Monday, November 28, 2011

In the Memories of Alums

In the last few years I have been interviewing graduates from the 1930s and 40s and have shared with you the memories and little treasures of Rosemary Hanneken O’Brien, ‘46 . In reviewing the interviews I am reminded of recurring ideas. “My father really believed in education, and he wanted his girls to have a high school education,” recalled Betty Tuembler Moser, ’34. This fact was repeated in other interviews and certainly agrees with the trend in the first part of the twentieth century to allow and even encourage education for daughters in the family. With Notre Dame Academy grade school expanding its curriculum to include ninth grade classes in 1904, there were enough young ladies interested in continuing their education to establish a separate academy for them in 1906. The curriculum included commercial (commerce) and college prep (classical) courses. By the 1930s then, the commercial and regular high school were well established.

Uniforms have been mentioned by each interviewee. Mrs. Moser recalls that the grade level of any student was clearly seen in the color of her tie: freshmen wore green (no surprise there); sophomores red; juniors corral; and seniors brown (hmmm). The uniform proper was a plain blue shirt dress with white collars and cuffs (both starched!). (Photos show the high school uniform and the grade school uniform.) Also mentioned by those interviewed were the infamous black bloomers worn for gym class. Of course, this was accompanied in the interviews with a hearty chuckle.

Another aspect of interviewees’ lives here at Notre Dame was the fact that most of the teachers were Sisters of Notre Dame whom they dearly loved. Special mention went, as may be expected, to Sr. M. Agnetis who was principal from 1906 to 1946. Others frequently mentioned by name were Sr. M. St. Claire and Sr. M. Jean who taught music and French respectively. Sr. M. Jean replaced Sr. M. Agnetis as principal in 1946.

If you were an NDA student during these years, which memory here strikes the strongest chord with you? In future Heritage Blog entries we’ll revisit these interviews and many other treasures of memory.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Intruders in the Night

This account appeared in the NDA Annals kept by the Sisters. The entry is dated March 4, 1949.

“Notre Dame narrowly escaped being the ninth school to be raided by unknown vandals when intruders broke into the Academy by way of the main entrance about 3:30 a.m., Friday. S. Mary Oliva was awakened by the sound of falling glass, and with alertness of mind, she buzzed the house-phone on all the floors. The Fourth floor answered, and Sister said: “I think someone is in the building—I heard the sound of breaking glass.” S. Mary Xavier, who took the message thought for a moment, “What shall I do?” Then without hesitation she hurried to the fire-siren and turned it on. In less that no time all the Sisters were hurrying down, the siren still howling. Entirely forgetful of danger, one Sister went down stairs alone to the first floor. There she found the glass in the main door broken, just enough (for someone to) to reach inside to open the lock. However, all signs of the vandals were gone. And the siren screamed on. ..The police who had also been called, arrived and made a thorough search but found no one. And still the fire siren screamed on. We tried to turn it off on different floors, but by this time (some) switches were on and some off and we could not determine which one would turn it off. Then to our dismay, smoke began to curl up around the siren horns and we had to call the fire department. One Sister called, and said, “Please come QUIETLY!” But how was this to be done? In a few moments’ time a huge fire motor and ladder truck zoomed up before the Academy. While the firemen searched for smoldering wires, suddenly some on found THE button that turned off the siren. What a relief! Quiet and safety at last. The smoking sirens soon cooled off, the firemen departed, and we went to Chapel to pray a MAGNIFICAT in gratitude for divine protection. The next day we had an exciting story to tell the girls.
Eight other schools in our vicinity did not escape so easily. Unknown vandals did much damage in them by breaking windows, throwing ink around, tearing out wires, and turning on faucets. In less than 24 hours after Notre Dame’s invasion, Holy Cross School sustained about $200 damages from vandals, especially (from) smashed doors and windows. We are longing for the capture of these vandals who seem to be young boys bent upon destruction rather than upon stealing."
So ends another exciting episode of 5th. Street Panda History.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Another Look Back at the 1940s

When asked about mischief making in her day (1941-45), Rose Mary Hanneken O’Brien’s reply was,
“I heard about some of them (other girls), but they really weren’t my friends. They snuck out one time to go up to a movie up on Madison Ave., but I didn’t do anything like that. I was a good girl, believe that, or not. But I don’t remember doing anything like that. I think we, our family, and I guess, some of my closer friends, we didn’t want to bring that down on our parents (anything) that would disgrace them. I think we honored our parents that way, by trying to do what we were supposed to do. They were paying our way there (NDA), and all. We tried to do our best.” This pretty much reveals the sentiments of the day in those years and in this area.

