The summer following my last year at Holy Names Academy, my father and I headed for Chicago. All of his belongings were already in his car because that’s how he lived – constantly on the road. I had so few belongings of my own that they all fit in a couple of suitcases and a box. This would be the first time in my father’s adult life that he was going to live where he actually had an address. I was headed to my third (and final) Boarding School.
The trip took a long time because we stopped to sightsee at all the spots that attracted tourists along the way. Places such as Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. There was no rush because we didn’t need to arrive at our destination for a couple of months.
The hardest part for me was leaving my two brothers behind and going so far away from my mother. My sister had already moved to Fort Lee, Virginia. Never in the nine years I had been in school did I make any close, permanent friends. Boarding schools had many girls that only attended for a year or two because of temporary family situations, therefore my friends constantly fluctuated from year to year.
Upon arriving in Chicago we stayed in a hotel while my father searched for a place to live and also find a Boarding School for me. Chicago was like nothing I had ever seen. It was larger and very different from Seattle, which so far had been the largest city I had been to.
There were elevated trains on tracks situated way above the ground that went for miles in every direction - everywhere. There were far more buildings that were taller, older and crammed together. The elevated trains (called “L’s”) came within feet from buildings where people worked or even lived! That never ceased to amaze me. How could people live or work with trains constantly whizzing by so close that the buildings shook and the windows rattled! The trains were so loud, it was almost impossible to talk to someone sitting next to you when riding on one. You had to yell close into their ear for them to even hear you.
My father’s boss knew of an elite school in Evanston, a suburb north of Chicago. One street separated them. On one side of the street you were in Chicago, and on the other side you were in Evanston. The school was called Marywood School for Girls. It was located two blocks from Northwestern University.
Marywood was a high school only, ninth through twelfth grades. It was run by The Sisters of Providence. Their Habits (clothing) were entirely different from my first two schools. They wore much more white than black as apposed to the other nuns whose Habits were completely black. Our uniforms were actually quite nice. They were powder blue jumpers made of very fine material with a white blouse worn underneath. We most often at that time wore white buck shoes which were in style, but we could wear our own choice of shoes.
This was my Sophomore year and at this school, there were no dormitories! All of the rooms were occupied by two girls each. They were all on the top or fifth floor. The building was designed so each room had a large window that looked outside onto the grounds, either in the front of the building or in the back. The classrooms were on the lower floors along with the nuns’ quarters and offices, etc. There were also “day” students that were not boarders.
This was by far the most expensive school I had been in up until then. Like Four Winds Camp I had attended, there were many girls from very wealthy families. Some even came from other countries. Most of the foreign students were from families that wanted their daughters to be exposed to the English language in order to learn to speak it fluently. Some of them knew very little English when they arrived. They were always assigned a roommate that was from the USA.
There were also many extra sports activities available that the other schools didn’t have. There was a large indoor swimming pool where we learned how to swim, do synchronized water ballet and various other water sports.
There were horse back riding lessons available at a stable nearby. To learn to ride you were required to purchase extra expensive items and clothing which included pants called Jodhpurs, knee-high black leather boots, jackets, vests, hats, gloves and a special whip called a crop. We were taught to ride in the English style and even learned how to jump fences! There were also lists of numerous other sports available.
My roommate was the daughter of the family that owned Borden’s Milk, which was very well known at the time. Some of you might remember the mascots for their ads were Elmer and Elsie the cows. Her name was Mary Ann Devine. I remember spending the week-end at her home and was very impressed to see my first colored TV! I had heard of them but had never seen one. Only very rich people could afford to purchase the first ones put on the market. This was in 1958.
There was another girl attending the school (a day student) whose father was the President of Montgomery Wards. He was the one who wrote the story “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. Her family had a yearly Christmas tradition. They would have a party with their close friends and each family was to tell an original (new) Christmas Story. They would give a prize to the family with the best story. The rest is history. Her name was Joanna Mae. She ended up becoming a nun after she graduated!
My father found a small apartment in a very old hotel that had been converted into apartments. It was a very crummy place but he didn’t care because he still regularly traveled to the states nearby and wasn’t home that often.