Thanks for the Memories
from Old Saint Mark School in Chicago
I'm looking for memories of our days at St. Mark School in Chicago. I was in the class of 1954.
Reward (8th Grade Picnic that never happened)
Our first entry came from Joyce Pecka, Class of 1955, The names of these teachers may spawn some memories.
Looking at those names, I came up with a few memories. Send me your memories and I'll add them to this page
I remember having to write lines like "I must not talk back" 50 times or sometimes 100 or more, depending how angry the Sister of Providence was at the time. I soon learned to write with 2 pencils at one time, so that I could cut my punishment time in half. I later worked on 3 pencils at a time, but I had to tape them together so that I could get equal pressure on all 3 pencils. I soon gave up on the 3 pencil trick, because it took me 3 times longer to finish. I think Sister Veronica Ann got wise to my 2 pencil trick when she gave me a long sentence to write. It took up 2 lines on the 8.5 by 11 paper, so I got some 8.5 by 14 and turned it sideways and that allowed me to fit the sentence on one line and use my 2 pencil trick.
Ken Denzel replied to the above memory with the following St Mark memory:
Ken's memory sparked a memory in my old brain, so I replied:
Thanks for the reply, there for a while I thought my e-mail was sucked into a black hole. Joyce is the only one who replied to my memories request. I think that 500 times punishment that you wrote about was for the home made dart war of 1953. Remember when someone (Not me) took a drinking straw and put a straight pin in the side of one end and then launched it at one of us for laughs? We were all war babies, so we replied in a military fashion. Soon Straw Darts were flying every time SVA turned her back. I admit that I helped escalated the war when I improved the Straw Dart with a "Smart Dart" that flew straighter and usually hit the intended target with slightly greater force. Until then, there was a lot of collateral damage, which led to the escalation. My Smart Dart design replaced the straw with a 4 inch long balsa wood stick (The kind that we used for making airplanes) that allowed me to put a stabilizer fin on the back and insert the pin in the front so that it was straight and balanced. I remember when SVA put an end to the dart wars just before the Christmas break. She demanded that every one who ever threw a dart or even thought about throwing a dart show up after school in her room for punishment. She said, "I know who you are, so if you don't show, the punishment would be double." I was a few minutes late reporting for punishment and I heard her telling all of the kids who showed up on time the punishment would be a long sentence written 500 times, so I froze before walking in late, I figured she would give me a 1000 times for being late! I panicked and ran down the stairs and went home where I did a lot of praying that week. I thought someone would ask her about me, the weapons engineer, but I never got the call. I figured that prayers really worked like my Mom told me. What I really think happened, was Sister Veronica Ann knew I was involved, because my brother and I used that same balsa wood to construct balsa wood trellises for the Blessed Mary Statues in each classroom. My Mom used to make paper roses and decorate them. Once we made one for Sister Mary Jeanette, we had to make one for every classroom. That charity work alone would not have saved me, but SVA knew that my Mom was washing and stretching their curtains on that dangerous needle filled curtain stretcher and my Dad was her number 1 chauffeur, so she let me slide.
See how one memory leads to another? I'm going to post this on Our St Mark Memories Page. Thanks for the Memories.
The 8th Grade class was rewarded each June with a picnic just before graduation. When I was in 7th grade, I got to go on the 8th grade picnic as a reward for being an alter boy. We took a long bus ride to Potawatomi Park in St Charles Illinois. I remember singing "99 bottles of Beer on the Wall" and finishing it with miles to go. We brought bag lunches with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. That park had the highest slides that I ever saw, so we had a good time sliding on them. (The 8th grade girls would never look at a 7th grade alter boy, so what else could we do?) I remember some future engineer sliding down the big long slides at the park with wax paper on his butt. His increased speed sent all of us to the trash can to retrieve our discarded wax paper. That kept us out of trouble until it was time to take the long bus ride home. I could not wait for our 8th grade picnic, but we did something that really ticked off Sister Veronica Ann just before we were scheduled to have our picnic, so she canceled it. I can't remember what we did, but I never got to show off my wax paper trick and impress the girls in my class.
Barbara (Wolowicki) Mitchell
I remember bringing a lunch to school one day, but I didn't want to eat it in the lunch room with a warm milk, (I wanted to go to the store on Cortez and Campbell and buy a Coke) so I told the sister that I was going home for lunch, I was immediately under suspicion because it was well known that I lived a mile away and never went home for lunch. I tucked my sandwich under my jacket and started down the stairs. When I got to the bottom stair, gravity pulled my lunch out onto the floor, right in front of Sister. I was sent to the lunch room for some warm milk, and when I was finished, I had to write, "I must not lie to Sister Saint Helen" 200 times.
