Catholic School Memories

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  • Catholic School Memories

    Hello all:

    Anyone here attend Catholic elementary school during the late '60s and early 70s?

    I need help with specific scents (besides chalk dust) and vocabulary unique to the schools, such as missles, Mother Superior, etc.

    Appreciate any help!

  • #2
    Re: Catholic School Memories

    My 2nd grade teacher, despite his PhD, mispronounced my name the entire year. I didn't have the courage to correct him.

    I remember being in awe of the older boys while waiting in line out in the courtyard before school would start. I also remember rushing up the stairs to home room once they sounded the bell and opened the doors to the school.

    The highlight of my year was when someone left a can of 7UP out on the window sill before a hard freeze.

    I have vague memories of going to confession worried that I had nothing to confess.

    Don't really remember any smells.
    http://confoundedfilms.com

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    • #3
      Re: Catholic School Memories

      That's funny and true about not having enough sins to confess. I sometimes made them up on the spot, certainly losing grace in the process. Ironic.

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      • #4
        Re: Catholic School Memories

        My Catholic school experience was in the 80s, but as it was in Australia, and at arguably the most backward school in the country at the time, I'd bet it was like being in the 60s and 70s.

        Smells I remember most were mothballs (for the habits), starch, and occasional wiffs of incence around the time of Ash Wednesday. I also remember Sister Conlath's finely honed cane (as it landed across the backs of my legs), Sister Mary's religious nosepicking (something about the shapeless black habit, I'm guessing, made them completely unselfconscious about their bodily actions), and, again, Sister Mary's OBSESSIVE protection of the one small square of grass in the whole school. She defended it like it was the Holy Grail, standing guard from her second floor window to watch the girls leave school at the end of the day. Heaven help any errant Year 7 who would deign to set foot on the sacred turf - she'd be set upon by a ranting raving flying nun (she looked like she was flying anyway, sprinting down those steps like a frigging Olympian), and sent immediately to the office where our more progressive (without habit) nun principal would offer a token reprimand, and send her on her way.

        What else? Sneaking into the nuns' dorms at lunchtime and staring fascinated at the bare, neat, little cells they called home - usually on our way up the attic stairs where we smoked cigarettes and sunbathed on the convent roof. Bathed in baby oil in case we hadn't attracted enough cancer-producing UVs. (Our other favourite smoking spot was the grotto - a little cave in front of the church, in front of the school, which had some nice hiding spots inside, but also a statue of the Virgin praying in front. I remember us just about choking on our inhaled cigarette smoke as we listened terrified to Sister Pauline as she knelt outside the grotto and began the first of her twelve Hail Marys. She must have been VERY bad that day. We sat behind the cave wall, wide eyed, trying not to expel smoke or even breathe while she recited her penance, hoping not to get caught... When she was done, with utter composure and enormous dignity, she walked around into the grotto and quietly asked us to report to our head teacher. We got in a LOT of trouble that time. But even though I didn't give a **** about religion back then (it was all oppression and ritual in my mind), I remember feeling appalled at how we'd breached this woman's privacy as she'd prayed. It was like walking in on her naked or something, and I have to say I paid more respect to the grotto from then on. (For instance, we started cleaning up our buts after we were done. )

        I also remember the thick oak stairwells, the dark wooden doors, lots of secret doors and locked rooms. The school and convent buildings were red brick and enormous, and built in the early 1800s - looked more like a prison than a school - and had tall iron gates in front, either to keep us in or to keep boys out. Probably both. Truly intimidating and depressing to look at.

        I also remember the broken tennis courts/basketball courts/netball courts/square ball courts - two of them that provided all these services - which were actually ashphalt and so poorly marked that it was impossible to remember what game you were playing, and we were forever tripping over the huge cracks from all the oak and plane trees' exposed roots that were tearing it up.

        I remember kneeling for uniform inspections - our hems had to touch the floor, our shoes couldn't be "too shiny" (too easy to see up dresses), and our hats had to sit on our heads at the right angle. Gloves in the winter with pinafores over the top of the uniform during school hours - but NEVER after or outside of school. We had a blazer for that.

        Stupid ****ing rules everywhere... That's what I remember most. A total lack of imagination and creativity. No wonder I wigged out at uni and did every bad thing there was to do for those three years. After that sort of oppression, I'm lucky I didn't completely lose my mind.
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        • #5
          Re: Catholic School Memories

          Hmmm. I wonder if I have a few issues to work on.
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          • #6
            Re: Catholic School Memories

            I attended St. Peter and Paul in the South Side of Chicago in the mid seventies for only a taste of the soul crushing experience that is Catholic elementary school.

            Oppression and guilt are what I remember most or what I intuited most from the large dark bricked school that was part of the St. Peter and Paul compound. The compound was similar to the labyrinth, secretive design that Nic described. I barely remember the sun shining within or about the St. Peter and Paul compound. It's as if a low-lying cold front was stuck right over the school year round. I remember the smells of the church as if they had Glade plug-ins that circulated the smells of the votive candles and essence of pontificating.

            The coat rooms were gloomy. The class rooms, "visions of light and Catholic energy", wainscotted with dour brown wood, paneling to match the dark confessionals. And complimented by yellowy-tan bookshelves and desks, old school (pun intended) with the opening desktop like that of a sarcophagus in which we might temporarily bury our wordly possessions.

            Funny, but when it comes to recalling the atmosphere of class, pre-class etc, there was nothing funny. Not then. They collectively had the fear of God in us. Sure, a couple of rebels might have spoken out of turn or whispered something, but the got the ruler across the knuckles, but there were no antics. Not at that age of 6 or 7. The nuns monitored more than they taught. Children were molded then educated and definitely not celebrated. We weren't individuals as much as a class. School was like church and vice versa. I realized later that my theory that the nuns were taking out their unfulfilled lives on us had some truth. I mean, truthfully, how many evil kids can there be in one class with whom the nuns needed to "go Father Merrin on"? Not that many. Imo, Catholic schools screwed up more kids than they "saved." The nuns had their own burdens and suspicions and shortcomings, especially given that they were second-class citizens in the Catholic world.

            The one bright spot for me was a lay teacher, Mrs. Marquez, who encouraged and didn't reproach me for walking up to her desk and pointing out that she was reading a book on Teaching Spanish. And she even told my mother during a parent teacher conference that I might not be the least brightest bulb on the tree.

            The one thing that I think frustated me was that had my parents not moved us to the nearby suburbs, I might have reached that rebellious period full-on. It was delayed until I later attended St. Laurence High School in a south suburb of Chicago.
            #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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            • #7
              Re: Catholic School Memories

              Nic.h and Ire, thanks so much! Truly appreciate the feedback.

              I went to Catholic schools in Philly until 12th grade. Yep, wore knee socks until I was 18 and then went to a Jesuit university! Issues? I picked up some.

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