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Thread: Tales of Catholic Grammar School

  1. #1
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    Default Tales of Catholic Grammar School

    For starters, our K-8 was called St. Bernard's. . .the public school kids used to tease us by asking why we weren't wearing little barrels around our necks.

    Boys wore "salt and pepper" corduroy trousers with white shirts, dress shoes, and a button down navy blue sweater that looked like a reject from Mr. Roger's closet. For the ladies, a blue plaid skirt with white blouse, same gaddawful sweater and a beanie ( for First Friday Mass ) that matched the skirts.

    We started first grade as a class of 52 and 46 of us graduated 8 years later, in June 1971. We were first graders in Nov. '63 when the principal came into the classroom on the morning of Nov.22 and told us "the Communists had killed the President in Dallas."

    Sister Mary Kevin was the second grade penguin. . .built like a linebacker. Had a "magic" ruler that was painted with alternating blue and white squares that found its way to many knuckles. When she yelled, she had a habit of spitting, so you tried to stand off to one side to avoid the spray.

    Christmas time meant advent wreaths, a Sunday concert wherein each grade sang ( butchered?) a sacred hymn of the season. . .we looked forward to it every year because we got out of the classroom and tromped over to the church for rehearsal three days in a row.

    The start of 6th grade meant eligibility for the altar boy draft. . .



    you could say no but if you did the penguins questioned your character and graded your papers harder than the others. . .12 of us enlisted and by the time we graduated from high school 6 years later, only 4 had served the entire stint. . .weddings and funerals were the best gigs; the well-to-do Italian and Portugese families in the parish tipped well. And for the really big Requeim Masses, there was the opportunity to grab the bell rope and ride it up and down high in the belfry attic.

    Tuition was 10 bucks a month and was couriered like a top secret document from home to school via a sturdy brown envelope with a red thread and button closure on the backside that would be annotated by the teacher once the tally had been collected, then sent home to join the stack of "payables" due the next pay period. Large families got a discount and didn't have to pay the ten spot for every kid.

    The first Wednesday of every month was "Hot Dog Day" and for 25 cents, you got a dog, a bag of Laura Scudders potato chips, two carrot sticks, and a milk. Big eaters could pony up an extra two bits for another dog. The Mother's Guild ran the show and it was such a welcome relief from the PB&J, tuna fish, and bologna sandwiches that were the standard bill of fare for our Lost In Space, Gilligan's Island, and Casper the Friendly Ghost stamped metal lunchboxes. . .the one's that came with a matching Thermos that would eventually break before the end of the school year or stink to high heaven from the milk that was poured in and forgotten prior to the two week Christmas break.

    We played kickball in the schoolyard that served as the church parking lot on Sundays. CYO basketball ran from November to March and the teams would pile into station wagons driven by volunteer Dads and Moms who ferried us to games against other schools with names like Presentation, St. Mary's, and St. Bernadette's. At the end of the season, the Monsignor would hand out swell certificates of achievement to all of the players and proudly announce that he was hiring back all of the coaches "at the same salary."

    And you ?
    Last edited by RenoZag; 05-25-2008 at 07:14 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Pretty much the same

    My tale reads much like yours, but I was a good 17 years behind you. My tenure was 1979-1987.

    In lieu of salt and pepper cords, we just had navy blue. We wore white shirts (button downs or "polo" style cotton knit) with the Mr. Rogers blue sweaters. Occasionally, we would get "free dress" days (maybe 5 or so a year), which often coincided with field trips. These were HUGE, and the only opportunity to showcase any "cool" threads you had. If mom had not done the laundry to make such threads available it was all hell breaking loose.

    The lunch box descriptions are accurate. There were two "styles" of lunch boxes on my day: the "old school" thermos-brand lunch boxes that were aluminum, and that you could open to form a sort of "tray" to eat on, with the bulk of the opened box as a background, not unlike opening a laptop computer today. Then there were the more modern plastic thermos boxes, with a different opening that did not allow for the laptop effect. These were not as cool, but I had one and took quite a bit of ribbing for it.
    My favorite was an NFL-licensed box that had all the helmets of the 28 NFL teams.

    Standard "pee-chees" were de rigeur for us in grades 1-3, but then the "trapper" system came out, with the "trapper kepper," and that changed the face of things until I went to high school. Not for the better, in my judgment.


    We had our own lunches but on Wednesdays the "Mothers Club" would come in and do the "hot lunch," which consisted of burgers the consistency of tire rubber or pizza that was the consistency of bubble gum. All days we had our milk trucked in from the local dairy.

    Tuition was more than the $10 you describe, but I do remember delivering it in the same envelope you describe, with the red circle and string, and the handwritten date, name, etc., on the outside.

    You fail to mention how papers were reproduced. No fancy schmancy photocopiers were used. We got our assignments reproduced on the old school "ditto machines," that spat them out in the light blue shade that was barely legible, and that smelled horrific. And the back of each of these pages was something else (usually a bunch of numbers from some sort of spreadsheet looking printout). Recycling before recycling was cool.

    CYO hoops uniforms were handed down from one class to the next. Every month we'd go to the local nursing homes to sing at the masses held there for the elderly. 229 passed out several times, as a guy who hated the feel, and smell, of the hospital-like atmosphere and could not handle the high temperatures they often kept up there for the old folks.

    Social highlight of the year (for the parents) was the annual carnival/spaghetti dinner to raise funds for the CYO teams. That and the "ice cream social."

