The Impressive and Irrepressible American

Date: 16- 07- 20

(Most impressive and irrepressible American was none other than the tall Peace Corp English Teacher, David Goldberg who strode the corridors of Kairon Block with his giant feet ,in the years 1964-66. A character embedded in the minds of students of those years. The picture shows David Goldberg (Peace Corps), Ms Lila Kak and Neil Hutchinson(VSO,UK). Mr YP Bhardwaj looking at them in the background (Like Many he would be envious of these two gentlemen).


(Peace Corps Teacher, 1964-66)


Pieces From The Chronicle:


1) In October ,1964, The school welcomed Mr. David Goldberg and Mr. Lowell Edwards of the American Peace Corps on the staff. Mr. Edwards taught Mathematics and was instrumental in setting the text-book store in order to ensure smooth lending of books to the students. With departure of Mr. Richard (Dick) Pine , another peace corps worker who was already in school,  swimming activities were taken over by Mr. David Goldberg.


2) In the end of 1965, the school was delighted to receive a gift of hundred books for the library from the students of Hobart College at Geneva, New York USA. Mr. David Goldberg one of their old students, who taught English at The PPS and this was a symbolic gesture on their part to express their delight. Goldberg was a giant of a man and was known for his aversion to formalities. He insisted that students do not call him ‘Sir’ and would at times leave the class with his hands on his ears when they would stand up and sing “Good Morning, Sir”.


3) The Home Day Dinner of 1966 doubled up as the farewell party for Mr. Yash Pal Bhardwaj and two departing American Peace Corps Volunteers, Mr. Lowell Edwards and Mr. David Goldberg.



From ‘The Eagle’ issues:


1) David Goldberg and Lowell Edwards, who were from the Peace Corps, came in 1965. They along with Rob Clarke, a VSO, brought an endless supply of comics. I got hooked to Superman and Batman for good.

2) The splash record one created in the pool after getting a psychology (a double handed backslap on the bums with a baseball bat like swing) from Mr. Goldberg on the poolside is still remembered by students of that time.

3) Mr. Goldberg would hide in the Library and tried to catch students cheating during the exams.

Jyoti Kate(R-52,1967)


4) The Great Indian poories

One of the most impressive and irrepressible Peace Corps workers was Mr.  David Goldberg, who taught English.  He was a tall bespectacled man with feet so big that no shoe manufactured in India fitted him.  His footsteps could be heard long before he reached the classroom.  He did not like to be addressed as sir.  He hated our standing up in the class when he entered.  When we would almost sing “Good Morning, Sir”, he would run out of the class with his hands on the ears.  He often had small tiffs with teachers of British descent (up tightness versus informality).  While in school, he developed a weakness.  He fell in love with the great Indian “poorie” served for breakfast on Sundays.  This was also something to which his intestines revolted.  He would develop diarrhoea after imbibing a sumptuous meal of “poories”.  But love hath no reasons.  It was very common to see Mr. Goldberg up there in front of the dining hall waiting to devour the “pooris” at breakfast on Sunday mornings.  What followed was also a common sight.  After breakfast, Mr. Goldberg, knowing the consequences, would be seen heading straight for the MI room holding on to his tummy and that is where he would spend the rest of the Sunday under the care of the matron Mrs. McMullen.  Fortunately, the MI room was and is very close to the dining hall.

Dr Jashanjot Singh Bhangu (S-52,1967)


 (This email and article below were received before Golden Jubilee, 2010 and published in The Eagle.)


Hi Dr Jashanjot,

Thank you so much for the memories (as written above in The Eagle.  They had a quite truthful ring to them.  It sounded like I was just 21-22 at the time).

Mrs. McMullen, Kate , YPBharadwaj, YP Johri and Mr. Rajinder Sibal,  the names bring back good memories of  great hosts and friends at PPS. I’d truly enjoy hearing from any of them today.

My subsequent experience at all levels of US education reminds me of the quality of leadership fostered at PPS.  Though not discernible at the time, (because they were a comfortable norm at the school) now it  is clear- these educators were very smart,  talented , socially skilled and focused leaders that I was fortunate to encounter early in my career.  They did set a standard that was welcomed as I assumed increasing leadership roles.   And the same could be said for our students.   I am aware that many went on to significant leadership roles in Indian civil and government, and military institutions. That is the consequence of  good education.

Dave Goldberg (Peace Corps 1964-66)


Below are some more remembrances I wrote about 9 years ago.  Feel free to share.  : 

The Punjab Public School

(Remembrances  from September 1964-May 1966)


These are reminiscences should not be considered precise fact. Details of 45 years ago may sound factual but I am certain these memories are inevitably imprecise.

Toe Concerns

One of my responsibilities was to look after the swimming program at the newly opened pool succeeding Mr. Dick Pine (Peace Corps 1963-64).  By far, the worst of it (outside of handling chlorine bottles) was to look after our bottom swimmers.  It turns out that the scorpions of Nabha enjoyed a cooling swim as much as our students. Despite several years in US pools, I was never fully prepared for the fauna of the Punjab countryside. The occasional removal of a scorpion or snake would be remarkable in a pool in the US. But that was part of my Peace Corps service/adventure.

