Frederick Massie Remembers

While I regularly receive communications – and associated fund-raising requests – from our old school, I am surprised someone up there considers me a classmate/alumni given my rather ignominious departure. 

In fact, I recall my days at Hermon – with the exception off my last two – with fondness. Albeit, something akin to the opening of A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Prior to Mt. Hermon, I had a generally unhappy time as a student at various public schools where I found no solace in the teachers or my fellow travelers. The rainy day I arrived at Mt. Hermon registration was an opening to an academic and social world I didn’t know existed.  

I remember: the kindness and care of my teachers; the intelligence, warmth, and delightful idiosyncrasies of my peers; many happy, and intense, hours discussing authors, philosophers, the politics of war and peace, rock and roll, and so many other matters, all whilst blowing chains of smoke rings in the North Crossley lounge; Star Chambers, presided over by Mark DeGuzman whose sessions sometimes ended with a sentence of a Wedgie, but more often served as a means to draw us all closer together in laughter; snowballing the Wombats; smoking hash before a History test (and, despite the need to employ both hands on my pen, receiving an A); the romantic delights of day trips to Stoneleigh-Burnham; the afternoon the C boat miraculously beat the B boat during rowing practice; the particularly beautiful morning light on the campus land rolling down to the river; working off demerits by scaling the rust off the athletic stands; and a feeling of belonging. 

Alas, propelled by an LSD-fueled fever dream that appeared to unlock the secrets of life – something I felt compelled to share with everyone in the school’s dining hall – my time at Hermon came to an abrupt end. And, after receiving a polite, but firm, boot to my backside, I left, never to return. 

Today, I can think of no experience that so profoundly colored and shaped my life more than the pleasure and sadness of that time and place. My intervening years included: a university degree; teaching upper school English and history; work as an advertising copywriter, an environmental advocate and educator, a writer and an editor; fathering two daughters; and playing Grandude to three granddaughters. And, now, my days are spent kayaking and sailing on my local waters, body surfing and snorkeling in the Atlantic, bicycling, reading, playing my music in the sun, deciphering the Sanskrit messages in jet contrails, enjoying the ichthyic creatures and wraith-like ghost riders in cirrus clouds, and contemplating the vagaries and wonders of time. 

Yours in the Ozone: 

Frederick Massie

Almost Class of 1970

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