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 city’s 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 the adventure!

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 STOP!

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


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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
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