A 1970s class picture from a West Village school

In the broke New York City of the 1970s, P.S. 41, on West 11th Street, was a lot rougher than it is today.

Parental involvement was minimal. Big yellow school buses, not nannies, ferried kids back and forth from their homes in the Village, Soho, and Lower East Side.

It wasn’t uncommon to have your brown-bagged lunch stolen and eaten by a hungry classmate before you got to it. And 30 kids to a class with one teacher? Totally normal.

One thing probably hasn’t changed though: class pictures are always pretty goofy. What became of these first graders from 1975, who are now in their early 40s?

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13 Responses to “A 1970s class picture from a West Village school”

  1. Tilman Hill Says:

    Really? That radical a transformation in only one decade? In the early to late 1960s I lived on the Lower East Side where the schools were not very good academically and people in my area were always scheming to get our kids into P.S. 41 in the Village. That’s because it was such a good school (per test scores, reading levels, culture and reputation). The student body was a mix of middle class, upper middle class and bohemian. The demand was such that the school was vigilant about admissions and it was just about impossible to fake one’s way in. What happened? This is just a guess, but this could have happened as a result of the Board of Educatoin dropping this school out of the district that ran from the West Village up through the Upper West Side. This was often employed as a strategy for keeping a “good” district exclusive.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Oh, I’m sure it was still considered a good public school in the 1970s. This is the West Village, after all. Yet by today’s standards, it probably would be considered iffy. Part of it was cultural; parents weren’t so involved in smoothing out every facet of their kids’ lives. You were expected to take a bus to school and deal with bullies.
    But also, the city was broke, middle-class residents were moving out, and the teachers union went on strike that September. The school board had decentralized school districts in the late 1960s. I think it had to have made schools rockier, even PS 41.

  3. Tilman Hill Says:

    I do remember those general conditions in the 1970s. By then I’d lost touch with what was going on at P.S. 41 and anything outside of District 1. If kids were coming to P.S. 41 in school buses, I think something must have changed with the districting. I remember the 1968 teachers strike. It was an incredibly difficult time for everyone. Decentralization, however well intentioned and politically correct and so forth, was in practice a horror show–at least as I experienced it. But I experienced it in District 1 (on the LES), not in the district which at the time included P.S. 41. Interesting post, anyway. Thanks. Those children are adorable!

  4. Oma K Says:

    I went to PS 41 until I graduated in 1963. My brother and I walked alone to school from Bleecker and Sullivan Streets, quite a long distance for elementary school kids. I do not recall any of my classmates coming to school via school bus, but I did know three kids who lied about their addresses to come to PS 41 because it was such a good school. They took the subway long distances alone to get there.

  5. Bill Says:

    I went to PS 41 in the late 70’s. I will never forget Principal Tsefura(spelling?) His famous mantra in the cafeteria, “ALRIGHT, EVERYONE GIVE ME YOUR RIGHT HAND!!!” He sure whipped us into shape. I would love to grab a photo composite from back in the day. My teachers were Lacks, Mandell, Lazarus, (something that begins with H), Weinberg, and my all time favorite Mr. Smith. Hit me up if you have any leads: atlanticbounty@gmail.com

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    I had Mrs. Lacks!

  7. Lisa Says:

    So, Wildenewyork….does that mean that one of those adorable first-graders is YOU?

  8. JJ Says:

    Love this picture

  9. creativemonster Says:

    I was one of those kids who claimed a local address to go. 4th grade was mrs Mintz, fifth was Mr Smith. She sang opera to us and he was everybody’s favorite. Whatever happened to Mr Smith?

  10. creativemonster Says:

    I don’t think there were school buses…mid 70s all the lower east side kids took the crosstown (city) bus.

  11. Bill Says:

    creativemonster, I wonder what happened to Mr. Smith too. What a gentleman. I had him for fifth grade as well. Did he do the colored push pins with you guys to keep the noise level down. At the end of the week whichever group had the most pins he would give a “wad” of money to go buy candy(usually at the killer sweet shop btwn 9th and 10th), or we’d go blow it on video games at Maime’s on 8th street. We(sister and I) grew up on 14th street, walked to PS 41, snuck out at lunch to get a slice at Rays, and then jumped on a little bus after school to goto “Whiz Kids” until 5PM. Then we would head home and let ourselves into our apartment(with the key that was hanging around our neck) and wait for pops to come home. Oh the good old days.

  12. snekker (@kahpentah) Says:

    I attended PS 41 in 68 and 69 and what brought me to this page is the latest battle over guns and school shootings. Today there is a sector of the electorate that suggests arming teachers is the only way to end the insanity. This very stupid idea caused me to look back at all of my teachers and professors whom I would actually trust with a firearm. The only one that came to mind was Mr. Smith. I find that remarkable as I haven’t considered the man since June of 69.

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