally, my brother told me I could hire a skip tracer (whatever that is) and he hired one.  I paid the guy $35 dollars and in less than a week, they found my idol, Harbison Poole.  I was told he was the principal of a progressive school he started in New Jersey.  I made my reservation and flew out on the next flight.  A red-eye.  My friend Barbara, a real trouper, picked me up at the airport at 6 AM and off we drove to New Jersey.  I walked into the school very early pretending to look for a teaching job.  I asked for an appointment with Mr. Poole.  I sat across from him and feigned looking for a job.  I was waiting for just the right moment for the big reveal.  I really wanted it to be a powerful surprise.  He kept looking at me and telling me I look familiar.  Mind you, I was on some TV commercials at the time so that could have been why.  But, I like to believe it was because he did remember me.  I was carrying my classroom photo from back in the day.  When I found the right moment, which was when he kept insisting I looked familiar, I pulled out the photos and said, “Maybe this is why.”  Ta-dah!!!!  “Because Mr. Poole, I’m Fredde Duke and you were my beloved teacher in the 6th grade at Beverly Vista.  We LOVED you!!!  You inspired us and I have needed to tell you this for a long time.  And by the way, fuck the Beverly Hills school system for not getting you.”  We hugged, went to lunch, and were best friends for a day.  I reminded him that he was such a rock star to us that we girls would link hands, ten across, during lunches and recesses, to sing a song we wrote about him (changing the lyrics of “Harvest Moon”): Shine on, Shine on Harbison Poole…

All my life, when I heard this song, I think of Mr. Poole, even though we were not an unruly bunch!

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having fun with Harbison Poole!!!

I tried to find out what my friend Roland’s favorite restaurant in New Jersey is and I will post that one also.  In the meantime, I found this online in Zagat and now I really want to go here.

Saddle River Inn
2 Barnstable Ct., Saddle River; 201-825-4016
Food: 28
Decor: 25
Service: 26
Price: $64
“Superb from beginning to end”, this “gold-standard”, “big-ticket” grande dame is set in a “casually elegant” 18th-century barn in Saddle River, where “impeccable” Franco-American preparations emerge from the “steady” kitchen; “serious” service and an “inviting” atmosphere burnish the “world-class” experience, and while it certainly “doesn’t come cheap”, BYO allows one to “indulge more than usual.”

 

So fitting that Roland just told me about these Diner’s in New Jersey–because the last time I saw Roland, we were eating at a Diner in Manhattan!!!

this is only part of Roland Hutchinson’s reply : Well, Fredde, as you know, I’m no foodie, but I do like to eat.

One of my favorite dishes is the Greek-style lamb shanks, braised in a
tomato sauce and served over orzo, available Sundays at the Six Brothers
Diner. Just a tick or two further upscale, there’s a Greek café/bistro
sort of place that does a similar dish, and that has terrific sea food.
That’s sort of our default for going out on a slightly festive occasion;
the diners are where we go for a convenient everyday meal when we’d
rather not eat at home.

P.S. Susie Lohn, my childhood best friend sends me photo’s and letters and many wonderful things for my blog, including this that I just found.  A letter to her parents (written May 22, 1965)

about our after school club, the WORDS club.  I now know what each letter stands for.  Writing, Oratory, Reading, Drama Society.  So fabulous!!!!!!  We really thought

we were something else in that club!!!!

me with childhood friend Roland Hutchinson at a Diner in Manhattan

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21 Responses to “Shine On Harbison Poole!!!”

  1. Peter Mayer says:

    He drove a Sunbeam Alpine, just like Maxwell Smart! Thanks Fredde!

  2. emanuellombarde says:

    You are SO YOU! It comes out so marvelously in your writing. Pls do lots more. I’m 50-50 on another quick trip to LA, but I’m due in Israel by July. I dunno. Let’s keep in touch always.

  3. Alice Stambler Seidman says:

    Oh, my God, Freddie – I can’t believe you visited him. I think about Mr. Poole often. I could not for the life of me remember his first name. All I can say is that, although I was a good student, I never retained anything I learned – except for what I learned in Mr. Poole’s class. I still to this day remember about the Incas because we sat in groups of Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas and everything just sunk in. Learning was a joy. Not only that, but when I was crying because some boy called me “ugly” he comforted me in a way that to this day gives me goosebumps. I was so shy and intimidated by everyone – I never would have thought to get in touch with him. But that was one of the best years of my school years, certainly the most memorable. I remember he always used to talk about how he needed a stool to sit on when he talked in front of the class, so on the last day of school I made my mother go out and buy him one, and I very awkwardly came and gave it to him, and then ran away. That was my way of showing my love. I never did understand why they didn’t keep him at Beverly Vista. Thanks again, Freddie, for invoking some strong memories. And thanks to Mr. Poole – Harbison – wherever you are.

