When I die some poor soul is going to have to make an expedition up to my attic and decide what to do with more than 40 years worth of hand-written notes, source material, rough drafts, and magazine and newspaper clippings that comprise the work that has managed to support me all these years.
I offer one piece of advice to that unlucky person: Throw it all away. Nobody will be able to read my handwriting and, even if they do, it won’t mean anything to anyone but me.
Well, most anyone. Just this week I heard from two people recalling the good old days of the 1970s — as memorialized so some small extent by my attic archives.
The first E-mail, from Princeton resident Susan Wilson, was in response to my column of May 13, on the off-hand remarks of HiTops honoree Shelby Knox, the 22-year-old sex education proponent from Lubbock, Texas. I had interviewed Wilson back in the late 1970s, when she was at the forefront of the New Jersey battle to bring sex education into the public schools.
To quote from Wilson’s E-mail:
“You may not believe this, but this morning when I handed my husband [former Time Inc. executive and founding publisher of NJ BIZ} a copy of U. S. 1, I had plucked off the counter at Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen, I said: ‘I should get in touch with Rich sometime and bring him up-to-date on what I have done in the field of sex education, because he interviewed me for a story he was doing on the State Board of Education’s attempt to have a statewide requirement for family life/sex education.’ And I still remember the question you asked me.
[Oddly enough, 30 years ago I had asked Wilson the same question I asked Shelby Knox at the HiTOPS fundraiser: What, if anything, in her life caused her to become involved in sex education as an issue? Wilson’s answer wasn’t quite as dramatic at Knox’s — she was simply an early childhood educator serving on the state Board of Education who was appointed to a task force to study the subject and then got caught up by the challenge of it.]
“Anyway,” Wilson continues in her E-mail, “fast forward to this issue. My husband handed the paper back to me after several hours and said: ‘Check out the story that Rein wrote about sex education,’ which of course I did. Good story.
“I have a possible sequel for you as the father of two teenage sons: Check out www.sex.org and it will give you some information about some of work that I did as executive director of the Network for Family Life Education (now called Answer, Sex Ed Honestly), located at Rutgers from the years 1982-2005 when I retired at age 75. Our greatest claim to fame was the development of a free newsletter, Sex,Etc., written by NJ teens for teens in all states which has now morphed into a magazine.
At its high water mark, the newsletter reached 600,000 teens across the country through a network of 7,000 adults mostly in public schools but in many other venues. We added a website that gets 20,000 visitors every day. The magazine is now subscription-based but we distribute about 35,000 free copies too. Your sons might like to subscribe to it or together you can explore the website.
“As for me, I write a blog for sex educators on the ANSWER website. You can, if interested, find it at answer.rutgers.edu/blog/.”
Within a day of Wilson’s E-mail I received another, this one from a music administrator in southern California, also reminiscing about the ‘70s, in particular about T. Harding Jones, the young conservative Princetonian who became the point person for the controversial Concerned Alumni of Princeton group. After Jones died of cancer in 2007 I wrote a column reflecting on his life (U.S. 1, October 17, 2007).
“I worked at Westminster Choir College in Princeton from 1971 to 1976, and I would see him coming and going around Nassau Street. He was a very colorful presence and had an almost regal quality about the way he carried himself. Through some friends at Princeton, I heard about CAP and some its stands on various issues. They called him ‘T.’ Was that actually what friends called him?
“I only had one occasion to speak with him — possibly it was after a play at McCarter Theater — but I have no recollection of what was said. I was definitely in awe of him; he was that man-of-the-world I thought I wanted to be. And that square jaw! Who couldn’t admire that?
“I was very young when I worked at Westminster, still very impressionable. The Princeton campus was imposing, its academic standing in the world on a different plane than Westminster. But I loved walking on the campus. It was magical, a wonderful place to walk at night, especially the warm months. In the summer the campus was typically deserted, and the feel of those languid New Jersey nights is still with me.
“I thought of Harding yesterday, I have no idea why after so many years, and I typed his name into Google and found your insightful, beautifully written piece.”
What remains of my life in the ’70s is all up there in attic. I am tempted to begin rooting around, in particular for that article on Susan Wilson and the early days of sex education in New Jersey. But instead I decide to enjoy the languid New Jersey night.