Along with the school, we also got a massive complex of playgrounds, basketball courts and a full sized football field with real grass -- that part took almost a year to finish.
While the JHS 109 rep was not good, the JHS 166 school with mostly the same kids - well, probably much more white - was considered one of the best in Brooklyn at the time. There were 16 classes on a grade -- I was in 7-16 -- they reversed the numbers that year - so 7-1 was the tough class. Generally, there were two top level performing classes on each grade -- the school fed into Thomas Jefferson HS -- the only kids who didn't go on to there were the ones who passed the Brooklyn Tech and Stuy tests -- and we were given after school prep for those tests - which I still bombed out on.
Decades later, as even that new at the time white neighborhood began to experience white flight, the poverty in the area increased and the school by the Bloomberg era was considered a failure and charter schools, including the UFT middle school charter (which ultimately failed) were installed and the JHS 166 school was replaced. So the very promising George Gershwin JHS disappeared into history a half century after it began.
Today is the birthday of the composer George Gershwin, born Jacob Gershvin in Brooklyn, New York (1898). He was the middle child in a tight-knit family of recent Russian Jewish immigrants. When his father bought a piano for his brother Ira, George sat right down on the bench and started to play. At 15, he left school to work on Tin Pan Alley as a song plugger, a sort of house musician for the music companies. Gershwin had an ear for arrangement, and before long, he was writing his own songs. His first one earned him just $5, but soon he was turning out hits such as “Swanee,” which sold in the millions.
Encouraged by this early success, Gershwin partnered with his brother Ira and began composing full Broadway operas. The two produced popular musicals, including Funny Face (1927) and Strike Up the Band! (1930). At the age of 25, Gershwin premiered his “Rhapsody in Blue,” and later “An American in Paris,” which featured accompaniment written for taxi horns. These compositions became orchestral standards. In 1935, he composed his folk-opera, Porgy and Bess, which features such classic songs as “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” In 1936, at the end of its original run in Washington, D.C., the cast successfully protested segregation at the National Theatre, leading to the venue’s first-ever integrated performance.