    For the kids the clear social event that mattered was "skating parties" at the local roller skating rink. I can remember going to these, and skating to "Devo" like it was yesterday.

  3. #3

    Default Pretty much the same experience.

    Catholic grade school 1-8th grade. Apart from memories mentioned, they had us working like little capitalists. I sold magazine subscriptions, candles, candy, christmas crud, easter crud, sunglasses blah blah blah, for the Catholic cause receiving some crappy radio or some such thing worth about 10 bucks. Our playground had no grass and the balls that we played with were hard as rocks. I hated playing football because of the sharp points on those things would leave bruises. By the time I got there, nuns were on the way out, but the ones that were there were pretty uptight.

  4. #4
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    I began first grade at St. Patrick's gradeschool in the Hillyard neighborhood in Spokane in 1949 and graduated from St. Aloysius in 1956. The Holy Names sisters taught at both schools.



    They always had with a pair of scissors on a string they could pull up from the very deep pockets in their "habits," which they always referred to as "our habit," honoring their vow of poverty. They had a way of hiking their skirts up when they played softball with us, and we could then see their black stockings, which quite amazed us. There was a great buzz around school one day when someone reported spotting a tuft of red hair peeking out from beneath the head covering of our principal, Sister Kathleen Claire. Hair! On a nun! Can you imagine? Dangerously close to showing signs of being human.

    We lived in Coplen Park, a post-war barracks-style housing project in Hillyard for the two years before the government closed them, forcing us to move to a "real house" on Baldwin Avenue in the Gonzaga district. Coplen Park was pretty primitive. We had an "ice box," a real ice box. The ice truck came around and delivered a block of ice, perhaps every other day. Cooking was done on a wood stove.

    At St. Al's, I joined the huge incoming babyboom class. We had 50 kids in each of the two classrooms. No hot lunches in those days, and few kids had lunch boxes. Just brown bags. I remember a lot of jello in my lunches. My mom was big on jello.

    Our classes were, I think, too large for any of us to get a whole lot of personal attention. However, not once in my eight years of grammar school do I remember seeing a nun lay a hand on a child or even be unkind to one. They were just wonderful, generous human beings. Discipline was not a problem, ever. Physical force was not required, so in awe were we of the habit itself. And it certainly was true in those days that if you came home from school and reported you got in trouble at school, unfairly or not, you'd get it double. Being disrespectful to one of the sisters simply would not be tolerated.

    The most serious discipline I ever saw administered was when Sister Imelda Ann got tired of Bill Flaherty and Kathryn Krumholtz talking in class and brought them up front and had them sit in her right and left desk drawers for the rest of the class.

    We always believed it when we were told we received a superior education at St. Al's. Looking back, though I'd agree that may have been true in the subjects of writing and reading and maybe even mathematics, I'm amazed when I realize I never had a single science class in grade school. Geography was the bane of my existence. Maybe my dislike for the subject had to do with the fact that I am directionally challenged and have trouble with spacial relationships, but more likely it was that I found little relevance in studying maps that featured lumps of coal, sheafs of wheat, cattle, and so on, signifying the chief exports of various countries, along with pictures of the countries' denizens in their native costumes.

    Coincidentally, I posted earlier today on this thread in Mae's Blue and White:

    Did you also sing in the St. Aloysius Grade School Choir? In my day, we sang Gregorian Chant at a Latin Mass for each and every funeral at St. Al's. I remember singing at funeral Masses where we in the choir were the only people in the church aside from the deceased, the priest and altar boys serving the Mass, and a handful of regulars who happened to be there for daily mass. If you died in St. Al's Parish, you'd at least have the St. Al's choir to give you an escort to the gates of Paradise.

    My favorite chant from those funerals: Dies Irae (click to listen to a Midi file that will take you back in time). Hey! It ain't Sam Cooke's You Send Me, but that's a song for another day.
    Like Sinto, I also had the "pleasure" of singing in the choir at the old folks' home - actually at St. Joseph's, which was east across the street from St. Al's. Phew! Nice to get out of there and go back to school and have cocoa.

    Tuition? Honestly, I haven't a clue. I know that my Dad, with six of us in parochial school, first in grammar school and eventually at G-Prep and Holy Names Academy, tithed to the church 10% of what my parents earned. I doubt they ever paid real tuition. I remember that when I eventually enrolled at Holy Names College, which used to be across the street to the south of Holy Names Academy, that the treasurer of the school called me into her office at the end of the first semester and brought up the unfortunate subject of tuition. Seems my folks hadn't paid any. It certainly had never occurred to me, I'm embarrassed to say. The treasurer suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea if I left school to get a job and returned when I could pay the tuition. (Of course, this was before national defense student loans.)

    That seemed reasonable to me, so I left that day, determined to find a job. After a couple of days, I received a telephone call from the President of the college. They wanted me back, and all I would have to do was pay for my books and maintain a 3.0 GPA. A full ride, despite the fact that I was not a top student. I was too bright, she said, not to be in college.

    The Holy Names nuns were and are just amazing. They were smart, wonderfully well educated, generous, and idealistic.

    They had a mission in Basutoland, and the sisters posted there used to come to school periodically and tell us wonderfully spooky stories of black magic and witch doctors.

