During the summer of 2004 St Julie parish sponsored a series of sessions on "Writing your Memoirs". This after I had already written 15 chapters of mine. After the first session Jane Barron gave us a homework assignment to write about an object. This is my story using her example as presented the previous week.
had moved to Mt. Greenwood during the summer of 1944
between seventh and eight grades so when I entered St Christina
School in the old brick building at 111th and Central Park, I
was a total stranger to my classmates and the nun who would be my
teacher. She introduced herself to the class by writing her name on the
blackboard in bold letters. The name, Sister Dionysius was as
intimidating as the woman herself, substantial in size in her white
have since looked up Dionysius in the list of saints and was surprised
to find 16 saints and 2 Blesseds. Most were martyrs, which didn’t
surprise me. There was a Pope with a couple Bishops thrown in. One also
carried the title “The Great”, again, not surprising. What did
startle me was the number of saints bearing the name.
Dionysius laid down the law right at the start. Most of her rules were
the standards you would expect but one made me wonder.
“There would be no crying in her class.”
That was a strange one, …
but as I later found out, there was a reason for it. Later in
that year, at a parish social event, she mentioned to my mother that she
preferred to teach boys because girls just go to tears if you merely
look cross at them.
do not remember her ever striking a girl, but boys were different.
Raymond had a habit of forgetting his patrol belt. He was stationed with
me on the busy corner of 111th and Central Park. She had
warned him that if he forgot it one more time, she would knock him into
the middle of next week. When he came to class with his head down in
guilt, she said, “Head up and look me in the eyes. What did I tell
you?” He repeated her promise and sister D came through with a right
cross that took him off his feet. There were others who shared his fate
at various times for various reasons, always preceded by due warning.
than once, as a male student, stumbled through a recitation she would
slowly get up and deliberately walk toward him. As he stood there not
daring to look up from his book, he was well aware of her approach and
we all knew what was coming. She stood in front of the lad as he
stammered through the words and finally would take the book from his
hands, close it and used it to administer a two handed blow to the top
of his head accompanied by the words, “Sit down, George” (or
whatever the appropriate name.)
girls were not totally immune to her wrath. Father Rebedou (Spelling?)
visited the class and using the list of name provided to him called on
various students with questions. He mispronounced the name of one young
lady and asked her if he said it correctly. She said, “Yes Father,
that’s OK.” After the pastor left, Sr. Dionysius berated the girl
for several minutes, loudly telling her that her name is something in
which she should take pride and if the Pope mispronounced it she should
the course of the year I discovered that this class had taken advantage
of their very mild mannered seventh grade teacher and after she had a
nervous breakdown bragged about how they sent her to the loony bin. That
perhaps explains some of the actions of their eight-grade teacher. In
all fairness I must say that many of us had excellent treatment by her
and never felt her wrath. Those who did feel her most severe punishments
were most deserving of them and were probably the worst offenders the
do not remember learning a specific subject that year except for the
Gettysburg Address which was indelibly imprinted on my mind, probably
with thanks to Frank who, when he was told to recite it, (it seems like
hundreds of times) invariably started out, “Score four … “ and was
told to “sit down and study it again for tomorrow.” I think it was
the year that we diagramed sentences, which I loved to do. It fit right
in with my desire to have everything sorted out in a logical order. My
major failure was in spelling which continues to be a problem. I should
have been an Englishman because, I tend to append an “e” to every
word, whether it needs it or not.
any case, I got along well with Sister Dionysius due to my apparent good
behavior, organizational talents, and natural quiet nature. In sixth
grade, Sister Stella had christened me “The Judge”. I was always
serious, at least to all outward appearances. But that is another story.