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Military Experience at NYSD “Fanwood School” (subtitled)

Military Experience at NYSD “Fanwood School” (subtitled)

Hello! I would like to introduce my dad, Joseph Motylinski.
Welcome and thanks for your time! Thanks for asking!
Joe: Hello! Really, the reason why I wanted to make a vlog is that I find his historical experience in Fanwood school fascinating. He is a living history that I feel it is very important to share to the world about what he had went through with his experience at Fanwood. First of all, I wanted to give you an idea of his background while he was growing up and why he didn’t go to Fanwood at that time. Later on, at the age 12, he enrolled in Fanwood, correct? Or about that age? Joe: 11
Barb: Ok, at the age 11. Now what year was that when you enrolled Fanwood? Joe: 1950
Barb: So it was 1950. Before that, what was happening and where did he go as we wonder.
I understand that when you enrolled in a public school. Joe: That’s correct.
Barb: And your family, your parents, were clueless that you were deaf.
Joe: Right. Then you were thrown out since he was not able to continue to go through public school education. Why? Obvious reason was that he could not hear. So they informed your parents and they were shocked. You were at the age 5 or 6?
Joe: Age 5. So you did not make it through and was discovered that you were deaf. But remember at that time, information was scarce about deafness. It was even misdiagnosed as mental retardation. Unfortunately, it was common that deafness was misunderstood as mental retardation since learning is not happening causing a wrong placement in school. So how did your parents deal with that? What did they do? Actually, my parents, really they don’t know much about deafness. What does it mean to them when a person lost their hearing is not much understood. Did it occur to them that it was mental retardation? No way! My family observed me. The school kicked me out after three months because I couldn’t hear the teacher who talked behind my back. When I transferred to Fanwood, I had to take a competency test and completed it. It was a rigid test taking experience and I got past that. They placed me in 6th grade. When I went in that school, I recognized some friends from catholic (St. Joseph) school and there were new faces. These students signed so fast that I became overwhelmed.
Barb: Was it a different kind of communication style? It was so fast at Fanwood! Whoa! I was used to sign word for word and they were quick. I learned and learned and realized I was so behind. Which school offered you a better education?
Joe: Fanwood. They were so advanced. So they taught you more. Really, at that time when I went in the first year, we had to wear what?
Military uniform. I was like “For what?” It was unbelievable that the uniform was made out of flannel wool including flannel pants that we had to wear all year round. Even during the summer, we were not allowed to roll up our sleeves and must keep the collar shirt button closed even the cuffs. Must wear a tie and keep our brass belt polished including shining the boots. Whoa, it was a strict code. I had to deal with that for one year until we were notified that we no longer have to wear military uniform. Hurray! We were free to wear what we usually wear at home. It felt so good! Barb: So you had the military experience for one year that you had to wear the uniform and must get up on time every morning and make the bed. Can you explain more? I understand they were very strict with that just like it is in the military.
Joe: Yes, it was a real experience and I was grateful for that. Barb: They taught you a lot and disciplined you. Did you know that we actually have a disciplinarian who was a captain wearing a three-cornered hat and gloves. He brought a silver dollar that he tended to flip a coin that it landed on each of our bed. If the blanket got wrinkled, he would take the whole thing off the bed. Whoa! When I saw that, I had to makes sure that the sheet was fitted real tight so that the coin would always land flatly on the bed.
If the blanket caved in, it was not good enough. Imagine that every morning! Lucky for you who go to the dorm don’t have to go through that!

Yes, it is true that you are lucky! It was an experience for me though. Also, the school had a hall full of old-time pictures. While I was looking around, I reacted with disbelief that Fanwood had a military band that they played drums, flutes, etc. Imagine that! How did they follow the music? It has to do with rhythm.
As they calculate it while marching. Barb: Oh yes rhythm and counting.
Joe: Rhythm and counting, yes. They actually beat the Navy. Imagine, the Navy!
Barb: You mean the actual Navy from public service?
Joe: Yes, from Annapolis, Maryland.