    The nuns rewarded good behavior by handing out holy cards, beautiful gold-gilt cards, with stories of the saint pictured on the back. I always was confident that no matter what was done to me, I too would be a holy martyr if my faith were ever to be challenged.

    There was just one little problem with the nuns that caused some consternation for my devout parents: Many of the good Sisters thought Joe McCarthy was a saint. My dad patiently explained to us kids how and why the dear nuns, on this subject, were gravely misled.

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    Well Native was just 5 years ahead of me, so many parallels exist, including that I had Sr Imelda Ann for 8th grade. So did JHoops. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (http://www.snjm.org/) were pretty damn good over all. I had only one very bad teacher, and she was shipped out after our class. She was old and hated boys.

    Sister Kathleen Claire was indeed redhaired and Irish, and one helluva nun and leader. When they announced that they were splitting the Oregon Province and starting one in Washington. I announced to all that she would be the head, and damned if I wasn't right. Soup or Ster Soup as she was called (all nuns were ster and soup was short for Superior) knew every one of the 800 kids in St Als by their first name. Unlike Native, though, I did see the nuns dish it out on occasion. Sr Soup was watching through the window one day as one kid in 6th grade was screwing around. He was always in a little trouble, but wasn't a really bad kid, just a little disruptive. Anyway, she came in and had him stand aside his desk. She then pinched his ear between her thumb and forefinger and proceeded to lift him onto his tippy toes (we all swore that she actually had him off the ground). She asked him if he was listening to which he replied in the affirmative, and then she proceeded to tell him there would be no more of this kind of behavior. For the next 2.5 years(till graduation) he toed the line.

    The Holy Names nuns all had degrees, not sure if they were teaching degrees, but they were graduates. They were frequently paired with Jesuit parishes, in Spokane that was St Pats, St Als, and St Xaviers, in addition to Holy Names Academy (grade school and HS) and Holy Names College. Holy Names was also a boarding school for some, the older girls stayed in Marion Hall at Boone and Superior.

    St Als fronted a long city block on Mission from Standard E to Dakota. The area N of the school was playground all the way to the alley between Nora and Indiana. The next city block E of St Als was taken up by St Joseph's Old Folks Home, run by the Sisters of Charity and Providence (same as Sacred Heart Hosp) http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03609b.htm.
    I believe it was Fr Prange, that had the foresight to see the baby boom coming, and he doubled the size of St Als in the late 40's or early 50's to 16 classrooms. The bldg had a full basement with several music rooms and a gymnasium and locker rooms in addition to the Auditorium/cafeteria room, that never once provided hot lunches while I did my 8 years. In fact, there were so many students, that you had to go home for lunch if you lived within 6 blocks of school, unless you had prior approval. Of course in those, days, most of the moms were home.

    Our house fronted Sinto, and every Saturday morning, all the nuns that were appointed to St Als would walk from their home on Astor and Sinto down to Holy Names. They would usually spend about 4 hours there, then walk back. Everyone of those nuns knew me long before I knew them, and they would frequently inquire about my older brothers and sisters.

    I can't say our education was lacking in any way, including science, which we only had a small dose of. I don't think they even called it Science, but incorporated it into Geography or where ever they could. We were given solid fundamentals in Math, Reading, and Writing. Every class had singing at least 3 times a week, maybe more. We had some from of art once a week. In the middle years we had penmanship (Wesco Method) and Spelling through 8th grade. It was rare that recess was called because of weather. Taking a note home from school was the worst thing ever. It might be info about behavior, or might be a late notice for tuition, it was never good news and was to be avoided. They had some secret way of knowing if the message was delivered too, oh the horror.

    I do remember one nun that screwed up when I was in 2nd grade. She was probably new at it, but my mother set her straight. When walking home, I accidentally dropped my reader which was new in the mud and soiled the pages a little. The Nun saw that and demoted me from the "B" reading group (the Butterflies) to the "C" reading group. When mom got wind of that, she called the nun and told her in no uncertain terms that it was probably OK to punish me for soiling the book, but not OK to do it academically. I was reinstated quickly to the "Bs" and eventually moved up to the "A" group (on merit).

    Birddog

    PS We always used "Pee Chee Portfolios". I was surprised when my kids used "Trapper Keepers". We also used three ring binders in later grades, always with the blue denim covers. At the end of each school year, we used up portions of the day going through our textbooks erasing any pencil marks. We would even erase the edges of the pages by holding the book firmly closed with one hand and erasing with the other.
    Last edited by Birddog; 04-09-2007 at 11:40 AM.

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    Just wanted to post a thank you to all those with stories posting in this thread. I very much enjoy reading your memories.

    Thanks!

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    At the end of each school year, we used up portions of the day going through our textbooks erasing any pencil marks. We would even erase the edges of the pages by holding the book firmly closed with one hand and erasing with the other.
    Had to make sure those textbooks lasted ! We did the same thing. We were also expected to cover our textbooks at the start of the school year. One of the local grocery stores would have free bookcovers every September and the St. Bernard's kids would usually scarf 'em all up. Otherwise, a grocery bag worked just fine.

    SRA reading labs ( see Angelo's note below ) were part of the program at St. B's also.

    Report cards came out four times a hear, and each quarter the pastor would visit each class and give each of us our report cards usually with a comment of two about our grades.
    Those remarks brought back a vivid memory: In 7th grade, I got a "U" for citizenship; Monsignor Shea opened the report card, saw the "U" and without saying a word, folded the card, put it back in the sleeve, and handed it to me with a look that communicated disappointment, anger, and "it better not be that way on the next report, Bucko." I slinked away from the desk thinking I was lucky to be alive.
    Last edited by RenoZag; 04-11-2007 at 03:10 PM.


