||March 21, 2006
Looking through the great websites at www.oldchesterpa.com/schools_resurrection.htm and www.rezalumni.com/, among others, brought back a ton of great memories of my time at Rez. Thanks forever to everyone who worked on them. The memories are priceless, and I hadnít thought of Rez until I heard that it was closed, and then, scheduled for demolition. When I read about the Sale of Church articles in Lou Gebhartís column, I didnít realize that everything was to be demolished Ė the Old School, Annex, Rectory, everything. It is really sad, but one of the writers at one of the websites (Bill Gorman, I think), pointed out that anything would be better than to see abandoned, deteriorating buildings. Now that nothingís left, I donít have to ponder how such a great School and Church came to be abandoned. I only have memories, and theyíre all good. Here are a few of them.
In September 1961, we (the Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic School, Class of 1969) began 1st Grade. Our classrooms were in the Annex, and I donít remember what the story was, whether the Annex wasnít yet finished, or not finished for the beginning of that year, but I remember Reading classes in the first room on the Convent side, on benches. It was the largest room in the Annex, and it had an accordion-type divider separated the classroom part of the room from the Cafeteria during lunch time. I had Sister Mary Matthew, and I owe it to her that I passed first grade at all Ė my sisters and I had mumps, measles and chickenpox, one right after the other, and I missed a lot of school that year. Anyone who thinks that teaching first grade must be easy Ė the kids are such angels, and still listen to adults, and so on Ė should try to teach someone how to read. Itís a testament to Sister Mary Matthew that, in spite of not attending kindergarten, and missing about ten or twelve weeks of school, I did, in fact, learn to read, and passed first grade.
Another memory of my first years at Rez were the Safeties Ė older kids who directed traffic and let us cross the streets safely. I remember Sister Joan Ellen, who stood on the Buckman Village side, 9th Street side, of the corner at 10th and Highland Avenue, when school let out. I really liked her Ė she was so kind and smiling all the time. I was delighted when I was assigned to her class in 2nd grade, although as a teacher, the fantasy of having it easy because I liked Sister Joan Ellen, was quickly set to order.
Another thing I remember from classes in the Annex were the air raid drills. We all went into the hallway, with smaller kids crouched down
against the walls, and the bigger kids shielded them by covering them with their coats over their heads. Of course, I didnít follow the news in 1st and 2nd grade, but these were the days of the Cuban Missle Crisis, and there was a distinct possibility of war in those days.
I also remember that Rez got itís first mimeograph machine during second grade, and from then on, all of our tests were on mimeograph paper. I remember those fresh test papers smelled so good, it almost took away the fact that it was, indeed, a test. Well, almost.
In third grade, we had Sister Miriam Patrice. I know I felt lucky to avoid having Miss Brady, who was absolutely no-nonsense, and strict. Early on, in 3rd grade, we moved to the Old School, into the room on the first floor that exited into the stairwell on schoolyard side. In November of that year, it was Sister Miriam Patrice who announced to our class that President Kennedy had been shot. It was 2:30 PM, our time, when the news hit, and 3:30 PM when Walter Cronkite announced that the President was dead. I thought I remembered going home early that day, but 3:00 would have been the end of the school day anyway, so maybe we didnít go home early. I know we had off the next day, Friday.
It was in third grade that we graduated from those huge two-line papers and pencils, to regular notebooks and loose leaf, and pens. By pens, I mean pens Ė the kind that you filled with ink from a bottle, and had a blotter to dry the ink before you could touch the paper. Some of the rooms in the Old School still had desks that opened from the top, and had an inkwell in the front, but I donít really remember using them, except for Choir practice. All of our school supplies were normally kept under our desks, and we all had cigar boxes for pencils, pens, crayons and so on. I remember the
beginning of every school year, all of the local grocery stores Ė Joe Gruszkaís, on 10th Street, McGlones, up on Highland Avenue, Delozierís in Buckman Village, were
besieged with requests for cigar boxes. Luckily for me, my grandfather smoked cigars and knew to save them for my sisters and I. Many cigar boxes didnít last all year long, and were pretty ratty-looking by the end of the year.
Also in third grade, I began in the Choir. The nun I remember most fondly for Choir was Sister Margaretta Joseph. I was in her 6th grade class, but Iím not sure if Sister Margaretta led the Choir the whole time. I remember Choir practice, and Music classes, also, with Sister pumping away on an old foot-pump organ. For practices that were held in the Church, Sister played that wonderful pipe organ behind the Altar. The Church organ, and the Choir could be really loud. I remember singing Holy God, We Praise Thy Name at a high Mass once, and it resonated from the rafters of the Church like it would take off the roof.
