Mind Movies Memories From Every School Grade

As I have written about many times in the past on this blog, I have a photographic memory for old, long-ago events in my life. It is almost savant-like in that I can travel back in time and picture a scene as if it is playing out in a movie. It’s a gift to have this, and I amaze friends constantly with this extraordinary talent that not many people have. (And intimidate some who do not have long term memory recall, and especially my freaky details.) These scenes are so vivid, I can picture all the characters exactly as they looked and dressed back then. No detail escapes when I travel back in time to these memories.

I have found out there is a name for these long ago “mind movie memories.” If you look it up in Wiki, linked here, it is called Eidetic memory. Here is a brief description from Wiki:

Lilienfeld et al. stated, “People with eidetic memory can supposedly hold a visual image in their mind with such clarity that they can describe it perfectly or almost perfectly …, just as we can describe the details of a painting immediately in front of us with near perfect accuracy.”[12]

On a limo ride to a place a couple hours away, after conversing with the driver, somehow this talent of mine came up. Of course the driver did not believe me and challenged me. I regaled him with stories from just about every elementary grade, and named my teachers. He was totally astounded, and acted as if I was doing magic tricks – he was that amazed as he remembered virtually none of his teachers names nor any details from those years. (We were about the same age.) He suggested that I write a blog about this so I can share this unusual talent. So here it is, and hopefully it will stir some memories for you of a time so very long ago. It has taken me some time to compile them in written form, and I have so many others, but this is already way too long for blog form.

My big memory of Kindergarten, and of Carnell Elementary’s Miss Rabinowitz, our beautiful Jackie Kennedy lookalike teacher, was that although I spent much of my time in the play kitchen area and doing domestic duties with dolls as a typical girl of that era, I also remember that I was also quite a tomboy, which my teacher found funny. Most of my good friends were boys, and I remember gleefully explaining to my Gram when she asked how Kindergarten was going, and I told her it was great and that I had four boyfriends. (They were friends but they were boys.) She was truly tickled at this conversation. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

In first grade I had Mrs. Phillips, and it was brief amount of time spent there, but my main memory was of always raising my hand ferociously to read aloud from our Dick and Jane books. I loved to read aloud and perform. I would wave like a madman to try to get extra turns to read aloud, and my good reading skills were from having a library on my very own street (Bushrod) and reading books from as far back as I could remember.

First grade only lasted a short few months or so, and then I was skipped to second grade. It was the end of the A-B semesters in education, and I was tested and moved up to second grade where I finished that same school year. This memory was not quite pleasant as my teacher Mrs. Elkins, was a short, dour lady, and I remember one day in her room where I felt homesick and just cried and cried until they sent me home. Looking back, it must have been the adjustment of going from first to second grade, but I remember that day so clearly. I was called a cry-baby after that episode, and it was mortifying. From then on, I was always one of the youngest in my grade, with my maturity struggling to catch up to peers.

In third grade, I had Mrs. Sickles, who I did not like at all because I tested her at every opportunity. She got annoyed at me for telling the other children that Santa Claus could not possibly visit every house in one night as I had trouble on Halloween just walking two or three blocks of houses! Ever since that day, she had it out for me, and constantly yelled at me for not always coloring in the lines, and having messy cursive handwriting, or for chatting in class. I sat next to a boy named Barry Schlanger, who got ill one day and threw up all over the desk, splattering on me! Just when I thought third grade could not get worse, that had to happen. The only redeeming episode of third grade in my memories is of a red-haired boy named Richard Rettig who was my boyfriend and he gave me a bracelet he found. When the teasing and harassment from the other boys became too much, he was mean on the playground and that was the end of that. My other memory, clear as a bell, was that I had never had a birthday party and I demanded one instead of a present from my parents. I invited my classmates to my home for lunch (we went home for an hour for lunch and it was short walking distance) and I remember Richard Rettig gave me my favorite gift of a mosaic art set. I just loved crafts.

