All of the boarders slept on the 5th floor of the huge brick building, in two separate dormitories. No private rooms. Each dormitory had about 60 beds, which was quite a bit larger than good ol’ VV. Above and around each bed were pipes with pink curtains. This way you could dress in the morning and undress at night with some privacy. However, this was the only time we were ever allowed to close our curtains.
There were six long electrical cords hanging from a high ceiling. Each cord had a bare 150-watt light bulb hanging at the bottom. We would be awakened each morning at 6:00 AM. Sister Bernard Marie would turn on all six light bulbs - at once - and walk up and down the aisles of beds with a large bell that she rang as loudly as she possibly could. All of us were to immediately get on our knees on the floor next to our bed and say morning prayers. We would all say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Act of Contrition (out loud). After saying prayers, Sister BM (which I will call her from here on) would clap her hands and order us to get in line at the eight washbasins located at one end of the dorm. We were each allowed three minutes to wash our face and brush our teeth. If we were not done in our allotted time, we were yanked by our hair, scolded, and sent back to our station (bed). BM obviously enjoyed being mean and cruel.
Next we would go back to our beds, close the curtains and put on our uniforms. The uniforms were dark navy blue long sleeved dresses that buttoned in the front and were pleated from the waist down. They had a matching cloth belt that buttoned at the waistline. There was a round white cotton collar that buttoned onto the neckline of the dress. On our feet we wore white anklets and brown oxford shoes. The collars would only be worn once and then put into the laundry.
Each girl was required to heavily starch and iron her own collars. There was so much starch in them that they were stiff and could actually stand up on their own. They were so stiff that many times they would actually cut into our necks. None of the “day students” had starched collars. Our anklets had to be folded down an exact way so we all looked exactly alike. Boarders were not allowed any creative folding or rolling of their socks, which many of the day students did. The high school students had completely different uniforms than the grade school.
We would then go to breakfast. All students were required to attend Mass before breakfast twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays (sometimes more if there was a religious feast during the week). We went to Mass every day during Lent. We were awakened at 5:00 AM on Mass days.
The heat took a long time to get from the basement, where the furnace was located, up to the 5th floor. It was not heated during the night. The Janitor would arrive around 4:00 am to load it with coal and get it started. In the winter we would be on our knees on ice-cold hard wood floors, saying our prayers. Sometimes it would be so cold at 5:00 AM we could see our breath.
After cleaning and getting dressed into our uniforms, we formed into a line and marched either to the chapel or to breakfast. Once a week, we would have to go to “confession” after Mass, before we could go to breakfast. There, we would tell the priest in the confessional all the great and horrible sins we committed the past week in boarding school.
After breakfast, we would be marched back up the 5 flights of stairs to the dormitory where we would clean our stations. This was an area that consisted of our bed, a chest of drawers, and a chair that was at the end of each bed. We had to dust the floors and the furniture every day. We also had to clean the other areas of the dorm where the sinks were, and the room where there were three bathtubs. We rotated on the cleaning of those areas. After cleaning, we had the dreaded “inspection”. Because she was (without a doubt) sadistic, this was BM’s favorite time of day. She really enjoyed making all of us as miserable as possible. If our bed was not absolutely perfectly made, she ripped down the sheets and blankets and made us do it over.
She would inspect the insides of each drawer in our chest of drawers. If everything was not in perfect order and folded exactly the right way, she would dump it all onto our bed and make us put it back in order. She would look for dust under each bed. The curtains around our bed had to be folded perfectly with the pleats at the top all facing in the same direction. If too many things were not perfect, we would be punished after school by not being able to join in the recess we all looked forward to. Sometimes we would have to write punishment “essays” instead of having recess. Needless to say, since she never liked me anyway, my station was rarely up to par, no matter how hard I tried. I was destined to spend 4 years redoing my station, writing essays, and recesses that were few and far between.