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    We were also expected to cover our textbooks at the start of the school year.
    Yes. how could I forget that. If they got a little tattered, the nuns would suggest that we recover them.

    The bookcovers reminded me of another ritual. At least in 1st and 2nd grade, we were instructed on the first day of school to obtain an empty cigar box to put our personal possessions in. My father didn't smoke cigars, so I was told to just go across the alley and knock on the door of Bernies and tell them of my needs. The bartender answered the knock, listened to my pitch, then instructed me to wait at the door. After a minute or so, the bartender returned with a nice Roi Tan cigar box. The cigar box was placed under our desk top and was used to hold our pencils (2 first grade type fatties), an eraser (the soft pink ones), Crayola brand Crayons (Binney and Smith of course), some clay, and a folded piece of "oil cloth" about 18" X24", and maybe some milk glue, not so sure about that. Oil cloth was used as a covering for tables, it had a slick side that was washable and usually had a print like plaid or something, and the flip side was like canvas. The oil cloth was used when we got to mess around with clay or paint so it wouldn't get all over the desk. You could really roll out the worms on that oil cloth. I think it was used just about any time we did finger painting, or any desk top craft.

    I don't think I ever had a Crayola box that had more than 16 colors. I always was stuck with the small size. Some of the more privileged kids (not necessarily from S of Mission) had those ginormous boxes with 72 colors. Those kids got quite popular whenever we we working on some crayon stuff. If we did projects that required paste, the school provided it. I remember some kids liked to eat it. I never tried. Of course when we played with modeling clay, the girls would do stuff like making flowers and small coil pots while the boys would do gross stuff like worms and turds (when the nuns weren't looking of course).

    Birddog

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    The first Thursday of every month, we walked single file, in silence, from St. Al's grade school to the church, for confession. During this quiet time, we were expected to examine our consciences. I remember my sense of apprehension growing as we approached the church without my being able to remember a single "new" sin I'd commited since my last confession! Desperate, I'd eventually dredge up some tired old reliable sin from the past that I could brush off and reuse as if new. There was no way I was going to go into that darkened confessional and claim that I'd done nothing wrong since my last confession. I've had a vague feeling of guilt about those fraudulent confessions ever since ...

    After Mass on First Friday, we returned to School for cocoa and sweet rolls and a late start on the school day. Very nice.

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    Although i didn't really like going to First Friday unless I was serving, it was cool as an older kid to stop off at Dutch's for a maple bar and some hot chocolate on our way back to school. We would always take the time to check out the photos on the wall, esp the big one of Tony Canadeo. It would be a special treat to spot Frank, Jean Claude or Oscar in the place too.
    If you're old enough, then you'll remember that in front of the Ad bldg, from St Al's church all the way to the old gym, there was an enormous granite "fence" made of long granite slabs laying on the ground with a granite pillar every few feet with a large (about 2.5' diam.) granite ball atop each pillar. Running between each pillar there were some pipes too, I think. It was great fun to try and walk along those things or climb all over them.


    Each Spring at St Als, we would have the treat of having a Jesuit Scholastic teach us for about 6 weeks. This started in about 4th grade. It was the Jesuit version of student teaching. These Misters were all from Mount St Michaels in those days. That was a little Jesuit outpost that stood above and outside of Hillyard. http://www.stmichaels.org/stmichaels/history.htm Boy scout and other groups always made a field trip up there to view the operation and watch the Seismograph in action. When they built Bea House, the Misters moved onto campus, before that they took many of their classes and lived on the Mount.

    Birddog

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    I went to St. Francis of Assisi grade school from '62 to '70. We also were taught by Holy Names nuns. I definitely remember some corporal discipline meted out; especially when I was the recipient. Sr. Roseanne Mary wielded an effective ruler across the knuckles. Sister Anastasia Marie used to have me stand at attention and would upbraid me for being a "punk", all the while poking me in the sternum with the world's longest and boniest finger--it was kind of like Chinese water torture--the first poke didn't hurt much, but by about the 10th, the pain would be agonizing.

    Singing was the bane of my life; I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. For at least 3 of the years I was in grade school, the music teacher was Sister Delores Crosby, Bing's niece. She and I struck a deal, if I didn't sing (and get everyone else off tune), then I could ring the bells when our class sang Jingle Bells at the Christmas Pageant.

    The block of Jefferson St. across from the school and the church was a big vacant dirt field that was used for church parking on Sundays. We played touch football on the lot in the fall, soccer in the winter, and softball in the spring during recess and lunch period. Every September during the first 4 or 5 years I was in school, there was a parish carnival on the lot. It was quite elaborate and much looked forward to. I can remember carnival games and rides. Cupie dolls or fake shrunken heads were the most popular prizes for the carnie games, followed closely by the goldfish in a plastic bag that you won for throwing a ping pong ball into a fishbowl. Fr. John phased it out because he thought "tithing" was a more dignified way of fundraising.

    We were north siders. We went ski jogging. I never heard of hookey bobbing until I was in high school.

