Sebastian Holst

Son of Painter Beate Wheeler Holst and Writer Spencer Holst
Lived at Westbeth from 1970 to 1984

The Open Classroom [1972]

The blast of heat hit me like a furnace — of course, that should not have come as much of a surprise; after all, I was actually standing in the face of an open coal burning furnace deep in the bowels of PS 3. The heavy metal door had just been propped open. The yellow-orange-heat-light was hypnotic, pulling me. After a beat, I managed to pull my eyes away to refocus on the mountain of cold, dirty coal that rose behind me. The job was a simple one; shovel the coal into the furnace and get a dollar — all before the start of school. I was in the fourth grade, and this was the inaugural year of PS 3.

It had started quite innocently the day before. Westbeth’s own John Gamble had let me in on a little secret; he had somehow snagged a job at school — shoveling coal into the building’s furnace for a dollar a day. Was I interested in making a dollar too? You bet! There were only two rules; we had to show up before school started — and we could not tell a soul. We stoked the furnace for the better part of an hour, collecting our dollars, and then heading up to class happy as clams. After school, I remember buying 50 menthol eucalyptus hard candies at Li-Lac. I ate them all that same day.

Apparently, we had attracted a good deal of attention covered, as we were, in coal dust. Sadly, that was to be my one and only day shoveling coal, and it was the last we ever saw of that janitor.

SHARE:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on Pinterest