There was in “incident” that took place when I was in the third grade that stands out in my mind. It is one that I got in big trouble over. There was another boarder, Lylus Carluchi, who didn’t like me and constantly picked on me. I didn’t like it, but didn’t know what to do about it. One morning, we were all still in our beds in the dormitory but awake and waiting for one of the nuns to tell us to get up.
If we got out bed for any reason we were required to put on our slippers. Walking barefoot was not allowed. I needed to go to the bathroom, and Lylus grabbed my slippers and wouldn’t give them to me. I kept ordering her to give them to me! She laughed at me. I was beginning to boil inside with anger. This went on for at least 10 minutes. I told her I would ask her one more time and she’d better give them to me! She laughed again and said: “so, what are you going to do you little punk”? Then said: “here” and she threw them in my face! That did it! I had reached my breaking point, and I completely lost my mind! I jumped on her and started beating her in the face with my fists! Bam, bam, bam!! I put on my slippers and went to the bathroom.
When I got back, one of the nuns was there and the other girls were in a panic! Lylus was bleeding profusely from her nose, and they couldn’t get it to stop! They called the nun who was a nurse and she put cold packs on her face. She couldn’t go to classes and was told to stay lying down in her bed that day. She also had two black eyes. I was really scared that she was going to die, and I killed her!
I had the backs of my hands hit with a ruler (their favorite punishment) and was not allowed to go to recess for a week. I also wasn’t allowed to leave the school grounds for the next month. Fortunately, Lylus lived. She never picked on me again, and she never came back to the school the following year. I never saw her again. I must add that never again in my life have I ever allowed myself get that out of control again. I guess you could say I was “scared straight”. I was bitterly disappointed in myself and ashamed.
I remained at Visitation Villa (VV) until I finished the 5th grade. At that time the school closed down. My last year was quite different from the other years. In the plans to close down the school, they closed the grade school first. The final year they had only the 9th through the 12th grades operating, and I was in 5th grade.
A new Catholic grade school had been built called St. Frances Cabrini. It was located about a half a mile from VV. My father somehow worked out a deal with the Sisters to allow me to stay that last year as a boarder, and walk to Cabrini every day to attend classes. To do this, I would have to walk across the cow pasture to a spot where the grounds keeper had built me a “stile”. It consisted of two sets of steps and a platform that enabled me to walk up and over the barbed wire fence. After crossing over the fence I landed in the back yard of Cabrini school. This would be the only year that I was more like a “day student”. I actually got to go to school with boys!
Every day Sister Elizabeth would pack me a lunch to take with me. I was in heaven. I just loved it. My sister and I were roommates and shared one of the rooms upstairs. Getting to hang out with high school girls made me feel very grown up. Getting to attend day school made me feel almost like a normal kid.
That final year, the nuns didn’t make me attend Mass every morning either. I only had to go on Wednesdays and of course Sundays. They must have thought I needed more rest in order to trek across the cow pasture every morning. I walked to school every day 5 days a week, in all kinds of weather. On my way back to VV every day after school, I would stop and catch frogs by the stream, pet some cows, or pick some blackberries. I remember there were snakes in the blackberry bushes and I hated snakes!
Sometimes someone from school would walk with me. Needless to say, they were always quite surprised to see where I lived. Once, a boy actually walked me home. His name was Jeffrey Schaff. I didn’t tell him anything about my circumstances. I could tell he thought I lived in a huge Mansion and must be very rich. All I told him was it was my home ~ which was true ~ I didn’t lie. This was a truly wonderful year for me, but it would be my last for quite some time.
Beverly was in the last and largest graduating class they ever had. There were 13 seniors that year, 1953. The nuns sold the property and went into “cloister”. Years later, in my early 30’s, I brought my two sons to meet them. I had to talk to them through a wooden grate with black curtains. They were all really happy to see me again. They told me stories of things I did and said when I was little, just like a mom tells stories about her child.