The Catholic Way


For those of you who are easily offended, I suggest you do not read the following post. You may not like what I have to say about the Catholic school system.

Please allow me to share this portrait of a young rebel attending Catholic school from 1976-1977.

My old Catholic school, St. Richards Primary, still stands on Red Hills Road in Jamaica. Hard to believe that it has not been torn down because of all the development. My family is Catholic, and it was no surprise that I ended up there. Too bad I hated every moment of it. I had to wear a light brown uniform with brown socks and brown loafers. Even to this day, I hate the colour brown. I carried a Bible with me because I had to make an appearance in the on campus church every Tuesday. I had a Holly Hobbie lunch box, and I was surprised that I was not teased about it.

Early into the semester, I remember standing in a line outside one of the buildings for Miss Singer’s class. She was a very nice lady. One of the nuns was prattling on about rules, and I could care less. Blah blah blah, don’t do this, so on, and so forth. Ugh! How long do I have to stand here and listen to this garbage? Then she mentioned something about no spitting on the playground. That gave me an idea. I put a small gob of saliva on the ground out of her sight line. Then the nun asked: “Did someone just spit there?” No one said a word, and I remained silent. We were allowed into the building shortly thereafter. That was a relief. I like to think of it as the start of my push back against the iron fist rule of the nuns. I cherish that memory to this day.

I remember my teacher like I saw her yesterday. Sister Augustine was a tall, dark skinned nun who I hated to pieces. I was mostly a quiet lad in class, but one day, I received two smacks on my right hand with a ruler for being a brat. That was the form of punishment back in those days, and it hurts! Sometimes, Sister Joseph would make an appearance. I was always glad to see her. If there was a nun that I actually liked, it was her because she was very quiet. She always stood on the left side of the classroom, not saying anything as Sister Augustine was prattling on with the lesson.

However, Sister Cabrini was the incarnate of evil. She was the principal, and we were all afraid of her. I still remember what she looks like. An ugly woman with fair skin, corrective lenses, huge nose, wearing a white habit. She was as strict as a military drill instructor. Whenever we saw her on the playground, we scattered like roaches. We did not want to see the business end of a ruler. She lived in what looked to be some kind of apartment behind the church. I was afraid to go near it.

The highlight of the day was when the “patty van” came to deliver delicious beef patties for lunch. I remember it was a white Ford Econoline. I think that’s all I ever ate during my time there, along with the occasional bag of Cheese Trix, known in the States as puffy Cheez Doodles. I guess we ate a lot of patties because the van came every day. I definitely ate a lot because I did not like the shredded sausage sandwiches the maid made for me. But ironically, I love sausage. That would be one of my weird paradoxes, such as how I love cole slaw, but hate cabbage.

I don’t remember much about going to church on Tuesdays. Just vague snapshots of being inside the church and one time when I was receiving communion. That was gross. I thought the whole thing was a farce. I should have walked out, but, I would have been in major trouble with the school and my grandpa. At the time, I thought that’s what everyone else was doing, and I was just going with the flow. Mom told me her Catholic school horror stories a few weeks ago. She was punished for wearing nail polish. That doesn’t surprise me. Her school was worse than a slave labour camp. She was just as much of a rebel as I was. We bonded over that.

David Taylor was my only friend in the whole school. I remember he had much darker skin that I did. Perhaps he was an immigrant from a Third World country. I didn’t ask, and I didn’t care. He used to always stand outside with his hands on top of his head with the fingers interlaced with each other. I also remember that he used to smell like an open cesspool. I never knew why, and I never said anything. He was not in my class. I remember Don was the only Asian kid in my class, and the only one that wore long trousers whilst the rest of the boys wore shorts. Opal had very short hair, and Susan wore braids. I thought she was cute. I never talked to them. Like I said before, I was a rather quiet lad.

At some point, I was pulled out of there for unknown reasons. My final memory was being picked up by Uncle Alan in his VW Beetle. Mom had a falling out with him, and to this day, she will not speak to him. Shortly after leaving school, my grandfather became sick with cancer and died. I returned to the States for good, and started fourth grade.

The transition to an American school was a bit rough. I needed time to acclimate to the “loose” environment. One thing that I had to stop doing was standing up whenever the teacher called on me. That was a Catholic school requirement. I had to stand up, otherwise I would get two swats on the hand with the ruler. I could hear the giggles from the other students and see the fingers pointing at me. I was so glad to be able to wear normal street clothes! My Holly Hobbie lunch box was retired since the school served lunch. The teasing would have been brutal. Perhaps I may consider a post about my experiences with the American school system.

Thanks for reading my post. Sat Nam.

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