At the age of 5 years old, my parents enrolled me in "St. Francis of Assisi" Catholic grammar school. I began in kindergarten then spent the next nine years of my childhood in this quaint little school. I graduated from eight grade in 1968.
One of the best memories I had while attending school was our annual church Carnival.
This was such an important event for both the church as well as the school. Money raised during the summer bazaar helped to keep the costs of our education affordable for the average middle class families that populated our neighborhoods.
The excitement began at Eastertime, when fund raising began with the school children selling all kinds of things from wrapping paper to cute little salt and pepper shakers. The best part was for every dollar we made selling the goods, we collected one point. Once the selling was done, all the points we earned could be cashed in for tickets to use at the summer carnival.
I became a very good door to door sales girl. It was safe back then to allow children to knock on a neighbors' door to sell our wares. I was an enthusiastic child that had no trouble at all knocking on doors and smiling a sweet grin if it meant getting a sale, all the while dreaming of getting on a ride at the carnival.
It seems like just yesterday, as I recall all the fun we had as kids growing up. The church was a big part of my life during those years and I actually enjoyed the services, going to mass on Sundays was cool. All my friends attended with their families and there was often a bake sale or a breakfast served after mass was over. But oh boy, if the carnival was in town, not too many of us kids were paying attention to the sermon. Oh no, we were too busy looking out the windows at the grounds that now were being set up with rides and the big tent that would be serving all kinds of food and for sure, some cotton candy.
There would be games of skill, like shooting a basketball or games of chance with the big wheel that would spin, as I hoped my number would pop up so I could win that teddy bear. I always managed to have a pocket full of tickets thanks to my skills as a sales girl. At the age of 10, I was old enough to wander the church grounds with my friends in pursuit of the next exciting ride or candy apples. There were no worries on the parents part, since most of them were volunteers, running the games or serving food. There were eyes on us at every turn, everyone looked after the children, we were a tightknit community. The nuns who taught our classes also milled about the carnival grounds, watching all their students enjoy the festivities.
The sisters were a kind bunch but had no trouble at all pulling the ear of a rambunctious boy, it was always the boys, trying to show off, that got the ear tug from the nuns.
It's hard to believe it was so long ago, the memories of my school days, my old friends and our church carnival are seared in my mind. Truly the best of times.
How amazing, "St. Francis of Assisi" parish is still going strong.
As I visited my hometown last weekend to celebrate my daughter's bridal shower, I drove past my old school and church. I began to smile as I saw the signs of the carnival in it's set-up stage, preparing to entertain all the school children and parents alike, of this wonderful community.