More from my halcyon days at a Catholic High School for boys: I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven.”
SEPTEMBER 1964. High School. We had arrived.
St Basil’s High School no longer exists in its current location.
I don’t know why. I haven’t been there for many, many years.
Run by the priests, it was a Catholic private high school for boys
of some note and right adjacent to it, only separated by an elongated
playing field, a football field, was St Mary’s Catholic
private high school for girls. In essence the two schools represented
a real separation of church and dates.
Tuition by today’s standards was laughable, about $150 per
year. But back in the late ’50s and early ’60s that was a lot of
money to come up with year over year. Especially if you were
part of a fine upstanding Catholic family with a large brood of
boys and girls to contend with to populate these schools, as no
legitimate Catholic family would ever think of sending their
offspring to a public—code for Protestant—high school. On top
of that there were the school uniforms, the books and other
miscellaneous religious stuff to pay for. In my own family’s case,
my mom and dad had to come up with about $175 per year per
child—times three at some point in time, totaling $450 per year.
And with Dad making less than about $70 per week before taxes,
well, do the math! I know I couldn’t. It was as painful as it was
I didn’t really know or care. I do remember travelling on the
bus with my mom, or in the car with both parents and as we
passed St Basil her telling me, proud as punch, that one fine day I
would be going there. One fine day indeed. I could not wait. That
was how the indoctrination went. To make ends meet we all had
to work part time during the school year and full time all summer
long to come up with the necessary bucks to offset our parent’s
financial woes due to those bloodsucking school tuitions. In all
honesty, however, I didn’t mind. Funny thing that, guilt. It
instilled in me a weird sense of justification for the privilege of
being physically and emotionally abused at a Catholic private
high school for boys.
Father Stallony, baloney; Father Sullen, the melon; Father
Stack, the wrack; Father Rourque, the dork, and on and on it
went: a faculty of priests sprinkled with a few priests in waiting,
and a smattering of lay associates, or civilian teachers, as well.
One lay associate in particular, a Mr Lord, our geography
teacher, had the weirdest of legs. He suffered from a bad case of
bowlegged-ness but in reverse. Turns out that a wicked football
accident literally crippled him with two bad breaks in both of his
legs. Permanently shackled with pins and metal joints and fasteners,
he was a sorry sight to look at, especially from behind, as it
appeared he was always holding back a large dump as he walked
down those hallowed halls of higher learning at St Basil’s
Catholic private high school for boys. We could be cruel.
Initially scared and intimidated by this new environment, it
was not long before I felt comfortable in my own skin and fit
right in. Remembering Mr O’Brian’s words of wisdom and
advice, we did have a lot of laughs. So much so that I went from
A grades to B grades in the course of a year and was falling still
as the months went by during my second year at that school.
Smoking while laying down the one side of the football field
with our backs to our own school pretending to be looking at the
female students of St Mary’s while in reality we were trying to
mask our drags and the exhaled smoke from the prying binocularized
eyes of the priests and brothers equated to a couple of
whacks from Father Dork, er Rourque.
My parents were a tad worried given their financial investment.
I did look rather Catholique in my uniform and tie, and
dirty black oxfords. That was all that really mattered to the
priests and our family. Pay the rent and play the party line.
Looking back on those days and knowing what I know now,
yes, there was a great deal of discipline but it was the wrong kind
of discipline. Instilling a sense of fear through physical abuse as
punishment was not real discipline as far as I was concerned.
Except perhaps in the creative sense of belonging to a brotherhood,
a cause, as me and my mates adapted extremely well, stuck
together, and did everything possible to forestall and undermine
the priests and the brothers of their dastardly ways.
Cool, white satin sheets.