Woke up this morning to two inches of snow. I had a flash back to my days as a student at Holy Name.
During the winter months when the snow would be falling out of the sky and actually ‘sticking’ to the ground, for some reason it would take us a little longer to get dressed and get out of the house in the morning for school. (Snow days? What was that back in the 70’s?) The only days we got off was when the boiler would break down…
Rushing across 9th avenue, saying hello to the crossing guard Angel, who would be standing on the corner of Windsor Place making sure everything was cool.
Lining up outside the ‘girls schoolyard’ waiting for the bell to ring my classmates and I chatted away about which girls were the prettiest, talking about the Knicks and hoping like hell the bell would never ring and class would be canceled.
No such luck – the bell would go off and it would be time to go in and begin our Catholic School education by some of the greatest teachers the educational system has ever seen.
Our janitor Julio would be pushing a huge snow blower around school premises making the loudest noise anyone has ever heard; (some mornings the snow blower would be my alarm clock). Julio would clear a path for us leading from the entrance to the yard to the black steel staircase.
Walking on the path cleared by Julio alongside the convent in the schoolyard with your friends, lugging our schoolbag in one hand and a half-eaten english muffin with butter dripping in your hand in the other.
Glancing over my right shoulder I can see the tardy teachers pull into the schoolyard parking their cars and hustling up the stairs on the opposite side of the schoolyard trying to get up to class before you arrived.
Heading up the stairs taking us to ‘scholastic euphoria‘. (Principal’s office window to the left of the staircase, out of fear I would always glance up to see if anyone was watching us) leading us into school while Sister Barbara greets us at the top with her rosary beads hanging around her neck and huge grin on her face, clearly happy to see us.
Before entering I stop dead in my tracks at the top of the stairs; turning around, looking over my right shoulder at the ‘girls schoolyard’ filled with a sea of parked cars.
“Let’s go, keep moving mister,” Sister Barbara says to me.
“Hold on Sister, didn’t this use to be…” I answer looking out into the schoolyard.
Yes, they were the automobiles of our hard-working, under-paid, beloved teachers.
Each day during the school semester, Monday through Friday they parked their vehicles in the schoolyard during the A.M. hours and after six hours of the finest catholic preaching/teachings would promptly pull out and begin their drive home shortly after 3 P.M.
What happened after three was Paradise on the Pavement.
To begin, we had Intramural football. Now I understand that our readers come from different generations. I was a student from 1970-1979. When we played Intramural football Mr. Mussa (Since then he now goes by Brother Joe Mussa) was the real “Roger Goodell“.
Mussa ran the show. He was the referee, the trainer, the disciplinarian, the statistician and the equipment manager. In a nutshell he did it all. Without him, we don’t have a league.
I recall one cold, windy Monday afternoon as a 5th grader I was in charge of keeping score. My team wasn’t playing that day. Standing along the sidelines It was so cold my fingers were frozen. I couldn’t write anymore. So after constant complaining and whining to Mr. Mussa about how cold it was while he was running up and down the field officiating the game. He suddenly stopped the game, walked over to his car which was parked against the fence facing 9th avenue and pulled his blue station wagon up along the sidelines and had me and the time-keeper sit in the back of it to stay warm.
Writing down someone’s name for scoring six points for a touchdown (you had to go for the extra point) became a lot easier. We kept stats on a brown clipboard, leading scorers, top teams, etc. The greatest feeling during the school day wasn’t getting a 75 on your spelling test, nope, it was hearing your name announced over the loudspeaker for your accomplishment in an Intramural game the day before.
(Tomorrow more tales from the Girls Schoolyard)