I have shared several posts over the years about my Irish heritage, mostly as it relates to food. I did a post on the history of corned beef, how to pour a proper Black and Tan, how to make you very own Irish cream, Irish coffee, a brief note on Irish Whiskey and its place in history and most recently a guest post from a friend on Patrick of Ireland.
I wanted to also do a piece on St. Patrick from my family perspective. You see my mother and ALL of her siblings went to St. Patrick’s Catholic School in the Hillyard neighborhood of North Spokane. My sister Molly and I were the only grandkids to also go because we too moved to the “ghetto with a personality” as my Uncle John calls it.
My sister and I would say that we were raised “Irish Catholic” culturally as well, which we think is a thing. We don’t know if my aunts and uncles felt the same way but when I posed some open-ended questions to them about their memories of that little school off of Queen Ave, it sure seems that they might agree too, even if not fondly (lol).
Molly and I have great memories of the school. Not perfect surely but as most of my kids are older and fact that I sent most of my kids in Catholic school as well, my mind floods back to a simpler time, a simpler life, and something, much like Mass around the world, consistent (thanks Jim Gaffigan).
I want to share some thoughts and memories from me, my sister, and my aunts and uncles. You could probably call it a little nod to my mother too, and her memory, and my dad who still is a parishioner of the church even to this day.
Here are some of the family thoughts and input with my sister and I adding comments after as we see fit (wiseacres that we are).
The Aunts and Uncles (from their voice)
“We only lived 5 blocks away from St. Pat’s, so every one of us, 11 in total ALWAYS walked to and from school. We also lived close enough that we could easily walk home for lunch, get lunch, and still get back to school in time.”
“One of Margaret’s memories was she knew that without a shadow of a doubt that she made it to hell if we did not attend the Holy Day of Obligation.”
“School uniform was a red and gray plain, not green (like when Molly and I went), the reason was that the girl that modeled the red uniform when the PTA was voting on which to buy looked the cutest, and she happened to be wearing the red plaid uniform.”
“When Bob, John, Steve, Marilyn and Kay went to St Pats, the girls wore a forest green jumper. Barb and Marg wore the green uniforms in the beginning of our early years until the 5th and 6th grades.”
“When Chris was in 6th grade and Margaret was in 8th grade, the nuns changed their names to their original birth names. Margaret’s teacher was now named Sister Elizabeth Brown, and she made the mistake of addressing the nun by saying, “Good afternoon Sister Betty Brown.” She got a shake down for doing so! One of those indelible memories she carries with her to this day.”
“Mass was held every morning before school if you wanted to go. Anyone who did, usually got praised for it. But if you didn’t go, you could easily stay home and watch the Three Stooges on TV. The nuns used to extol on the bad influences that the Three Stooges had on us kids. We just liked watching it better than going to mass.”
“If there was a funeral mass at 9:00 am or 9:30 AM you could go to the funeral so that it would look like there were more mourners that attended the funeral instead of class. (when Molly and I were altar “servers” we made a little cash when serving funerals AND missed class!).”
“In 1965, the mass changed from being said in Latin to English.”
“As soon as communion was started all the brothers of this group usually snuck outta church, but no one could if we attended one of those weekday masses because all the nuns wouldn’t let you.”
“Margaret remembers in 5th grade having to go forward to get her report card and dragged her left foot all the way up because the priest was handing out the report cards. The reason she dragged her leg was she was trying to eliminate the sound of flop, flop, flop because the sole of her Soap & Saddle shoe was falling off. It was the end of the school year and we only got one pair of shoes per year. If we didn’t take care of them, no matter if the sole was falling off, it was the only pair we were going to have until the following September.”
“Every year Mom & Dad would buy us one new pair of Soap & Saddle shoes and it would take the next 9 months to pay off the credit card debt. When we got home, we had to get out of our school shoes and change our clothes immediately. Remember, it had to last 9 months!”
“John remembers wearing their new Keds Tennis Shoes on a hike to Minnehaha and walked in the tar pits. It was fun while it lasted until they realized what kind of licking they were about to get once they got home!”
“Catholic education was superior to the Public School education. The last 6 of us who went onto Shaw Jr. High & Rogers did so much better than we ever did while we were at St Pat’s as far as grades were concerned.”
“St Pat’s had an all year school reunion, and ALL eleven of us attended that day together. It turns out we weren’t the largest family to attend St Pat’s but we were the largest to attend that day of the reunion!”
“Art classes were a favorite for Margaret because they made decorations for whatever the next holiday was about to be, beginning with Halloween! Fall has always been her favorite part of the year.”
“Scouting was strong at St Pat’s. Our dad was one of the volunteers and Scoutmaster. Mom was even a Den mother when the boys were in Cub Scouts. (Mike was a Cub Scout too at St. Pat’s until it conflicted with baseball).”
“Sports at St Pat’s included football for the boys as well as basketball, and baseball. The girls got to do Volleyball and softball.”
“Every year, every one of us had to sell some Hold Child stamps. John rode his bike over to Granny’s house and got Granny to buy 10-20 cents worth of the penny stamps or biked over to Grandmom’s house. Both time Mom yelled at him for doing so. What’s a guy to do?”
Molly and I
Without going into great detail, our folks were a part of the charismatic renewal in the late 70s through St. Al’s and their Lord of Love group held prayer meetings at GU. I remember those times, some vivid. It is a big part of our heritage and honestly, very grateful. These were radical Catholics!
I (Mike) started at Zion Faith Assembly in the first grade off of Garland for one year and then in the second grade, “transferred” to St. Pat’s. I guess I took a test and they placed me as a 2nd grader, although probably should have been in 1st based on my age. Molly, same.
We went to St. Pat’s through 8th grade and I have so many memories of that little school on Spokane’s north side.
I (Mike) became an altar boy and one time when serving at a funeral, I kicked one of my fellow altar boys because we “agreed” on who was doing what and in the middle of the service, he TOOK MY JOB! I was so ticked that I literally kicked him during the service! Needless to say, one of the old ladies in the audience saw it and reprimanded me later. Embarrassing but he deserved it (we later fought and got in trouble by Sister Marcia and Father Joe).
I remember street hockey, tackle football in the snow, doughnuts after Mass (still love apple fritters), a few carnivals to raise money, lots of Mass, folks in the choir, Lector and Eucharistic ministers (communion servers) and the musical Angels Aware (lead as Michael the Archangel and I sang!).
Molly and I both played sports there too. Girls always had enough to furnish full volleyball, basketball and softball teams but us boys had to form teams in combination with St. Xavier and St. Al’s. I think of one of our teams was called P.A.X., an abbreviation for all 3 schools. I had to play 8th grade basketball for St. Al’s because we didn’t have enough kids to furnish a team so mom put me on a bus to practice in the St. Al dungeon! (Later in life, when I coached 5th grade All Saints team for my oldest son, Nate, he played in that gym too! Also, bonus points because I went to Montessori there as well). That was cool.
The boys weren’t any good but the girls were! Look, by the time I was at St. Pat’s we weren’t the dominant Irish-Italian-whatever group that my aunts and uncles were. We were simply poor Hillyard kids.
Let me be clear though. We had a GREAT childhood. We walked 9 blocks to school. We were both involved in EVERTHING and even though we found out that we weren’t as prepared academically for G-Prep, the goal was to get there…and we did…and we loved it.
So, thank you mom, dad, aunts, uncles, Grandma Betty and Grandad Don for the St. Patrick’s heritage. It was special and we are grateful.