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Bernard Kassoy |
| Abel Meeropol |
Lillie Bellin Pope
The Henry Foner Catalogue:
At 90 years of age, Henry Foner is the ultimate
hyphenate: labor leader historian newspaper editor
teacher lecturer humorist social activist and songwriter.
Whether for a Rebellion, Revolution and Reform conference, or a birthday
gathering, Henry has been on hand to perform an
original parody that illustrates the political
landscape being addressed. Hes never without
musical commentary whether its for an audience of
one or 100. It was therefore appropriate that on Henrys
85th birthday, his friend Pete Seeger was on hand to
sing to him.
Here, Henrys lyrics tell the story of the plight of the substitute teacher.
In the 1930s, the Board of Education virtually stopped assigning permanent
appointments. Instead, for as long as a decade, permanent subs were exploited
and had to endure, as Henry recalled, "being transferred from one school to
another without receiving paid holidays, vacations or other benefits, and teaching
out of license, while awaiting a so-called regular appointment."
Henry passed all the Board of Education tests for a teacher of stenography and
typewriting, and, because he, along with his three brothers, were victims of a
notorious witch-hunt, he was not appointed and became a substitute awaiting one of
the permanent slots while serving in the Army. "The Teachers Union," he said, "had
a Substitutes Committee that worked on getting appointments for prospective
teachers, and I joined. It was in the late 1930s that I wrote the "Lament of a
Substitute" to the music of Abel Meeropols hit song, "The House I Live
In." The latter was sung by Frank Sinatra in a musical short that became the epitome of
our countrys World War II war aims and that was played in theatres throughout
the country. "The lyrics to Henrys parody went: