Posts tagged: Hamilton Square

The Fastest Kid in 5th Grade

I wrote this story and presented it for a Tall Tale contest at my Toastmasters Club.

I was the fastest kid in 5th grade. I was in Mr. Clappaloochi’s class at Hamilton Square school in the early 1960s. He liked to have races between students during our class recess.

We would just go out in the ball fields and run. He would pick a couple kids for a race and say run to that pole and back. It was good exercise before I ever knew what a gym class was. I kind of liked running because I was fast and I usually won.

I even beat Tommy Schrudenfaster and Carly Runallday on a regular basis. They came close, but they never beat me. Carly was a girl, but she was pretty fast too. I was smaller than I am now and I could run all day.

Eventually, Mr. Clappaloochi got bored watching me beat all of the other kids in our class all the time so he challenged another 5th grade teacher and her class. I beat all of them too.

Mr. Clappaloochi got tired of watching me beat all of those kids too so he went to the Principal, Miss Ezzler Mezzler. He asked her if she would challenge another school to a race against me. Ezzler Mezzler said yes. I beat those 5th graders too.

Miss Ezzler Mezzler challenged every grammar school in Hamilton Township to a race. One by one, I beat them all. I even got my name and picture in the Hamilton Tattler, the local paper.

It said, “John Tedder, The fastest kid in 5th grade.” The picture of me was posed with me looking over my shoulder smiling at the camera pretending I was running.

Mr. Clappaloochi really liked his races. He arranged for me to run at the Mercer County Fair. He took out a newspaper ad and he said I could beat any 5th grader in Mercer County. I was really feeling the pressure, but I won again.

Next, I raced at the NJ State Fair when it was a really nice fair with cows and everything. I got new sneaks for that race. I got a pair of white, high top U.S. Keds. They were $2 a pair.

At the State Fair, Mr. Clappaloochi and Miss Ezzler Mezzler cheered me on at every race. I beat all of the other 5th graders and it wasn’t even close. Well, some of the races were close, but nobody beat me.

After that, I got invited to race at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. What an honor. It was there that I met, for the first time but not the last, —-Forrest Gump. Thee Forrest Gump.

Nobody knew who he was at the time. He wasn’t famous or anything yet. There was no Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. He wasn’t a ping pong champion. He hadn’t met Lieutenant Dan yet either. But he was fast.

It was a close race, but he beat me fair and square. I think it was Jenny cheering him on from the sidelines that did it. Mr. Clappaloochi was inconsolable. He wept. Miss Ezzler Mezzler said to me, “Ya done good John. Ya done good.”

Forrest, I found out later, wasn’t really a 5th grader. He stayed back a year in 2nd grade. He should have been a 6th grader.

So you see, I really was the fastest kid in 5th grade.

The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches & Joe Karbo

The front cover of The Lazy Man's Way to Riches by Joe Karbo

The front cover of The Lazy Man's Way to Riches by Joe Karbo

I first discovered “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” by Joe Karbo while browsing through the Nottingham Bookstore in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. This was sometime back in the mid-70’s. My father, Howard Tedder,  owned the store. It was a paperback book, 6 inches x 9 inches and 3/8 of an inch thick. In the top right corner of the cover it said: $1000 Not the selling price but guaranteed to be what it is worth to you – at the very least. My father had priced the book at $5.00. (Some used copies today are listed for $25 to $50 on Amazon and Ebay.) I don’t know if he ever read it and I can’t remember if I paid him the $5.00 for it. I probably didn’t. I often took books that I liked home and brought them back after I read them. I “paid” for the books by working at the store fairly frequently, cleaning the store, and moving lots and lots of books around.

I took “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” home and read it and I have kept it all these years. When I am going through the books on my bookshelves to make some space, I never even consider throwing it out.  I have never seen another copy of it for sale in a used book store anywhere and I have been to quite a few used book stores. The book that I have is Copyright 1973 Joe Karbo, 17105 S. Pacific, Sunset Beach, CA 90742. The book was originally sold for $10.00 by mail order through advertisements that Joe Karbo wrote and placed in newspapers and magazines.  It wasn’t sold in stores. At the time, a paperback book sold in a bookstore for around $1.95. “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” was expensive compared to a regular paper back book.

