Brooklyn Boro

Arthur Solomon: A man who loves his past

August 28, 2023 Andy Furman
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Sometimes the past overtakes us.

“For some reason, I don’t know why, I decided to see what happened to the high school in Brooklyn that I attended,” said Arthur Solomon, a Tilden High School graduate who later wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle.

He was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs.

But for this day, Arthur Solomon is mainly a proud graduate of Samuel J. Tilden High School. A graduate, let us say, in the mid-20th century.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

And he shows it.

“I just thought some of the material might be worthwhile for Brooklyn Eagle readers,” he said.

The school located on 5800 Tilden Ave., opened Feb. 3, 1930. It cost $2.5 million to construct; and it was built to serve 3,969 students.

By the 1940s, Tilden High School, initially criticized for its difficult-to-reach location, was overcrowded. At one point, 5,700 students attended. In order to limit the crowding, S.J. Tilden administrators split the school day offering one session from 7;50 a.m. to 1:04 p.m and another from 1:11 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

And in 1942, Samuel J. Tilden High School was the first Brooklyn High School to hold a mass blood drive.

The racial tensions that swept the nation during the 1960s and 1970s were felt at Samuel J. Tilden as well. The school’s Black population was growing. The school’s demographics were changing; Tilden High School was becoming more diverse. In 1962, of the 5,000 students that attended Tilden High School, 97.9% were Jewish and Italian. By 1971, of the 3,000 students at Tilden, 63.4% were “others,” then the Board of Education’s term for non-Blacks and non-Puerto Ricans. Changing demographics and under-enrollment set the stage for controversy around rezoning and plans for Samuel J. Tilden High School.

Tensions came to a head during the March 1972 hearings on rezoning on catchment areas for three Brooklyn high schools. The hearings aimed to assure an integrated education in Samuel J. Tilden High School, Canarsie High School and South Shore High School. Parents’ groups linked to each high school had their own ideas for a zoning plan that would preserve the racial and ethnic diversity of each school while maintaining a quality education for every student.

A number of Tilden High School students prepared a flyer in which they outlined their position regarding the rezoning. They wanted to preserve an ethnic balance in the school, but wanted to avoid a result in which the majority of students were nonwhite. The students who prepared the flyer were concerned that if the ethnic balance were to tip too much, “an unfortunate chain of events would take place and white families would flee the neighborhood.” The school and the surrounding neighborhood would no longer remain integrated. The result would be “another segregated school, in another segregated neighborhood.”

Whether unfortunate or not, that, in fact, did occur to both the neighborhood and the school over the remainder of the 1970s and into the 1980s.

When Tilden opened, Principal John M. Loughran adopted the slogan, “athletics for all.” Equipped with facilities, sports fields, three gymnasiums, a swimming pool and more, Principal Loughran set to find the personnel and coaches that would establish Tilden High’s Blue and Grays as an athletic power.

The athletic program hit its first obstacle in 1934 as the faculty moved to change the baseball and football teams from interschool competitive programs to intramurals in efforts to better distribute the school budget while balancing school spirit.

In 1935, a new stadium was constructed and designed by the WPA. This new facility and the gyms inside the building were made available to adults in the community several years earlier during evenings, with separate times for men and women.

The Tilden Blue and Grey won a number of PSAL titles in football, baseball tennis, track, swimming and fencing.

During the summer of 1987, teacher and Dean of Students Joanne Belinsky became the sixth women in history to run 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the country.

And the Tilden athletic tradition looks like this:

The movie, “Above the Rim,” was shot at Samuel J. Tilden. Also, exterior scenes for the movie Lords of Flatbush were shot at Tilden.

Professional athletes from Tilden include:

Ed Cota, NBA
Owen Gill, Indianapolis Colts
Don Goldstein, All American and Pan American champion basketball player
Sid Gordon, Two-time All-Star major-league baseball player
Sidney (Sonny) Hertzberg, NBA player
Sam Perkins, NBA player
Willie Randolph, Professional Baseball; Player, six-time American League All Star, played on two World Series champion teams (New York Yankees); and former manager of the New York Mets
Ossie Schectman NBA basketball player, credited with scoring the very first basket in NBA history (New York Knicks, 1946-47)
Curtis Stevens, professional boxer
Irv Torgoff, professional basketball player.

Samuel J. Tilden High School was named for Samuel J. Tilden, the former governor of New York State and presidential candidate who, although carrying the popular vote, lost to Rutherford B. Hayes in the disputed election of 1876.

The school might as well have been named after one of its biggest boosters — Arthur Solomon — a man who travelled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials.
While dreaming about his high school.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic a sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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