Jon Alfred Greene
John Greene went to New Windsor Middle School in 1948. John vividly remembers his teachers and school during his childhood in Carroll County.
LYNN WHEELER: I’m Lynn Wheeler, and I’m delighted to be here interviewing Jon Greene. And we are sitting in the old New Windsor Middle School, which is now renovated for the library headquarters. And Jon graduated from this school in 1959. And Jon, I’d like you to share us– share some of your memories of this school. I understand you went here from 1948 to 1959, is that right?
JON GREENE: That’s absolutely correct. We moved here from Montgomery County in 1948. I came as a transfer student in third grade. I think my student– my teacher’s name was Miss Carrie at that time. And then I went through Mrs. Wilt, Mrs. Harmon, Mrs. Ivy, then got elevated into the high school.
Um, things were different back then at that period of time. And uh, the roads wasn’t as good, very little television, but it was a good education. It was a wonderful school, and I’m very proud Carroll County decided to save the school.
I remember the other two schools that was involved in this immediate area, the Elmer Wolfe School, and the Taneytown High School, which is now– Taneytown’s a plaque and a [INAUDIBLE], and Elmer Wolfe is an elementary school. But this particular school, mainly, is still here, and the hallways are here. I can still see the rooms.
LYNN WHEELER: Well, you said that while you were here, the school got very crowded, and you had to lose the shop and move into the cafeteria, is that right?
JON GREENE: Yes, the shop– the shop was, uh, replacing the classrooms. Uh, we had classes in the, uh– economic classes, et cetera. We had classes in the, uh, in the, uh, cafeteria down there. Uh, that created somewhat of a disservice for me at that particular time, since– uh, when I did finally graduate, I had a general education diploma, as we want to say. And then I went out to try to get a job as some type of skilled laborer or whatever. And I went down to Sparrow’s Point, down, uh– Bethlehem Steel at the time. And I had to take a tool test, you know, about my knowledge of tools and everything. Well, I haven’t shopped for one or two years. That was a big disadvantage, you know? And I didn’t have the ability to do, so I lost out on those particular things on that thing.
But you know what? We have to adapt, you know? We have to overcome those particular things. One of the best memories that I did have of this particular place– I think we had a teacher called Mr. Hanson, and maybe he was our economic teacher. And I think that class was in 1958. We took a field trip, and we went down to Baltimore, to a place called C&P Telephones, Chesapeake Potomac Telephone place. This was a change of event in my particular life, because we toured that place, and I was exposed to something that I’d never seen before. It was called data processing.
At that time, they had these things called IBM cards. These cards, you know, they had the hollow code punched in them, and you ran them through there, and they tabulated things, and they ran reports on them. Well, that set the seeds and the motions early on for me, off that one field trip.
Just to give you a little more background, well, what did I do with that? Well, what happened was, I couldn’t do this thing about the job at Bethlehem Steel. And I thought about the army. Even the yearbooks said I was going to be a good Marine, but maybe that was all talk than anything else.
But anyhow, I sat down with my father at that time, and I said, dad, you know, you’re in the business of drilling wells. Why don’t you and I get in business together and learn this? He says, son, you know, it’s a tough business. You shouldn’t do that. You ought to look at something else that has a little more future.
So OK. I fell back to another position and thought about it and came back to him a couple months later with a folder. I said, dad, how about me going down to this place called Baltimore Institute down on Tree Street in Baltimore. He says, well, what do they do down there? Well, it’s a data processing class down there. They got these things called electronic counting machines. They’ll teach me how to do collating, teach me how to do accounting machines, all this stuff. Oh, really? How much is that, Jon, he says. I think it’s $500. He said to his second wife, Genevieve, give me the checkbook. He gave me $500 and said, go sign, I’m going to do this.
Now, what did that do for me? Now, I’m exposed to the Baltimore market, because that’s where I’m going to school down there for four months. I was around older people, whatever– start telling me about civil service tests and these kinds of things. Passed– did the class, got out, went to Hagerstown in 1960 in February, took the service test. Got a government job in, um, August of 1960.