The photos reveal other aspects of life at NDA. Having graduated in 1946 Rose Mary Hanneken was there during the war years and joined the school’s war efforts. The girls joined the Junior Red Cross and the Victory Corps. A certain Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Daley addressed the girls to encourage them to join the corps whose purpose seemed to have been to gather books for leisure reading for the members of the military. Each girl received a membership card and the cap seen in the photo of war memorabilia. The Red Cross was pretty standard in high schools across the country at that time, so it’s not surprising to see that NDA was right in there.

Another quite different aspect of NDA life is evident in the second picture of Mother’s Day memorabilia. The formal invitation sent to mothers for an NDA Mother’s Day celebration emerges from its pink envelope while a paper figure of a student waits to be stood at the place at table reserved for the girl’s mother.

Despite the time and its scarcities, the Notre Dame girls walked away with many colorful and meaningful mementoes. Those reinforced the loving memories that so many NDA alums have of their school. While the times have changed significantly, we find that more recent alums have fond memories too, although of a different kind. We trust there will always be a store of such recollections to draw from for all future alums, memories that will enrich their lives and cause them to sing with gusto, “NDA, we honor thee with our voices, our hearts, our songs.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

1942 and You're a Freshman

August 25, 2011

Now with a new school year underway (as of August17) it is interesting to look back to one alumna’s experience in her years at Notre Dame Academy. So what did the year 1942 hold for a little freshman? Quite a lot is revealed as we open Rose Mary Henneken O’Brien’s album of keepsakes.

The first piece we see: Freshman schedule. If you were a little Frosh in 1942 you were in homeroom A, B, or C on the third floor (of course) and your day was spent navigating between these three rooms with a possibility of Junior B on the second floor, in addition to the sewing room on the fourth floor. Naturally, or so it seems, if you were in Division A and had class at 1:15 in Junior B (Sr. M. Constance—Algebra) on the second floor, your last class at 2:00 was on the fourth floor—sewing room with Sr. M. Verda for Home-making. The rest of the Division A day went as follows: First period: Religion in homeroom; second period at 9:30—English with Sr. M. Josette in Fr. A; third period at 10;25—Latin with Sr. M. Cephas; fourth period at 11:10--History with Sr. M. Sheila (still living, by the way) followed by lunch and study hall period; the rest of the day as above starting on the second floor, then dashing (no, girls, we don’t dash. We walk up the steps in lady-like fashion, staying to the right) to the sewing room. Divisions B and C girls had variations of the above with a few differences. You may have had Sr. M. Josita for History or Sr. M. Jean for Latin or Sr. M. Joselind for Algebra, but you did not venture to the second floor. Your Religion teacher was no doubt your homeroom teacher. Study periods in the middle of the day apparently allowed time for “physical training,” dramatic art and library science.

The next feature of high school life revealed in the album is the Uniform Regulations sheet with a swatch of material to show the color you were to wear—navy blue. Briefly here are the specifics: any pattern with silk, wool, or crepe material; elbow length sleeves; white sharkskin collar and cuffs (purchased at the academy); optional belt of the same color as the dress. Since this was wartime the students did not have to purchase hose but could wear anklets, white or blue.

The photo shows a typical bookmark with then Bl. Julie Billiart (now Saint) you could slip onto the corner of a page, and the paper hearts from a mission-support effort, possibly in February. Courtesy of Rose Mary O’Brien.

In future postings in this blog, we will continue down the 40’s memory lane.