Apr 6, 2007

Catholic Schooldays--1950

What was Catholic gradeschool like back in the late 40's and early 50's? Here are some memories.
  1. Tuition at the Catholic grade school was $1 per month, with a lower cost for families with 3 or more children. One family in our school had 18 children.
  2. Only sisters in full habit taught in the school, and most seemed quite young.
  3. The sisters lived in a convent house owned by the parish and they cooked their own meals, often with food donated by parishioners. Finally, they needed another house because so many nuns came, and they rented one across the street. One or two nuns had to crawl up the ladder and sleep on mattresses in the attic because no other sleeping space was available.
  4. The sisters had no car and they did not drive, so they relied on a volunteer woman driver (one of my aunts) to take two of them to the grocery store and the department store once a week. I got to go along at least once and it was lots of fun being with the sisters in the crowded car.
  5. A lot of the sisters were good artists in that they painted holy cards, signs for the classroom with wonderful script, and made decorations with Easter palms. [Later, I once borrowed some of their handmade script patterns to make pro-life signs.]
  6. We girls were especially interested in whether the nuns had blonde, brown, or black hair. Only rarely did a wisp of hair peeking out from under her headpiece reveal the actual color. One day we were astonished to learn that our teacher had a sunburn on her arms because she rolled up her sleeves to to wash her clothes.
  7. Handwriting was a very important skill to practice and learn.
  8. The English textbooks with stories and associated artwork had already changed from the Misericordia readers series by the Sisters of Mercy to English readers that were not nearly as good. [Perhaps the influence of John Dewey and his friends.]
  9. Occasionally, we were allowed to buy candy and gum during school from a Sister who made money for the nuns by selling a candy bar or a pack of gum for 5 cents each.
  10. We had three recesses each day, 15-min ones during the morning and afternoons and an hour-long recess at noon. We ate our lunch rapidly so we could go outside and play. Softball, tag, volleyball, and other games were typically non-structured.
  11. School started only after Labor Day and we were finished by about May 20.
  12. Organ music was played in church--only from the balcony to the rear.
  13. The kneelers in church had no padding and we knelt on wood. Our church, like almost all, had no air conditioning during the summer, so early Sunday Masses at 6:00 am or 8:00 a.m. were best. No microphone either, the priest was expected to preach loud enough to hear.
  14. On First Fridays, the mothers fixed us hot chocolate and doughnuts after Mass. That morning, the school water faucets were covered with brown paper bags because we were not allowed to drink water after midnight if we wanted to receive communion.
  15. Father X always passed out the report cards--looking carefully at each one and making us very nervous because he saw our grades first.
  16. The Baltimore Catechism and a small gray Bible history were our religion textbooks. And we memorized the answers.
  17. We students especially looked forward to the color comic book that came once a month, Treasure Chest.
  18. I was confronted during a visit to the Blessed Sacrament during recess by the pastor who asked why I wasn't wearing something on my head. I responded it was recess and the visit was unplanned. I remember asking the priest whether it was better not to make a visit if I didn't have a head covering. He responded by leaving me to pray alone in the silent church.
  19. I knew only one child of divorced parents during my entire time in grade school.


Anonymous said...

I love information like this. It's a peek into the past that some of us never saw. Where was your kleenex to put on your head? That's what we had to do if we forgot our veil during the mid-60s.

Alison said...

I am curious to know how much Latin you had. Mostly, I am asking as I am starting to approach homeschooling with a LatinCentered method. I have been led to believe that by teaching Latin, you can teach English grammar most effectively. I just haven't encountered anyone who was actually educated that way

Dust I Am said...

I never had a Latin course! We students did learn a little church Latin in grade school because of the side-by-side Latin-English prayerbooks. I took Spanish in high school and that also helped a little because of its Latin roots.

I encouraged my children to study Latin in high school and some of them did. Our sons are good writers and Latin may have helped them. The youngest son used to debate Catholicism on the web when having more time in high school and college, and his writing style is particularly effective.

Latin is not my favorite language. I have the impression that it is a very brief and succinct language, not able to be manipulated as easily as English. Moreover, Latin is a dead language and meanings don't change. CONSEQUENTLY, it is very important that Latin be retained in the Mass and other important prayers of the Church.

The most interesting news of the past month on Latin in the Mass is found at The Times--see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ tol/news/world/europe/article1496826.ece.

M. Alexander said...

You are describing our school!!


It is so funny to see you write this. The only difference is that the sisters do have cars that have been donated to them.

Best of all one of my sisters became a nun with this Traditional teaching order, Sr. Brigid Mary, MICM. We are so proud of her and I'm so grateful for the education my children are receiving.

Oh, and the tuition is a little more ;).

bethalice said...

I have linked to this post, or rather the post on the Treasure Chest. I never knew such a thing existed! Thank you for posting the info. I am perusing your blog & loving it!

Anonymous said...

I have been trying for 50 years to obtain some of the Misericordia Readers and found a couple recently. The last one was found in an antique mall in Louisville, Ky. and the name inside was of one of my classmates. It is ironic that this classmate is one whom I have dinner with every two months. Boy! Is this a small world.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like two schools I know of! In one school, the parish priest (who is, by nature, very stern and firm, yet also very kind and wise)would line us all up and hand out the report cards -- looking at them before giving them to us! Like you said -- it made everyone (even the teachers!) VERY scared and nervous!