In the spring of 1945, two terrible events occurred. Jerry Friend was killed. He had wanted to join the Navy but had not been accepted, since he was colorblind; instead, he had joined the Army Corps of Engineers, but never got into their Officer Candidate School because after basic training he was immediately sent to the European battlefield. After the Allies had lost ground in the Battle of the Bulge, in early March 1945, they crossed again into Germany at the Remagen Bridge. Jerry was one of the first to cross that bridge, and was killed while attempting to disable a mine. His death left a big hole in my life. As I was still trying to come to terms with it, President Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12, 1945. His death also hit me hard.
The war ended before I graduated college in early 1946. The engineering program had taken me two years and seven months. I had just turned nineteen. On graduation day, there were dual ceremonies; in the first, I received my college diploma, and in the second, my commission as an ensign in the Navy. I was equally proud of both.
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My own service duty was without hazard. With a complement of other junior officers from various colleges, I took training at Newport, Rhode Island and was then stationed aboard the U.S.S. Columbia, a light cruiser that had served for years in the Pacific, had been hit by a kamikaze plane, and was now on the verge of being retired. When we went on board we were asked about our hobbies. I put down photography and was promptly named the ship’s photographic officer. We steamed up and down the East Coast, and the Caribbean, and even along the St. Lawrence River for a ceremony in Quebec. At the various ports, we participated in parades and reviews, accepting accolades from the public that were really tributes to the sailors who had actually fought aboard the Columbia in the war. Later I’d joke about my combat experience in the “Battle of Bermuda.”
Emerging from the service, I had no idea of what to do for a career or how to earn a living. Since my father was long gone, I had no knowledge or real connection to the Tishman Realty firm, and no interest in it. One day I visited Walden to see my high school teacher and friends. On that day, the regular high school math teacher called in, saying he had pink eye, a highly infectious conjunctivitis, and I was drafted to take over his classes for a spell. Shortly, when it became clear that the math teacher was not going to return to his post, I was asked to stay on for a year as the high school math teacher.
I liked teaching and discovered that I was pretty good at it. I developed a new friend in fellow instructor Hans Maeder, who taught German and European History at Walden. Maeder, whose German accent was quite thick, was a refugee from Nazi Germany, albeit not a Jewish one. He had led an anti-Hitler youth group and later had been hidden from the Nazis by a Dutch family. He escaped to South Africa, and taught there and in the Philippines before coming to the U.S.
On weekends, Hans and I would take the Walden juniors and seniors camping near Croton, north of New York City, along the Hudson River. During my time at Walden, Hans was appointed director of the school, but he really wanted to start a school of his own. Some teachers from Johns Hopkins had tried to start a school in the Berk-shires, but had been unable to do so. Hans and his wife, Ruth, bought