WE crushed them and they were embarrassed. Also West Point decided to drop.
Barb: Drop what?
Joe: To play against Fanwood that they declined to play. Joe: They called it off.
Barb: So they were scared to play against Fanwood. After seeing that Fanwood beat the Navy and even the Army teams,
they had to call it off. Barb: It would be too embarrassing for them if they lose.
Joe: Oh yes.
Barb: Interesting. It occurred around the year 1946. I am not sure. It can be between 1946-1948 that military practice continued until 1951. So you enrolled in 1950 and got to experience what it was like on the last year. Really, what was the purpose of having military program? Why? Actually, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about responsibilities, duties and cooperation. Not being disobedient. We listened.

I recalled seeing someone taking a cheap shot at the officer and he got punished by going around the track again and again carrying a rifle until the time was up. He was let go and he felt awful about it. Even it happened at night, during the rain and snow. No matter how cold and rainy it could be. Barb: Whoa!
Joe: As for me, I was lucky I only had to deal with the cold. After doing that, I learned my lesson and be more careful. You don’t belittle people so you respect and share. After the military years, what kind of changes did you notice when new students enroll Fanwood? It was interesting to note that before, we had hearing teachers. After the military days, the school hired two Deaf teachers. They were very good. His name is Taras Denis. The other one was Bob Davila. I kiss-fist (love) him! Was that his first job as a teacher in Fanwood?
Joe: Yes, his first and he was only 21 years old.
Barb: What did he teach? He used to teach students who functioned at a basic level. Actually, he wanted to advance his position but it was a new job for him that he had to start there. Now, his career had skyrocketed that he earned an important reputation. He knows me and has asked for me. He never forgot about me. He is really a kind man. When you had a Deaf teacher for the first time, what was your impression? What was your learning experience like? It was a fine, smooth conversation between us. I didn’t not have to deal with hearing teachers’ mouth movement and sloppy fingerspelling that was not easy to understand. Deaf teachers signed so fluently making me more intrigued in learning. I became more motivated and got so involved in class discussions. Mr. Davila used to teach drama and he impressed me. He liked my show. I enjoyed having him and I got a lot of help from him. Also from Mr. Denis. He taught reading, English, lecture. So you felt you had learned a lot more from Deaf teachers?
Joe: Certainly. With hearing teachers, I had to struggle. With Deaf teachers, they are much clearer and I became so motivated that I got into learning so unlike from hearing teachers. I couldn’t understand. I made it because of them (Deaf teachers).
Barb: So you struggled with them (hearing teachers) while with them (deaf teachers), it was smooth and fluent. They were much clearer so that was it. Lipreading was absurd. So some of the teachers used “simcom” (talking and signing at the same time) while Deaf teachers signed without voice making them signing more naturally. You were fortunate that you were able to pick up faster knowing that kind of experience in 1950s was not common. Oh! I forgot one more. There was one man who was older and signed so fluently. His name is Mr. Davidowitz. He passed away a long time ago. He was a generous man, oh! He battled with the principal that he had the guts to fight for the Deaf. All three of them. It was awesome. He was the first one then two of them came in so it was three of them (who was Deaf). I remembered seeing him dealing with the issues… Oh! There was another one who worked in voc dept that he taught printing in a shop at the school. He signed fluently and he is Deaf and nice. Two them and two of them, yes that was four of them. I went through with them. After them, more and more Deaf teachers worked there and it got better and better. Unfortunately, today the numbers dwindled because of mainstreaming. It ruined the process. Years ago, Deaf schools got together and it was F-U-N and informative. We had network of events every weekend. Mainstreaming left them clueless with a lack of communication that they are not learning. Less opportunity to learn about leadership. Really it is important to have the opportunity to converse with Deaf teachers. Really, it is sad for what is happening today that the Deaf lose contact from each other, Deaf not knowing other Deaf, overlooking others. Really sad. Many thanks for sharing. I appreciate it. Would you like to close with your most memorable moment? Remember those military students and they have passed. I understand that there were 300 men?
Joe: Back then, yes over 300. What about women? There was military program for boys and what about for them? They were not there. There were only men. In 1957, a day program was founded for kids including girls as I recalled seeing them for two years until I graduated. Years later, this particular girl asked me if I knew her. I was like who? Oh that girl! She was cute and her looks changed as she got older. It couldn’t be! It left me wondering how amazing it turned out to be. She said she never forgot how nice I was. Of course, I was not a mean person to her as I teased her and being funny. That was an old time memory! Interesting! So there were 300 men…
Joe: 350
…in 1950 and there were no girls until later. The number expanded that later a dorm was founded for girls. More new buildings were added. Today, the number of buildings had been cut down and on real estate market. It was sad to see budget problems. I liked Fanwood very well. I enjoyed socializing and getting together. Ahh, good memories.
Joe: Oh yes, certainly. Now, I am old. Sorry to say that. As long as you are still young at heart! Oh she made me feel good! Thank you!
(saying “I love you” to each other)

