Ruminations -3 Grade School

Grade School

My schooling started when we were living at 412 Ryan St., and continued on for practically the rest of my life. We lived directly across the street from St. Joseph’s school, which was a part of the Roman Catholic complex of school, convent, rectory and Church. The teachers were Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet, with their Mother house in St. Louis. St. Joseph’s school didn’t have a kindergarten, so I went to Hancock Central School for that first year. That school was also on Ryan St. and its property abutted that of the St. Joseph complex. So, I never went to a school that was more than a block away from my home.

Miss Dee was the kindergarten teacher. A robust motherly type and it was a joy being in her room. She did all the right things to make the children be happy to be there, which is a great way to start the school experience. I started first grade in St. Joseph’s school, and really enjoyed it. The classroom was a little large as it held grades one, two, and three. Sister Celesine taught all three grades and it seemed quite good to me. Having three grades in one room made it possible for me to listen in to the higher grades when I was all through with the work for my grade.

When I was in the second grade I was quite far ahead in my reading and Sister Celestine would send me in to another room with the slow readers to help them with the lesson. I remember one goof I made. It was in a story about castles and such and at one point the story talked about a palace. Well, I was careless and forced the group to read it as place.

I started third grade on schedule but early in the year Sister Celestine pulled me aside and said I was to go upstairs to Sister Anna Clare’s room and move up to the fourth grade. This was fine by me, as Sister Anna Clare was reputed to be a great teacher. This room also had three grades in it, 4th, 5th and 6th. Her teaching technique involved doing a lot of board work and she expected us to memorize the multiplication tables up through 12. One time when we were first learning long division I had great difficulty with it, and she made me stand at the board for quite some time until I got it right.

All went fine and in due course I moved to Sister Anastasia’s room which had 7th and 8th grades in it. Living so close to school and church meant that we were well watched by the priests and religious people of the Church and School. I was in a class play one year and on the day before the play I was having a great time climbing trees in our back yard. I was called into school and scolded for putting the play in jeopardy.

Of course I was an altar boy, along with my brother Warren. This meant we were often called to serve mass when a scheduled boy missed his assignment. I also took piano lessons and Sister Anastasia wanted me to play the organ during Sunday afternoon benediction. She would send me to the church in afternoons to practice, and I was not good at it at all. In fact on the first day I was to play in church I totally messed up the music to Tantum Ergo and she shoved me to the side of the bench and took over. That was the end of my church music. Warren and I often played mass, and we celebrated our mass using milk and water. Even for a time I thought about becoming a priest but that soon passed.

During our growing up days I remember Warren as being told to keep an eye on me, his younger brother, to make sure I was all right. I think Warren accepted this without too much trouble – at least I don’t remember feeling any great animosity from him. I think he was more independent and resisted demands upon him – I believe the existence of “the stick” grew out of that. But maybe Janet was part of that too, since I think there was a lot of difficulty experienced by our folks in attempting to keep her “in line.” Janet left home in 1940 or 41 so she was not around during much of my adolescent days.

Warren was the leader of any group of boys that got together. Everyone would expect him to be a part of every decision and often we couldn’t decide what to do next if Warren wasn’t around. Then Warren and Joyce Zerbst discovered each other and as time went on we found that Warren would rather spend time with her than with the rest of us. Because of that an on-going hockey game on our rink would soon languish if Joyce was there.  So it came as no surprise to us when later he and Joyce were married and now they have been happily married for over 60 years.

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