Jun 08

My old school

June 8
old school just died. To be more precise, St. Francis Grammar School in
Ridgefield Park, NJ, just closed due to financial reasons.

one’s grammar school is a pretty big deal. Talk about memory lane. My mom and
my older brother, Russ, both graduated from St. Francis. So did several of my
closest buddies.

paraphrase Charles Dickens, SFS was the best of schools and the worst of
schools. The education was far superior to that provided by the public grammar
schools in our village. But, the brutal and badly misnamed Sisters of Charity
gave the school a very poor image and reputation. For whatever reason, the nuns
didn’t like boys. Period. And, they really didn’t like some boys.

still have vivid memories of Sisters Julia Michael, Catherine Imelda and
Catherine Winifred beating the bejesus out of my classmates. They’d pull ears,
yank ties and rap knuckles until they saw blood. And, that was when they were
in a good mood. The priests were also scary dudes and at least one was
implicated in a pedophilia scandal decades later.

for me, SFS’s positives always outweighed the negatives. So, knowing that most
of you could care less, I nonetheless thought I’d pay one final homage to St.
Francis Grammar School by listing my top 10 memories:

Bobby Gandolfo knocking out the late Gregory Alberque at Kenny Molta’s fourth
grade party. I’d never seen a one-two combination like the one Bobby threw that
day (FYI: Bobby was positively all-world in sports and academics at SFS).

Being suspended with my fellow altar boys for misbehaving at a seventh grade
funeral mass. It was terribly wrong, but terribly funny at the time (laughs
courtesy of the late Greg Alberque).

The Kenny Molta/Mike Nardone book bag incident. Kenny threw Mike’s book bag
down the Park Street sewer drain, completely ruining its contents and Mike’s
day. Great stuff.

Playing ‘steal the bacon’ in Mr. Hale’s gym class. It was a bizarre game that
takes far too much time to explain. And, it was run by a total Martinet of a
gym coach named Mr. Hale, who punished misbehaving or underperforming gym
participants by making us hoist folding chairs over our heads until our arms
gave way. Nice, Mr. Hale. Very nice.

Patty Perrotta’s seventh grade party and the introduction of spin the bottle.
Nice, Patty. Very nice.

Seventh grade ‘lay teacher’ Mr. Carroll, whose idea of fun was walking behind
us as we took a test and chalking up our ears. God knows how he ended up.

Father Stauffer, who ended up leaving the priesthood and marrying one of the
nuns. Sure beats pedophilia. Nice, Fr. Stauffer. Nice.

Getting caught by Sister Noreen for forging my mom’s signature on a
less-than-satisfactory fourth grade report card and then making me go home and
tell my parents what I’d just done. A painful, but necessary lesson, Sr.
Noreen. No hard feelings.

Slap-boxing matches in the schoolyard at lunchtime with each of us emulating a
heavyweight contender of the era (I was Ali).

Sally Ann Pappan for introducing me (and quite a few others) to the wonders of
French kissing. I know, TMI. But, it’s a world-class memory of those days.

revoir, SFS. I’ll miss you. Sort of.