    Until I was in about 6th grade, I was convinced that there were 3 religions in the world: (1) the one true, holy, catholic and apostolic church; (2) the Jews (who killed Jesus); and (3) the "publics" which vaguely included all protestants. We considered ourselves far superior to the publics, and the days we got off school for holy days of obligation were proof of our superiority. There was a lower class of Catholics, the kids who attended public school and had to go to CCD on Saturdays for their religious indoctrination.

    We sold World's Finest Chocolate bars in the fall and Holy Childhood Seals in the spring. It was a lot easier to sell the chocolate than the seals; of course, it was a lot easier to eat your inventory, too. We sponsored "pagan babies" with money we put in a coffee can on the nun's desk.

    The Holy Names nuns strongly emphasized reading. I remember in the middle school years we had a self-directed reading program called "SRA," where you would read a 1-2 page essay or story and then answer a series of questions. We also had regular spelling bees. The curriculum was pretty weak when it came to science. My fifth grade teacher realized this shortcoming and encouraged a handful of us to take a science class during summer school at Field Elementary.

    Our uniforms were brown salt and pepper cords with "tan" shirts. My friend Steve Kraft liked the color of the shirts because you get play in the mud and get them dirty and it would blend in. We couldn't wear tennis shoes to school, so it was loggers or Buster Brown wingtips. We had dark brown sweaters and the boys had green "F" letters with little gold footballs, basketballs or baseballs awarded for CYO sports.

    St. Francis was a football school. Two former St. Francis kids (Morin and Pettigrew) were playing in the NFL when I was in grade school and all of us believed pro football careers were our destiny. None of my contemporaries were pro material, but a kid in the class behind mine that I blocked for went on to a pretty decent HS and college career. He is now the offensive coordinator at the UW--Tim Lappano. We practiced at Franklin Park. St. Al's and St. X were our rivals on the North Side. St. Pat's...well, I don't ever recall St. Francis losing a varsity or JV game to St. Pat's. Our rival on the South Hill was Fatima, who was coached by H. Henry Higgins, one of my dad's good friends and business partners. We lost the championship game when I was an 8th grader to St. Paschal's from the valley.

    In addition to Gary Pettigrew, another of our grade school heroes was Richard Baldasty, a kid from the neighborhood who captained GU's team when it appeared on the GE College Bowl against Goucher in '68 or '69.

    After school, we played in the street (unless we were playing or practicing CYO sports). Football in the fall, street hockey in the winter, softball or rubber-coated hardball in spring. There was no such thing a "play date." You'd walk down the street and knock on your buddy's front door and ask "can Johnny come out and play?" During the summer, we'd spend the afternoons in the pools at Shadle Park. During the evenings we played softball in the street until it was dark, then we'd listen to the end of the Indians game on KHQ, with Herb Hunter calling the action (sponsored by Budweiser and Pella Windows and Doors).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelo Roncalli View Post
    In addition to Gary Pettigrew, another of our grade school heroes was Richard Baldasty, a kid from the neighborhood who captained GU's team when it appeared on the GE College Bowl against Goucher in '68 or '69.
    Great names from the past, Angelo. Pettigrew was a senior at G-Prep when Baldasty, Birddog and I were freshmen. The one thing I remember about Pettigrew, other than his emormous size, was his custom made "hack" paddle that he held behind his back as he stood guard with a select number of "lettermen" in the halls as we trudged to assemblies in the gym. I never saw anyone get out of hand when they walked by Pettigrew. He wasn't one to mess with and his 10 year career as starting defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles proved the point.

    Baldasty was one of my favorite classmates at G-Prep and GU. The guy had Rhodes Scholar smarts combined with a great sense of humor. I remember the GE College Bowl appearance when he rang the buzzer on the very first question, which was something like "what philosopher described all matter and thought as interchangeable and existing as small balls of energy?" I was watching with my dad, mom and older brothers and I yelled out Spinoza a second before Rich did, earning the GU team points for the correct answer. The awestruck looks from my family were a result of my less than stellar academic prowess in college. To this day it stands as one my proudest moments.

    However, this is a grade school thread and I need to stay on topic. ZagNative's mention of Sister Imelda Ann brings back the memory of one of my least proud moments in life that occured in my 8th grade year. It was in late October and Ster Imelda Ann kept me after school for a lecture on my behavior. Because of this detention I was going to be late for football practice and we were palying for the parochial league championship that Sunday. As Gamagin and Birddog can attest, it was okay to be late for just about anything during our days at St. Al's but football practice wasn't one of those things. Now up to that day I had taken great pride in the fact that I had never once shed a tear during my previous 7 plus years at St. Al's, but there I stood as this 13 year old "big kid" shedding crocadile tears because I was going to be late for practice. Sister Imelda Ann was taken back somewhat and she let me go free and I made it to practice just in time. She knew what she was doing because she received no trouble from me for the rest of the year.

    I remember the ladies in black from my formative years as being tough as nails but generally fair and I consider myself fortunate to have had them as teachers.

  13. #13
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    Default Pots

    CYO football practice started the week before Labor Day so that teams would have two weeks of practice under their belts before the first league game at Prep. We couldn't play CYO football until sixth grade. After a day or two of "no pads" workouts, we had a team meeting in the basement of the St. Francis gym where we got our uniforms. As sixth graders, we knew we'd be relegated to the B squad. The B squad got the dregs when it came to equipment. The shoulder pads were made of some brittle brick red substance--the same stuff was used to make old catcher's shin guards. The cleats that were handed out to the B squad were all black high tops that had been worn so many times previously that the "high tops" flopped over to the ground when you set them on the floor. Then there were the helmets. There were a dozen or so "modern" helmets that were made of hard plastic and had two-bar face masks. These went to the most promising players on the B squad, guys who might be called up to play with the varsity. Then there were the "p0ts." Everybody else on the B squad got p0ts.

