Tech Alma Mater, Molder Of Men

I’m not sure how, but I stumbled upon the Wikipedia page for my high school, Brooklyn Tech. The name makes it sound like we should have been learning about cars or plumbing, doesn’t it?

Brooklyn Technical High School, commonly called “Brooklyn Tech”, is a New York City public high school that specializes in engineering, math and science. Together with Stuyvesant High School and Bronx High School of Science, it is one of three original specialized science high schools, operated by the New York City Department of Education, all three of which were cited by The Washington Post in 2006 as among the best magnet schools in the United States. Admission is by competitive examination, and as a public school, there is no tuition fee and only residents of the City of New York are eligible to attend.

Of these three, even I’ll admit, Tech was the weak sister. At least it was when I graduated.

Tech was good news/bad news in my life. The good news is, I did learn a lot – though most of it worthless today. Tech’s curriculum was designed for another era. And, though it was college prep, I didn’t want to be an engineer or go to an engineering college.

Tech was also where I touched my first two computers. One was an IBM 1130 mainframe, programmed with Hollerith cards. I remember having to write code, in Fortran, to add 50 + 5. I’m not sure how I did.

The second computer was the fun one. This was ’67/’68 and we had a terminal connected to a timeshare computer at a local university. By terminal, I mean a Teletypewriter – no computer video screen. I’m not sure those had been devised yet.

I played games on this timeshare computer. I remember Wumpus, an adventure game and horse race and golf ‘sims.’

The bad news part of tech was its distance, both from my home and girls. Tech, when I went was all boys. I’m sure my teenage years would have been well served by an introduction to girls. The school’s anthem actually began:

Tech almer mater, molder of men

To get to school, I had to take a bus and then two subways. It easily took 1:15 to get there and 1:30 to get home! The New York City public schools had no snow days – at least none I can remember.

I was surprised to see Wikipedia mention the dungaree strike of 1968.

1968 was a turbulent year at Tech, when Principal Isidor Auerbach rebuked approximately 200 students who had violated the school’s dress code by wearing jeans to school. Dean Jack Feuerstein lectured the students on discipline then sent them to the auditorium, where they spent the day studying.

Though there would later be political activism at Tech associated with the Vietnam War, this really was a protest about jeans… you weren’t allowed to wear them. This, in a school loaded with shops and labs, seemed ridiculous.

In order to participate, I had to buy a pair (or maybe my folks bought them for me). I wanted to participate, but didn’t own jeans at the time!

My daughter is reading that last paragraph in total disbelief.

Oh – now I remember how I stumbled across the Tech citation. I was on some website that had a map of Brooklyn and saw the school. Then, with Google Maps, I zoomed in. It is an amazing structure.

Yes, that’s a TV tower on the roof. The screening over much of the rest of the roof kept basketballs and baseballs from flying out, as it was used as an open air adjunct to the upper gym (there was one on the first floor too).

The school had five corridors on most floors. Four were named for compass directions, while the fifth was the center corridor. One year my homeroom, or prefect as it was called at Tech, was 3W35 – Third floor, west corridor, room 35.

We also had massive elevators, some of which could be used between classes for ‘long haul traffic.’ I seem to remember a few which held forty students!

The ninth floor held WNYE-FM, the New York City Board of Education radio station. During my junior and senior years, instead of taking English in a classroom, I received credit for being a radio actor.

I was a very good radio actor… at least for a kid I was. Each Monday, students from around the city would head to WNYE for open casting. I was cast every week without fail for two years.

It’s an accomplishment I’m still proud of, even if no one remembers what a radio actor does… or why.

The school, built on its present site from 1930-33 at a cost of $6 million, is 12 stories high, and covers almost an entire city block. Facilities include:

* Gymnasiums on the first and eighth floors, with a mezzanine running track above the larger first floor gym. The eighth floor gym had a bowling alley lane and an adjacent wire-mesh enclosed rooftop sometimes used for handball and for tennis practice.

* Swimming pool in the basement.

* Wood, machine and other specialized shops. Most have been converted into normal classrooms or computer labs, except for a robotics shop.

* Foundry on the seventh floor, with a floor of molding sand used for creating sand casting molds. It was closed during the 1990s.

* Materials testing lab, used during the basic materials science (Strength of Materials) class. Included industrial capacity Universal Testing Machine.

* Aeronautical lab, featuring a large wind tunnel.

* Radio studio. Registered with Federal Communications Commission as WNYE (FM), it has not been used since the 1980s.

* 4,200-seat auditorium