Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chapter 3, Part 5

I’m sure that you are wondering why no one ever did anything about her treatment of me and the other girls. This is a good question that baffles me even to this day. Yes, I did tell about her. I told my sister, my brothers, my father, even other nuns at the convent. The nuns took her side and didn’t want to hear it or listen to any complaints. To the best of my recollection, no one wanted to “make waves” or “get involved”. Therefore, nothing was ever done about it.

In those days I think the reasoning was that I was just a child and it just didn’t make any difference. Besides, she was a NUN, devoting her life to GOD, so she couldn’t possibly be that bad. Mostly, no one wanted to hear about it or deal with it. I rarely saw my father and my sister and brothers were wrapped up in attending college and all that went with it academically and socially. No one wanted to defend or protect me. No one wanted to confront her or her Mother Superior.

Other girls also told their families and nothing was ever done about it. I sincerely believe that she would not get away with it in today’s world. This was happening to me in the mid 1950’s and many things were very different back then than they are now. Children just did not have any rights at all. Today’s children would fight back, and I firmly believe that parents would never tolerate this type of treatment of their children in present times. She most definitely would be reported and held accountable. Society in general is nothing like it was then.


My brother Bill had it extremely rough in Military Schools. I believe that he had it rougher than I did, by far. St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, was run by ex-military officers whose goal was to prepare the students to become career Military Officers. His life there was like five years of Boot Camp. The rules were rigid and inflexible and the punishments harsh. Hazing the new students was a common practice. Those five years were so hard on him that he had mental problems for the rest of his life as a result.

The boys that excelled were ones that grew up in the military and were gung-ho about the whole system. They were the ones who strived to be part of the military for the rest of their lives. Those who were just not “into it” and hated the military were the ones it was hardest on. My brother hated it and vowed to never be part of it ever again.

Many of the graduates went on to attend Annapolis and West Point. The tuition costs as much as attending college and the required purchase of Uniforms costs thousands. Should you be curious to find out more about it, you can look it up on the Internet. It is still there (whereas all of the boarding schools I attended have since been closed).


Not far from Holy Names were train tracks. I wish I could have been brave enough or defiant enough to just take off running across the field when I heard the train whistle and jump into one of the cars and take off to places unknown. I would lie in my bed at night and hear the train and let my imagination run away with me.

Once, there was a girl that was sent to the school by the courts. Her name was Paulette and she was a wild, defiant, runaway, delinquent. I envied all the stories she told us of things she had done (sliding into hell too I suppose). She was in the eighth grade and already had had an abortion, and she had false teeth because she lost hers in a car accident (riding in a car with boys). I was in awe of all the experiences she told us about. She was only there about a month when she ran away. Why couldn’t I be that gutsy?

Next door to Holy Names was an orphanage. Today, I don’t know of any orphanages but back in the 50’s they weren’t that uncommon. The boarders at the school would go over there to visit them and at Christmas we would go caroling and bring homemade gifts. I always envied the orphans because to me at least they had a chance of being adopted, and the staff seemed a whole lot nicer and caring than Sister Bernard Marie.

A devastating shock and horrible let down occurred after I finished eighth grade. Finally, at last, I would move to the high school dorm and be rid of BM for good!! Initially, I was only supposed to be under her for three years - sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The worst of all things happened. They decided to make the ninth grade part of her unit. It seemed that the enrollment of high school students that year far outnumbered that of the grade school. Therefore they found it necessary to incorporate the ninth graders in with the grade school so each dormitory would have an equal number of girls. The ninth graders wore different uniforms so we clashed with the grade school students even though we were part of their unit. We wore a white cotton blouse, a green pleated skirt and a green cardigan sweater.

I truly felt like God had abandoned me. How could he make me be with her for one more year?! I can still see that evil smile on her face when she told me I would not be moving into the high school dorm. She looked just like a smug Cheshire Cat....


Of the countless things she did to me and others over the 4 years I was under her rule, one stands out over and above them all. It happened when I was in the eighth grade.

In the 50’s the popular hair style was a pony tail. My hair went to my waist, and I loved to wear it in a pony tail. I liked to walk so it would sway back and forth with each step. The day students all seemed to wear them but BM hated pony tails. She said: “the only time you should wear a pony tail is when you tie your hair up to take a bath”. So, she always made me wear my hair down…and she hated that too. One day, she asked me (all nice and sweet) if I would please let her “fix” my hair. I was picturing ringlets or something equally as stupid, and in an adventurous state, I said: – “sure”! (I should have suspected something was not right for the mere fact she was actually talking nice to me).

She told me to wash my hair, comb it out and sit down in a chair by the sinks. So, I did. As I sat in the chair, she stood behind me and started combing my hair. Then, she took a hold of it with one hand, and I heard this awful sound of scissors cutting! She had grabbed my hair right at the nape of my neck, and she cut it off with one grinding snip!

My long hair was cut off! This amounted to about 16 inches of hair that had taken me years to grow. My hair was my best feature. I wasn’t pretty and I was overweight, but I had nice hair and I loved having it long. My hair is fine and when it was long, it was straight. After she cut it I found out I have naturally curly hair. I started screaming and crying hysterically!

She then proceeded to call over the other 50 or so boarders. She said to them: “look at her carrying on like this, when she TOLD me I could cut her hair! She is trying to lie and make a scene and deny that she told me I could cut it!” Not only was I campused for two weeks after that, but that night she made me sit on my chair by my bed, all night long, for telling “lies”. She was supposed to come to me and let me get into bed after an hour or two, but evidently she either fell asleep herself, or she forgot about me. I was too scared to get up off of the chair and get into bed on my own, so I sat there until she came to wake everyone the next morning. I could tell by the look on her face that she was surprised that I was still sitting in my chair, but she didn’t apologize. All of the girls were appalled.

The next day, everyone was forbidden to talk to me - and me to them. My hair looked so awful that it was hard for the other girls to look at me without laughing. It was not anything like a professional haircut. She had cut it at the base of my skull, above my neckline. I – literally – wanted to die. This is the first time I seriously considered suicide. I was 13. To be honest, the entire four years at Holy Names Academy, I wished I would die.

There were three bathtubs at the far end of the dormitory. Each one was in an enclosed cubicle and had a door with a sliding lock on it. One cubicle had a window to the outside. It was five stories up. When it was my turn to take a bath, I chose the bathtub with the window. I opened the window & climbed out onto the ledge. It was made of cement and was about one foot wide. It was dark outside. I stayed there, too afraid to jump, until my time was up for taking a bath (10 minutes) and she came looking for me. She pounded on the door. I climbed back inside and closed the window. No one ever knew I did that. It wasn’t until many years later that I told my brother & sister. The only other person I ever told was a Psychiatrist when I was in my late 20’s.

To this day, I have never been able to wear my hair cut short. I tried it once. After years of bleaching my hair a Platinum Blonde color, I decided to grow it out back to my natural color. I needed to cut off much of the blonde as it grew it out because my hair was quite damaged. Like a phobia, the feeling of short hair swept over me and brought back the feelings I experienced after BM cut my hair. I vowed to never cut it short again. Also, I wear my hair in a pony tail style almost every day.