With the specific gravity and body shape, alarmingly large scorpions sometimes ended up at the bottom of the new swimming pool and could not find the ladder quickly enough to overtake gravity. Our pool bottom appeared to attract a variety of large swimmers. There must have been a sign, “ Chōtē Wallahs Prohibited” somewhere on the embankment holding the swimming pool because only the largest specimens made it into our chlorinated waters. While I was there, no scorpion was ever detected skimming across the surface of the pool. Drown proofing was beyond the Scorpio Maurus’ skill set.

The swimmers and staff would remark about the size of our pool-bottom dwellers. Though, honestly, we were not the most welcoming hosts when it came to the pincer-bearing visitors. They were always fished out and whisked away

Drownproofing exhibition. Boys stayed in water for approx. 8 hours – even eating and drinking Dick Pine ( who started swimming program at new pool),  is standing by chalk board

(These occurrences of out-of-place critters should have not been shocking because upon arrival at PPS, I was told by a previous volunteer that after he filled a bath tub and looked down he saw some small coming up through the drain. This was not New York City; it should have been obvious.)

I recollect that we did not permit the swimming pool bathers to wear sandals around the pool, so that these snippy scuttlers were tip toeing through a veritable banquet of toes:  Damp, succulent, and threatening foot feasts. And since I had to sit and watch bathers for hours (and days), all the wondrous ways our students avoided being stung ranked right up there with the miracle of FM stereo and 3D movies. That is why, when VIPs visited, I had a hard time looking at their eyes…, the ground was where all the action was. A safe minister/official was a happy minister/official.

One pool-scorpion incident stands out- Mrs. Kate’s swimming lesson.

Nineteen sixty-five was not the year that wives of headmasters in Indian public schools began to wear western bathing suits. Several yards of cloth went into those beautiful swimming garments. Swimming in them was another matter. Real cotton, they absorbed lots of water.  The sari is not built for water speed.

There we were — the headmaster’s wife, her daughter, and friends — standing in the pool while I demonstrated that I had parents who could afford to send me to swimming lessons at summer camp. The topic was how to breathe whilst our heads were in the water.  My students were up to their shoulders in the water.  .  I looked down and noticed a really large piece of debris on the bottom of the pool. It was a LARGE Scorpio Nida.

Due to the turbulence of the water it did appear to be moving toward my students. In fact, it was quite uncomfortably close to the head lady’s toe!   I announced abruptly that we had all better leave. No one in a soaking wet sari is abrupt when you are up to your shoulders in water. Their speed to the ladder was agonizingly slow. This critter was dancing around some very precious toes. I never had experience with such a sudden pool clearance procedure.  My Red Cross lifesaving course never even hinted at such a contingency.

When we safely escaped the water, we could see that it appeared to be moving at the bottom.  In fact, the cheeky fellow was moving in step with the water – to and fro.  Upon fishing it out, the truth emerged: it had enjoyed its last swim. We were beholding a quite deceased Punjabi arthropod. Thank goodness!

In succeeding months more than that lone critter would appear in the pool or at poolside. Fortunately, the students needed no warning to avoid the critters. But it remained a mystery why they would scuttle up the embankment and dive in the water.

As was typical of my swimming students, they were good sports about the incident. For me, however, time never passed slower than those moments in the pool at PPS.


The Cross-Country Running Team and the College.

Whether due to stereotyping – that Americans were athletic, good basketball players, or conditioned for endurance (none applicable to me) – or the need to find default leadership, I found myself coaching the cross-country running team. Running, in particular, was a weak point for me: No endurance, no speed, no training. Despite that lack, I found myself training a group of cross-country runners who were to eventually represent PPS. This assignment, however, produced a lifelong memory. It was, in fact, a nadir, an extremely red-faced low point.

College and PPS are close neighbors. As it turns out they were much too close.

Road work for cross country runners is what it implies …running on roads. We moved up and down the roads in the morning.   I interpreted my assignment to train the boys as permitting leadership from the seat of my bicycle. I had crammed for this assignment by reading a book about Swedish interval training. Nowhere did it mention following an athletically impaired coach on a bicycle. I was breaking new ground at the PPS.   If no one else was available, I was a volunteer after all. Happy to help and, as usual, the boys were good sports and cooperative fellows.

So, there we were proceeding down the road between the senior and junior schools when I was inspired to pedal on the road just to the southeast of the college athletic grounds it was an unfortunate creative shortcut. (I remember that it was a women’s college at the time.  Though now, to judge from several U-tube videos I observed, it is very co educational with a wonderful heterodox variety of clothing worn by the students.  The college students in the videos seem to be having way too much fun.)

