Headmaster’s Thoughts – January 2011

Happy New Year from your local friendly dinosaur.


Yes, I am a dinosaur. I was born during the Second World War and evacuated from London soon after birth because Hitler began dropping V2 rockets on my home city. I grew up in a country that had food rationing and yet pretended it was a great power. I lived in a household that had no television and yet would gather around the radio every week to listen and laugh together to programs like “The Goon Show” with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harold Secombe. The only electric gadget in my room was a light bulb. We had one phone in the house (which I never used) and one bathroom.


When I first went to school, I was two years old and travelled with my four-year-old sister to the school on two trolley buses (we had to change from one to another). We went alone. My parents never thought we would be in danger. They worried more about my tendency to lose things. My gloves had a long string that connected them to each other through the arms of my coat.


I joined the public library when I was four and went there increasingly until it was a daily event by the time I was I was fourteen. On that fourteenth birthday, my school allowed me to attend with long trousers (grey flannels); until then, I was only allowed to attend in short trousers (grey flannels).


I went to a university that required a high proficiency in Latin to enter. Regardless of whether you were going to study physics, poetry or, in my case, law, you had to have passed a difficult national exam in Latin. At that university I had to wear a shirt and tie and an academic gown for every university function, which included dining at the college as well as going to tutorials or exams. I proudly wore a long gown because I was a scholarship winner, which is all very well until you start riding your bicycle with it on.


I am a dinosaur because in every school I went to, we had to stand up silently when the teacher walked into the room. We used nib pens, which we dipped in ink pots to write with.  We wore uniforms with regulation school socks (now that is a uniform!).


I am a dinosaur because I grew up in an age when no one took vitamins, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers; all they did was smoke and drink (I didn’t say it was a better age, just a previous age).


I am a dinosaur because I do not fully understand this world. I can use a computer for simple tasks, but I cannot do what most current twelve-year-olds can do with it. I never carry a cell phone because I find them intensely annoying when they go off at a time when they should not go off. I take a baby aspirin every night because my doctor tells me to, although I really have no understanding of what it will do for me. I am clearly a foolish dinosaur.


I am a dinosaur because my value system is not the value system of the age I am living in. That is not to say it is better or worse; it is just hugely different. Perhaps we should not go there because it may make me sound like a prude. Most dinosaurs of my generation were (not all are still alive).


I am a dinosaur who lives in New York and loves what he is doing.


Happy 2011 from those of us born in 1944—your local friendly dinosaurs.



Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster

E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org



“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.