Member Spotlight: Tom Parks

Tom Parks and his wife, Joyce
Tom Parks and his wife, Joyce

by Gail West

Tom Parks had three career ambitions when he was in Junior High.

First, he wanted to demonstrate yo-yo’s. Not only did he demonstrate yo-yos, he became a world champion.  He started this professionally when he was 14.  He did demos at playgrounds, stores and movie theaters across the country including Disneyland, Las Vegas and the New York World’s Fair.  He was still doing it part-time in 1960. 

The Yo-Yo Man

While pursuing this career, he appeared on several national television programs like Mr. Rogers, Mike Douglas, the Today Show, What’s My Line, and the Regis Philbin Show.  He made an instructional tape for Duncan in 1986 that can still be seen on YouTube, see Tom Parks – Duncan Yo-Yo.  It is an hour-long instructional tape on yo-yo’s and spinning tops.  He claims that “it is strictly instructional, not entertaining,” but many people learned the fundamentals from it while being entertained. 

Tom teaches Mr. Rogers about Yo-Yos

Roller Derby, Rubik’s Cube, and Greyhound Buses

Second, Tom wanted to skate in the Roller Derby.  He competed in flat track skating and won a state championship.  He was in the Roller Derby Training School for several years with many who became stars, and, he was invited to join the Roller Derby team by Buddy Atkinson Sr., a Roller Derby great who ran the training school.  But Tom’s teaching schedule kept him from doing this.

Third, he wanted to drive a Greyhound Bus.  He was able to do this as a summer job when Greyhound trained and used teachers in their busy season.  He was trained and then worked as a driver in the northeast, driving a big circle that included Providence, RI, Portland, Maine, Buffalo, NY, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Montreal and Toronto, all north of New York City.  He did line work and charters. On one occasion he had The Boston Symphony as passengers. 

In addition, he wound up in the promotion of Rubik’s Cube. He helped with competition and edited a newsletter, “The Rubik’s Cube Newsletter” for Ideal Toy. He also competed until about ten years ago.  

A Teaching Career

Tom grew up in Queens, NY.  He started at Lafayette College (PA) in 1954 as an engineering student, but graduated in accounting in 1958.  He then earned a Master’s degree from Yeshiva University in NYC on a Ford Fellowship.  This Fellowship program was designed as an intensive teacher training program for people without education courses and without practice teaching.  He fit in perfectly.

Tom said, “This course of study included a fantastic methods and materials course taught by the math chairman at Hunter College High School.  I was then given the keys to an 8th grade math classroom and was told, “Go!”  

And go he did in typical Tom Parks fashion.  He spent 34 years in education in five schools.  He taught junior and senior high mathematics, driver education and was a junior and senior high guidance counselor.  Tom retired in 1992 as a guidance counselor at Massapequa High School in Massapequa, NY.

Asked how he got interested in technology, Tom said that while he was at Lafayette (54-58),   there was not a single computer course offered.  In graduate school for mathematics education at Yeshiva University, they used Watson Lab at Columbia University which exposed him to the IBM 650 and punch cards.  But, “it was something I never mastered,” he noted.

Thus, he started his technology search taking computer courses at Senior Net in Huntington, NY.  Later he was an assistant there (they called it a “coach”), and then he taught some social networking courses like Facebook.  He noted that it was mostly teaching people how to keep in communication with their grandchildren using their new computers.  When he moved from Long Island to Connecticut, he could no longer get help from the staff at Senior Net.

Finding Geeks on Tour, teacher becomes student again

That’s how he found the Geek On Tour through a Google search. He joined right away. He said, “I was delighted to find a place I could get my computer questions answered.  I really made use of that service offered by the Geeks.  I lead the Q and A section in the number of questions asked. and I am delighted with the help I receive there, as well as the instructional videos and the regular courses.” 

“I am absolutely delighted with all I have learned and am making use of from Geeks on Tour,” he continued.  “Google Photos same file on all devices is fantastic!  I have Chromecast slideshows playing on both televisions and enjoy showing pictures from Google Photo Albums as a slideshow.  The Geeks lessons and videos are terrific when projected on a TV screen using Chromecast.  It sure beats watching them on the small screen as I did when I first started,” he explained.

My present devices include iphone, ipad, windows computer, a Chromebook as well as Chromecast.  The Geeks have helped me understand each one better and to coordinate their use.  I really enjoy being a member of Geeks on Tour.”

Tom and Joyce have been married for 10 years.  Between them, they have three children and nine grandchildren.