The Early Sixties

The letter arrived. My application to attend Brown University Graduate School was accepted. I would start with the September 1961 class. I would pursue a Masters Degree in Chemistry during the week and come home weekends. Home at the time was Gloria, Anne, Mike and Karen. Frank would arrive about the end of the semester.

Thinking back, I wonder where I got the courage, chutzpah or stupidity to do such a thing. At the time I had a full time job earning $6000 a year at Abington High School and the opportunity to work part-time as a pharmacist on weekends and vacations. I would give all this up to receive a full scholarship with a stipend of $4000 a year from the National Science Foundation. There were no deductions taken from the stipend while my take-home pay from my job was $5600. I approached my employers, the Abington School Committee, with a request that they pay me the difference of $1600 and if they did, I would return to my job with a Master's degree and be willing to work two years at the Bachelor's level to pay them back. Lots of discussion and questions ensued. I almost had it until one member said it would create a precedent and he was afraid there would be many such requests. It looks like the Gregory family will have to find ways to get by with a lower income. The bills did manage to get paid and everyone had enough to eat, thanks to Gloria.

There were thirty of us. I was the oldest at 34 and the only one with a family. Some of the others were married and had their wives living off campus. There was one unmarried female, a Nun. (I forget her name) We became good friends and helped each other through many problems in our classes and lab work. We were serious students and didn't make the gatherings at the clubs and bars. She didn't for obvious reasons and I didn't because I didn't have the cash. Exams were on the way and a lot was riding on the outcome; Frank was on the way and more was riding on his outcome.
The call came. I left immediately for the Brockton Hospital and arrived just after the birth. I was able to pick Frank out from the others through the window because he looked just like his brother and sisters. In those days, fathers could only see their kids through a window. I guess they didn't want us to get too close to them lest we breathe cigar fumes on them. After a few days, I went back to Providence and passed out cigars and wondered if now I could concentrate entirely on my work.
While I didn't have an impending birth on my mind, I did have the worry of another mouth to feed and Gloria alone with all the kids. They gave the diploma to the wrong person. A month went by and I got a call from Gloria. " Karen can't move her legs." I rushed home and sure enough she couldn't move her legs. We didn't say it, but we thought it. This was at a time when Polio was in an epidemic stage. When you went to the movies, there would be a trailer depicting kids in iron lungs and braces. The lights would come on and we would be asked to contribute to the March Of Dimes. We brought her to the Brockton Hospital where our doctor recommended that the Chief surgeon on the staff do an exploratory surgery. They didn't have Cat Scans or MRI's to look inside and help find why she had the loss of movement in her legs. They were quite sure it wasn't polio. Gloria, who knew the doctors because she had worked as a nurse at the hospital said in no uncertain words, "no way! "Gloria did get them to call the Children's Hospital in Boston and make arrangements for Karen to be examined by the Chief pediatrician, Dr Berenberg.Our fears were calmed when we were informed she had sinuvitis of the hip joints. This is an inflammation between the ball and socket that can only be cleared up by separating them through traction and allowing the inflammation to subside. Karen quickly became her cheerful self and was actually enjoying her stay and all the visits.

All this time, I was worrying about the bill. We didn't have health insurance. After three days, the doctor told us he was not going to charge us and we could bring Karen home. We checked out at the desk and were presented with a bill for $175. Credit cards were unknown. We didn't have a checking account and between us we had about ten dollars. Gloria's father was there and he offered to help. Gloria and I were willing to pay in full if the hospital would accept six monthly payments. They refused. We heard from the lady at the desk about " people like us who demand the best and can't pay. Why did you get the Chief pediatrician Dr Berenberg? Why didn't you get someone else?" Gloria was about to accept her father's offer but after hearing this diatribe told the desk lady, either she accept our offer of the six payments or she can keep Karen in the hospital and run up the bill. We left with Karen and stopped for ice cream on the way home. Those payments really hurt. Gloria was the manager along with her other responsibilities. All I had to do was keep my mind on the structures of organic molecules and whether my thesis would make the grade. A snap compared to what Gloria went through. Graduation arrived and Gloria attended. I introduced her to the Nun and couldn't find anybody else because we were the only two to graduate from the original thirty (thanks to serious external motivation).
I was approached by the Abington School Department with the notice that since I had a Master's degree my salary would be increased by $250.At that time there was a serious shortage of qualified Chemistry teachers and they were glad to think I was returning. My substitute lacked the subject understanding and created an unfortunate situation. In the meantime, I was approached by the Weymouth School Department with an offer of $750 more than Abington's. I took it. I remained at Weymouth for three years and was then approached by Abington and asked to return as Science Department Head. We couldn't settle on a salary. We were $1600 apart. They said they couldn't give me that much because it would place me above the maximum on the salary schedule and it would "set a precedent". It was the same amount they wouldn't give five years earlier because it would "set a precedent". I got it. They set a precedent by paying outside the schedule . It felt good.