Sister Miriam Patrice was really cool. Around Christmastime, the nuns at Glen Riddle recorded a collection of Christmas songs that I bought. I remember Sister Miriam Patriceís wonderful self-effacing humor, promoting her great part in the rum, pum, pum pum chorus of The Little Drummer Boy. I liked every class she taught, except Poetry Ė I couldnít memorize a poem to save my life. To this day, I have a missalette with her name in it as my teacher that year. In 3rd grade, we made our first confessions, received our First Holy Communion, and were Confirmed. I remember we all had to write an essay on the Saint we chose for our Confirmation name. All the Masses were in Latin. Pope John XXIII had already convened the Second Ecumenical Council that would lead to many sweeping changes in the Church, but he died in June 1963, and it was Pope Paul VI who actually implemented the changes. Pope John XXIII was beloved by the entire world, and always had a beautiful smile in any photo you see of him.
In 4th grade, the party was over for easy nuns as teachers. We had Miss Townsend, and she was strict. Miss Townsend reminded us nearly every day that we were almost hopelessly lost in terms of learning, and she set out to correct the faults of our entire education. Our classroom was in the second room on the schoolyard side of the first floor, next door to our
third grade room. I remember History as being a really difficult class that year. Sister Mildred Francis was the
I remember, too, the bright white, vellum paper of the Archdiocese Exams. God forbid if you made a mistake on those, you could still read what you first wrote on that paper. You could erase a hole in the paper, and your mistake was still there, for all to see.
As fearful as Exams were, the final exams in Spring always had the hope that the school year was done when exams were done. I remember most last days of school Ė are there any more joyful days than knowing that you had no school for months? Summers lasted forever back then, and I have great memories of summers, but I want to keep this limited to memories at Rez.
In September 1965, we entered 5th grade, and our room was the end room on the Highland Avenue side of the school, by the back stairs. Iím not certain who taught us 5th grade; it may be that it changed during the year. I remember copying notes from the blackboard into our notebooks seemingly forever that year. I sat next to Donna Raftovich that year, and we had handwriting contests to see who could write the most legibly, the fastest. She usually won. I also remember using green ink from that year. Wearever or Schaeffer blue and black ink got kind of old after all those years of writing (all 3 years of them), and since Rezí colors were green and white, we were allowed to use green ink. I really thought green ink was so cool.
The other thing I remember most about 5th grade is a practically continuous black eye from all the fights I was in. In those days, it was important to know who was the toughest kid in the class, and every one of us boys knew where we ranked in the 5th grade hierarchy. Bob Blisard (Bliz) was #1, no contest. Dave Kasarsky (Kaz) was also up there in the top. Donít get me wrong, I was still friends with the kids I fought, in fact sometimes a good fight led to being good friends from that day forward. It was just important to know who was who in 5th grade. The other crazy thing I remember along those lines is rubbing my index finger with a nickel until it bled. That also showed you were tough. I had a scar for, like twenty years after that, on my right index finger.
A more pleasant memory of 5th grade is that Sister (Lucinda could it have been? Iím not sure), read out loud to us every week. She was excellent at reading, and I can remember almost being there during the story of Crispus Attucks, a young black man who helped in the War for Independence.
The History of Rez, at www.oldchesterpa.com/schools_resurrection.htm, says that up until 1965, Father Brady was our pastor, and that Father Humes succeeded him. I remember both of them, but I wasnít certain when Father Humes took over.
In 6th grade, our classroom was on the third floor of the Old School, with our windows looking out toward the Delaware River. Of all the foolish things I remember, I remember gazing out that window at the Electric
Company's plant on the river, that had a constant lifting and dropping of some kind of dredging bucket all day long. That year, we had Sister Stella Marie, who was very Irish. I remember that Sister Stella was passionate about the Irish cause, and she spent some time explaining it to us with a map of Ireland on the blackboard.
Sister Angela Joseph also taught 6th grade. I remember her as somewhat strict, but my sister Judy really had a hard time with her. We had a huge laugh (but not Judy, or Sister Angela, probably) when we moved to Glen Riddle in 1969 and there was Sister Angela Joseph, teaching at St. Francis deSales.
