My Child, You are the devil’s stool!!

You get old and you realize there are no answers, only stories.  Garrison Keillor

St Patrick's 21st Century, adobe water color, source below
St Patrick’s 21st Century, adobe water color, source below

 Link to St. Patrick’s picture, source Wikipedia commons.

This is St. Patrick’s Grammar School, the one my grandfather, Harry J. Lagonegro, an Elmira businessman and co-founder in 1912 of the Arctic League*, attended with Hal Roach, the famous Elmiran who produced the The Little Rascals comedy series.  According to my Mother, they became life-long friends because they were  outsiders, my grandfather was Italian and persona non grata in an Irish Catholic milue and Hal Roach was protestant.

At this same grammar school, my Mother, years later, with some real Irish blood in her, attended grammar school during World War II.  I later attended religious education here. It is now, residential apartments.

This is the story…

sitting at my Mother’s kitchen table Saturday, I mentioned I might like to write a book about my public school teaching experience: the high school I taught at recently closed.

“Well,” boomed my Mother, “you will have to start with my getting hit with a yardstick in grammar school!”

“What?” I replied.

“Yes, one day Sister took me out into the hall, whacked me on the arm with a yardstick and screamed, ‘You are the Devil’s stool, You are the Devil’s stool.’

My mother started to laugh…”That is what I heard, but, of course, what she really said was  ‘You are the Devil’s tool, you are the Devil’s tool.’ “

My mother was born in 1931  and three of her five brothers were soldiers in World War II.  She went on to tell my husband and I that when she was having a bad day, she’d start sniveling a bit, and say, “We got a letter from my brother yesterday.”  I surmise this kept some of the yardsticks away.

Recalling a different incident and not specifying whether it was before, or after, her whacking, my Mother said,

“I was so naïve, one day Sister asked the class if anyone had any old yardsticks they could bring in for her.”

 My Mother continued, “I enthusiastically raised my hand and brought one in for her.”

My Mother raised her eyes to heaven as it to say, can you imagine.  Yes, I can, women always at the ready to be helpful, and teachers that abused authority so badly the logical counterbalance was to take their authority away.

*Arctic League-The Arctic League began in 1912 as a group of baseball fans who met regularly at Harry J. Lagonegro’s cigar store at 157 Lake Street. 

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