    P0ts were decrepit helmets from the 20's and 30's that Billy Frazier had collected and distributed the grade school CYO teams (his farm system). P0ts were made of leather--the tops were criscrossed with leather straps--and you could still see the stitching under the dozens of coats of green paint that had been swathed on over the years. To be legal for play, face masks had been bolted onto the the p0ts at some point in the distant past. These face masks weren't the cool two-bar plastic face masks that adorned the helmets the varsity and "talented" B squad players had. No, the face masks on the p0ts had an additional vertical bar down the middle, right in the middle of the line of vision. The ancient leather "padding" on the inside of the p0ts had dried out over the decades to a hard masonite-like surface that nearly ripped your ears off when you pulled the p0t on your head. P0ts were hot. P0ts were heavy. Pots hurt your head even before you g0t hit. P0ts were ugly and p0ts definitely were not cool.

    In about the fourth B squad game, I was playing offensive guard and had pulled to block on a quarterback bootleg. As I went to block the defensive end, he grabbed the face mask on my p0t, and pulled it out of the ancient leather. He stood there sheepishly with the evidence in his hand and the ref tagged the defense for a 15 yard penalty. I had to come out of the game, because my p0t was no longer legal.

    The next day coach Snyder took me down to Prep to see if they had anything we could mooch to replace my p0t. The equipment manager had one helmet that Bill Hatch or Simchuk's had given to Frazier as a sample and it was too small for any of the Prep players. It was an Atlanta Falcons helmet and was painted a very cool metal flake red with a black falcon. It had a two-bar face mask. I only got to wear it to one practice before it was spray painted green, but it was still the coolest piece of equipment on the team.
    Last edited by Angelo Roncalli; 04-10-2007 at 06:54 AM.
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    In late summer of '55 a day before school started, I wandered across the alley to the Borbeau's yard, where the boys were playing some golf on their homemade putting surface. They asked me if I was going to play football for St Al's, and I replied that I couldn't because I was too young. They said "you're in 3rd grade aren't you", and I said "yeah" They replied in unison, "then you're old enough to play "B" squad". I then stated that "I really didn't know how to play", and they said, "no problem we'll give you some basics, do you have some equipment" "Yep, my brother's got a uni". So I fetched the nearly unblemished POS Hutch brand equipment and marched back to the Borbeaus. They quickly rejected the shoulder pads as too flimsy and went to their basement where they pulled out a duffel bag full of gear. We rummaged around trying on stuff till they were satisfied that I had sufficiently upgraded the essentials (except for the helmet which they warned me about). They then taught me a 3 pt stance, how to wrap up a ballcarrier and some other basics and pronounced me good enough to join the team. Looking back, they probably really enjoyed that, as they were all superb athletes and they had just locked up another kid in the neighborhood to sports. I went back home and proudly announced that I was "turning out for football" to my family. Bob Borbeau had been the QB on the Gonzaga HS team the year before (at least I think it was that year) that was generally regarded as the best team ever put on a field until the '63 team at Prep. Bob's brother Pete was a fantastic runner, he held the city record for the 880 for years (sub 1:50 IIRC) The Sprague boys who lived at the end of the block were also on that team, then went on to UW.

    In the Catholic grade school system. 3rd, 4th and 5th graders played "B" squad tackle football, and 6th, 7th, and 8th played "A" squad. Our coach was Pete Budig, and he had his hands full with about 35 or 40 kids. I believe he had an assistant, but can't recall who it was. We played 5 or 6 games. usually at that park alongside the river below the Monroe St Bridge. We practiced at Mission Park on a spot of turf near the large baseball diamond and also near the tennis courts under the adjacent Chestnut trees. I remember that Billy Bronowski was our QB. Since I was always one of the 3 or 4 smallest kids in my class, I was mired back in the depth charts, and would generally see about 30 secs of playing time at the end of a game (if we were winning). It was hell being such a gifted athlete and being so small. My talents went undetected most of my playing career.

    I played 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, but 5th grade the season was real short because I think only 2 other schools fielded teams. Face guards, (single bar style) were brand new and not required until I believe 5th grade. My helmet until then was that original Hutch, that was made of some glorified cardboard crap, and offered little in the way of protection. I remember one time in 3rd grade when I was attempting to close in and make a tackle when a blocker knocked me arse over teakettle and I went somersaulting into one of those Chestnut trees head first. The coaches were there in an instant thinking that I probably was knocked out, but the Hutch helmet did it's job and I hopped back onto my feet and resumed play much to their surprise and a only a little worse for wear. I believe it was in 5th grade when I got one of those fancy plastic helmets down at Simchuks Sporting Goods.

    Growing up in the Gonzaga District, you were immersed in traditions one of them being sports. My sister bought me a lookalike Gonzaga Letterman jacket when I was about 5. Living within just a couple blocks or closer of the house
    I grew up in were the Borbeaus, Spragues (both families on our block), Hares, Flaharety's, Etters, and others. Ex GU players like Herm Brass and Pete Higgins also lived nearby so there was no shortage of athletic tradition. The Sprague boys were recruited by UW and I believe were part of the recruiting scandal that UW got into then. I remember that the whole family moved to Seattle because Mr Sprague got a great job over there at the same time. Bob Borbeau turned down a rumored bonus of $25,000 to sign with the Pirates and instead played BB for GU. After that he joined the Army and played QB for one of the Army teams in Europe.

