Monday, August 23, 2010

Sent Away (Part 1)

Every close friend I ever had throughout childhood (with the one exception of David Rosenberg) was at some point “sent away.” Meaning reform school, juvenile lockup, a mental institution or facility for wayward boys. I’m talking about a dozen or more of my best friends, from the entire 12-year prison sentence called school. Does this reflect something about me? I was never actually sent away myself, but there were some close calls. In some cases, I was crushed, losing a best friend who I would never see again. Like Joey V in fifth grade, a psychotic pyromaniac and arsonist. A male twin of The Bad Seed, I’m now most grateful he was sent somewhere for the criminally insane. But at the time I enjoyed his friendship immensely.

On the sweeter side were the Stember Brothers, Allan and Steven, both adopted by a World War II vet and his WAC wife. Both parents remained steadfast 1940s Americans, unable to yield to late ’60s youth culture. Their sons were hippies to the hilt. I haven’t had contact with either since 1972. Neither turn up anywhere in web searches, so I don’t know if they are dead or alive.

In the coming weeks, I will scan childhood letters from mental institutions, notes from girls in 1960s schoolrooms, and this, from Steven Stember in 1970:

click to enlarge

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman


  1. This is amazing and clearly shows the effects of drug use on spelling and typing. Not that Steven was that sharp to begin with.
    And I am proud to be (besides you) the only one of our friends not sent away. I never really did any of the drugs, I just hung around with everyone who did. No one wanted to corrupt me because Marnin was already lost. I think they took some kind of pity on my parents. "let's leave the little one alone, we already got the elder kid".

  2. Josh, i absolutely love that letter from steve gember! can't quite figure out how old the two of you were at that time..10 12?? anyhow, that was around the time that i got to befriend your dad at elaine's who had chased cathy wolfman around his apartment who sort of went nuts over me, but i was a bit apprehensive, wrong move, either leave her alone or be as nutty over her as she was for me, and you and your dad were sneaking across from elaine's which was still a nice simple place then, to eric's to score some nosegay. looking forward to more. michael r.

  3. David, I believe the spelling would have been worse if he was straight.