Daily Archives: October 27, 2006

Ethical Culture Society

One of the reasons I wrote about E. Fred Garel, Jr. in my previous post was that I noticed he worked from 1957-1985 at the Ethical Culture Society

My wife worked at Ethical for a couple of years, working closely with a teacher who became a family friend.

Our friend the teacher is retired now. We see her a few times a year, and she has joined us for many Thanksgiving celebrations at our house. She and my oldest daughter have a special bond in that they share the same birthday
One of my favorite stories is about her early days in the 1950’s working as a teacher in Brooklyn. From time to time one of the class parents would come in to sing to the students. He was a good singer. Indeed, I’m sure he wrote most of the songs he sang to that class. His name was Woody Guthrie.

E. Fred Garel, Jr. May his memory be a blessing

I write of Mr. Garel because I happened to see an article about his recent passing in today’s New York Times. He was a volunteer in the truest sense, as is evident from the start of of the article:

GAREL, E. Fred, Jr.

85, On October 23, after a brief illness. Born May 8, 1921 to Elmer F. and Rosina Murphy Gorel, he lived most of his life in NYC, where he worked as a printer, short order cook, oiler, elevator operator, hospital orderly and — at the Ethical Culture Society 1957-1985 — maintenance supervisor and, later, community service worker. Active in starting up many social action programs, Project FIND, SAGE, Prison Reform Task Force, homeless shelters, etc. Volunteer cook at Catholic Worker and Goddard-Riverside’s The Other Place. Studied with Institute for the Crippled and Disabled, the “labor school” of Fathers Corridon and Carey, Institute of Theology at St. John the Divine. Received Martin Luther King, Jr. Award the community service from Lincoln Square Community Council, 1985. His autobiography, “Lighting the Lamps,” was published in 2002.

The title of his autobiography, “Lighting the Lamps,” brings to mind another post in this blog on volunteerism, It is better to light just one little LAMP … Please, please, help Sahana.

TTWP Puzzler #1: Solution

Here’s the answer to the puzzler posed in my prior post:

I went to a store a few days ago. I knew the bill would be under four dollars. When I took out my wallet I noticed I had four one-dollar bills. If you had been standing nearby where you could see my hands you would have seen me do something with those four one-dollar bills. What did I do? What does it tell you about me?

You would have seen me arranging the four one-dollar bills so that each was facing the same way, with the portrait of George Washington on top, with the top of his head nearest my right hand. [1]

That means I once had a job handling cash. For most folks that would be on the other side of the cash register, but in my case it was I once drove a taxi in NYC on a part-time basis for several months. In my first day on the job, the garage manager told me I had to sort the paper bills before I handed them in, to make their life easier. [2]

I asked the person who took my sorted stack a few days ago if they had to sort the bills. They said yes, it was part of their job. That’s why I do it from time to time to this day, almost forty years since I drove a cab. My doing the sort makes life easier for the person on the other side of the cash register.

This is just one example of the way in which having an insight into someone else’s job can change your behavior. For example, my oldest daughter Alison worked for several years as a long-haul trick driver. Yes, those big “semi’s,” the eighteen-wheelers. When I mentioned my recent post on the Indy 500 to her she said she had driven by the track many times, though she had never gone in. (I can attest by personal experience that it would be difficult to negotiate the Indy 500 entranceway with an eighteen-wheeler.)

Because of her experience I now make a practice of yielding to truck drivers whenever I can as long as it safe. After all, they are just doing their job. Yielding to a truck driver may allow that truck driver to finish work sooner, get back home and spend some more time with their kids.


1. I’m left-handed. Do right-handed folks arrange the same way?

2. The garage was on West 57th St, near the West Side Highway. It has seen been torn down. Two other memories of West 57th Street stand out:

I once saw a senior-citizen in jogging gear leave their apartment building, jog down to the next corner, cross the street and then jog into the nearest bar. No wonder there was a spring in their step.

Another time, as I was driving with my wife and daugher Jen down 57th on our way to the highway, we saw a commotion outside a restaurant. I stopped the car and they went to investigate. Turns out a man had just suffered a heart attack. Jen had recently taken a course in artificial respiration (a requirement for graduating from our local high school) and was able to help out.

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