Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Mary's School

Our Lady of Czestachowa Church and School
(a.k.a. St. Mary's)
Nanticoke, PA
March 2005

I attended Catholic shool from Kindergarten through the Eighth Grade. Back then, in the mid-1970's to early-1980's, Our Lady of Czestachowa (my parish, commonly called St. Mary's) had a sort of school-sharing arrangement with another primarily Polish parish, St. Stanislaus. The plan was that all Kindergarteners from both parishes would go to Kindergarten at St. Mary's. First Grade would also be at St. Mary's, but second grade would be at St. Stan's. All even-numbered grades would be at St. Stan's, all odd-numbered grades would be at St. Mary's.

Our Lady of Czestachowah Church
March 2005

That was the plan, anyway. It had gone on like that some time before I started school, but it ended for me after Fourth Grade. From that point on, all classes would be consolidated at St. Mary's. Never mind that there weren't enough classrooms; classes would simply be combined. Fifth and Sixth Grade in one room, Seventh and Eighth Grade in another.

From left to right:
New Rectory (built in the 1980's)
Convent (disused for about 20 years, slated for demolition)
St. Mary's School
March 2005

Things got worse after I graduated from Eighth Grade in 1981. Soon St. Mary's and St. Stan's combined their schools with the much larger Holy Trinity school, which was located two blocks North of St. Mary's and two blocks West of St. Stan's. The "new" combined school, which was located in the "old" Holy Trinity School, was christened Pope John Paul II School, after the young, vigorous Polish Pope.

Wind Tunnel and Nuns' Bridge
(Any wind would get caught between the school and the convent and create a mini-tornado.
Catholic schoolgirls wore skirts, by the way.)
November 6th, 2005

I have fond memories of St. Mary's school. It had its educational shortcomings - at any moment Math, Arts, or Science class could be interrupted for a a supplemental Religion class. The Science textbooks were good, though, and no one stopped me from reading the "advanced" chapters in the back of the book, the stuff we never seemed to get to each year. The Math, English, and Reading classes were also top-notch, so I must give a nod there.

November 6th, 2005

I was an Altar Boy back in those days. About one week out of every month I would draw 7:00 daily Mass duty - up at 6:00, out of the house by 6:30, a quick morning Mass attended by between zero and ten parishoners, down to my grandmother's house for breakfast, then off to school for 8:30. Each week I would serve one Sunday Mass - 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, or even 7:15 Saturday evening. Once or twice a month I might get called to serve a Funeral - two hours out of school, hang out with a dead body, ride in a Cadillac, maybe get a dollar or two as a tip. The big money was to be made on Saturdays at Weddings, when you might get a tip of $5 or more.

Rear Stairwell
November 6th, 2005

The school isn't entirely abandoned now. I think it still serves as a Head Start school for underprivileged kids. But it's lost a lot of the identity that it had when I was there. And yet it still stands.

But not for long, I fear. Like Three-O-Nina, I cannot imagine that this old relic of a bygone era will stand forever. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of kids passed through its halls and learned about Jesus and Kangaroo Mice and negative numbers and The Red Badge of Courage there. Someday this school will only live on in their fading memories.

For what it's worth, I offer this bid to whatever immortality this medium has to offer.


marc said...

I guess coming from Brooklyn NY, when an old building gets demolished in the name of progress, it's like "gee, business As usual". But you would figure that in your neck of the woods, a good school like this would keep on going for a good while longer.

anne said...

What great photos! And what memories they stir. I also went to a Catholic grade school that did the old even/odd split between two parishes. Now there is only one building still open and they send the kids in 7th and 8th on to the high school. What fond memeories... And I'm not even being sarcastic!

It's such a shame to see these wonderful old buildings fall into disuse. Hopefully they can find someone to use it...