When Labor Day is done and summer turns to Fall I am filled with the memory of a boy walking down tree lined Albany Road, suitcase in hand. He was on his way from the train platform behind Davenport to a New Boy meeting with “Red” Sullivan, the Headmaster, and Henry Poor in the Commons Room at the John William House in the heart of the school campus. The new schoolboy had set foot in New England for the first time only one week earlier. There would be three more New Boy Septembers to follow, and four more falls to enjoy as the New England hills abandoned their summer shade of green in a weeklong display of outrageous fall colors.
He had lived the first thirteen years of his life in a small-secluded rural community of 1,750, nestled in a valley between a coastal mountain range and the fertile foothills of Northern California. His only introduction to his new school had been through a local high school football all-star who was going to this new school taking an extra year off before college to improve his chances of acceptance at a Division I university. At the clap of a hand, the high school all-star along with the group of New Boys sat down and were introduced for the first time to Frank Boyden, the headmaster of Deerfield Academy.
It had been a four day train trip from West Coast to East Coast, a once in a lifetime opportunity for a West Coast boy to experience the wonders of the Great Salt Lake, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, and the rolling Appalachian hills and valleys of the East. Little did the schoolboy know at that first New Boy meeting that it would be twenty-one years later and a seven-hour plane ride before he would return to his hometown in Northern California. Instead of a “…welcome home…” he was greeted as an outsider…a New Englander.
Every fall the former schoolboy remembers the Headmaster’s clap before addressing classmates as they sat on the floor for their evening meeting. He knew in the fall we would be sitting amidst the changing colors of the New England Hills where the smell of fallen leaves smoldering in little piles filled the air along Albany Road. Decades later during his daily walk in the Wetlands of the Mojave through the early morning mist, he can still see the Headmaster close the student-evening meeting with a clap as a fall evening descended beneath the trees of Albany Road.
Today as fall lingers near, his eyes turn to the East and the rising sun…searching for a glimpse of tomorrow. He finds inspiration in the sun’s colorful misty morning warmth and the crisp Fall outline of the nearby hills…and remembers an earlier day when schoolboys were walking along Albany Road towards John Williams house past fallen leaves, and the Headmaster ended a student meeting with a final clap while reminding his audience of nature’s hillside pallet and for inspiration “…look to the hills…”
Peter Bolles ’54