I remember when the school was giving immunizations. They gave us a
paper to bring home to be filled out by our parents. My mom always
signed "NO" and said I would be immunized at our doctor's office.
When the "shot" day came the news spread fast.
That was always a panicky day for me even though I did not have to
"get in the line". I would hear some of the kids yell out which
made the kids still waiting in line all the more scared. I blessed my
mom 100 times for not putting through that.
There was also another health related time that we had to get in
line for too but the word got around quickly that it was nothing to
worry about. It was only "the blue light lamp" that they used to
check our hair and scalp. I don't remember them ever telling us they
were looking for lice.
Joyce Pecka Wildeboer Class of 1955
Thanks for the great memory!
This is a Kindergarten memory that would
have been long forgotten, but when I saw Joyce mention Sister Mary Jeanette I
thought of a traumatic memory that I had at dismissal time. St. Mark
had a dismissal procedure for older students that had them line up
according to the direction that we lived. Students who headed West were
in the right line and students who headed East lined up in the left line.
When we exited the building, we stayed in line until east bound students
got to the corner and west bound students got past the convent. Kindergarten
students barely knew which way was up, so we all had to go East until we
got to the corner then we could head home. I was one of the unlucky
students that had to go west, so I got tired of going East to the corner, then
have to turn around and walk back West, so I thought about being
disobedient. I thought about it for many days but always lost my nerve,
then one day, I had enough of this stupid rule, so I waited until Sister
Mary Jeanette turned East, then I bolted the line and headed West.
I ran as fast as I could. Shortly after my break out, I heard 2 girls
yelling something and they were gaining on me, so I kicked it into high gear
with adrenaline that only fear can deliver. I thought they were sent by
Sister to drag me back to the corner, so I kept running with tears
streaming down my face. I ran from the school all the way to Rockwell
Street where my Mom was coming to meet me. I turned the corner and ran
into her arms while crying like a 5 year old, which was OK, because I was a 5
year old. My Mom saw the 2 girls that were chasing me and she heard what
they were yelling. They were screaming, "Gregory, Will you marry
us". When I finally heard what they were yelling, I was so relieved that
they were not bounty hunters sent by Sister Mary Jeanette. My
Mom shared that story with our relatives at every family gathering, I was
tired of hearing it over and over again and having to answer teasing questions
from my older cousins.
When I was in Kindergarten, Ken Fury was picked to be Saint Joseph in the Christmas Play. I was named the back up incase Ken got sick. Ken was absent the day before the big show, so I got the call. I was nervous at morning Mass (Yes, we went to Mass every day before school) and my stomach was churning up some gas. I should have known what I know now, (never trust a fart) but I was only 5! So I tried to squeeze one out and I soiled my BVDs in church. When I went on stage that afternoon, the Blessed Virgin Mary looked at me and said it really smells like a barn in here.
When I saw this Family Circus cartoon. I immediately thought of the day in grade school when my teacher, Sister Mary Jeanette, asked us if anyone had a washing machine. My hand shot up, because we had an electric washer with a power wringer that my Mom slaved over.
Less than a week later, my Mom was washing curtains and other things for the good nuns. * After Mom washed the curtains, she had to stretch them out to dry on a curtain stretcher. (Pictured below) Mom had it located in the narrow hallway that connected the kitchen and dining room. The stretcher had hundreds of sharp needles that held the curtain in place. When you walked or ran too close to the stretcher, you went away with a bloody leg that Mom would treat with Mercurochrome or a tincture of Iodine. (either one caused more pain than the cut and Mercurochrome is now banned in the USA because it is made with mercury) When my Dad delivered the washed and stretched curtains in his car, the Sisters soon drafted him as their private chauffer. They loved my Dad, because he joked with them and gave them nick names. He called Sister Veronica Ann "The General". My sister Mary told me that she remembers going to see High Noon with my Dad and 4 nuns.
* My wife told me that she volunteered her Mom to do some washing for the Nuns at St Fidalis, only her Mom did not have a washing machine, she had to use a wash board and tub. When you washed clothes like that, you soon developed "Washboard Abs"
When I did an image search for a washboard, several pictures came up with guys showing off their "Washboard Abs", but they had to go to work out at the gym to develop them.
