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SCHOOLS / CLOSE UP / A Curriculum Philled With Phacts


ONE OF THE MORE popular student pursuits at West Babylon High School is

guessing which one of his nine off-the-wall Crosley automobiles social

studies teacher Jak's Phamley Phillips is driving to work.

They are strange variations of a tiny post World War II vehicle that

enjoyed brief popularity into the early '50s. All different, the

restored collectible cars - like the way he spells his name - are

as offbeat as their owner.

One has a huge rotating wind-up key making it look like an oversized

toy while another is decked out like a mini-fire engine. Another has a

surfboard protruding from the rear. Each whimsical vanity license plate

on the fleet is a hoot, just like Phillips quirky penchant for changing

"f" sounds to "ph" in some of his writings.

How far has he taken his elaborate goof? Well, his 21-year-old

daughter's real name is Phaeryn J'lin and his 19-year-old son was named

Phinley Jon. Somehow his wife, Linda, a kindergarten teacher in North

Babylon, was able to escape with her own monicker. However, Linda often

takes one of the Crosleys to her school as well. "Phire prevention week

makes miniature phire phighters out of her students when they board the

miniature Crosley mock phire truck," Phillips, 55, wrote in a note about

his life and times.

Phillips weaves his hobby, which now includes several more wacky

vehicles in addition to the Crosley fleet, into his teaching. In a study

unit, for example, Phillips explained that he teaches his classes how

Powel Crosley Jr. was a pioneer in ingenuity from the 1920s onward,

ultimately manufacturing not just the tiny cars that got 50-miles to the

gallon, but refrigerators as well. "Crosley also was famous for owning a

powerful radio station and owning the Cincinnati Red Legs baseball

team," added Phillips.

Students in the hallways often greet their teacher with, "Hey Phil,

what car did you drive today?" Recently, a typical retort came from Al

Sessa, a 11th-grader in Phillips first period class: "He drove the

yellow pickup." Phillips said he seldom drives the same car two days in

a row. During Christmas, Phillips found a greeting card left by

10th-grader Jennifer Giblin. "To the coolest teacher with the coolest

cars," it read.

Born John Finley Phillips, the educator graduated from California

Maritime Academy and sailed globally during the Vietnam era. After being

involved in an automobile accident and suffering a three-week coma and

lengthy hospitalization, he ended up with a disability that terminated

his seagoing career. Phillips ultimately came East and earned his

teaching credentials.

Phillips said his favorite car out the dozen he owns is "Little

Phoot," a 1947 pickup mounted on a Jeep chasis, with a mannequin head

sticking out of the roof, an outboard motor on the tailgate and an

anchor on the front bumper. During Halloween, it carries a coffin in its

cargo area with a bloody hand reaching out holding a yo-yo. "That has

brought more than one call to the superintendent's office," said


These days the spelling goof Phillips enjoys is mainly reserved for

casual correspondence to friends. School administrators have asked that

it not be used during his teaching because it might confuse the

students. "I never heard any complaints," writes Phillips. "In phact,

some students like Phred Delaney would turn in their papers smiling with

the spelling as shown. I just don't want any students to dread coming to

my class. Maybe dread leaving it, but not coming to it."

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