Updated: Aug 24, 2022
St. Martha grade school confessions
I was an air force brat, born in Las Vegas in 1950, and mom and I followed dear old dad to England where we lived just outside London from 1952 to 1955
We travelled over and back to the states on the USS Gen. Wm. O. Darby troop transport, and we stayed in NYC at the Henry Hudson hotel for a month while dad awaited orders. When they finally came, we moved to Savanna, where my dad was stationed at Hunter Airbase.My illustrious career at St. Martha’s school started in September 1957 as we had just moved up from Georgia back to mom’s family home in Akron on Howard St. on North Hill.
Growing up in my grandparents’ home with mom’s 3 brothers meant I had plenty of role models, Jerry a college freshman, Richard, a basketball star from John Carrol, and Ed an actual rocket scientist. So, what happened to me you ask? With all that influence surrounding me, I was still just a kid, awkward, eager to explore the nearby woods, waiting nervously for school to start and be the new kid in school.
That summer I had gotten my best bike ever, which was quite a trade up from the hand me down Schwinn one speed, with wide handlebars I had inherited from my youngest uncle Jerry.
Labor Day meant school was here, so I joined my new third grade classmates and got to explore the many wonders of this big old building. It was attached to the church and had various levels of classrooms, and my 3rd grade class was on the lower East side. I think we also housed the mimeograph machine for all the teachers to use. If I remember correctly, it was also called the “ditto machine”.
That amazing smell of freshly printed, blue ink quiz sheets, or the daily lesson, or lined writing paper to correctly learn upper- and lower-case cursive, and block printing. I remember helping the teacher run many hundreds of copies and I would always take that smell home with me on those days. We also had an Annex for 5th and 6th grade classes in the far corner of the playground, and I got to enjoy Mr. Nash for 5th grade and then next year his mom for 6th grade. I hope I got those years correct.
I do remember Mr. Nash had a perforated wood paddle, to keep us in line, but what I can’t picture was the coat room, or was it just hooks on the back wall? And more importantly, the restroom, did we have to wait and use the one in the main building? Surely, we must have had or own? I just can’t remember, please mention in the comments if your memory is better than mine.
We also had a that fabulous multi-function room that was the lunchroom, (home of the Best Lunch Ever blog I wrote about earlier), and the auditorium with a stage, a band practice room, and also the dodgeball and basketball court. I vividly remember having to take down the many folding tables and chairs in preparation for basketball practice, or gym class for dodgeball. This reminded me of time we were waiting for the gym teacher to show up to unlock the trunk with all the balls and other miscellaneous equipment.
Naturally being kids, patience was not in our arsenal, so we fiddled with the padlock, was it actually locked, wiggle, jiggle, tug. Gee I wonder how we could get it open? As fate would have it the gods of impatient kids smiled down on us and prompted me to poke my house key into that very lock. Holy Crap! It actually opened. I was the hero, so we all grabbed some balls and really started rebel rousing to our new fortune. All was fine for about 10 minutes until “coach” showed up, fuming mad that we were playing unsupervised, looking around to figure out how this was possible. I was standing off to the side while 15 of my fellow classmates all unanimously turned and pointed to me as the culprit. Now here is where it gets interesting, while we were being herded back to order by coach, somehow, mysteriously, Sr. Mary Kenneth showed up and a silence fell over the whole room. Now we were busted, and by we, I actually mean me. It started out with how did I break into the trunk? Whatever possessed me to do such a thing. When did I steal the key? Do you understand just how much trouble you’re in?
I kept saying, I didn’t steal anything, I just tried my own key, and fortunately someone checked, and the real key was right where it was supposed to be. Then I had to recreate the crime producing my house key which, was for a door lock, not a padlock and yet it worked slick as a whistle. Nobody said sorry for the mistake, or sorry for scaring the bejesus out of me, they only said “I hope you learned your lesson young man!”, followed with “don’t even think of trying that again”, and finally “your mother is going to hear about this”. So, the class proceeded, I got home later and told my mom and uncles about my sins, and to my great relief they all laughed, thought it was total overkill and I think we had pizza from Laconi’s to celebrate my brush with the catholic police. Lesson learned about picking locks, but what about trying to scare everybody returning to the classroom from lunch on a rainy day in the 7th grade.
Here is what I thought would be hilarious and would actually be a felony today. I had visited my cousins over the weekend, and we played some goofy kid’s games with cap guns, and the one I had used was still in my coat pocket so naturally it went to school with me that fateful day. On rainy days we would eat in the cafeteria, and then return to our classroom to finish out the period safe and dry. Dry maybe, but safe? Not so much. My plan was to hide in the cloakroom and ambush the first kids returning. Brilliant, right, hilarious, right, frightfully stupid, most definitely.
