SPECIAL TEACHER/SPECIAL MEMORIES Sister Mary Evangeline was a member of the Congregation of Divine Providence (C.D.P.) with their Motherhouse at St. Anne’s Convent in Melbourne. True to her accent it was obvious that she hailed from the northeast and to be more precise Rhode Island. She was quite proud of her home state and relatives living there. Many the story we heard about her younger years and growing up there.
To label her as totally dedicated to her vocation first as a nun and secondly as a teacher is not giving her enough credit. There was no mistaking how much she loved teaching and her students. Many, many years of her educational career were spent at St. Joseph Elementary teaching grades one and two. Most often she was more of a kid than we who were her students. This trait endeared us even more to her. At about five feet tall she easily looked at us eye to eye. It was always difficult if not sometimes impossible for her to be stern, more of an act to look mad. Seldom did she need to put on her angry face because we had so much respect for her as a person and a teacher.
Phonics, phonics and more phonics. She provided all of us with such a strong background in pronunciation and spelling. “Just sound it out” was spoken by her every day and she was correct and ahead of her time by emphasizing phonics. The use of handmade flashcards for spelling and word identification was always part of her daily routine.
Some of her additional duties included decorating church for all special religious celebrations and handling the servers, all boys at that time. In a future article, I will write more about Sister’s duties for server training and also how she was always able to recruit students, parents and parishioners to assist in whatever she needed.
In summary, I could not have been more fortunate in having such an outstanding educator from day one of my educational experience at St. Joseph Elementary.
“Is it time to go back to school already? My boys will be gone all day at school! Where did the summer go?” These were the sentiments of my Mother at the start of each school year. She loved having the boys at home during the summer months.
For me, I usually approached the new school year with mixed emotions. Yes, summer and all its freedom was disappearing for another year, yet the excitement and anticipation of moving up to the next grade level and all that it entailed was inviting.
Shopping for new school clothes was an annual ritual. To be sure, a more involved process for girls than for us boys. If memory serves me, uniforms were not required for boys or girls at St. Joseph School during my eight years there. Early shopping adventures were simply a trip to Monmouth Street in Newport and later to the giant new Newport Shopping Center. Most of our school supplies were purchased at school through our bookstore (a closet with three or four shelves and a door). Crayons, pencils, erasers, etc. were all bought from the closet (I mean bookstore) including Smith Brothers cough drops. Many the day I faked a terrible life-threatening cough just to enjoy the sweetest tasting candy treat in the form of a cough drop and we were permitted to eat them during class time. Persistent coughs plagued me September through May for eight consecutive years.
That anticipated smell of a brand-new pack of Crayola Crayons was a sensory delight that still brings back good memories to this day. A beginner pack of fat (1/2 inch diameter) crayons started the addiction, then in following years the skinnier (1/4 inch diameter) crayons took us through the middle and upper grades. As we advanced, the number of crayons in the box increased. From the starter pack of eight, then to 16, then to 24, then to the overwhelming gargantuan box of 64. How could anyone ever need that many different shades of color that were never very distinct from each other? Oh yes, the more crayons, the stronger the fragrant smell and chances are the longer that same smell would linger even til the crayons were diminished to mere nubs. By the way, why didn’t Mr. Crayola make the more frequently used colors either fatter or include two or more of those same colors that we always seemed to wear down the fastest. Or was that an early marketing ploy requiring us to buy another box of crayons simply to supplement the colors that we wore down too quickly.
Mike Enzweiler, age three (on the left) is shown patiently waiting for the school bus with his six year old brother Vern and their puppy dog (age and name unknown). The photo is from 1952.
School bags were a necessary item since we always had homework that required textbooks to be transported to and from school. My earliest recollections were of cloth handsewn bags with a shoulder strap. In ensuing years, we moved on to store-bought school bags, however, they were never quite as interesting and special as our early homemade bags.