St Agnes, The First Day (We Ran)
By Peter Feliciano
My earliest significant memory was at about 5 years
old. Because of my mother's ill health, and other reasons, my parents had
to put my brothers Pat, Carlos, Caesar, and me into a boarding school across
the Hudson River (St. Agnes School, Sparkill NY), and about 45 miles or so
from New York City. When mom dropped us off, she said she would be back later
to pick us up. The others knew that this was a lie, so they plotted an escape.
After some debate, I was allowed to come too, even though the others would
have to take turns carrying me "piggy back" when I got too tired to walk.
At first, we avoided roads, knowing that someone would
be looking for us, but the terrain made this impossible.what all! So, instead, we decided walk on the main road,
but concocted a story to tell if we were stopped. ---"We were hiking with
a boy scout troop and got separated, and we're trying to get back
to New York City". --- It worked! We got a ride to the Hudson Ferry located
across the river from, and very near, New York City,
and we were given money to get home.
There actually was a boy scout troop at
the ferry, at the time. We had to think fast! Pat, the oldest, who
was about 10 years old then, told our "benefactor", we belonged to a
different troop. Never the less, being true to the boy scout
oath, (..trustworthy, loyal, HELPFUL..etc.), the boy scouts would
not let us shake them, insisting on escorting us as far as possible to our
home. Actually, once we crossed the river, all we needed was directions to
the nearest subway entrance. The subway system in New York City is so well
laid out that one could find his way home from anywhere in the city, even
if one was hopelessly lost on the surface streets.
This was the beginning of World War II, and there was
an "Air Raid Drill" going on throughout metropolitan New York that evening.
The night was black as coal. Not even street lights were allowed to burn.
Even Mother Nature complied by shutting off the moonlight. The ride across
the river on the ferry was dark, misty and deafeningly quiet. The only sound
was that of the waves washing against the sides of the ferry. The water was
so black and calm, I could envision us sliding across a bottom-less
swamp instead of a wide river. It was really spooky! We made it across
without incident and waited for a while in the darkened boat house, perhaps
for an "all clear" signal that would have announced the end of the "Air Raid
Drill". It never came, so we continued on our journey in pitch darkness.
Arriving at our neighborhood, we caught hell from an "Air Raid Warden" for
being on the street after "Black-Out-Curfew" (as it was called). We repeated
our "boy scout troop" story, which the Warden accepted with
a grunt, and we were told to get home as quickly as possible,
and not to allow any lights to show. (The idea being that even a pin point
of light might give away the citys exact location to enemy bombers,
and one of the Air Raid Warden's chief duties was to look for such breeches
in lighting security.)
Mom wasn't notified of our absence from the School
since we couldn't afford a phone at home and it was too early to start
a manhunt. Mom, as you might imagine, was flabbergasted at the sight of our
starving selves. We were just a bunch of very young kids. Its not like we
had maps, or were able to stop someone and ask directions at the beginning
of our flight. It was more like we were in the middle of a forrest with no
one in sight. I mean, the street we lived on, was lined on both sides with
solid rows of 5 story apartment buildings with, easily, hundreds of families
living on that block. The area we were running from was a rural, mostly
farming area with perhaps 5 families or less per square mile. It was the
LAST thing mom would have expected us to try. We had a good meal and
went to bed. The next day we were back at the boarding school. We went a
long way to get right back to the beginning, --- but it was well worth
Many years later, observing my grandkids at about
the ages we were way back then, it was hard to imagine that kids our ages
would have dared to even contemplate such a maneuver -
but we did! -- "Honest in-jun! -- cross my heart
and hope to die!"
NOTE: All my brothers
and I have a slightly different recollection of these events. After
ALL, we're talking 60 years ago here - give or take! For instance,
did we run away the same day, two days later, or one week later? I remember
walking into our house through the front door and seeing the astonished
look on mom's face; another brother remembers crawling in through a
window; but my recollections are the more adventuresome. Anyway, that's my
story, and I'm sticking to it!
I have other adventure stories, but I see where this
could get rather lengthy, so lets cut to the chase! I spent many years at
St. Agnes School for boys, until age 15. I went to Tappan Zee Hi, in Tappan,
NY, for my freshman year. St. Agnes didn't have a high school of its
own. I then left St. Agnes and attended 2 years at Morris Hi., Bronx, NY.
At this point, I had to leave school to earn a living. At age 18, I moved
to Los Angeles, following my brother Carlos and his wife, Olga, who had moved
there earlier that year. At age 23, I was drafted into the Army. This was
, of course, before the modern All Volunteer Army. In my day, there was Universal
Conscription, which meant every man was required to serve at
least 2 years in the military, unless he had a deferment, a disability, or
was a bonafide conscientious objector, (meaning that he objected to war,
or military service, on verifiable religious grounds).
In order to get into the Paratroopers (Airborne), I
immediately enlisted for an additional year. I very quickly became intrigued
with sky diving, or "free falling". I made in excess of 400 free fall parachute
jumps on my off duty time, and over 45 military jumps over the course of
14 1/2 years. The highest free falling jump I ever made was
from 36,000 feet with plenty of pure oxygen on the way up, and a portable
oxygen bottle on the way down. In free falling, there is no automatic parachute
opening device except your hand on the rip cord. (The 36k jump was an exception.)
You do jump with an altimeter to let you know how high you are from
the ground at any point in time. If that fails, you have to rely on your
eyes and your judgment. In sky diving, there is a rule of thumb;
--- "When people look like ants, PULL the rip
cord. When ants look like PEOPLE, forget it, its too late."
You jump with a main parachute, designed to stretch
its opening time to reduce, significantly, the opening shock. You also jump
with a "reserve" parachute in the event that your "main" doesn't open, which
, when activated, opens instantly, and keeps you from careening to the ground
at a rate in excess of 120 miles an hour. This 'chute is absolutely guaranteed
to open. In the unlikely event that BOTH 'chutes fail to open - NO
PROBLEM-O ! You can return the parachute for a FULL and IMMEDIATE
refund, NO QUESTIONS ASKED ! All
kidding aside though, its not the FALL that kills you, its that sudden
It was during this time I met and married Linda Morris.
We spent 14 ½ years in the Army, leaving as a Captain in the
82nd Airborne Division, when there was a huge reduction in forces,
during the Viet Nam War de-escalation.
I attended Jr. College at LACC, receiving an AA Degree
in electronics. I worked for about 7 years as a Quality Control Specialist
in a company that made computer equipment. I then spent 3 years as an 18
wheeler cross country truck driver. Finally, I worked as a telemarketer for
8 years, bothering people on the phone in their homes. Now I am retired,
on Social Security, being bothered on the phone, at home by telemarketers.
(Is THIS what they call poetic justice?)
From "The Feliciano Family" thanks to Peter Feliciano