To the editor:
A few weeks ago, the Times noted the recent passing of Hilton Kramer (Talk of the TImes, Saturday, March 31).
I'd love to say that I knew him or met him, but I can't. What comes to mind instead are two or three Gloucester stories along the same lines as those given by Peter Anastas in your article.
When I was on the staff of the GHS Flash, we received a postcard from a retired teacher, Hortense Harris, who once taught Hilton Kramer.
She wrote, in her small, neat, legible handwriting the news that Hilton Kramer had been promoted to art critic of the New York Times. My opinion that this was news that was fit to print was overruled.
The faculty advisor said that everybody who had ever graduated from GHS would then want their successes reported in the Flash.
Well, I didn't see a long line, nonetheless Miss Harris's news never became a Flash headline, and became a postcard and a memory.
Later, during college, I did meet Miss Harris several times. She was mentor not only to students like Hilton Kramer, but also to older authors or would-be authors like me. I always got a kick out of her stories. For example, when she started teaching in Gloucester in the 1920s, women teachers who got married got fired. She did not marry, but she was seen out dancing. The superindendent of schools ordered her into his office. He asked her if the report was true. Yes, she said, she had gone out dancing. He told her to stop.
"You can't fire me!" she told him, I didn't get married!" — and walked out.
He never fired her, and she went on to teach until she retired; a bulldog.
The Kramer kids' accomplishments were due to their parents and to Gloucester teachers. When one of the Kramer sons was too ill to go to school for several months, his teacher, Miss Hilton, came by with lessons and books.
Kindness led to kindness. Mrs. Kramer named her next-born Hilton after her. (Because unmarried teachers like Miss Hilton were the rule under the law of "get married, get fired," Mrs. Kramer realized that Hilton might be the only son Miss Hilton would ever have with her name.)
Finally — this is from a Gloucester friend of mine whose family frequently used the services of Hilton's father.
A local laundry man, the father used to go everywhere and tell everyone to get an education. Mr. Kramer had left Europe with nothing and made a living the hard way. He emphasized the portability of education.
"If you learn something, it's yours forever," he said, "they can't take that away from you."
Thanks to the Kramers, to Miss Hilton and to Mr. Harris, Gloucester lives forever in the art world in Hilton Kramer's writings. Good for them, good for him, and good for Gloucester.