In fourth grade, I had Miss Cohn, my favorite teacher of all time. She lived in the neighborhood, and I would visit her after school to tell her what books I was reading from the library. (And also visit her on Halloween) She was always patient with my extreme admiration for her, and she was the one who inspired me to first become an educator. My most vivid memory of fourth grade is sitting next to a boy named Jay Sitvarin, and he tortured me every day, scribbling on my papers, teasing me. Then, after Parent-Teacher conferences, my mother came home and told me that Jay’s mother Shirley told her that Jay had a big crush on me. To this day, I can remember the conversation with my mom and how shocked I was with this information. PS – nothing changed in my relationship with Jay after that, he continued to torture me. The big news from this school year and one that I wrote a whole separate blog about linked here; in the fall of fourth grade, we were watching television science in the auditorium when an announcement cut it that the President was shot. It was the assassination of John Kennedy and I remember that entire sad day as if it was an hour ago. Fortunately, that winter, The Beatles came to be, and brought so many of us back to life with the new era of rock and roll. I remember all of that excitement too just as I remember the President Kennedy sadness. I also walked to the Benner movie theater and saw “A Hard Day’s Night” at least 10 times that year.

I remember being so upset when fourth grade ended because I had the best teacher in the world in Miss Cohn, and did not want to lose her. I literally prayed all that summer that I could somehow have her again, and sure enough, she was switched to fifth grade the next year, and I was in her class again! Miracles do happen, prayers are sometimes answered and I had her to enjoy for another school year. That was the year I started a huge crush on the most popular boy in our grade, and joined the track team at school on the urging of our PE teacher, and I did it just to be with my crush, Richard. I remember learning so much this school year and finally feeling smart. Another vivid snippet is learning to spell both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and winning that year’s spelling bee; and playing in the school’s winter concert on the “Bells.” (Silver Bells etc.)

Sixth grade holds loads of very clear memories for me. I had Mr. Quarterman, my first male teacher, and he was also African-American. This was a novelty in 1965-66 in my very Jewish white neighborhood. I really enjoyed the year with him, and the highlight was a Pizza Party for girls that I threw for myself with babysitting money (I started babysitting at age 10) for my birthday, where we played Beatles records. I also vividly remember my best friend Joy’s birthday party that year because she invited our crush, Richard G, and he actually came, all spiffed up in a suit. All of the girls loved Jay C as well, he was such a cutie. My elementary graduation remains vivid, from the dress I wore, to each and every song we sang in it. In fact, I can still recall the words of To Dream an Impossible Dream, and Alexander’s Ragtime Band (it was a Broadway medley) still to this day.

In seventh grade, in that era, we went on to Jr. High.Mine was called Fels Jr. High) My advisory teacher was Miss Swartz. I had her for two years, through eighth grade. My best friend was Audrey — we were inseparable and had tons of slumber parties over her house, and I also went to my first boy-girl parties; and was a Monkee fanatic that year, 1966-67. I was constantly babysitting that year to get “cool” clothes to keep up with the well-dressed junior high school girls, and I physically and emotionally pined for items like Weejuns and John Romain purses, circle pins and Villager Clothes – all beyond my reach financially and one that has a separate blog linked here.

In eighth grade, I hung out with a bunch of boys (again the tomboy) and had a quasi-boyfriend named Guy. I was at my most awkward, pre-puberty look at that point, so this fact is a miracle. I remember spending lots of time at Guy’s mother’s apartment (his parents were divorced) with his siblings, all precious and adorable – Ivy, Neil, Tyrone and of course Guy. They had kind of a psychedelic apartment with a swinging chair hanging from the ceiling. Guy scared me off after a while as he wanted to do things that I wasn’t ready to do, but he did teach me to kiss and play spin the bottle. I also was a radical this year (again as a tomboy) and for a required club, I took WOODSHOP!!! I loved it and made a dachshund that held spools of thread for my Gram the seamstress, and a giant key that held keys. I was the only girl in this club. I was a ground-breaker, but it was considered weird and it only cemented my status as a nerd tomboy.