The book is divided into two parts, book one and book two. They each have eight chapters and a question and answer section.  Book one talks about “Dyna/Psyc: the programmed study and practice of achieving success by the planned application of important but little understood natural laws.” It talks about an inadequate self image, fear, making lists, turning lists into goals, daily declarations, affirmations, visualization, and letting your unconscious computer (your mind) solve problems for you.

The back cover of The Lazy Man's Way to Riches. Double click the image to enlarge.

The back cover of The Lazy Man's Way to Riches. Double click the image to enlarge it.

Book two talks about creativity, turning problems into opportunities and the direct response business (mail order).  Joe goes into quite a bit of detail regarding the mail order business and a lot of the information applies to other types of businesses as well. I think it is an interesting book, well-written, and well worth reading. Joe writes in an easy-going, friendly manner. It is as if he is right there sitting in the room with you explaining everything in person. He gets right to the point of what he wants to say and he packs a lot of good information into the 156 pages of the book. I know there is value in it and I recommend it.

The book sold over 2,700,000 (2 million 700 hundred thousand) copies by the time Joe Karbo died. According to an interesting article on The Lazy Man’s, Joe died in 1980 at age 55 from a heart attack while being interviewed by a TV station news crew. I have not been able (so far) to find a newspaper obituary for Joe Karbo.

The advertisements for the book are as famous as the book itself. Copywriters and advertising people to this day use Joe Karbo’s ad as an example of how to write a great ad. The subtitle for the ad is “Most People Are Too Busy Earning a Living to Make Any Money.” I remember seeing and reading the ads in newspapers and magazines back in the 70’s.

Although I never actually ordered the book by mail, I did try my hand at mail order in the late 80’s by selling a trivia booklet that I wrote and printed.  It was not a success. I can’t recall though, 20 years later, whether or not I was actually inspired to try mail order by reading “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” or whether something else triggered my attempt. In any case, I know that I referred to the book and used some of the mail order information in it when I was working on how to market my product.

The Joe Karbo ad that was placed in newspapers and magazines all over the country. Double click on the image to enlarge it

The Joe Karbo ad that was placed in newspapers and magazines all over the country. Double click on the image to enlarge it

Regardless, here is a copy of the actual ad that ran in newspapers and magazines all over the country.

If you have any stories or opinions about Joe Karbo and The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches or this post, I would love to hear your comments.

Christmas Memories

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2008The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center this year (2008) is from my hometown of Hamilton, New Jersey.  My father was a friend of Bill Varanyak, whose family donated the tree, and I know Bill too. My son works right down the street from where the tree stood for 77 years. I must have driven past this tree a few thousand times. You can read a story about the tree and the Varanyak family here in a Daily News article.

The photo of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree above was taken by my friend Jody Marchin. Double-click on the photo for a larger view.

The Times of Trenton has a nice article too, but it no longer has a picture of the tree. When the tree is taken down after Christmas, it will be used to help build a Habitat for Humanity home. Scientific American has a nice story about that and a picture of the tree lit up by its 30,000 LED lights.

I’m listening to a John Denver CD, “Christmas in Concert” to get me in the Christmas spirit. It was originally recorded live at the D.A.R (Daughters of the American Revolution) Constitution Hall in Washington, DC on December 19th and 20th, 1996. I listen to it every Christmas. The World Children’s Choir sings with John on some of the selections including “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The National Symphony Orchestra accompanies John on this CD too. “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” and the story of “Alfie, The Christmas Tree” are two other interesting tracks. John talks with the choir and the audience and tells a few stories during the concert. It is a great live album. Does anyone besides me still say “album?” The CD that I bought years ago contains a booklet written by Joseph F. Laredo that gives some background on the concert and each song that is played. Add this CD to your collection of Christmas music.

My favorite song on the CD and one of my favorite Christmas songs, period, is “A Baby Just Like You.” The song was inspired by comments that Frank Sinatra made to John after Frank became a grandfather. It was written about John’s son Zachary. I have always loved this song.

