A Visit From A Yankee Legend..

By Joseph R. Stanaitis 12/11/03

This incident happened in the late 40s. Sister Marie Louise was a young lady out of St. Louis Missouri. She was also the cousin to Mr. Yogi Berra, star catcher on the world champion NY Yankees.

We had a lot of real good ball players in those days, none had ever made it to the pros but none had ever stopped dreaming of becoming a pro.

Ed Kelly was the councilor of the little side group, the high school teams pitcher and my hero, another story on that later. When he heard that Sister Marie Louise was related to the great Yogi Berra, he and a large group of the high school guys got together and pleaded with her to see if she could get Yogi to pay a visit to the house, maybe even bringing up a couple of teammates. She said she would try.

It was a beautiful spring morning, there were new leaves on all the trees and the air was fresh and cool. It was a perfect baseball kind of day. We heard it before we saw it, that big beautiful bus with the Yankees logo printed all over it.

There were a couple of hundred of us on the field that day, the little side and the fellows and as the limo pulled to a stop in front of the school, we all let out a roar that must have been heard all the way down in Sparkill.

Sister Marie Louise and several other Sisters were there to greet the ball players as they got off the bus. Yogi was the first one off and he took his cousins hands in his and then gave her a hug and a gentle kiss on her cheek. They all stepped off the bus after him. I don’t recall all but I’d guess that Yogi was followed by Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Don Johnson, Hank Bauer and a couple of others.

They wore their street clothes but a few carried field bags with their gloves and such. The looks on the faces of Ed Kelly and the other house’s team ball players were pure ecstasy. Sister took them all into the Nuns’ refectory for refreshments and we all waited outside.

Ed Kelly was one of my hero’s, I will explain why later and I looked forward to his pitching skills being acknowledged. It wasn’t to be. The Yankees came out and introduced themselves as if they really needed to, to our baseball team. I think one of the Sisters; maybe even Sister Marie Louise volunteered to be the Ump.

The game started, us against the New York Yankees. Ed pitched his heart out. Pitches that had laid waste to the local teams were sent so far out and over the shop building that the balls were never located. Other hits were driven with such force a foot or so over the turf that none of our guys dared to grab them but by a miracle or the whispered words of Sister Marie Louise, three batters popped up, slow, high beautiful arcs snagged in order by the right fielder, the left fielder and the short stop.

Now it was pay back time. I don’t remember who pitched, Whitey Ford or Vic Raschi. They were real pros and nice guys. The pitching started slow allowing us to get even with the 10 or so runs they had achieved in that first inning.

Each houses kids face lit up as they smashed that pill tossed by Whitey or Vic across the field or over their heads. Looking back from this time to then, in addition to being baseball pros, they were fantastic actors and if Oscars were given out for live performances, they would have garnered quite a few.

Once the scores were even, each batter got in intermittent order, a ball, a strike and then out. The game was over. Our guy’s put on brave faces, they did their best against the worlds champion Yankees and were able to tell the tale.

Our team all got baseballs autographed by the team member that showed up that day. I wish I had one of those balls today. It was a glorious occasion.

By Joseph R. Stanaitis 12/11/03

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Do You Remember???

By Joseph R. Stanaitis
Monday, March 22, 2004

Were you aware that there used to be a flourishing fireworks factory in Rockland County in the late 40s and into the early fifties?

It was that time in our history that the Soviet Union with the assistance of the Rosenberg acquired the knowledge to build their own hydrogen bomb.

The cold war took a turn towards heating up and all the kids at the 'house' and, from what I learned later on, all over this country, were having air raid drills in all the schools and places of business. People were taught how to duck under desks or hide in doorways or go into basements.

A bomb shelter industry grew up overnight. If memory serves me right, the fireworks factory was in Pearl River, on the outskirts of that thriving little village, right in the middle of small game hunting territory.

So it was that bright crisp fall day that a young high school student went out into the fields to hunt for rabbit. He was carrying his 22 caliber single shot rifle in the proper way.

He had seen several good size bunnies scampering away from him. He loaded a bullet into the chamber and kept his finger pressed lightly on the trigger. He was so intent watching a large buck takes off to his left that he started forward after him and tripped, falling into a ditch and pulling the trigger just as he fell down into the gully. That 22-caliber bullet flew a half or quarter mile right threw the window of the fireworks factory.