Someone asked me if I got into a lot of fights, I was one of the bigger guys in my class, so I seldom had someone challenge me. When they did, I just laughed and walked away. I don't like to fight, although I may have a fighting gene in me somewhere, because my Dad had some brawls when he was a street kid. I did have a few tussles while growing up. I remember popping a relative at a Communion party when I was about 7, I don't remember any of the details except I was forced to apologize and I had to act like I was sorry. One thing we learned to do in Catholic School was apologize and look sincere.
In 4th grade, Jim Schmidt and I got into a "Fight" over something that I can't remember. We wrestled each other to the ground, (no punches were thrown) then he noticed his school pants had a tear on the knee, so he started to cry and so did I. I sat next to him and put my arm around him as we both cried. (7 years later we were tough football team mates at Holy Trinity and we tried never to cry) At our 50th reunion, Jim shared a memory that he had of me. He told me he was a nickel short to take a date to the Crystal Theater, so he came to me for a loan. I posted that story on my Holy Trinity Memories
It was a fight at recess I don't know what he did to provoke me, but I don't remember throwing any punches, but I did feel I won the tussle. I was worried that Sister St Helen would come down hard on us for fighting, but she told me later that She was glad that I taught him a lesson, because he needed it.
The following summer, I was working at the St Mark Carnival in a booth with Mr. Janaki when Joe Kurgan, a bully from the class of 1953 was giving me a hard time. I was afraid of him, but he reached into the booth and grabbed my white shirt and ripped a few buttons off, so I lost it! I jumped out of the booth, grabbed him and dropped him with one punch, Mr. Janaki loved it and called me Joe Louis from that day on. Joe is on that Lionites Softball picture on my St. Mark webpage He never gave me a hard time after that punch. When I told Ray this story, he laughed and said Joe was never a bully with his class.
We don't fight when we play hockey, we just laugh. Once in a while some of the younger guys get heated, but we remind them why we are here and why we let them play with us.
The following Fight Stories came from Ray Holloway's Memory Bank
One of the better fights in the schoolyard involved Sam Muscarella and Larry Allen. Larry had a bad habit of kneeing people in the groin when you weren't expecting it! He did it to Sam one too many times and Sam punched him! The fight was on and I never realized Sam was that tough but he sure held his own with Larry giving him a beautiful shiner to explain to all of his friends. He clearly taught Larry a lesson he was not going to forget. I had to punch Earl Splitt one time when he picked on my pal Rich Mendralla who was much smaller than Earl. We were tossing a basketball around in the schoolyard and if you dropped it you were out of the game. We would form a circle and pass the ball around to anyone we picked out. Rich used to look one way and pass the ball the other. Old Earl always was caught off guard and dropped the ball several times. He then got mad and went after poor Rich who, as I said, was much smaller than Earl. I stepped in telling Earl to pick on someone his own size and he then came at me. A couple of swings later, he quickly backed off and Rich always told me how much he appreciated it. Years later, Rich's wife even told me he never forgot the day that I saved him from a beating. I stood up to Rich's wedding as Best Man and am also Godfather for one of his sons. We remain good friends to this day.
Great stuff Ray thank you,
Each time you mentioned a game, I had memories flooding
in. Buck, Buck was a game I have never seen since that St. Mark
school yard and I have been on playground duty from 1962-2001. No kid
today would want to be the pillow for the Buck Buck line. When you mentioned
a football made from a sock, I remember playing rag ball in a 25X25 foot yard
next to our 3 flat. There was a 2 flat next to our house in
the front of the lot and a cottage in the back with a little dirt yard in
between. It was way too small for any ball, soft or rubber, so we tied a rag
into knots and had many rag ball games there. We experimented with
improving the rag ball until one day I hand stitched a cover and stuffed it
with rags until it almost was as hard as a soft ball. We played
with that until one day I tied into a hanging slow pitch and drove it 30 feet
into my grandparents kitchen window. We did what any kid back then would
do, we ran for our lives and then tried to concoct a plan to get out
of this mess. The 5 other guys were united in a plan that was, "Greg
hit it, it's his grandpa, so He should go apologize." I tried
unsuccessfully to drag the pitcher into it for tossing such an easy pitch, but
I had no votes for that, so I tipped toed past grandpa's flat and when I arrived
at our second floor door, my Mom was waiting for me. She said,
You go tell grandpa that you are going to pay for that window with money in
your bank." (I didn't have a piggy bank, each of us had an 6 inch high wooden
keg that had a one inch circular lock on it. See picture below) I
sheepishly went to see grandpa with my baseball cap in my hand. I put on
my best St. Mark "sincere, apology face" (I wasn't acting, I
truly was sorry that I broke that window) and faced the music. It
went better than I could have imagined, fortunately Grandpa was a
baseball fan, he used to go Lincoln Park every Sunday to watch my Dad play
ball with the best players that money could buy. Phil Cavaretta was on
that St. Michaels team that paid them $5 per game. My dad told me that
$5 was a week's pay during the depression if you were lucky enough to have a
job. Grandpa went and got a new piece of glass and replaced it. He
didn't make me open my bank, even though my Mom insisted that I pay. We
never played rag ball after that day, we started playing baseball in that
little yard with a ping pall ball. We played that for several years. It
was quite challenging to hit that curving dropping little ball, but we did.