Again, Sister Mary Kenneth appeared out of nowhere, I swear she must have bad behavior radar built into her nun’s headdress. I had to double check on this and here is what I learned.
What is a nun's headdress called?
(A nun's headdress is called a veil, though several items make up the headdress. The coif is the close-fitting white cap that holds the headdress in place. The wimple is the traditional white piece that covers the neck and cheeks, and the veil is the outer fabric covering.)
So, I guess the radar is built into the wimple. Gee, I really enjoy saying that new word I just learned.
Now back to the saga, so there I am, doing my best bandito impression, scaring all the pretty girls, (and you know I mean all of you) I have turned to my latest victim when all of a sudden, I see her expression turn from aggravation to sheer panic. I feel the hand of God grab my shoulder and turn around to face my executioner. The punishment was swift and just. Cap gun confiscated, a stern talking to administered, and the icing on the cake was “hold out your hands”.
Yup, the wood ruler to the knuckles, and for the first and last time I noticed it was a ruler that had that metal strip on the edge necessary for crisp lines on paper or hands as needed. Lesson learned, don’t ever be so dumb as to get caught again, dummy!
Well just 2 more stories to round out this confession.
Still in the 7th grade, one of my more questionably moral friends scored a couple of Have-a-Tampa wood tipped little cigars, that I cradled in my pocket while walking home with my trombone case, planning to smoke this little gem.
But where could I do this? The weather was howling this close to Thanksgiving, and my matches were at the house.
In my brilliant flash of stupidity, I planned to smoke it in the upstairs bathroom that had a step out window that would swing wide open to let the smoke escape. So safely ensconced in my "cigar room" as soon as I light up a big gust of wind comes blowing in. One of the handy step-saving conveniences built into many older homes was a laundry chute. Yes, it would send clothes directly to the basement laundry. Guess what, it also sends cigar smoke directly to that same basement, it also had a door on the first floor to save unnecessary trips with dishtowels and cleaning cloths from the kitchen.
So, mom is in the kitchen when she smells cigar smoke, and briefly panics thinking there is a prowler lurking in the basement and sends an uncle down to investigate. No sooner than I’m getting ready to dispose of the evidence and mom is knocking on the door accusing me smoking, "How dare you scare me like that?"
Busted, but I never did give up the friend who supplied it, claiming I found it, and I got into even more trouble for picking something off the ground that who knows where it has been. But on the bright side, at least it wasn’t Sister Kenneth who caught me!
The worst part of the punishment was holding back on a gift I didn’t even know was coming. It turns out that my mom’s boss was a hunter and decided that every young man needs a gun.
So, he bought one and sold it to my mom. It was and still is a Remington Savage 20-gauge single shot firearm
that sits by my door to this very day. I was supposed to get it for the Thanksgiving trip to my uncle's cottage in the Irish Hills of Michigan, we would take the leftover turkey and all the fixings and drive up early on Friday morning because the Catholic bishop for that diocese gave us a dispensation to eat meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Instead, I had to wait until the Christmas trip to Michigan to try my luck at popping paper plates out of a tree on the south 40 acres. Evidently paper plates provide quite a kick because my shoulder was sore for days.
And finally, as I complete my story, we must return to the scene of the other, other, crime. The basketball court. I was 6 foot 2 and the tallest kid in school so naturally I had to play some B-ball.
I grew 6 inches between 7th and 8th grades, and yes, I was great for cleaning the blackboards but not so good on clearing the backboards. My uncle the basketball star gave me lots of advice, but with no hoop around to practice, it was the equivalent of Bill Murray's advice: “Be the ball”.
I joined the team and wore the uniform proudly, never missed a practice, and unfortunately never missed a game. We were 0 – 10 on the regular season, but everybody made the playoffs. Guess what? We played our first game at the old St. Vincent basketball gymnasium, where I ended up going to high school,
And boy did we ever play our hearts out. I actually scored the go-ahead basket with just a few minutes left and I even got 2 foul shots. It was amazing hearing the fans cheering me on for the first and last time, and I missed the first try but I dropped the second shot in to much cheering. We did go on to win the game, but promptly lost the second game, which ended my career in uniform. I did try out as a Sophomore at ST. V and I actually dunked the ball during practice with coach Cistone, for the one and only time in my life, because when I landed, I tore my right knee cartilage, ending my career. It is probably a good thing because Lebron was still looking to follow in my footsteps. So, does that mean I helped make him a star? Naw, only in my dreams.
Well, that wraps up my story at St. Martha for now, and I ask if any of you readers have some memories to contribute, please share in the comments, especially if you were around for some of these misdeeds.
I would Love to hear from you.