The entryway was wide enough for a group of runners.  I pedaled inside past the wall murals and made a tragic turn to the left turn, stopped and let the group of adolescent boys precede me. I could see the entry to the courtyard inside was also wide open and thought they could run through to the other side of the building. They ran all right… right into the women’s bath area.  It was open to the sky so I had assumed it was not a private place, a very private place. I had never encountered such a thing in the US.   Yup, approximately 30 swiftly moving high school students  made a sudden about face and  came right at me,  zoomed past, and expeditiously proceeded as quick as their fleet feet could manage out the doorway and down the road. OOPS.  A really blushing, embarrassed, get-the-heck-outta-here, wait-till-the-headmaster-hears-about-this, its-not-my-fault-its-that-fool-American, don’t-go-in-there, about-face-JALDI KARO!  …. type of run

I don’t remember Sri J.K.Kate’s reprimand or the consequence of the cultural blunder. I do remember the fact that our local US-India goodwill reservoir was being rapidly depleted.

That was not the first, and would not be the last time I made a cultural blunder during my stay at PPS.   I know I must have been excused because of my foreign origin and obvious ignorance of subcontinental  architecture.   I felt then, and now, deeply apologetic to all the students involved.  As usual, the students and staff involved were good sports and quite understanding. After all, I came to India to learn as much as I could about the people and culture.  Some lessons were easier than others.


Baths at Senior school. Year round, heat and chill…a hearty group! (This picture is behind the senior school ,Beas house stayed towards the Dining hall, Jumna towards present auditorium). It shows there was no piped hot water at that time). Note the blue bands of Beas house on the White towels. Bands used to be of the house colours.


The Staff Colony and Poultry Products for Punjab Public School.

One day, while riding between the schools, I noticed activities just east of the road. It appeared to be a building site. Staff housing was going up. The bungalows were in a neat row.

As a volunteer, I was happy to have a bed and running water. The accommodations provided by the PPS were more than adequate. The new housing area appeared quite nice.

The houses were completed on time and happily occupied by staff. Except for one house, which was turned into a temporary chicken coop. It was a temporary chicken establishment because the final permanent chicken house was not finished. PPS needed a chicken house because we had a Peace Corps volunteer who had agricultural interests and it did seem like a very good idea for a residential school in India. PPPPS (Poultry Production for Punjab Public School) It had a kind of logic in vegetarian India where unfertilized eggs were an acceptable food.

I, on the other hand, was from New York City with zero interest or experience with living with or near chickens. No interest, whatsoever. I was supposed to be a schoolteacher in my present assignment. There were entire groups of Peace Corps agricultural workers – I was not one of them. They were doing serious work with the farmers of India.  At PPS my assignment was to teach.

But, being a volunteer, I was asked to assist in the transfer of the newly hatched chickens into temporary quarters in the new unoccupied staff house. It was a busy time but they were quickly installed in their new home. An efficient, quick and clean process, I was happy to quickly depart when the installation was completed. I remember visiting the little house once to check upon chicken coop.  The intense vapors were inescapable.

Days passed, and the final destination for our poultry was being completed. Since the temporary housing for the chickens in the staff colony would be available, it was apparent that some unlucky souls would have the privilege of moving into the former coop.

I remember mentioning the hilariously grotesque fate of the unlucky staff members to Yashpal and Sibal, members of our afternoon tea/bridge group. The inheritors of the temporary bird housing would indeed be uncomfortable. Indeed.

The romantic 1960s YP Bharadwaj, YP Johri, RS Sibal, KC Tandon, David Goldberg

Shortly thereafter, the headmaster informed me that I and  Mr. Edwards would be the (un)lucky inhabitants of the very same edifice. When I enrolled for the Peace Corps India, I did not expect to live at the Intercontinental Hotel…far from it. But, how far from it was something I never anticipated.

Fortunately, the clean-up crews from PPS did themselves proud. Since the interiors had concrete floors and masonry walls, the clean up, odors and all, was quite acceptable, all things considered.  With a much lower level of concern, we moved in and eventually  hosted many teas with our friends in the PPS Bridge Club.

It was comforting to have any relationship with the fowl beasts behind me. Until it was vaccination time in the new chicken house. Modern science was about to be injected into hundreds of reluctant wings. I was invited to help immunize the flock.

I thought the shots would be easy to administer.  Catching and holding the reluctant birds was quite another matter. So, there we were advancing on a scurrying white wave of chickens which apparently did not want any part of the process.  It appeared that chickens did not spend much time thinking about what would be good for tomorrow. They appeared to live only in the here and now.

They did not just move away, they pecked, flapped, pooped and squawked.  I remember clearly stepping through the less-than-pristine sawdust and reaching for the legs of a terrified bird. I remember missing the catch and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g down, face in the stuff trying to get the terrified next client. At one point, things were so clear, so deliciously and utterly clear: here I was a recent Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude graduate, winner of the Shakespeare prize rolling in hen-house muck with a terrified bird squirting stuff out her back end at me. Those hen-based editorial comments were hard to countenance. And, though there was lots of help, there were still hundreds of birds to catch. We did catch them, and my garments had little marks of engagement  – neck to toe – prove it.

It was a humbling and ultimately enlightening afternoon. The resulting laundry probably  puzzled the local  dhobi.  The experience is with me to this day. I had a renewed respect for the agricultural workers around the world who bring food to our tables and the dining rooms at The Punjab Public School.