Going by the local roads, Pearl River was about 7 miles from us, but we heard the loud boom, felt the ground shake and we looked up into the sky and saw the mushroom cloud. We blessed ourselves and hit the dirt as we had been taught in school. We waited and waited some more. There was no big wind. The buildings stood. After awhile, we got off the ground, wiped the sweat and dust off our faces and ran for the buildings where we waited to find out what had happened.

The story was front-page news in next days' "Rockland Journal News". The young fellow had his fifteen minutes of fame and disappeared from the headline overnight.

We continued to be prepared for the war that never came. Today’s terrorist threats are just another footnote, to people who lived through the period of the cold war and the constant threat of MAD, mutually assured destruction.

By Joseph R. Stanaitis
Monday, March 22, 2004

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Lunch at the 42nd Street Automat

By Joseph R. Stanaitis

From: Joseph R

over the past few years, I have written a journal of memories. I included the good, the bad and the ugly. it is over a 100 or so pages and includes that portion of mine and my brothers lives prior to going to St. Agnes.  if I ever sought to publish it, I would ignore the council of the nuns. those who did the dastardly deeds are long gone. I would not mention their names. during my time, there was no abuse from the priests as far as I knew. in retrospect, in many instances, it was the naive and untrained with emotional hang ups watching over the defenseless and angry..


probably, much of what I wrote was apocryphal.. but many stories repeated often enough had their basis's in truth.


looking back at ones life experiences, that occurred over 50 years ago, is much like peering through the wrong end of the telescope. all of the basic facts are 100% true. these things did in fact happen. since i, at this age, am not the same person who lived these experiences, I embellish when needed, exaggerate when the story gets dull and recreate these vignettes out of less than a fully functional memory.  


I leave you with these little stories:

1. Lunch at the 42nd Street Automat
2. Many of Us Chose Vincent as Our Confirmation Name
3. The Summer We Raided Woolworth
4. Social Skills For When You Go Home "For Good"
5. Here is a Question For You To Ponder




Lunch at the 42nd Street Automat

By Joseph R. Stanaitis


We as a group traveled all over the Tri-state area, sampling beaches, restaurants, movie houses and such. Always under strict supervision and always under the threat of excessive discipline for any acts of individual or group bad behavior.


We had traveled to Manhattan to go to the circus at Madison Square Garden. We did not have a school bus at the time so we traveled down to the city in our big Ford truck with a tarp over us on the benches in the back. The truck had been parked and we were marching from the parking place over in the West 40ies. We also had to find a place for a reasonably priced lunch.


 At a quietly passed along command to halt, we found our group of 30 or so ragamuffins in front of a Horn and Hardart automat. We all pressed our noses against the window and watched people going to the little windows inside, feed the slots a few coins and sit down with a hot meal if that was their choice. Our prefect went inside to look for the manager and see if there would be any problem with all of us going inside to eat lunch.


 I guess we were approved for an entrance.

We were all clean and dressed in the latest finery purchased from Rogers Peet and co. The latest finery of the 1920s and 30s. The Sisters were able to obtain this clothing at very large discounts and it was in fact made of the finest materials and would last through many years of heavy use and different children. The prefect gave us a fist full of coins and told us we could not dally at the selection windows for more than x amount of time. If he saw any undue loitering, that kid would have to do with a glass of water till we got back to the “house” later that day.


We all were finally seated, four to a table, eating our lunch very quietly under pain of a wicked beating when we got back. One of the kids at my table had a glass eye. It was not a quality product since we were orphans, some really orphans, some from broken families, like myself, and others minor juvenile delinquents. It was an obvious glass eye and people at one of the tables were staring at us but mainly at him and making remarks, He was used to this and we all covered our mouths because we were laughing and we knew what was coming next, When he was absolutely sure he had their attention, he calmly reached over, picking up a fork and proceeded to scratch his glass eye with that fork. We all watched the watchers start to toss their cookies quite violently and run out of the Automat in double time