  4. Carol Dudley says:

    What a lovely story Fredde. I loved school but I don’t think I can name a teacher who really inspired me. You make it so chear how important an inspirational teacher can be and should be, and how really important teaching really is. Love you. C

  5. That was great! It had such a huge payoff that you were able to find him and tell him of his impact. It’s so perfect. thanks Fredde!

  6. pauli says:

    Great story – it should be expanded for a TV movie really. Love your enthusiasm for life Fredde!

  7. Irene Freedman says:

    I love that you posted this story for me to see!! It always feels so great when one of my students comes back to thank me…but after reading your words I got to feel what it was like from the other end. I’m sure he will never forget that he made such a huge impact in your life! Just the fact that you went to so much trouble and traveled so far to find him is such a huge compliment to him and to you! I can’t wait till one of my students travels have way through the country to find me!! xoxo

  8. Ah, I remember it well…I love travelling through time w/ you!

  9. Nile Hight says:

    I could read you every day.

  10. Diana Boos says:

    Although I wasn’t at BV in 6th grade, I met him there on more than one occasion on one of my many after school trips to BV to play. Having lived with you on more than once in our 20’s, his name came up regularly, and I recall the story of the trip to visit him. I know he’s been an inspiration to you all of your life. The one teacher that still stands out for me is Mr. Lombard. He was that special teacher, that had there been more of, I might have actually stayed in school more…lol Thanks for sharing this one with all of us. Another wonderful trip down memory lane with you. So when is the “book” coming out?…:-)

  11. Diana Boos says:

    The Alice Stambler story made me cry. How lovely and incredibly touching.

  12. quichi minujin says:

    Mr. Fredricks was my very favorite teacher at BV,he taught history,I loved his class.He was an adorable redhead! Moving on to BHHS Mr. Jon Maksik was THE coolest,cutest English teacher in the Universe!!! I did connect with him,and every once in a while we trade four word e mails.

  13. jan nicholas says:

    Oh My God, Freddie Duke, you wonderful woman. I went to Beverly with you, and I had Mr. Pool at Hawthorne in the fifth grade. I keep mementos of that year, the ONLY year I didn’t feel like a total dweeb (which I was)=–he gave me a sense of purpose, self-esteem and let me illustrate Wind in the Willows after class in on the blackboard. He was a true inspiration to me..I still have the thank you note he gave me for some silly aftershave I gave him one Christmas. I am touched to read that you went to such lengths to find him. Bless your heart. I love Harbison Poole, he made me want to learn. Thank you for this. xxxxxJan

  14. Patrick Harriman says:

    Omg! Mr.Poole was my 5th grade teacher at Hawthorne , Beverly Hills. And to a picture. He was my first male teacher. I will never forget that Robert Barris made him cry. Mrs. Wadzuk? Miss Miller Mr. Rowan , Mr. Puffer, Mrs. Rice, Mr. McCutchen, art?. But Mr. Poole, I will Never Forget!, and he drove that sunbeam just like my neighbor Don Adams did. Thanks for the great memories. I remember some teachers leaving to enlist in the 6 Day War, And Mr. Poole explaining why. And when Jill Kinmont came, and ramps were built, and Kenny Young was kidnapped! I talk to Kenny about those times.

  15. Patrick Harriga says:

    Nmy name was spelled wrong,

  16. Patrick Harrigan says:

    Damn iPad , Patrick harrigan!

  17. Christel Chesney says:

    Yea, you found him. Good for you. Sounds like another great man in your life. I bet you you made Mr. Poole’s year. I had a teacher like him also…..

  18. Ken Shore says:

    Love your writing. I’ve learned more about you in several articles ( and laughed, and reflected on those days) than in 4 years of high school, in which I didn’t know you at all! As a teacher, I can attest personally how meaningful it is for us to see former students–bravo for going to visit this wonderful teacher.

  19. Jim Miller says:

    I don’t knwo if you still do this blog, but you brought back some great memories. I had Dr. Poole in some graduate classes in Georgia Southern University in Statesborom Ga. He was such a great teacher. The way you describe him teaching sounds exctly like I would expect him to teach. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Linda says:

    Excellent story … WORDS Club …. wow! My Mr. Poole was Bernice Anfuso (at Horace Mann). I went to visit her in Santa Barbara a couple of times.

  21. Laura Plotkin says:

    This is another one I am reading for the first time. As a former junior high English teacher, I especially love this story, Fredde. You can’t imagine what it means to have this honor paid after so many years! Thanks to all the Mr. Pooles out there who find a way to inspire all the Fredde’s out there to find their joy of learning and their buried talent and self-worth!

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