We even bounced a few off of grandpa's new window and just laughed.
This bank of mine promoted good saving habits. It was tougher to break into than a piggy bank.
Greg: My cousin and I
also played a form of baseball using a ping pong ball and half of an old
baseball bat. We drilled a hole in that half-bat and put a piece of rope
into it so we could hold onto it when we swung. When the ball cracked we
just taped it back up and continued to play. You could make that ball do
most anything by changing your grip on it. I perfected a sinker by
holding it like you would hold a marble ready for shooting. I then threw
it overhand and it dropped like a rock! My cousin couldn't hit it and
begged me to show him how I to throw that pitch! Curve balls and screw
balls were easy to throw but they broke about 2 feet if you threw them
correctly. We spent hours playing that game in my cousin's driveway.
We used the garage door as a backstop and an umpire as the door had
squares in it. One square was the "strike" square as it was right
behind the batter. Thanks for triggering that old memory. Ray
Ray Holloway's Memories (Class of 1953)Greg: Okay, you get one Joe Kurgan story prompted by your comment that he was considered a bully by some. Joe was actually a pretty good student, but could be a trouble maker at times. He wasn't alone in our class of '53. But one story worth mentioning that involved him and Sister Veronica Ann is worth telling. For some reason or another Sister Veronica Ann stopped in on our 8th grade class and challenged any of the boys to a contest. She said she could do the times table up to 12 faster than any boy in our class. She took her position on one blackboard and challenged anyone to take a position on another. I think we were all stunned by this and there was some hesitancy for someone to take up the challenge. But, Joe Kurgan then stepped up and accepted her challenge. We all sat on the edge of our seats as we were all rooting for Joe to win and teach her a lesson! Away the two of them went with chalk dust just flying off their blackboards. It was nip and tuck for awhile but then Joe started to pull away... "Go Joe, go"! We all hoped he could pull it off and he did just that slamming down his chalk a full 10 or 15 seconds before one red-faced nun! All of us roared with laughter as old Sister Veronica Ann had nothing to say for a change! Joe was our hero for the day as he sat back in his desk with a smug grin on his face. "Way to go, Joe", was what we were all saying to him for days.
I was telling Joyce Janus Bond about your St. Mark memory page and she has one for you. She remembers that when our class was making Our First Holy Communion all of the water fountains were covered to prevent us from taking a sip of water
before receiving Communion. Talk about the olden days ....
Joyce Pecka Wildeboer class of 1955.
Every Wednesday, we were let out of school at 2:00, so that Public School Children (Catholics called them "Publics") could come to our school for Catechism lessons. I loved Wednesdays better than any other day of the week. We would come back from lunch at 1:00 and only have one hour until dismissal. During that hour, I remember one of my teachers letting us read a Science Book. That is the only science that I remember in grade school. My brother, cousins and I got our Science Education on Sundays when we took the subway to the end of the line in Jackson Park. We would walk about a mile to the Museum of Science and Industry, where we always got in free. We would spend the day pressing buttons and sometimes reading to find out what we just saw happen. That was the first time that I saw myself on Television.
I holding my cousin Barbara Ziminy, dressed in my Sunday Church Clothes
My Little cousin Mike didn't seam to enjoy it as much as I did.
Thanks for the memories Phil, Father Faucher was
quite a guy. He was responsible for getting me and you into
basketball. St. Mark did not have a gymnasium, so he arranged for us
to get some practice time every week at a Chicago Public School near
by. He coached us to the 8th Grade Catholic North Side Championship
in 1954, There are some articles about our thrilling victories that
I scanned on my St.
Mark Web page. (Phil and Father Faucher passed away in 2012)
Father Faucher with my sister Pat (She was the "May Queen" in 1957)
More St. Mark page 1
Go to St. Mark Page 2 to see what we look like today
Pictures inside of St. Mark Church
Some of my memories
High School Memories Page
My Teaching Memories
Try the search page.
Please let me know if you find anyone that we can add to the list.
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