Living legends of Schreiber: Mr. Edward McIlhenny, former chairman of Tech Dept.


Augest Zeidman

McIlhenny is pictured in the 1974 Schreiber yearbook as chair of the Technology department.

August Zeidman, Features Editor

Schreiber offers dozens of extracurriculars which allow students to expand their skill sets and learn about topics not necessarily included in the core curriculum. One such area, which has attracted students for decades, is the Technology Education department. Mr. Edward McIlhenny, now 95, a former teacher at Schreiber, sat down and recalled teaching from 1947—when he left the Navy after serving in World War II—to his retirement in 1991. He still comes around to the Schreiber Auto Tech room every now and again to visit and have his car serviced.
“I met with Mr. Schreiber in 1946 at the Main Street School and he asked me to give a demonstration of a class. I was offered a teaching job that day. I looked out at the bay and the boats and I thought, ‘this is where I’d want to be,’” said Mr. McIlhenny.
Back in the day, as a teacher in what was then called the Industrial Arts Department, there were not only Auto Technology classes but also courses on aviation, nautical studies, electronics, and plumbing. Trained in aviation mechanics in the Navy, Mr. McIlhenny acted as a trainer for other recruits which was what made him aware of his love for teaching.
“I departed the Navy in 1945, from there I went back to school, completed two years to get a Bachelor’s in Education. I had a job offered to me to go back into industry. This would have paid a whole lot more than teaching, but I turned it down,” said Mcllhenny.
Already qualified in the mechanics of flight, Mr. McIlhenny eventually went on to become a registered pilot and certified flight instructor, which also expanded his teaching opportunities. He at first created a flying club which operated out of a former Navy airstrip in Sands Point, and this eventually became a proper class. This allowed students to get both high school credits and flying time required for getting an eventual license. For his last 20 years, this class was Mr. McIlhenny’s only class and some of his students eventually became either commercial pilots or flew in the military.
When teaching auto mechanics, Mr. McIlhenny would not only teach the students operations of an internal combustion engine and operations of the vehicle but they would also perform tasks to help out around the school.
“We had an old car, a Model A, that we turned into a pickup truck. We helped to move people desks, chairs, and tables, to the new school [Schreiber],” said Mcllhenny.
When he began teaching, Weber was still the town’s high school and the Main Street School, now the Landmark Building, was still in operation. The town’s landscape has changed drastically since Mr. McIlhenny started teaching. In 1947, the sand pits which later became Harbor Links Golf Course were still actively mining and seaplanes were still regularly taking off from Manhasset Bay. That being said, Main Street is probably the least changed section of town, as many buildings from the turn of the century are still standing today.
For Mr. McIlhenny, aviation, education, and the military seem to run in the family. His oldest son was in the Air Force before becoming a pilot for American Airlines, his other son served in the Navy, and his daughter was a teacher. He has also been spending his time productively, working part time in various roles in the almost thirty years since his retirement.
“I worked as a welder and a machinist and all kinds of stuff,” said Mcllhenny. “I worked as a sailing instructor and even a part time cop here in Port Washington. I’m still working at a fertilizer company and I come back here to school to see everybody. I took care of my wife when she suffered from cancer but since then I’ve had to keep myself busy.”
Mr. Edward McIlhenny, a living legend of Schreiber and a member of a great generation, holds stories of times long gone and of the grand days of Port Washington in the decades past. If you ever see a yearbook from ‘47 to ‘91, make sure to turn to the tech department pages and look for his photo.