First of all, many thanks to Frank Mullen for gracious sharing the pictures from Holy Name contained in this post. They were taken in June of 1958 which places most of the 8th graders shown in the last picture in Duquesne High School’s Class of 1962. When I looked at these pictures when Frank first shared them with me, I felt a HUGE rush of nostalgia. I recognized every little detail; the steps behind Sister Richard that where we used to clean blackboard erasers, the blackboards, our desks, the huge windows with transoms above them, etc. The first picture is Sister Incarnata, my first grade teacher. What memories!If anyone has more pictures to share, dig it out send them along. Frank scanned these images to share with us and I am eternally grateful!!
As a student at Holy Name Grade School for eight years, I became very used to the daily routine after so many years. Very little changed from day to day; we started at the same time each day, ate lunch at the same time and went home at the same time.
The part of our day that wasn’t set in stone was what they were serving in the cafeteria and what adventures recess would hold for us. After our morning routine in the classroom, we would normally break for lunch around noon. The entire school would eat lunch at the same time. The concept of staggering the times to avoid backups wasn’t embraced; however the nuns and teachers had their own strategy for sending us to lunch.
I recall marching to the cafeteria as a child and trying to guess what was being served for lunch. The guessing game among my pals and me was simplified to an extent, by intensifying our sense of smell before we entered the school hall. The cafeteria had these immense exhaust fans, measuring at least 4 feet wide, which would belch out the smell of what was cooking into the space between the school and building occupied by Gerry Reed’s Insurance Company. For some reason, the aroma was event stronger during the dead of winter. Some meals were easy to figure out; fish, spaghetti and even stew were pretty obvious. The harder ones to guess would be things like chicken, hot dogs and other foods that did not have an obvious identifiable odor.
I remember standing in line for my lunch and being told to keep quiet by the “good sisters.” Students in first through third grade were served in pastel colored divided trays. The volunteer moms behind the counter would fill the trays and pass them to us as we moved down the cafeteria line. The thought process behind this strategy was that if we were given a tray to carry that contained plates, silverware and loose items; we would probably spill something or tip the tray. Somehow, by the time we began our 4th year at Holy Name, it was assumed that we had somehow gained a fantastic sense of balance over the summer are would be well equipped to carry “big people” food trays for ourselves. Based on my first day in the 4th grade when I managed to dump a bowl of Mrs. McCormick’s stew on the floor while carrying my grown-up tray, they might have been a bit off on their strategy!
We were permitted to leave the cafeteria after we had finished our lunch and cleaned off our trays. We would automatically head to our designated spot in the area surrounding the school to begin recess. In the winter months, our activities were somewhat limited due to icy conditions. Running and slick surfaces made for a precarious situation at times and for some dangerous play.
Hunkys however, are very adaptable. Whenever a snowfall had created icy surfaces surrounding the school or on Muir Alley, the alley that ran between South First and South Second Streets immediately behind the school, we had a field day! Much to the nun’s chagrin, we would make the best of the situation and create some great ice tracks to slide on. The fact that the temperature stayed cold for so long, the tracks would remain for weeks at a time.
The imagination and inventiveness that we all possessed as a child growing up in Duquesne was truly amazing. When I think about the fact, that for 8 years, we were able to entertain ourselves day after day in a schoolyard that could be easily described as barren is pretty remarkable. Without the aid of any equipment, very little supervision and only an asphalt surface to play on, we were able to fill our recess time with fun, excitement and in most cases, the pure joy of youth! I don’t remember there being very many fights. Everyone seemed to peacefully co-exist. In spite of our youth and naivety, we somehow were able to respect one another’s “space,” get along and just have fun.
Too bad we grew out of the ability to “play nice” with one another!