I canít remember for certain when I became an Altar Boy. I donít think it was 3rd Grade, when I went on the Choir, but whenever it was, I know I became an Altar Boy as soon as I was allowed. I remember I was first paired with Larry Owsiany for Masses, and then I was with Stephen Neathery. The thing I remember most about Steve was that he always overslept, and being the younger Altar Boy, he could order me to leave a few minutes early for morning Masses, and make sure he was up. His house was on the way down 10th Street, so I didnít mind. Many early mornings I remember walking to Church with my cassock and surplice on a hanger, with the cassock folded up onto my arm to keep it off the ground. We took our cassocks and surplices home to clean them and iron them, but I remember that the black cassocks, for funerals, were kept in the Altar Boys sanctuary. Serving a funeral was cool, because many of the Funeral Directors gave the Altar Boys $5 for serving. The preparations for Mass included lighting the candles, and we had beautiful silver, extendable poles with a wick in one side, and a cup to extinguish the candles on the other. Around this time, the changes instituted by Pope Paul VI and the Second Ecumenical Council began to be adopted at Rez.
Foremost among those changes, the Mass would now be English. There was quite a controversy about this, I recall. Father McAndrews had a second morning mass at 8:00 in Latin, which was no problem for me for two reasons Ė Father McAndrews was fast, no wasting time on a sermon or the long Communion prayer, and you could legally be late for school if you served that Mass.
December 25, 1966 is a Christmas everyone will remember. On Christmas Eve, we had a blizzard, like two feet of snow. I made it to Midnight Mass for the Choir, but it may have been later than Midnight by the time people got to Church that night, and Mass started. Midnight Masses, for Christmas and Easter, were always packed back then.
You read this, and you may think I was some kind of saint in 6th grade, but such is emphatically not the case.
I also remember Slam books in 6th grade. These were notebooks with everyoneís name at the top of the page, and were passed around so you could semi-anonymously write what you thought of everyone. My God, the nuns hated those things, but thatís the way it is for 6th graders. 5th grade, you fought everybody in sight; 6th grade you started fooling around with girls. The Slam book let you know where you stood. I also remember 6th grade as the year a lot of us went to school with hickeys on our necks. You put your collar up to hide it from the Nuns, but made sure everyone else in class knew you had one (or more), and from whom. It was also this year that we began to know our class, proudly, as the Class of í69 (hint,
hint, wink, wink).
In 6th grade, just about everybody started to get transistor radios. I remember in the beginning of the year, a couple of the boys hid their radios in their pocket, and ran the wire for the earphone under their shirt, to listen to the World Series. I remember, later in the year, trying that, but listening to WFIL or WIBG. You just pretend to lean your ear on your hand, as if you were resting your head, to conceal the earphone. That lasted like two minutes before I got caught.
The penalties for getting caught with a Slam book, or cursing in class, or other serious offense were stiff. The Sister directed you to the cloakroom, and let you wait a minute or two to contemplate your fate. Then, you took off your jacket if you had one, bent over, and got an awful beating with a yardstick, dust brush, or some other convenient paddling thing. I got one (or more, probably), and I remember it was almost impossible to not cry. It was a badge of honor to return from a paddling as if nothing happened, but good luck on that. We had a yardstick made of wood, with the Number Line written on it (negative numbers starting on the left, zero in the middle, and positive numbers on the right). I remember somebody got it so bad that it broke, and the Sister continued on, with it broken in two for what seemed like forever. I remember she kept the broken Number Line on the
chalk rest as a reminder to us.
Another odd thing that I remember, is that it was 6th grade when Richard Christy began at Rez. His dad, Dick Christy, Sr. was a famous quaterback and a great guy. Rich Christy Ė God bless his soul, he died in the 80s Ė was really smart, as well as athletic, and he single-handedly re-created the 6th grade power structure. I think he came out first every year, and everyone liked him.
I donít have Summer memories in this, but I remember that the Summer of í67 brought skateboards to favor. You could skateboard from in front of the Annex, down between the stockade and the schoolyard, around the turn in front of the Rectory and on to the cement walkway along the Highland Avenue side of the school. I canít believe that either Mr. Hill, or Father Humes put up with that for too long, but I distinctly remember trying out a skateboard there.
September 1967, we began 7th grade. Our classroom was the second room, Highland Avenue side, of the first floor of the Old School. Around this time, including 5th and 6th grade, I remember more than one teacher each year. I think that the teachers changed rooms for different classes. I know that, in 7th grade, we started changing classes. 7th and 8th grade were on the first floor, and we walked single file, clockwise around the hall to the next class.
I am really disappointed that I canít remember who I had in 7th Grade. This Sister was one of the kindest and most happily out-going Sister I ever had. Two of the many things that I owe to her are that she encouraged me to Art, and she spent a lot of time trying to persuade us that our prejudice against blacks was just-plain wrong. I remember she was against the War, and that was important, because up to that time, anyone against the War was some kind of Communist, and now those against the war began to have a moral reason to oppose it.
