Mr Lampert Made SJV More Like Home

by Jim Brown

I remember a man who I found to be a strong positive influence on me as I am sure he had on many others, Mr. Bob Lampert. He was the Senior Boy's Cottage prefect. Here are a few of the many memories I have of him during the three years of my stay.

Just outside the door of the playroom in the Senior Boy's Cottage was a grassed area that Mr. Lampert turned into a beautiful patio with four picnic tables, umbrellas, and some landscaping. It took $100, his labor, and that of the boys. He bought a lamppost and wired it up to a switch inside the playroom. He had a cement truck come in to pour four square slabs upon which he placed picnic tables. You can see two of the slabs that remain today on the Senior Boys Cottage page of the "Virtual Tour of the Village Today" feature on StJosephsVillage.com. In the center you can spot the hole for the umbrella pole. He added white stones in-between the slabs and encircled the area with landscaping. We spent a lot of time out there playing at the tables and even having some picnics -- if my memory serves me right.

On one of our many trips to the New York World's Fair, I had nobody who wanted to go around with me and since I always enjoyed the knowledge and wisdom of adults, I asked Mr. Lampert if I could tour the fair that day with him. He wanted to see the cultural type exhibits and I wanted to see industrials like the General Motors Futura-Rama, IBM People Wall, and GE Progress Land. So we did both. One of his choices was "To Be Alive" at the Johnson Wax pavilion. I discovered that I too was inspired by this three screen motion picture that celebrated the beauty of life. I remember annoying him a bit when I complained that we did not have as nice a theater and projector system back at the Village. I have a vivid memory of the fair and today I am a member of a NYWF historical group (www.nywf64.com) One memory that stands out is sharing the fair and this pavilion with Mr. Lampert.

Although he had to divide his attention evenly among twenty-four kids at a time, he recognized my need to connect with adults for intellectual stimulation and often found himself partial to attending to my interests. Knowing I was exceptionally advanced in technical aptitude for my age, he allowed me to work with him in the projection booth showing the Friday night movies. After a while, I ran the booth myself and thus became the Village's projectionist. I wrote a story describing our 35mm theater type projectors. (See post #215 on the Yahoo sjvillage discussion group) I also handled the lighting on many of the Village's stage productions which Mr. Lampert built scenery for and helped in the staging design.

And speaking of building, there was a shop where Mr. Lampert spent many of evenings working with the boys who built wood projects. (see the Gymnasium Building section of the Virtual Tour to see the room today.) One year he had the boys build mangers with textured flocking to be sold as a fund-raiser for the Village. The used sawdust to make the flocking -- he was inventive. Once again Mr. Lampert nurtured my interest in things that had to do with theaters, stages, and world fair shows, by assisting me in conceiving and building a puppet stage that was complete with curtain rigging and a lighting system. Sr. Francis, Senior Boy's Cottage house mother, sewn the curtains and many of the other boys participated in the shows presented on the stage. I could elaborate more but I refer you to read "The Don Bosco Theater."

I vaguely remember that Mr. Lampert was also my conformation sponsor.

There was a time when Mr. Lampert would treat the senior boys, one dorm at a time, to a Friday overnight stay at his Park Ridge home. With excitement from the anticipation, we gathered our PJs and piled all six of us into his car. His house was cold until the heat had a chance to come up after he was away living at the Village for the days that he was on duty. Our temporary "dorm" was an empty room of the house where he spread several mattresses on the floor. In the morning we woke to the smell of pancakes. And then it was the trip back to the Village till the other three dorms had a chance to go.

It was Mr. Lampert ,who often drove the school bus, took the older boys and girls to many Christmas parties thrown by organizations and to Far Rockaway Beach, among other places. He got permission from the sisters to also take us on trips to Englewood to shop for Christmas and the World's Fair, just to name a few that come to mind.

I hated sports, but I must add that he was very active in getting a football team organized that the Village could be proud of.

I remember when it was super cold one day and it had just snowed. He took us over the state line into New York where there was a golf course to allow us to go sledding. The sledding was fun but the fun stoped when I got nearly frostbitten and was so glad when we finally got back to the cottage and I felt the warmth of the vestibule of the cottage's outside entrance.

On the other temperature extreme, we hiked -- and I mean we hiked -- in what was said to be one of the hottest and most humid days of the summer up to and through the Alpine Boy Scout Camp. I was inches away from heat exhaustion.

In between was a beautiful comfortable day when Mr. Lampert took the boys up through the East hill of Rockleigh, past the Lamont Geophysical Laboratory, and to the woods where we came upon a deserted palace garden hidden along the Palisades cliffs. We saw what looked like ruins of Athens: stone pillars covered in moss; many now discolored white walls; and broken steps. Weeds and heavy vegetation grew where there must have once been well manicured gardens. A waterfall cascaded into what looked like a roman bath. We were let to take off our clothes down to our briefs and take a dip, but when a kid announced that there were water moccasins in there, there was no way you would get me to go in. I only got to daringly splash the surface of the crystal clear cool water for a bit with by feet.

Mr. Lampert was like a real father to us boys of the cottage. Like a father, he taught us about growing into adulthood -- one time securing a doctor Fox to come to the cottage to tell us about the birds-and-the-bees -- you know we joked aboutthat for weeks. He was always looking to make this institution more like a real home. I recently heard that Mr. Lampert went to bat for the children when he needed to do so.