Fall ’71 – Part One

We spent the summer getting ready to pack up and ship me off to the high school seminary in Edgerton, Wisconsin.  It’s not really fair to say “ship off” – I already had three brothers before me attend the place.  The parish organized a bus to take a whole bunch of interested eighth graders out to Wisconsin (maybe a seven hour drive) in the spring for a weekend to get an idea of what the place was like.

From what I can remember, I was looking forward to going there.  Of course, once you were there, it was a slightly different story.  There was the expected homesickness, but nothing intolerable.  I don’t think the fathers made us write home every so often, but I do remember writing home fairly regularly that first year.  Some years later, I remember Mom telling me those letters were some of the nicest things she ever got from us – just a few short pages every so often from her boys telling her about the latest goings on, how they missed her and loved her and was looking forward to coming home for Christmas or summer break.

It was a small high school.  There were around seventy, eighty students that fall, maybe sixteen seniors, and a lot of freshmen, forty of ‘em.  As far as priests and brothers go, these are the folks I remember:

Father Leo was rector.  His brother Robert was also a priest, stationed in my home parish in Detroit; he recruited many Holy Redeemer eighth graders for seminary.  I didn’t know Father Leo very well; I think we thought of the rector as CEO, president and king of the joint all wrapped into one.  He might have been approachable, but how would you ever know?

Father Walt was second in command, the school principal.  He was fun to know; very friendly, a full melodious FM radio kind of voice, pleasant to hear.  Occasionally he would dress students down every so often for unacceptable behavior – part of his job.  I’ll tell you more about Father Walt in the senior year Parents’ Weekend story.

Father Martin was the school bursar; he handled the money for both the school and the religious community.  He wasn’t unfriendly, but he didn’t have much interaction with the students, so it was difficult to get to know him.  Father Marty was a tall guy, very sturdy too – not heavy, not thin, sturdy.

Beginnings

I was born on a Friday at 4:35 PM in Detroit, Michigan.  My mom seemed to know more of the details and circumstances of some of the other kids’ births.    I do remember asking Mom what if anything she remembered about the day I was born.  Nothing really came to mind.  “What about the time of day?  Was I born in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening?”  “I don’t really remember.”  Even seeing the time stated on the birth certificate, she said she still never would have even guessed it was at that time of day.

One of my earliest memories was brushing and combing Mom’s hair.  I guess I might have been four or five years old.  After the other kids had gone to school, she’d sit on the couch and had me sit on the top of the couch just behind her with a hairbrush.  She had some pretty thick black hair then – I think all I did was brush her hair from the front to the back of her head.  I don’t really remember talking with her at all – we might have, but I don’t remember.  I don’t know that I had any special feeling being with her brushing her hair then – but it was definitely one of the few times I ever had her all to myself, even if all I could do was stare at the back of her head.

Our house wasn’t all that big, especially with fourteen people living there.  The kitchen was maybe fifteen feet square (225 sq. ft.) – a good-sized kitchen.  The older brothers did a fairly extensive rehab of the joint in the mid 70’s or so – a nice update.  New cabinets, new sink, refrigerator moved from a corner to a wall.  If you pull up the house on Google Earth now, it’s just sad to see.  Maybe the pear and cherry trees are still in the back yard – it’s hard to tell.  Seven houses are left on the block – maybe half as many as there used to be.