LYNN WHEELER: Very good.
JON GREENE: OK. That was a turning event. That little field trip.
LYNN WHEELER: That’s wonderful.
JON GREENE: OK. I spent 38 years with small business administration and other government agencies. OK? But I started out in a little school that didn’t have a shop.
LYNN WHEELER: Wonderful.
JON GREENE: Didn’t have these other things. But it’s what you get exposed to and how you get going and get started and whatever. Um–
LYNN WHEELER: That’s excellent. Now, Jon, I understand that you did, uh, participate in some musicals in the school, is that right?
JON GREENE: Oh, absolutely. You know, if you look at my yearbook out here, I’m the cat– class clown. Now, that just wasn’t deliberately, they told me about that, because I was a jokester. I had a lot of fun. I didn’t take things very seriously. And as I said to you before, I wasn’t the scholar in the class, to say the least.
But I did have this thing with Elvis Presley– grew the sideburns and everything. And we had assembly in the, in the, uh, gym down here and, uh, I put on a Hound Dog show and Don’t Be Cruel show, and I did the dance and everything. And the girls all loved it. Everybody enjoyed that show. You know, I’ve been called Elvis Presley for a long time.
Well, we have our 50th anniversary graduation thing coming up. And I was talking to some of the class members. They said, we need to do something special. And they suggested we go to Ocean City or go to Lancaster. And I said, you know what? Why don’t we really do something special that allows us to be together for a certain period of time and also it brings us back into our era? Well, Jon, what the Lord do you think we ought to be doing? I said, we need a charter bus. And we’re going to get on that bus and we’re going to go to Cleveland.
Now, why would we want to go to Cleveland? We’re going to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s our people out there, you know? And on the way back, we can stop up at the Football Hall of Fame and see Jonny U. from the Baltimore Colts. And then, we can spend four or five hours together going out and for or five hours coming back. We’re not going to be seeing each other again for 50 years.
LYNN WHEELER: That’s a great plan, Jon.
JON GREENE: So.
LYNN WHEELER: I hope that happens.
JON GREENE: I do too.
LYNN WHEELER: Yeah, that sounds great. I understand you were very involved in the 1956 election as a young, uh, man, a teenager. Uh, you really studied that, huh?
JON GREENE: Well, I was exposed to it on television that night. That was the race between Dwight Eisenhower on his reelection bid and Adlai Stevenson, which was his second chance at that presidency. And, uh, his vice president candidate was Estes Kefauver at that time. I spent the whole evening watching that late into the night, and, and, uh, I memorized all that. And that’s one of the good things I do have, I can rememberize things. And the thing was, I remember how each day went and all the anecdotes, the little stories they told about the election. Sort of like C-SPAN now, you know? Except, that was me at that day.
So I came back to school the next day– maybe I was late that morning. But anyhow, someplace in the time I told my history teacher– her name was Mrs. Kephart. I said, you know, um, I can tell you about this election. Oh, really? So I did about 10 minutes for her in private. Then she said, you know what? I need to put you up there the whole class. And that was just my class, initially.
Well, after I got done with that, she said, you know what? You’ve got to do the seniors, the 9th grade, everybody else too, because you have this thing down. So I did the whole class for that, and then they thought I should become a law student and everything. But I really did enjoy that. Um, it’s the, you know, the political cycles, it’s the games and stuff that they play in there.
But– and I did remember that, so maybe I could rattle along with their stuff today and that’s one of my current things. You remember long term memory a whole lot better than you do short term.
LYNN WHEELER: Yes.
JON GREENE: I lose my glasses before I leave the room, but I can tell you something that happened in 1959, so.
LYNN WHEELER: Well, it is nice that you had so many wonderful memories of this school and, uh, things that, uh, were really important, and I’m so glad that you were willing to share those with us so that we can share those with the community, Jon.
JON GREENE: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
LYNN WHEELER: Thank you very much.