New York State Regent's Examinations!
Civics, Spelling and Geography are first Regent's Exams faced by New York school kids.
Strand Theatre. 10-cent banana splits at Matheos Bros.
Class of 1932 graduation photo
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Ite, missa est.
Go, the Mass is ended.
Thanks be to God.
As in Sister Florentia's room a year before, sometime during the school year 1931-32 I was moved from a seventh grade desk to an eighth grade desk. I did the recitations and took the exams for both classes. The room was even more crowded than our Grade 5-6 room had been. Families were moving into Brockport, pupils were transferring into our school, and some were being held back. There was an unannounced effort to get anyone who could move on to matriculate to high school.
Sister Florentia had taken Sister Josetta's place in 1930, replacing Sister Josetta both as Principal and as teacher of Grades Five and Six. Sometime during the 1931-32 school year, Sister St. Benedict who was teaching Grades Seven and Eight left for reasons of fatigue. Sister Florentia took over the older classes and a replacement Sister came in for Grades Five and Six. The result was that Sister Florentia was my teacher for four grades at the Nativity of the BVM school. An examination of our graduation picture will show that I was the runt of the class among the boys. See Illustration Ten, the short blond at the top left.
Each of us has probably had some moment of glory in life, but if the moment of glory above was passed without much celebration, let me now celebrate each student above with the very minimum, their name in print. I will fail in one instance.
Top row, left to right, after the author, are dark haired Jerome "Jerry" Brinkman a great friend from the downtown section of Brockport, Art Ebert a great guy whose twin sister will be the last mentioned, Robert Duff a friend to all, Longine Foltman whose name alone endeared him to me, Martin Mulhern with whom I played occasionally and Frederick "Buddy" Knight my Fair Street friend and trap line buddy.
Middle row, l-r, a very nice girl whose name I cannot now recall, then Mary Ellen Dailey, a favorite cousin and daughter of Uncle Oz, Ursula Luskey a very popular girl, Mary Bertha Pallace, another favorite cousin and daughter of my Dad's only sister Bertha who married Attorney John Pallace, Margaret O'Brien, Dorothy Booth, Lillian Mokowicz, and Leone Keable.
Front row, Betty Jane Elliott, Anna Pakula, Frances Petori, Virginia Hosmer, Father Michael J. Krieg, Betty Dailey, my cousin and sister of Mary Ellen, Dolores Duffy, Dorothy Brown and Lillian Ebert, Art's twin sister.
Mary Ellen Dailey and Betty Dailey had come to Brockport for just the final grades at BVM, having begun Parochial School at Blessed Sacrament in Rochester, New York. Mary Bertha Pallace was educated at home in Brockport and did not join us at BVM until the later grades.
Quite a number of these students came in on the bus from farming communities outside of Brockport. One result is that outside of their lunch pails with the tantalizing aromas, I did not get to know them well.
It is striking to me as I write these lines, with so much to say about the Sisters, that I note their complete absence from the photo. It is a disappointment. They received so little recognition. They gave so much and did so much. After they were gone, they were missed so much. Maybe that is one of the main reasons they are gone. The teaching orders of the United States were taken for granted, not only by the Catholic Clergy, but by students and parents alike.
Things moved at a faster pace within the classroom irrespective of the crowding. Graduation was the objective and the effort became more intense. Pupils were introduced to the Board of Regents of the State of New York. Well, not personally of course but by way of their first New York State Regent's examinations. For the certificate to move on to High School, a grammar school student needed a passing grade in two Regent's exams, Geography and Spelling. The successful completion of these examinations, with a mark of 65 or better out of a possible 100, was added to the requirement that you receive a favorable evaluation by your teacher based on your year of monthly grades for recitations and tests in all subjects.
The Regent's tests came in sealed packets to be opened by your teacher or exam proctor just before the time period allowed for the test began. There was usually a short instruction to be read aloud from the packet by the teacher followed by a solemn distribution of the examination itself to a hushed and worried bunch of boys and girls. This was drama of the first magnitude. It was a forerunner of the drama that would be played out each year in a New York State high school for much tougher subjects. Geography and Spelling were good icebreakers in that respect. Most of the eighth grade class where this took place were pretty well drilled by Sister in these subjects and few failed at this level. I am proud to say that I received a grade of 100 in Spelling and went to the New York State spelling bee held during the 1932 Rochester Exposition at Edgerton Park in Rochester New York. I am embarrassed to relate that I lasted a few rounds, then flubbed an easy word, "calculate."