In ninth grade, still at Jr. High, I had a dreamy advisor, Mr. DeVrito, who was also my French teacher. I was put in all advanced courses due to my eighth grade academics, but I was then singled out for being a smart nerd. It was a tough year, but I gave myself a junior high school graduation party and some of the cool and popular kids came even though I was an awkward, gawky, academic tomboy nerd. This was another tough year for me. The best thing was meeting a boy from another area and school named Michael Katz. We went on dates taking a bus to the Orleans movie theater in the summer of this school year. This lasted into tenth grade.

In tenth grade, I turned over a new leaf and became VERY feminine. No more tomboy behavior for me! Except my PE teacher saw right through me and made me a gym leader. All of the tomboy girls who were somewhat athletic/coordinated/etc were selected for this “honor.” We got to take attendance and check off apparatus work for grades, so I was very popular in PE class. The big news was that we girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school, except no jeans. By eleventh, even jeans and cut-off jean shorts were okay. My advisor all three high school years with the other N’s for last names, and some O’s and P’s – was Mr. Mauskopf, a great guy. He made cutting school very easy. Any note worked for him for an absence. Again, I was in a bunch of advanced courses, including advanced French and advanced Biology. I knew nothing about French despite the ninth grade classes, and I requested to move to regular French. I also dropped advanced math. My favorite subject that year was Biology. I had Mrs. Hall, (of blessed memory) and I was teacher’s pet. Through ninth and tenth grade, science was my favorite subject, and then English and History.

My dating years in high school were in full swing. At the end of tenth grade, I was dating a boy named Freddy that summer. By eleventh grade, I started dating Lee F, and then quickly moved to my first love, Howie. I was still a gym leader but was also in the dance club and Future Teachers of America. I have about million memories from this year that are vivid, mostly because it was one of my best years ever both in school and with my love life. I started keeping a diary this year. My favorite teacher in eleventh grade was Mrs. Corson for advanced History, and again, I was teacher’s pet. I got to run all the errands and made others upset with her favoritism. I met so many nice new girlfriends this year, from other neighborhoods – quality people who I am still friends with to this day, though we all live far apart.

In twelfth grade, my steady boyfriend moved on to college so my life was quite different from the previous year when I was with him every moment. My worst memory was of having Mono, and missing a month of school in my senior year including all yearbook photos of all the clubs and groups I was in – a huge number.. It was tough getting caught up academically after that, and I had to adjust my college plans to an easier school because after I fell behind, suddenly I no longer felt smart. (I did graduate college Summa Cum Laude and was a President’s Scholar, so the academics settled back down.) My greatest twelfth grade class memories involved two teachers: Mr. Thompkins, History, who had a tumor on his head making him a bit of a conehead and we called him Tommy Tumor. It was cruel, but we were kids and we liked him even with that terrible nickname. This was one of my most fun classes ever because a bunch of my good friends were in it, and we did nothing but pass funny notes to each other throughout the entire class and giggle. Believe it or not, I kept those notes with my diary and still have them in a memorabilia box. (Communication Before Texting) The other teacher was Miss Sommar for English. She was one of the most clueless and boring teachers in the world, (and featured this way in the documentary High School that was shot at my Northeast High School) but it was the best class ever because of Brad Mirken, a class clown (who has passed away and who is of blessed memory as well) who absolutely tortured Miss Sommar each and every day, and we would laugh and laugh through the entire class. When we had to write a poem, he would recite lyrics from a popular rock song. We would all knowingly giggle, but Miss Sommar was clueless. Miss Sommar sat at her seat at her desk and behind her was a sign, This is our Flag, Respect It. Using a black magic marker, Brad changed Flag to Bag, with an arrow pointing to Miss Sommar (our old bag) and she never ever noticed. I have a million stories from this class alone, but this is getting too long-winded as it is.

Sorry this is so long, but the limo driver kind of dared me. Hope you travel memory lane with me and have made it this far. Let me hear about your memories. Do you remember teacher names and situations from various grades?


