Saturday, October 24, 2009

The United Nations Seminars

In the early days of what later became known as New York trips, I was a part of groups from NC who attended U.N. Seminars sponsored by Friends United Meeting.  These seminars were held each November and attracted high school students from all over the U.S.  I first attended in 1976 as a high school senior, and then went again in 1978 as a "part time chaperon."  I attended again in 1979, 1981 and 1982, and then beginning in 1987 I went back numerous times, often as the planner and leader of the trip.  Those first few years I learned so much about the city and about leading a large group, information that I put to good use in later years.  Those early years run together in my mind a bit, but there are some things I do remember...
  • In 1978 while we were in the city, Jim Jones and his followers all "drank the kool-aid" and killed themselves in Guyana.
  • That same year, the late Joe Cannady (a dear friend from New Garden) got smacked in the face on the boat to Liberty Island.  There was a set of identical twins we knew from Quaker Lake- Angela and Rene Dentiste.  They were very attractive young women who were quite difficult to tell apart unless you knew the secrets- like which one wore braces, and which one had a bigger, uh, shoe size!  They were seldom apart, but on this trip only Rene was with the group.  Joe was trying to flirt with her, and as he talked he called her Angela.  She was not happy, and told him so, saying "I'm not Angela- I'm Rene!"  To which Joe, bless his heart, replied "What's the difference?"  It got ugly fast... 
  • For many years the seminar part of the trip was conducted by and at the United Methodist Center at the U.N.  Strangely enough, we quit using the Methodist Center not long after I began working at a Methodist Church!
  • Also in 1978, our topic at the U.N. was "Peace in the Middle East," and we had representatives from Israel and Egypt speak at our sessions.  But the one I really remember was when a PLO rep came in the room while an Israeli was still there- the conversation was quite animated!  Those 2 groups felt about each other the way FOX News feels about President Obama! 
  • In those days we stayed at the Hotel Tudor, a formerly ritzy place at 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue, near the U.N.  One of the things I remember about the Tudor is that is had two separate sides, and you could not get from one to the other without taking the elevator to the Lobby.  Made it very difficult to sneak around after lights out...
  • On Sunday mornings we would walk for MILES to attend 15th Street Friends Meeting (actually we walked for miles every day, everywhere we went!), a very interesting traditional Quaker Meeting where you never knew what you might hear- and usually it concerned politics.
  • One year, I think 1981, we drove vans to New York instead of chartering a bus.  This was fine until we got to the city and discovered there is no place to park a 15 passenger van in New York.  I nearly had a nervous breakdown driving around Manhattan looking for parking!  We also missed a turn in the middle of the night on the way home, and the trip took an extra two hours.  And even with that, Leigh Ann Everhart still never figured out the "it can be Snoopy, but it can't be a dog" brain game...
  • We would always attend a Broadway play (later we would attend two, sometimes three) and one year Paula Teague, who was in charge for FUM, got us tickets to see A Chorus Line.  This was fine until they performed the song about "T & A" and Paula nearly died from embarrassment!  She was going to call and resign then and there, but we stopped her!
  • In those days Times Square was a real dump.  Hookers, drug dealers and other dangerous types were everywhere.  It was quite an education for kids from Iowa, Indiana and NC.
  • In 1981 Marilyn (still 5 years away from being my wife) went with us for the first time- the first of many.  New York will always be a special place for the two of us.

Those were some great trips.  We spent hours talking international politics, seeing the tourist sites, and learning a great deal about the world we lived in.  I also made good friends from all over the country.  In later years, we moved away from the seminar model because the Methodist Center quit finding interesting speakers and being creative with their teaching.  But the Big Apple never lost its' appeal...and the stories just kept getting better!  So keep reading...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!