Reader Comments

  1. ¡Que bello ver al final entre hija y padre! Gracias por compartirnos el cuento de la escuela. Siga progresando tus vlogs. Un saludo desde España.

  2. @EugenioRavelo replying to what you said: How beautiful to see the final between daughter and father! Thanks for sharing the story of the school. Further progress your vlogs. Greetings from Spain.

    My response: It is indeed my pleasure! Gracious!
    Spanish: De hecho, es un placer! ¡Gracias!

  3. @deafchipmunk Oh yes, you are right that there is much happiness my Dad has had experienced. My dad found his happiness in Fanwood in a strong signing environment and had several Deaf teachers. He was able to pick up more that way.

  4. @Jonrobrt Yeah, it is really challenging to do subtitles as it took me more than five hours to do it. At least you can pause to read?

  5. barb – an awesome interview – alot of work!. thank u for documenting Deaf history & for sharing ur dad with us. What a grand fellow. can i suggest u burn several DVDs of this interview and put in archives (tape would be better and more durable). Im sure RIT's Deaf Studies Archives would be interested. so much of Deaf history is lost, forgotten, unrecorded, distorted etc etc – nice to have primary sources – especially in ASL + English. Thank your dad for us big time.

  6. @pdurr It has been my pleasure doing this since it is my hobby with love. Yes, it took me a week to finish the interview video but it is so worth it. I will take your suggestion in consideration as I do agree that it is important to preserve primary sources in Deaf Studies, :-).

  7. Barb, It is very interesting to know about Fanwood.Something that I was not aware of that deaf school have a some military clothes. Very interesting!! Wow.. I do not blame his parents knew nothing about deafness.. I assume Today is worsen than Fanwood. because Everything changed so much!

  8. @matseattle

    I am glad you share with us about his experienced. BUT BUT? I have a question
    . After I distracted and am so confused when I saw your dad's last name is Motylinski is part of Polish or Czech and I realized you carried DiGi is part of Italian.. I understand that you keep your mother's maiden names.

  9. Joe is lucky that he never had Mr Birck , He came to CSD as dean of boys. At that time he wore military uniform. Davila is real gem at CSD, I knew him when I was kid. We attended catholic with other boys and girls.

  10. @morada03 Awesome! Does your school offer sign language classes? If not, can propose for one. Also interacting with deaf peers will help you develop even more. Have fun!

  11. Hi Barb and Joe – thanks so much for sharing the history of Fanwood. It was a pleasure to watch two of you conversing in ASL. I am wondering if you knew about Fanwood is hosting 200 years anniversary next year on July 1 to 4, 2017. I am attending because I graduated from Fanwood in 1983 and I would love to meet both of you there!

  12. Barb and Joe, thank you very much for sharing this with the world. I am currently researching music-making practices in deaf education programs and have been visiting Fanwood to observe the current music classes for pre-k and elementary students. This video provided some excellent background context regarding Fanwood's rich musical history. It was a pleasure watching this and I very much appreciate you putting it online!

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