A Baby Just Like You by John Denver and Joe Henry

The season is upon us now
A time for gifts and giving
And as the year draws to its close
I think about my living

The Christmas time when I was young
The magic and the wonder
But colors dull and candles dim
And dark my standing under

Oh little angel , shining light
You’ve set my soul to dreaming
You’ve given back my joy in life
And filled me with new meaning

A saviour King was born that day
A baby just like you
And as the Magi came with gifts
I come with my gift too

That peace on earth fills up your time
And brotherhood surrounds you
That you may know the warmth of love
And wrap it all around you

It’s just a wish, a dream I’m told
From days when I was young
Merry Christmas little Zachary, Merry Christmas everyone
Merry Christmas little Zachary, Merry Christmas everyone

Taking the Train to Philadelphia

When I was in elementary school, my grandmother and grandfather used to take me, my brother and my cousin on the train to Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. My grandfather would pick us up at school and take us to the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Trenton, New Jersey. My grandmother worked for the railroad and sold tickets at the station. As soon as she finished work, we would hop on the train. I have always loved riding on trains, perhaps because of this Christmas tradition.

We would go to the Wanamaker store as soon as we arrived in Philadelphia. It was always beautifully decorated for Christmas. My grandmother would go Christmas shopping and my grandfather would take us to the toy department. We were told that if we ever got lost, to come back to the giant eagle near the entrance to the store.

There was a monorail train, called the Rocket Express, that ran around the ceiling in Wanamakers and if you were a little kid, you could ride in it. That was always a lot of fun. The monorail is now at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.  When my grandmother was done shopping, we would go out to eat at a nice restaurant in Philadelphia and then take the train home again. My sisters and girl cousins would have their own trip to Philadelphia on another day.

Grandma Dunham’s Gift Package

One Christmas, I couldn’t think of what to give my grandmother who was 80 years old or so at the time. I decided to get her a bunch of different “treats” that she wouldn’t normally buy for herself. I basically went to the supermarket and created my own gift basket for her. There was candy, fruit, crackers, a jar of jelly, nuts, etc. I packed it all in an ordinary box with tissue paper and wrapped it up. We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve at my parents house. When my grandmother opened her present, she was delighted. She acted like an eight year old getting a new favorite toy. She was almost as giddy as Scrooge on Christmas morning after the three spirits had visited. Just seeing the happy look on her face was priceless. She told me that when she was a small child growing up in Stoke-On-Trent in England, she would get a single apple or piece of fruit for Christmas. That was it. I continued to give her a box of treats every Christmas as long as she lived. She always loved what I got her.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

Can Kindergarten Scar You For Life?

Hamilton Square SchoolCan one stupid incident in kindergarten scar you for life? Can it hold you back from doing certain things for years, until you are finally able to overcome your fear? Yes. It can.

I still remember being in kindergarten at Hamilton Square School. It was 1958. Fifty years ago. I can still see the teacher in front of the class. I will call her Mrs. L. instead of using her real name. I was sitting far to her right in the first row. She asked the class a question and I was eager to answer. I stood up, waved my arm wildly in the air so that she would see me and yelled, “Hey Mrs. L., hey Mrs. L.” She turned and looked at me and admonished me for saying “hey.” I can’t recall exactly what she said, but the whole class laughed at me and I sat down embarrassed and dejected.

It took me 23 years to get over that. I don’t think that she meant to “scar me for life”, but I’m also sure she didn’t realize how much she hurt me either. Whenever I think back to how I became afraid to speak in front of a group, this is where it leads me.

Except for the antics of one young boy who didn’t want to leave his mother at the beginning of the year, this incident is all I remember from my first year of school. In fourth grade my class put on a play about Christopher Columbus. My best friend played Columbus and I was in charge of pulling the curtain. I did not want to be on the stage facing an audience and having to recite lines.

In fifth grade one day, my teacher asked me to go to the front of the class. He then began grilling me with questions about what I was going to do on my summer vacation. That was just torture to be in front of the class like that. I was enormously relieved to be able to sit down again.

I don’t recall every incident in middle school and high school where I had to give a report in front of the class, but I do know that I dreaded every single one. Dreaded. I would worry about it constantly from the time the assignment was given, until it was over and somehow I survived. I was involved in all of the class plays, but behind the scenes working the lights. I knew the actors on stage and I admired them and respected them just for getting up there. I dropped out of a college Sociology course after the first class, when I learned I was going to have to give a presentation to pass the course.

