by Ben Feliciano
At the time, I must have been about 8 years old. I was assigned to one
of the several dorms located throughout the huge 5 story main building. Each
area had its own group of kids assigned to clean up the area and make beds.
Each of these areas had a nun that was in overall charge. These nuns didnt
ordinarily have anything to do with monitoring the kids themselves, but some
nuns took extra interest in their areas. The dorm nun in our area was a prime
example. She would take a detour at night, down this long hallway, past our
dorms, which then would turn left, at a right angle, then continue down an
even longer hallway toward the nuns quarters.
The nun in charge of our dorm must have been 80 years old. She had a
slight hunchback , and sometimes walked around with a wad of tissue paper
in her mouth, probably because she had some tooth or gum problem. She must
have had large, painful, bunions because she had a hole cut out of the top
of one shoe and she walked with a heavy limp because of the bad foot.
She walked with a cane and, sometimes, while supervising the work detail,
she used a broom, turned up-side-down, as a cane. The nuns habit (dress)
was white with a black vail and, on dressy occasions, was topped with a floor
length black cape. With the cape, the hunchback, the wrinkled face, the wad
of tissue, and the broom, she looked like a witch.
Her name was Sister Josephus. We called her "Joe Beakie" because she
had a powerful, exceptional nose for smelling. She was a human blood hound!
She could smell peanut butter a mile away. She called it coco butter. The
kids would sometimes save peanut butter sandwiches from the supper table,
and bring them to bed for a midnight snack. On many of those occasions, during
her rounds, you would first hear a big heave door open and then slam shut
way down the long hallway. Then, you would hear her heavy walk and the tapping
of her cane like a horror movie. .. step ..boom; step .. BOOM! Then her monotone,
slow but heavy voice; .. "WHOS GOT THE COCO BUTTER!"; step .. BOOM;
.. step .. BOOM! It was eerie! .. in fact it was scary! .. like a Frankenstein
movie! All the kids would lay absolutely still in the dark listening to "Joe
Beakie" getting closer and closer; louder and louder. Then .. into the dorm
where the peanut butter sandwich was located, .. step .. BOOM .. STEP ..
BOOM! "WHOS GOT THE COCO BUTTER! We were on pins and needles! She would
go right to the boy with the sandwich, confiscate it, then leave. .. STEP
.. BOOM ..step .. BOOM! .. Nobody would dare move! She would fade on down
the hall .. step .. BOOM .. boom
Finally, she was gone. Boy! .. Ill
tell you! .. It was like a spooky movie!
At night, when she made her rounds, any of the kids that were awake
talking would sound the warning in a loud whisper, "Chicky! Chicky! Here
comes Joe Beakie, .. here comes Joe Beakie!"(Chicky was an institutional
slang which meant "watch out, warning") We would all get perfectly still
and pretend to be asleep. And the spooky movie would start once more! ..
STEP .. BOOM .. step .. boom
Ghostly! .. Real GHOSTLY!
THE PIG PIN
On the grounds of St. Agnes, and some distance from any building, was
located a pig pen. It was off limits to the kids unless they came in properly
supervised groups. It was just inside the wood line and out of sight from
the main path through the school grounds. We kids used to sneak up to the
pig pen and watch the pigs act like pigs. How they could eat
that nasty slushy all mixed up and stinky food; used to intrigue us! Yuck!
Yuck! I remember when the caretaker would dump barrels of slop into the food
troughs and the pigs would run over and eat it up like caviar. They then
would go rolling in the mud and mire. One time a caretaker had them on a
concrete area and washed them down with a hose. And do you know what? They
went right back to rolling in the mud! Sloppy critters! They just had to
make pigs of themselves! I guess theyre just natural born
THE CANDY STORE
On the same floor that our dorm was located, there was a room used as
a candy store. At this time I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was a very
old nun who ran the store by herself. There was a long glass display counter
where you could view the available selections. About two or three yards behind
the nun, were other items for sale. By the way, a nickel candy bar those
days used to be twice as big as todays dollar bar! Anyway, we used
to give one of the kids a dime to buy something that was behind the nun.
Because she moved so slow and was so hard of hearing, when she moved to the
back of the room, this enabled one of us to run in behind the counter and
take handfuls of candy. The nun never caught on!
In retrospect, this was not a nice thing to
do, but whos fault was that? We were not supervised! We were monitored
and herded like animals. We did not have parental figures to emulate! We
didn't have anything that remotely resembled a normal family life. In
order to escape the drudgery and monotony of institutional life, we would
simply create fun and enjoyment anyway we could!
You know, when there is a lack of proper supervision to guide
us, we normally turn to our peer groups for support. In an institution, that
doesn't always work so well but, once we escape institutional life,
we usually disgard these childlike antics and act more normal. I once read
or heard a philosophy expounded. It actually had to do with the influence
of pier groups verses parental guidance or the lack there of; but I think
it is more apropos to these types of institutions! It goes something like
"We often become successful, productive, well adjusted members
of society, not BECAUSE of our institutions,
but in SPITE of them!"
From "The Feliciano Family" thanks to Peter Feliciano