  • I’m about 10 years before you at Carnell, Fels and .NE, but I recall getting into trouble w/MS Ashford in 3rd great because many of us hated to sing Xmas carols and revolted by chewing gum during our performance in the auditorium. She went ballistic when we returned to the classroom.

  • Time is the consideration that motion has occurred. To move in time just find a memory that’s real to you and “make it a little more solid” – then – look around and find and object and “make it a little more solid” – over and over until you free up in time and can not only recall with vivid memory, but actually be there too. Don’t get lost! Kidding….

  • Time is the consideration that motion has occurred. For real physical universe time, you have to take responsibility for the real physical universe. To move in time, you just get a memory that’s real to you and “make it a little more solid” then you look around in present time and find an object and “make it a little more solid” and then find a memory and do the process again until you’re freely moving in time. Everyone has a perfect memory and mind – but, sometimes things are blocked because of unresolved pains and upsets. Many memories contain unconsciousness which we recall as well and more or less puts us asleep and stops us from remembering. If you have a very good memory, that’s excellent, and it would probably be much better yet, if you could help others regain lost abilities of memory as well. Imagine – recalling earlier lives you might have had – different cultures as real and fine as any memories you have of more familiar times and places. Imagine walking around and talking to people from long ago – touching the cheek of a lost loved one! What a gift memory and imagination are! What a gift time is so that we can view things in sequences that would otherwise be overwhelming as well as allow us to live life to its fullest as human beings and run and jump and do the fun things that people do!!

  • Skipped “B” also and that left me as youngest in grade having missed cutoff by one week in K-1st. My years at G S S- no 7th grade gradation ceremony. 8th & 9th at Fels Some very fine teachers including Miss P. Fine. and the monster Ms. G for Spanish. Mr. Barak who played sax and loaded the buses. Mr. Brahen who played board erasers. Heading for the bus when we heard about the murder of JFK. 10th- year of split shifts at NE H S One fellow student killed and one died of cancer before graduation. Those high steps facing the buses on Robbins Ave. At the exit is where I’d heard the story and on went the transistor radios. I can name all of 7 elementary school teachers. et al.

  • Sheila Shulman Freemer

    When I went to SOLIS-COHEN for 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and finally 6th grade, these were my main
    3rd Grade — Mrs. Braime
    4th Grade — Mrs. Smithers
    5th Grade — Mrs. Quirk
    6th Grade — Mrs. Bell (The square dancing teacher)

    Do ANY of my Classmates, who went to SOLIS-COHEN remember these wonderful teachers???
    Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd Grades, were spent in McIntyre School in Strawberry Mansion!!!!

  • Learned of your site from the fb group, Growing Up Jewish in NE Philly and checked it out to satisfy my curiosity. I, too, attended Carnell, Fels and NE (10th grade only), and apparently was in the same grade as you (although my home room teachers were different – Mrs. Dash for 3rd grade, Mrs. Friedman for 4th, and others). I also recall being in the auditorium watching the news broadcast when Kennedy was shot. I have other fond memories of attending school there, In fact, I think I still have a report card or two from that era, a class photo, as well as other items that somehow survived my many moves throughout life. When time allows, I’ll have to check out some of your other articles. Thanks for the guide down memory lane!

    • Great hearing from you and your name sounds familiar to me so perhaps we intersected at some point. You may have recognized some of the names from Carnell I threw out to.
      I reminisce in a lot of my blogs so you can search for Moon Landing, etc and find lots of events and reminiscing that we lived through. Thanks for visiting – great hearing from you.

  • Barry Steinbrecher

    Arlene: having a Savant like memory as well, alot of your stories are an incredible trip back in time for me, remembering all these names and places. I was in your class both years with Miss Cohn.

    • So great to hear from you Barry! I was connected to our Miss Cohn on Facebook by her relatives who read the blog! Richard Rettig wrote to me too – he remembered Miss Cohn vividly as well.

  • Mr. Tomkins was a relative , he was an intellectual, a very kind guy as well.