By Joseph R. Stanaitis


I was confirmed at Sacred Heart church in Suffern NY when I was about 13 years old. There were quite of few of us receiving the Sacrament that cold autumn day. We didn’t have a bus at that time so we were packed into the back of the old truck with the wooden benches and the tarp top and driven through a very cold rainstorm to the church. You may have noticed that the use of corporal punishment, though not legal, was alive and well and practiced with great skill in those days; which was the cause of one very embarrassing moment for the prefects and Sisters who had been driven to the church for this momentous occasion. It all went very well when the local kids who attended the church went up for the rite. They took the bishop’s, laying on the holy oils and the gentle pat on the face, without any untoward reaction. Then it was our turn, the kids from the house. The Sisters bent forward in the pews, theirs faces beaming with pride and little Angelo Alvino approached the altar and after the oils had been applied and the bishop leaned forward to give him the ceremonial tap on the chin, he flinched, he not only flinched, he ducked and hit the floor in front of the altar, then he looked up at the bishops with his hands held up defensively in front of his face. I was surprised that the nuns didn’t faint right there. There was a loud collective intake of breath from them when they saw this event go down and as a body; they left the pew to go get Angelo. The bishop was no fool. He knew what went on in the orphanages under his care and hoped it was always done as a last resort. He saw the kid was terrified and he came through the altar gate and bent over and kind of knelt near Angelo. He was a kindly looking man despite the mitre and the robes. He looked at Angelo, telling him not to be scared, everything was fine and he soothed the boy, holding his hands out to the kid. The silence in the church was palpable. The nuns sitting red-faced in the pew and the prefects behind them and you could feel the anger they radiated. Finally after what seems like hours, Angelo took the bishops’ hands, the bishop pulled him close to his robe and whispered something in his ear for several minutes. You could see the tears subsiding and finally a big smile went across his face just as the bishop tapped his little chin and sent him back to the pew.


Surprisingly, there was no repercussion for the Sisters and especially for little Angelo. Someone must have called the house and spoken to the mother superior





By Joseph R. Stanaitis

There was the first time we were allowed to go the movies in Nyack NY.  It was the first week of the summer vacation and from what we were told, each year the councilors and the Sisters met prior to the summer vacation to decide where the kids could go that season.  It was based upon the budget and what places would allow us in.  We were finally allowed to go up to the Rockland Theater in Nyack. NY.  We did have weekly movies at the house but they were usually ancient, a year or two from the silents and a year or so in front of Technicolor. The big day arrived.  We were loaded into the back of the old ford truck with a tarp over the top and wooden benches.  They did pack us in though. There had to be over 30 kids.  We went into the darkened movie one by one and up into the loge seats.  I don’t remember the feature but the main feature was happening outside the movie, about a block up Main Street.  It was a double feature, couple of cartoons, technicolor and plenty of popcorn.  At the end of the show, we were rounded up, counted and loaded into the truck for the 5-mile ride back to the House.

We arrived back about an hour before supper and were let loose to play on the field for a while.  About 15 minutes after we had dispersed all over the field, we heard the coaches’ whistle, once, twice, three times. We were told very often that one whistle meant start in to the line up, twice meant, double time and a third whistle signaled a natural disaster and/or severe punishment for whoever was missing in the roll call.


In a very few minutes, all 300 kids were lined up with their own groups.  The coach looked agitated.  His eyes scanned the assemblage and he said “ all those who went to the movies, about face and forward harch!” Our group, the 30 of us, turned and marched in perfect cadence until we heard the loud clear command “Halt, about face! At ease.”

He turned to the prefects standing by their own groups and told them to get their kids up into the refectory and let them sit QUIETLY and wait for supper.  Then, he walked out on the field and came over to us.  He walked up and down the line, looking at each of us in the face.  He went to the front of the line and told our prefect to call a roll call. All were present.


He stood directly in the front of our group. “Boys, about 5 minutes after you got off the truck, I was called into Sister Dorothy’s’ office. She had just spent a most painful twenty minutes on the phone with Chief Reagan, the chief of the Nyack PD.  “ He looked at us again and then said.  “The chief was called by the manager over at the Woolworth’s and also by the manager at the candy store across the street.  Both men told the chief that a couple of groups of young boys entered their stores, several starting a ruckus at one end while at another part of the store, the remainder stole everything that wasn’t nailed down.”  “The chief said that something like this has never happened in Nyack like a large group- from the house never went to the movies at once either”.

The coach stood there for several minutes, first staring at us and looking at the ground, he kicked a few pebbles away from his foot.  “Here is the deal, today was your first summer trip, it was also your last trip as a group to Nyack for the next few years.  I am going home now for dinner.  I expect to be back over here in 45 minutes.  There will be a price paid for your behavior today, but you still have a chance to save some of the summer for yourselves. When I get back here, I want to see every item, every dime, nickel quarter, every candy bar, everything that was stolen placed gently on the tarmac in front of you, without exception.  I do not want to know who stole what.  I want it all back. You are all allowed to leave this field, no supper, just make sure everything is back when I get back and you are all reassembled, dismissed!”