    Birddog

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    As I read the posts above I kept thinking how similar our experiences were. For me I started 1st grade in 1955 at St. Pat's in Walla Walla. One of the memories I have that year was the whole school going out to the airport in Walla Walla to greet the new Bishop for the Spokane diocese - Bishop Topel. The summer following 1st grade my family moved at St. Pat's in Tacoma, the summer following that we moved again and the remainder of grade school was at Holy Cross in Tacoma.

    The pastor was from Ireland, as were the assistant pastors (except one who the pastor managed to get transeferred in short order) and it seemed that many of the Dominican sisters were also fresh off the boat and from Ireland.

    The beginning of every year was spent covering text books, usually with cut up grocery bags. Some of the kids moms actually purchased real book covers, but most used paper bags. Uniforms were salt and pepper cords, white shirt and green pullover sweaters with a V neck. The girls had plaid jumpers, white blouses, and Mr. Rogers sweaters through 6th grade and in 7th and 8th grades could wear skirts.

    Recesses were football in the fall, "soccer" in the winter and softball in the spring. Each class had there own area of the parish grounds to play during recess, and every Monday new teams were picked for the week. My class had around 24-26 boys and 12-14 girls every year. I don't remember what the girls did at recess during grades 3-6, but beginning in grade 7 they seemed to just sit on the sidelines and watch the boys play and the boys seamed to spend a lot of time between innings, plays etc talking to the girls.

    Reoprt cards came out four times a hear, and each quarter the pastor would visit each class and give each of us our report cards usually with a comment of two about our grades. When he was done everone's grades were pretty much common knowledge for the whole class. Then you had to take them home for mom or dad to sign. If you were reading the pastor's comments then you really dreaded giving you report card to you parents.

    The lucky kids got to bring their lunches to school, most of us had hot lunch at school. Most days it was some inedible concotion the worst being "Spanish Rice" on Wednesdays. It was truly awful rice, tomato paste, green things (probably peppers) usually we would stuff the crud in our milk cartons and try to sneak it by Sister Mary Gestapo (whichever nun had lunchroom duty that week) who was wise to our was shake our milk carton before we could dump it in the trash and send us back to eat everything before we could leave for noon recess with a lecture about the poor starving children in China, Africa etc. I offered to send them my glop oneday....BIG MISTAKE!

    Beginning in 5th grade we began having organized CYO teams that played other schools - flag football, basketball, softball and eventually baseball. I always skipped playing flag football preferring to play tackle football in a league sponsered by the park department.

    Every so often there mass immunizations. The first time it was polio shots and it seems that every two years there were more polio shots though eventually you got the vaccination in a oral dose/sugar cube. Besides polio TB tests were a big thing, and small pox vaccinations. It seems to me that the health department poked, prodded, and needled us with some test or vaccination every year. Fortunately we all survived.

    Someone also mentioned SRA reading. I can remember all those colored cards. Everyone in class know which group you were in. In every class there were those who got to go the the class ahead (or behind) for their SRA becase they had either zipped through the ones for the current year, or had not finshed the previous year.

    All in all growing up in the north end of Tacoma was a wonderful experience. You left for school in the morning and mom and dad really didn't worry about anything happening as you rode your bike to or from school, or whose friends house you went to after school as long as they know where and you were home by dinnertime.

  16. #16
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    Default Good stuff Bocco

    If you substitute navy blue V-necks for your green ones then your experience is pretty much the same as what we had at St. Al's. I've been waiting for someone to mention cutting up brown paper bags for book covers. I thought that maybe my brother, cousins and I were the only ones who did that. I thought it was an Italian thing like pepperoni sandwiches, green olives and frisidee (sp?) in our lunch pails. The Irish kids like Birddog and Gamagin had to suffer with peanut butter and jelly and Hostess white bread. Of course I really didn't know there was a difference and I thought we were all both Irish and Italian until I was in about the 8th grade. After all, we all stole altar wine together, wore green on St. Patrick's Day, Notre Dame was the only football team in the land and St. Aloysius was Italian. No wonder we were all confused. Father O'Malley would end his religion class with a little prayer to Our Mother of Victory on Fridays before a Notre Dame game. That's the same Father O'Malley who also taught religion to my mother and Bing Crosby and he's the same priest who Bing named his leading character after in Going My Way and Bells of St. Mary's.

  17. #17
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    jhoop

    I meant to mention stealing sips of altar wine and munching on unconsecrated hosts, that most be a common experience of every altar boy. For me it was one of my first tastes of alcohol other than the stolen sips of beer from my dad when he wasn't looking.

    Fr. Duggan was our pastor. Every so often he would come into the 8th grade classroom point to two of the boys and say "you two come with me." Now when its September of your 8th grade year and you are one of the two he points to you start shaking in your loggers and wondering what the heck you did....turns out he needed two servers for a funeral. After the funeral he took us over to the rectory (in our alterboy garb) for hot chocolate and donuts, while the funeral procession left the church and headed for the cemetary. After about half an hour we climb into his Rambler American and proceed through the streets of Tacoma at 50 plus miles an hour (the speed limits were mostly 30) barely slowing for red lights, stop signs etc, and just catching up to the funeral procession as it entered the cemetary for the graveside service. I think I spent the whole time hunkered down in the backseat waiting for the cops to pull over us over. Would have been quite a site - two altar boys and a priest all decked out in our church garments pulled over by Tacoma's finest. It turns out the Tacoma police were well aware of Fr. Duggan's driving habits and he had accumulated more that his share of speeding tickets.

