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Memories are Made of This: How It All Began

May 9, 2016
Bruce Lockerbie

Bruce in his 1961 Res Gestae dedication photo

Here is the first of several installments of the priceless stories and recollections of D. Bruce Lockerbie, a Stony Brook faculty member from 1957-1991. In his over three decades of service to the school, “DBL” did it all from teaching English, to coaching cross country and track, directing the King’s Men, leading the debate and creative writing clubs, and serving as the Staley Scholar in Residence.


I’ve been asked to reminisce in writing from time to time about athletes I’ve cheered or coached over more than three decades at The Stony Brook School, starting in the fall of 1957. But my memories actually begin more than six years earlier, in the spring of 1951—65 years ago.

Midway through my 11th grade year in a Canadian high school, my father accepted a call to become pastor of Bay Ridge Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.  I was 15 years old and very opposed to leaving my friends at church and school. I also hoped to be a member of the track team, whose coach had given me reason to hope for some success as a runner. I pleaded to remain in London, Ontario, but my father’s will prevailed; we began packing to move at the end of February.

A day or two before the moving van arrived, my parents took me aside and made me an offer: They knew of a school on Long Island, not far away from the Brooklyn church, called The Stony Brook School.  If it would make me feel any better, they would inquire about enrolling me there…  but I was so angry and embittered about moving anywhere, I rejected their offer.

On Monday, March 5, 1951, my parents escorted my sister and me to enroll in our new Brooklyn schools—for me, Fort Hamilton High School, overlooking the entrance to New York Harbor, now spanned by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. A counselor arranged my classes, but when I asked about spring sports, I learned that the New York City high school coaches had gone on strike on March 1—the first major walk-out by public school employees. There would be no spring sports. Just my luck!

The church had no parsonage but provided an apartment for our family across the street from Dyker Beach Golf Course, one of the oldest (1897) and busiest golf venues in America. Just down the street was the campus of a private school called Brooklyn Polytechnic Collegiate and Academic Institute—Poly Prep.

On that first afternoon following my classes at Fort Hamilton High School, I returned home and announced that I was going down the street to see the private school. I changed into sports gear and a pair of sneakers and jogged to the baseball diamond and football field surrounded by a cinder track. Baseball players and track and field athletes were engaged in practice. I passed by the ball field and headed toward the track.

Almost immediately, I was greeted by the head coach, Fred Tuttle, and welcomed as a new member of the team, although he admitted to not knowing my name. I explained that I wasn’t a student at the school but a displaced person with no identity other than the new preacher’s kid at the Baptist church. He laughed and renewed his welcome, commiserated with me about the coaches’ strike, and said, “Come and run with us any day you can.”

I took his invitation seriously and throughout the spring showed up once or twice a week to train with Poly Prep’s runners. One day, Coach Tuttle approached me with a pair of black Spalding spiked shoes. “Try these on,” he said. “If they fit, they’ll help you on the cinders.” My first pair of real track shoes. Nothing like the Adidas footwear ten years later, but better than a pair of Keds.

One afternoon, as I was leaving the track and passing the baseball diamond, I noted that Poly’s opponent was the team from Stony Brook. I recalled my parents’ attempt at resolving my dismay at leaving Ontario by suggesting I enroll at The Stony Brook School. I hadn’t given their proposal a second thought—but now as I lingered by the ball field’s bleachers and heard the growl of the Stony Brook coach (a man I later served with named Floyd Johnson), I had just the slightest twinge of confused feelings: Gratitude for Poly Prep’s taking me on as a ringer, but also a ‘what-if’ thought about Stony Brook.

A half-dozen years later, I was able to greet Fred Tuttle and remind him of his gracious and generous treatment of a young boy—and now a rival coach.


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