WORKING ON THE CALIPER STAFF– by Ken Baumel
(followed by complete issues of the Caliper)
Working on the “Caliper” Literary/Art Magazine was special. Our first Faculty Advisor, Irving Astrachan, made pursuing excellence so personal. He kept reminding us at every meeting that the key to excellent writing was to “Write about what you know.”
Even though I was on the art staff, I found a way to apply Astrachan’s advice to art. I used techniques and resources I knew.
Joe Rosenbaum and Steve Mercado in Editorial, I and Ed Schneider in Art, and our whole staff got into a zone with the fall 1961 Caliper. We copped First Place in the annual Columbia Journalism Scholastic Magazine competition, I believe in large measure inspired by Mr. Astrachan’s pushing us to use what we knew to take our work to higher levels.
I can’t recall if Mr. Astrachan retired, relocated, had health issues, or passed on, but by our junior year, he left, Mr. Wozniak took over. He gave us a lot of freedom to make creative decisions, not just in art, but in production as well. This freedom and energy was also inspiring.
The Caliper experience and our great English teachers, such as Mrs. Barron and Emily Hahn, eventually moved me to switch my major from Psychology to English. I found that only one college course lived up to Stuyvesant standards. Later, when I became a writer, I mined Mr. Astrachan’s advice. It enriched my experience and it helped keep my work focused.
One of the great memories of Stuyvesant is that so many of our teachers were deeply aware that their advice and mentoring could stay with us for decades to come. They also knew that they had to set a high bar for us. Besides the memories, it’s always nice to meet a graduate from another era. It’s like belonging to a club without the dues.