    I think the next time we knew there was a funeral and the pastor came into the 8th grade classroom all 26 of us jumped up to volunteer.

  18. #18
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    If you can't handle the confusion, stay out of the Foo!

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  19. #19
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    JMJ

    April 16, 2007

    Dear Mr. UberZagFan


    Thank you so much for the wonderful photo of the good Sisters of the Divine Retribution, who taught me during my eight year confinement at Holy Fool of the Lord Grade School (known affectionately to those incarcerated there as Holy Fools.)

    Your picture is much more recent that when I was at Holy Fools since their weapon of choice was approximately 3" long pointer that had the appearance of being miniature pool cue, and the sisters were much younger in appearance.

    The last thing one wanted to hear as Sister was pointing out the errors a fellow student made diagramming a sentence was the rapid tapping of said pointer on the black board followed by the words, "Mr. Bocco front and center." Resistance was futile. Upon compliance with this request you were further instructed to hold your hand out palms up, and justice was quickly given. Usually this was to the sniggers of the remaining fifty-nine students watching with great glee and relief that it was not them on the receiving end. Sniggering was brought to an immediate halt, when Sister inquired if anyone else want to share in my discomfort.

    After grade school I attended Justice Under God Preparatory run by the Jesuits. Most of us referred to this as JUG. Punishment was handled with less immediacy. Usually you were sent out of the classroom and told to put your nose to the window of the classroom door and wait for the vice-principle Fr. Disciplinarian, who routinely patrolled the halls of JUG Prep looking for scofflaws and miscreants. The choice given was either two hacks or and hour after school cleaning the grounds of the school. Usually the hacks were preferable.


    Sincerely yours,
    Bocco

    P.S. Your picture must reflect the good sisters new calling of being the promised Heavenly Virgins mentioned so often in current news stories.
    Last edited by Bocco; 04-16-2007 at 05:53 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Nunsense

    Nuns with Guns. . .sounds like a new wave band. . .or a very religious group of power lifters who hang at the Gold's Gym. . .

    FWIW, when I first saw the photo of the firearm totin' penquins, it was just after the word on the Virginia Tech massacre had hit the internet. I didn't find the photo very funny after hearing THAT piece of news. . .


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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by RenoZag View Post
    FWIW, when I first saw the photo of the firearm totin' penquins, it was just after the word on the Virginia Tech massacre had hit the internet. I didn't find the photo very funny after hearing THAT piece of news. . .
    So true RenoZag. The events at Virginia Tech are very sad and sobering. Hopefully we are all keeping the victims, their families and friends in our prayers.
    The world is a magical place full of people waiting to be offended by something.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelo Roncalli View Post
    There was a lower class of Catholics, the kids who attended public school and had to go to CCD on Saturdays for their religious indoctrination.
    Yeah, and we CCD kids really envied you...we had to do both school and Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, when you got off with just Mass. CCD at St. Paschals was rigorous in its own way, as the Sters had so little time to indoctrinate us. I was a suck-up with a beatific smile that I perfected, so was able to get away with lots more than other boys. And the guessing games, where Ster would give a holy card or scapula to the student who guessed the number between 1 and 100. With one teacher the secret number was always 7, and with another 40, so I won a shoebox full of holy cards.

    A lot of the other things are the same as you guys experienced, saving the pagan babies, Father coming to the classroom to tag us out to train as altar boys, baseball on the (asphalt) church parking lot. Oh, and the nuns gave us extra credit if we ejaculated: saying the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph out loud. And writing JMJ on top of our papers. Man, they were so predictable.

    To us public school kids, you guys were thought to be tough and probably smokers, and the girls were reputed to be easy. When I went to GU in 1965, I found out a lot of it was true.

    Now back to your fond memories.....

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by zag69 View Post
    the nuns gave us extra credit if we ejaculated: saying the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph out loud
    Now there is a word I have not heard in that context in quite a while. Thanks for the remembery.
    The world is a magical place full of people waiting to be offended by something.

  24. #24
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    Default The Day Sister Lucilla raided Skinners.

    This was in "57" of course, and "Pappy" Skinners pool hall was just around the corner from St. Patricks School. Some of us 7th & 8th grade boys would skip mandatory attendence at 8:00 AM Mass to pick up change racking balls and bussing tables, even shooting a game of snooker once in a while if an adult(usually a younger family friend or relative who would'nt rat you out) would consent to play with you.One Monday Sister Lucilla hit that place like Elliot Ness on a bootleg raid, herded about six of us out of there and we had to meet with Fr. McKernan after Mass and explain ourselves. Needless to say our hastily contrived cover story was a complete flop. We all received corporal punishment, in my case, as I was a Server, I had to serve the 6:30 AM Mass for two weeks in a row and write a detailed account of how hanging out at a poolhall could become an "occaision of Sin". You should have read that story. lol.
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  25. #25
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    HBZ, that is a great story! Was that St. Patrick's School in Hillyard?

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