One of my last student memories of Sister Florentia occurred as the result of an incident in the winter of 1930-31. There were few companions for me on South Avenue. Howard Simmons lived directly across the street with his grandfather Elwood and grandmother Ida Simmons. They were strict Baptists and took a dim view of "goings-on" across the street at our house. But I was always welcome in their tiny home because of my friendship with Howard. The family read the Bible each morning and when I came they invited me to read, and I enjoyed that. In the summers, Howard was off to Bible School each weekday morning. Now, Howard was not quite as dedicated to Christ as his grandparents but he did what they required without griping about it. The result was that he was not always available for playing. Up the street lived the Hanks family. Father Paul was an Attorney with two growing sons, Robert and Paul. Their ages were just under mine. A year older, as Howard was, or a year or two younger as the Hanks boys were, constituted major gaps for young boys growing up. My exact age matches were to be found in three boys over on Fair Street, and to be with them you had to be tough. Fighting, as in fist fighting or street wrestling , was a mark of passage. I was not tough. Still, if I wanted to play with them, the routine was that first the poorest fighter among them beat you up, then the next and so on. The three boys were Fred "Buddy" Knight, Robert "Buster" Mosher and his twin brother Louis Mosher. Since Fred Knight was my friend on the trap line, the unspoken agreement was that he would not have to beat me up. So, the routine for any day's play was Louis would beat me up and then Robert would beat me up. They had a mean chow dog and sometimes they tried to get him to beat me up. After each day's ritual beatings were over, the four of us would play and have a great time. We played baseball, we hiked and made fires and cooked food over the coals. We spent hours in any abandoned buildings around and made up games to go with these presumably haunted houses. While I never became a good fighter, I got better as a matter of survival.
One winter day on my way to school, another pair of twins, the Taylor twins, sons of a local minister, set upon me for no reason other than they thought they could beat me up. It turned out that I had become toughened a bit and their less adventurous life had not prepared them for someone who had decided to fight to the death if necessary. After about 30 minutes, they high tailed out of there, leaving me victor for the first time in my life, but also leaving me looking pretty bruised and a little bloody. I was late for afternoon class. I had to go see Sister. This time, Sister Florentia took me to the boy's room to clean off some of the blood, then sat me down in the hall so the other students could not see or hear what was taking place. "Frank," she said, "I do not want you to get in a fight again and I do not want you to ever be late for school again." She waited for this to sink in and then she said, "Frank, if you absolutely cannot avoid those two the next time, give 'em one for me!" Little wonder that I had a love affair with Sister Florentia.
In an earlier chapter, I mentioned the Strand Theatre in Brockport, New York. Saturday afternoons there usually brought Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson or Ken Maynard, cowboy idols of many early "moving pictures." Occasionally, on Sunday our Dad would drive the family to Rochester for a movie and then dinner at Odenbach's Restaurant. Rochester had the RKO Palace, Loew's Rochester, the Piccadilly and the Regent, among its many fine movie houses. The best closing sentence to a movie that I recall from those days was delivered by George Arliss. He was a well-known British actor of the day. The film was "The Green Goddess." George played the Pooh-Bah of a small island nation tolerated by the Brits in their empire days to demonstrate that they did not control everything. The story put the lie to that. Seems that a British airplane with two pilots and one girl passenger had engine trouble and crash-landed on the beach of George's island. George, in his fancy turban headdress, was clearly in charge at the scene. He captured the three British citizens. A British warship with large guns showed up to demand their release. From the outset, it was clear that George had little interest in the pilots except to use them as bargaining chips to keep the girl, to whom he had developed a fancy. She was attractive, and chatty. The Brits sent a boat ashore and George expected the parley to begin. The British negotiator, a naval officer in gold braid with an overbearing, clipped, oral delivery, quickly made it clear that there would be no negotiation. All three would be released or the 16-inch guns of the warship would be ready to fire on George's little kingdom. He'd be back in a long boat for the captives in the morning. Sure enough, manned by many oarsmen, the next morning the long boat's bow came to rest gently on the gorgeous sand beach. George reluctantly released the pilots and the girl. As they rowed away, from a luxuriant palm grove on a cliff above the beach George watched the proceeding with his long glass telescope. He then uttered the movie's closing remark, "She probably would have been a lot of trouble, anyway."
I departed from my beautiful little school in June of 1932. As I trudged back south on Utica Street for the last time and headed with my diploma toward the Brockport High School, I do not recall any specific thoughts. In the years since, it has occurred to me that Sister Florentia, gazing out of her sixth grade window, might have had a thought similar to the closing remark George Arliss made from his island empire.
My Times With the Sisters and Other Events, 134 pages, ISBN 0966625110; can be ordered through your local bookstore. Cover Price is $9.50.