Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back to School

Soon the schools in New York begin a new year. It got me thinking about how it was for me going back to Our Lady of Lourdes for a new term after another glorious summer. I may have written about this already, but since I don't have the energy to check, I will just press on. Unlike most kids, I never really minded returning to school. I always had a very busy summer, what with day camp at PS 73 and hanging out in the long evenings playing ring-a-levio, kick the can, Johnny-on-the Pony and hide and seek, my days were full. There was also swimming at Coney Island and Betsy Head pool, family picnics on Sundays, Saturday stickball games and a thousand other things kids did in the Fifties, so come the end of summer, school felt like a welcome change.

Getting up in the morning was not a problem for me; that came later in life when I had to wake up for work. I had a routine...breakfast was usually cereal and milk, sometimes coffee if Mom had it made. (I'm sure our teachers appreciated kids arriving to class wired with caffeine.)  I read the backs of cereal boxes as carefully as most executives read the Wall Street Journal. Then I would get dressed in slacks, white shirt and blue tie, our school uniform. In the pioneer days before school buses, I made the 15-minute walk to school, sometimes meeting a friend or two along the way. Today we have this ridiculous system of busing kids miles from their homes for a better education instead of fixing the local schools. But I digress.

As I approached the school, I would always stop at the candy store on the corner of Aberdeen Street and Broadway where we hung out before entering the schoolyard. A nice older couple ran the place and were very tolerant of us since we spent our nickels and dimes there. In the schoolyard there would always be a ball game of some sort going on, or the girls would be jumping rope. These activities allowed us to expend one last burst of energy before having to sit still at our desks. Finally we lined up by class, two by two, in size order, and marched into the yellow brick building. Our new teachers would be waiting to greet us at the classroom door. The day started with the Pledge of Allegiance, sadly, no longer recited in most schools. 

This was Catholic school, so there was little time for pleasantries. We plunged right in, moving from subject to subject, often distracted by the Indian summer breezes that wafted into the open windows. We stayed in the same room, the routine broken only when the music teacher (Miss Hessian) or the art teacher (Miss Frankie) would come into our classroom to relieve the monotony of math, English, religion and history. From fourth grade on, I was a member of the school safety patrol and was required to get to school early so I could help younger kids cross the street. By eighth grade I was Captain of the safety patrol and had to arrive extra early to be sure everyone was at their assigned post.

Besides getting an excellent education at Lourdes, I was on the baseball, basketball, swimming and track teams, and in the school marching band, so I spent a lot of time after school working on my athletic and social skills. It was especially nice reuniting with those kids I never saw over the summer. Most of the teachers were caring and competent, and the Franciscan Brothers also doubled as coaches on the sports teams. Brother Jude (second from right) was a major influence on my life, and a friend and I had lunch with him a few years ago near his 80th birthday. Still sharp as a tack. Some people knock Catholic school but for me it was the perfect fit. I can never repay those good teachers for what they taught me...not just about academics but about life.


Children's Craniofacial Association   http://www.ccakids.com/ 

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