A portrait of a father as a young man



There are fathers we never knew, but sometimes there are fathers we never notice.

I've seen a picture of my father as a toddler playing in the streets of Philadelphia. It was taken by a peddler who, like the ice cream trucks today, roamed from neighborhood to neighborhood snapping photos and selling them to harried mothers.

I can't relate to anything in the picture: to my grandmother not owning a camera, nor to the curly-haired gamin smiling shyly between his sisters.

Fast forward 15 years and there he is in another photograph, all of 19, scrawny, a rifleman in a barren field in Belgium. He stands with two adolescents, eventually to become my uncles.

The hero worship in their eyes and the kindly tolerance in his are visible across the decades. My father has always been kind.

He'd been in the infantry for two years when the picture was taken. He'd fought in North Africa and Italy, hill by hill. He'd been wounded twice, awarded a slew of medals, but his only war stories to us were humorous.

He's always claimed he was known as "the great chicken liberator of Italy" for his ability to scrounge up a better dinner than rations. But something is missing in his tales and only barely visible in the old photos: He was a young man once.

He was afraid, foolish, heroic, determined, silly, sick, romantic, venal, pedantic and worshiping. Just like me. I wish I could have known him then, but physics and relativity don't work that way.

I'll never know him as a young man. But I think I'll pick up the phone before Father's Day and talk to Dan.


Ron Bowman is going to enjoy sleeping in this summer. He's the one-year veteran band director of Hammond High, and he has had an incredibly successful year.

Incidentally, he's a very nice guy. When I talked to him about the band, his first words were to praise Mark McCoy, the previous band director. Mr. Bowman said Mr. McCoy built the band over four or five years, beginning with only 20 kids or so, to its current strength of more than 80 members.

Mr. McCoy left Hammond to enroll as a doctorate student in composing at Texas Tech.

Mr. Bowman's next words were to praise the band members.

"It's difficult with a new band director. I feel with this first year, they really welcomed me."

One sign of the band members' enthusiasm: Because so many have after-school activities and full academic schedules, the members voted to rehearse before classes. That meant band rehearsal at 6:30 a.m. two or three times a week for the students, but five days a week for Mr. Bowman.

This grueling rehearsal schedule is the product of an embarrassment of riches. Hammond supports four bands now. There is a wind ensemble, a concert band, a jazz combo and a jazz ensemble.

Mr. Bowman singled out senior Matt Grayson, the student leader of the jazz combo, admiring the young man's dedication and help in leading the combo all year.

The new band director realized that all the hard work and dedication was about to pay off last March at the Howard County Band Festival.

At the festival, for the first time, the Hammond Band received straight superior ratings for its performances. The achievement was greater than even the ratings indicate because the band was playing level five music, not its usual level four.

(Band music is rated according to difficulty, with level one indicating beginner's pieces and level six music at the collegiate band level.)

The band and orchestra members were then well-prepared for the Fiesta-Val Competitions in Myrtle Beach in May. The Hammond crew returned in triumph, bearing first- and second-place trophies for the Jazz Combo and Ensemble, first place for the Concert Band and first place for the wind ensemble.

Mr. Bowman made sure to mention that orchestra teacher Judy Gill's orchestra received an excellent rating. The orchestra did not compete because it is too small to meet the requirements of Fiesta-Val. (There is next year, though.)

Mr. Bowman couldn't say enough about the support from parents and the Hammond administration.

Vice Principal David Scuccimarra went with the band members to Myrtle Beach for the competition and was terrific with the kids, said Mr. Bowman.

Asked if he would miss the graduating seniors, Mr. Bowman answered: "I love the seniors, they're the cream of the crop. But kids have a way of stepping up into new responsibilities."

Looks like we can all look forward to some terrific concerts next year.


Bollman Bridge Elementary held closing ceremonies for the fifth-grade class last Monday. The cafeteria was packed with well-wishers and proud parents to note the "graduation" to a new school.

RTC Between the speeches and the presentation of awards, the fifth-grade special chorus sang "A Whole New World" from Disney's "Aladdin."

As always, the singers did a magnificent job with a difficult song.

The highlight for the parents, though, was a videotape presentation of the fifth-graders' self-portraits, showing what they want to be when they finish growing.


This is the first class that has attended Bollman Bridge beginning with kindergarten. The list of awards granted for achievement in music, science, math and for service to the school goes on for two closely typed pages.

The students really cared about the school, and the teachers about them. Katie Mazzarella, Chris O'Shea, Aaron Pendergrass, Rachel Roberts, Erin Shinholt, Jonathan Skojec, Michael Sommer and Yee Ling Yeung were honored for their Overall Academic Achievement.

Special kudos go to Shaleen Cusick, Kelly Garner, Tabetha Garrett, Jovanda Goode, Taniesha Hardy, Summer Houghton, Brian Houston, Melissa Jones, Daniel Lottes, Karl Ward, Yee Ling Yeung, David Yorzinski and Robyn Zernhelt for their perfect attendance.

8, It could not have been easy this winter.

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