Thievery, individual or by groups was an everyday occurrence at the House.  Big kids preyed on the younger ones.  The younger ones borrowed anything they saw sitting around for a minute unattended, Bullies would shake down kids coming back to the playrooms on visitor’s day.  This trip to Nyack had been posted on the bulletin boards for a couple of weeks.  Also listed were the various other places we’d be going and the names of the groups going.  The Woolworth robbery was well planned. The thieves did not realize that Nyack was not like the areas of the city where they came from and where roving gangs were an everyday thing.  They thought it’d be like home and they’d fade into the street scene, no body would notice any body.

As the councilors responsible for the group’s behavior were getting totally wrapped up in the show, the ringleaders and their buddies, one by one were heading to the bathrooms and then sneaking out the front door.  They told the ticket taker they had permission and the ticket taker wasn’t that much older then the kids.  They’d hit the stores en masse, load up their pockets, and walk one at a time slowly back to the movie and go back to their seats.

True to his work, the coach arrived back on the scene in exactly 45 minutes.  We heard his large inhale, as he looked the merchandise stacked up on the tarmac.  The pile was about 15 long, a yard wide and quite a few inches high.  There was everything there from toys, tools, ladies make up and undies, open boxes of candy and cookies.  It was a veritable mini mall of stolen goods.  There were some items with the names of some of the boys written on them. Some of the kids had snuck out to buy things and they were so scared, they even turned them in, but they kept the receipts.  The coach had all the goods stacked into the back of the truck by some of the boys and then turned to us.  “ I am going back up to Nyack right now.  Mr. Lefarriere and O’Connor will be going with me to help return the goods to the right store. Mr. Kelly will stay here with you.  Now, I want you to start running around the field until I say stop, now RUN!”

He left us on the field about 5:30 pm, he came back about 9:30 PM.  We had been running at a good clip for 4 hours.  A few had passed out a couple of times but as soon as they were given water, they ran again.  The coach stopped at the field, whistled 3 short bursts and we ran to get in line.  He sent us directly to bed after telling us what would be in store for us for a while.  Our daily regiment for the next couple of hot summer weeks consisted of early rising, run till breakfast, run till lunch, run till dinner with several calisthenics breaks lasting at least an hour each time.  In time, we were allowed to walk to tallyman mountain park pool or swim in the cool leech infested waters of the upper waters of the Hackensack River





Some of the Sisters thought it would be a good thing if we all were taught some of the social graces. You have not lived until you have heard large groups of fumbled footed young boys practicing Irish step dances on the wooden second floor of the elementary school, just above the principal’s office and the eighth-grade classroom.




Here is a question for you to ponder.

Do you remember how we treated the boils on our body when we used to go swimming down at the "oLD oAKEN bUCKET", ALSO KNOWN AS THE   40 FOOT HOLE?



By Joseph R. Stanaitis

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Gaspar Cipolla: We're from Sparkill  
David T. Feliciano: Training for 2003 NYC Marathon The Bully
Peter Feliciano: St Agnes 1st Day, we ran
Carlos Feliciano: The Great Escape
Benjamin Feliciano: St. Agnes    The Big Bully Sister Joe Beakie    Work
Joseph R. Stanaitis: Soccer: Father Espeso Soccer: Luigi Crispino End of Innocent Years
Joseph R. Stanaitis: A Visit From Yankee Legend. Do You Remember???
Joseph R. Stanaitis: Lunch at Automat Many Chose Vincent We Raided Woolworth
Bernard S. Neville: Recalling Coach Jim Tale of A Football Game
Bernard S. Neville: The King's Chair Snow Storm Jack Frost
Bernard S. Neville: The 'Monster' at St. Agnes Bear Mountain
Anthony Monteiro: What is it?
Ted Mead's Story: He's a Tough Guy, Ted
Gerald F. Merna: The Quietest, Strongest Marine Hero I Knew.
Gerald F. Merna: Donald Frances Antonacci: House Kid, Patriot, Hero (1937 - 1990)
Gerald F. Merna: Extreme Marine Leadership at Parris Island
Gerald F. Merna: A Long Way From Guadalcanal
Aurthor Unknown: A Christmas to Remember...

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