Mendel Letters 32 — Miss Berkowitz
June 5, 2021
My best teacher ever was my ninth grade math and “official” teacher Miss Brenda Berkowitz at Junior High School 82 on Macombs Road and University Avenue in the Bronx. In those days students in the SP skipped 8th grade so ninth grade was still junior high school.
This was 1963–1964 and Miss Berkowitz must have been a relatively new teacher at the time and probably was in her early twenties. She realized that I sometimes didn’t have lunch money. I didn’t have a mother and my father might run out to work without leaving change to buy lunch. There was a deli on Tremont Avenue around the corner from the school where you could buy a salami hero with plenty of mustard for 25 cents, 30 cents if you wanted potato salad added.
Miss Berkowitz recruited me for the math team that met in her room during lunchtime. If I didn’t have lunch she would lend me a quarter to go to the deli. I wasn’t very good on the math team, we always lost to our arch-rivals Wade and Jordan L. Mott, but I got a hundred on the Algebra Regents that June.
I went back to JHS 82 seven years later as a student teacher during my senior year of college but Miss Berkowitz was gone and I still have salami sandwiches for lunch most days.
Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.
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