In 7th grade, we started to have dances in the Auditorium, and they were fun, although it was true, the junior high stereotype of all the boys lined up against one wall, and all the girls against the other. I helped make signs for the events in the Auditorium, with that Sisterís help.
The other Sister for 7th grade was Sister Francis Josephine (Franny Joe to us heathens). She was really strict, but I also remember she, and Sister Margaretta Joseph, organized a few train rides to Philadelphia, among them, one to see an Opera, Madame Butterfly. Good luck trying to instill culture in us, I know I hated it. In 7th grade, I dropped out of Choir, or more truthfully, was dropped from Choir, partly because I smoked too much. However, I stayed on as an Altar Boy, because I was one of the few remaining Altar Boys who remembered the Latin Mass, which were still held every morning.
September 1968, we entered 8th grade. We had Sister Lucinda, and thanks forever to Dave Kasarsky for posting a great high-resolution photo of our class at www.rezalumni.com/. I have a beautiful 8 x 10, PhotoShop CS2 copy of it, and I would be glad to make prints for anyone who may want one. Kazí posting also has everyoneís names Ė not all of the class photos there do. Thanks to Kaz, I now very clearly remember Sister Monica Joseph, who was Principal that year, and a lot of my classmates who I had forgotten. There was a lay teacher, Mr. Robert Davis that year, and Sister Anthony Theresa as well as Sister Monica Joseph teaching us that year. I donít remember as many things about 8th grade as other years, except of course, Graduation. At Graduation Mass, to my great surprise, as well as just about everybody
in the class, Father Humes presented me with a $5 gift as the top boy academically, in our class.
This little memoirs is becoming a lot longer than I would have thought, but I canít end it without my memories of the grounds at Rez. In 1972, I missed months of school, moving between my mother and father. When I finally settled at my grandparentsí house, in April of that year, it was agreed that I would have to repeat 11th grade no matter what, because of State Education requirements, and I dropped out of St. James for the year. At that time, however, Father McKenzie hired me to work with Mr. Hill and Jim Leary on the grounds, every day. I got to know how dedicated Mr. Hill and Bill Leary were to the school, behind the scenes, all those years. Every schoolroom was cleaned to a T, top to bottom, light bulbs down to the new wax on the floors. The wood floors on the third floor of the Old School were stripped, sanded and re-finished. I also got to know why Mr. Hill was so grumpy about chewing gum. It is really a pain to scrape gum from the bottom of every desk and the floors.
I stayed on Saturdays through 11th and 12th grade at St. James, and the weekly preparation for Sunday Masses was no walk in the park, either. All the lawns are cut Ė many of us can remember Mr. Hill riding along on the riding mower Ė and every weed was pulled from around the flowers and trees. The most dreadful job I had was sweeping the entire length of the 9th Street sidewalk. It always had a lot of litter blown against the wall and a lot of gritty dirt. But, Iíll tell you truly, once it was clean, everyone who walked down 9th Street kept it clean, for a few days, at least.
I learned that the name of the bushes behind the Church, at the Altar Boys door, with those huge thorns, was called Pyracantha Ė Firethorn Ė and that was what they used to make the Crown of Thorns for the
Crucifixion. I also remember many of the specific trees and shrubs there Ė the line of yew bushes that lined the front entrance to the Church, the hollies that grew alongside the Church. I remember Father McKenzie and Mr. Leary were especially proud of the roses that grew on the side of the Rectory toward the Church, and Mr. Leary grew huge,
beautiful peonies among them, too. I also remember cleaning up the Grotto in the Spring of 1972, and seeing for the first time that the Grotto was built in memory of World War II veterans.
I have plenty of other memories, and how could they be anything but good, the memories of your youth. I now see that Iíve taken 5 hours writing this, and itís dinner time. I will gladly add to this as I remember more.
Joe Betz, Valedictorian (yup, I actually was), Rez Class of Ď69
March 26, 2002
"I also graduated from REZ in 1981. I have alot of
memories from REZ like the clapping eraser tower ect... But perhaps you
might remember that I was the May Queen who had long hair until the week of the procession
when my sister cut it all of and therefore I became the May King!"
- Thanks to Christine Owsiany Meier, email@example.com
"I am Dave Bisard, I graduated from Rez in 1980.
Some of the great things I remember were playing football. Mr. Waldron, Satch, Chuck
Verano, Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Hampel help to build alot of great memories and a lot of
winning teams. Satch lives in Brookhaven now still with the same firery spirit that would
take us in to battle every weekend."
- Thanks to Dave Blisard, Kingbliz@aol.com