    • He was a kind guy who we liked very much, but he was elderly at the point we had him and not as aware as he might have been. I had great respect for him, and NEVER called him Tommy tumor, just the other kids.

  • Totally amazing, and it brought back so many memories. I have a pretty good memory, but nothing like yours, though I too remember Miss Rabinowitz, who was my kindergarten teacher too. My memories of her were not so positive. I recall that I was trying to invent a color with my crayons, and she told me definitively that trees were not blue. I knew I had seen paintings where they were, but she wasn’t much for imagination.
    Second grade was sour Mrs. Lissy, who looked like Olive Oyl. Fourth grade was the wonderful Mrs. Picardo, who died of cancer sometime during that year. Junior High was not pleasant, but I do remember velour parties, where all of us came to school wearing our brightly colored velour pullovers. I also remember the hated loudspeaker, where the Vice Principal would hold forth daily. Someone repeatedly tore it out of the wall. I think they finally got the message.
    And yes, I remember when Wiseman’s film High School was being filmed, the Space Training Program and the rows of language labs. And so much more.

  • Great to hear these stories as I unfortunately can’t raise these details as well from High School but more so from Grade School. Thanks for your help in recreating this time in history for me.

  • I enjoyed your story, funny, thanks for sharing

  • Unless there were two teachers at Fels that taught French and Spanish, his name was Vreto, not DiVrito. S. Spiro Vreto. I had him in seventh, and got all A’s because I had such a crush on him. Then in 8th and 9th I had Miss Giambalvo who we “affectionately” (ha!) called Balvo. To her credit, I can still recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish because she made us memorize it. Funny, but it never occurred to us to ask her where in the world they say it in Spanish!
    Anyway, nice blog. Thanks for the memories.

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  • Barry Steinbrecher.

    This is amazing Arlene. I remember so much of this.. Our path did. cross at Carnell in 4th and 5th grade in Miss Cohn’s class. Would love to reflect with you my story.

  • Kathleen H Pink

    I have this ability too, and my family and friends are amazed at the detail I remember. Loved reading your blog!

  • I have the same type of memory- can name all my teachers through school (Solis-Cohen, Wilson, Ne). I enjoyed reading yours even though I didn’t know your teachers.

    • Thanks for reading and writing in. I have discovered that a few more are like you and me by people that responded to this in various places. I like having this recall.

  • I have the same type of memory. It is a gift….people are amazed that I can name everyone in my kindergarten pic. I can remember almost all of my clothes I wore to school,shoes,coats,teachers,friends,boyfriends etc.
    I was not popular or in the “in” crowd….I was a gawky looking teenager..lol
    But..I have blossomed.
    I can even remember,being a toddler and can recall and describe moments and events.
    Now that I am no longer a kid,this memory comes in handy for my job..it is very detailed and multi tasked. I remember every customer.
    My daughter likes to tease me,if she needs to remember something..she calls me.
    And I tell her the right answer. She told me,her Dad (my ex) does not remember the details that I do. She says “ Mom,he is not on the ball like you”
    Great article.,as always.
    If I ever retire..lol, I would love to write about my memories –

  • Wow
    You brought back amazing memories
    Teachers’ names I had long forgotten
    I had almost all of those same teachers in Carnell
    I also had Mr. Coyle in 5th grade who was great
    Mr Quarterman was amazing in 6th
    I actually ran into him at the school district Admin building years later when I was a auditing the School District.
    Anyway, your name is familiar but I don’t recall being in the same class as you
    Thanks for the memories

    • Hi Hal, were you a classmate of mine, graduating Carnell in June of 1966? I have our graduation photo of our class to share with you so you can identify yourself. I am sorry that I do not remember all of the boys, but I do remember Howard Chandler, Richard Genter, Jay Comer, and Alan Jaffee were in the class, along with Glenn Goldstein. Do those names ring a bell? You may have graduated one year after.
      Thanks for reading and writing in. I remember just about everything about my days at Carnell. It is really freaky.

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