It’s interesting to me, writing about this, and remembering that I played organized baseball from the time I was 9 until I was 18. I pitched in Little League, Babe Ruth League and Senior Babe Ruth. When you are the pitcher, everyone is watching you and you are the center of attention. That never bothered me. In fact, I liked it. I was very confident when I was pitching, even when I wasn’t pitching well. I just never connected pitching with speaking in front of a class or being on stage in a class play.

In 1980 I participated in a three day workshop in New York City called RelationShop. I have already written about some of that in a previous story, “Thanks For Having The Courage To Be Here.” In the workshop there are two co-leaders and several assistants who help them. They run microphones, hand out name tags, keep the room clean and make sure the chairs are lined up straight. I volunteered to assist at several workshops.

At the end of the workshop, the assistants are invited onto the stage to be recognized. Now, you don’t have to give a speech. You don’t even have to say anything, I don’t think. You could probably just smile and wave if you wanted. Of course, on the last night, just before this is supposed to happen, I am freaking out. I did not want to have to go onto that stage. No way. Fortunately, some of the other assistants supported me. I explained the situation and how panicked I was to Carla. She supported me by holding my hand and walking onto the stage with me as the other assistants followed. Carla was a Montessori school teacher at the time. I might have even been first in the line on stage.

Larry, one of the co-leaders of the workshop, was standing a few feet away. I remember starting out by saying something about how terrified I was just to be in front of so many people. I think there might have been 70 people in the room. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I ended up talking for 20 minutes!   Someone said it was the longest “thank you” speech that anyone in RelationShop had ever given. I remember that the audience was very supportive of me too. Once I admitted that I was scared to death, I just kept going. I got a big round of applause from everyone at the end. It was a really big deal for me. At the end of 20 minutes, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

I think that was the day I finally graduated from kindergarten. I was 28 years old. A week later, I went to a Retrospective for the workshop in New York City. It’s an opportunity for graduates of the workshop to get back together and introduce their friends and family to RelationShop. One of the participants who heard me give my 20 minute talk, asked me if I would come to Rockefeller University, where he worked, to give a talk about the workshop. It took me a minute or two, but I said yes. I went there a few weeks later and spoke for quite a while to a group of approximately 100 people about the workshop. I didn’t have any fear or anxiety. It was quite amazing to me that I could do that.

In the years since, I have been able to speak up at meetings and events with out any fear. It is truly one less thing to worry about. I’ve read that fear of public speaking is the number one fear that some people have. Jerry Seinfeld even made a joke that some people would rather be the dead body in the casket than give the eulogy at a funeral. I don’t know about that.

If it is such a big fear, why don’t schools try and identify kids who have it and help them? The younger the better. I would have been a much better student if I wasn’t glossophobic all through school. I don’t recall ever hearing the word glossopobia until recently. The name comes from Greek, glossa, meaning tongue and phobos, meaning fear or dread. There is even a website called, “” where you can read more about it.

I went to my first Toastmasters meeting recently. Steve Pavlina has written some stories about Toastmasters on his blog. Those articles got me interested. Then, a few months ago, I found out through a story in the newspaper, that a good friend of mine belonged to a local Toastmasters group. For some reason he never mentioned it. That is kind of ironic when you think about it.

Toastmasters International helps people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. I really enjoyed my first meeting. It lasted about two hours. Everyone was very nice and I really felt comfortable. I will be going back next week to give my “Ice Breaker” speech.

I would love to hear your comments about this topic and about this post.

The building in the picture at the top of this post is where I went to kindergarten. It was called Hamilton Square school at the time. It has been the Board of Education building for at least 25 years, maybe more. It’s hard to see in the picture, but over the doorway it says, “Knowledge Comes, But Wisdom Lingers.” There are also four icons below the saying. They are an open book, a candle in a candle holder, a lamp that looks like if you rubbed it a genie would come out and a globe. My kindergarten class picture was taken in front of these doors. I still have the picture.

Image | WordPress Themes