Richard Fariña at Brooklyn Tech

Brooklyn Technical High School was founded in 1922 to meet the needs of a science, engineering and math curriculum in the wake of the first world war. It moved to its present location (pictured above) in 1930. Brooklyn Tech was a highly selective school with a rigorous entrance exam.

Richard Fariña excelled on several levels at Brooklyn Tech. He finished 14th in a class of 197 and had an impressive list of distinctions under his yearbook portrait (shown at left). I shall attempt to explain what some of these distinctions mean:

Electrical: Fariña's major. "This course is one of the most popular that Tech offers. It is a unique combination of theoretical and applied electrical science that ranges in scope from the principles of basic circuitry to the intricacies of frequency modulation equipment. This theoretical work is closely coordinated with projects in applied electricity shops, where each student builds a soldering iron and an electronic kit of his choice."
Arista: An intellectual club. See picture below.
Cheer Leaders - Capt.: It was an all-boys school at the time, so obviously someone had to do the cheering.
Sweater "T": No info.
G.O. President: General Organization, in charge of extra-curricular activities. More info below.
Survey - Features Ed.: The Survey was the school newspaper. More info below.
Student Court - Chief Justice: The Student Court was responsible for ensuring that students were treated fairly.
Science Bulletin: This publication sought to "disseminate current scientific knowledge in an interesting, readable form."
Blueprint: The yearbook.
200 Pin: No info.
WNYE: The school radio station, used by the Board of Education.

Click here to see a larger picture.


The General Organization:

From the yearbook: "The very heartbeat of Techtown is the General Organization. Formed as a student council, the G.O. is made up of delegates chosen from the class presidents of the respective grades. The council governs and controls the extracurricular life of the Techtowner. President Dick Farina, and Vice-President Bob Greco direct the operation of the G.O. with the help of the Honorary President, Mr. Longo. Secretary Sylvester Vassalo and Social Coordinator Larry Tetenbaum implement the work of the Council."

From the school newspaper, The Survey: Candidates are "chosen on a basis of weighted average, record, appearance, English mark, and the specific ability exhibited in the time allotted them."


Arista:

According to the yearbook, "Aristas membership constitutes the core of Techtown's intelligentsia." Members had to have an 82% weighted average, have a good after-school activity record, and character endorsements from teachers.


Cartoon:

If you look closely, you will also find Fariña in this two-page cartoon spread from the yearbook:

Detail of the cartoon:


The Survey:

The Survey was a four-page newspaper published every three weeks. Richard Fariña was on the staff, and became assistant features editor in the Fall of 1953. He also had a regular column called "Dick's Dilemmas." He apparently had free reign to write about whatever he desired. The few extant clippings I've had the privilege to read reveal quite a variety of subjects, including a review of an off-Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac directed by José Ferrer, an interview with Vanessa Brown (who was then starring in the Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch), a report of a trip he took to the British Isles in the summer of 1953, and several farcical pieces. These farces are narrated as real events but they're obviously fiction, such as his report of alien impersonators among the faculty, and an announcement that girls would soon be admitted to Brooklyn Tech (the school did not actually become co-educational until 1970, but the column humorously anticipates Fariña's participation in the 1958 Cornell demonstration against repressive co-ed policies). Although this glimpse into Richard's high school days reveals a more conventional Fariña than we might expect, the "Dick's Dilemmas" columns exhibit several qualities that abound in his later work--imagination, variety, and humor.

José Ferrer as
Cyrano de Bergerac

Brooklyn Tech did have a literary magazine, Horizons, but Fariña seems not to have been involved with this publication, as he surely would have included it among the distinctions listed in his yearbook. His own column in The Survey apparently gave him the creative forum he needed. I have not found any issues of the Science Bulletin, to which Fariña also contributed.


Richard graduated from Brooklyn Tech in February of 1955, and earned a Regents Scholarship to Cornell University, where he planned to study electrical engineering at the urging of his father. His early graduation from high school suggests that the ambitious Fariña must have attended summer school in two previous years. After graduating from high school he seems to have spent some time in Ireland once again, and then it was off to Cornell.

--Douglas Cooke

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