With many military families, money was always tight, so the collective transportation solution (through St. Joseph’s Church) to get the kids to Sacred Heart School was in the form of a well-worn, early 1950’s faded yellow Chevrolet school bus. Mr. Atwood was the one bus driver I remember, an elderly fellow who picked us up at the bus stop and brought us home daily after school. For some reason he called me Cedric, and when necessary, I’d help him operate the sometimes-broken windshield wipers, with wiper motors (and handle) inside and above the dash. The bus was prone to breakdowns, and the long metal floor gear shift rod would come out of the transmission from time to time, and we would help get the shifter back in place. Overall, an interesting and not so safe experience, but we survived somehow.
At Sacred Heart, the kids from Fleming Heights stood out from the Augusta-born natives. My Dad brought me a silk jacket from his service in the Korean War, which I wore to school (had a map of Korea on the back), as did a few others from our neighborhood. We also had military-green canvas book bags. The local-born kids stood up in class when the song “Dixie” was played at the start of educational films from the Georgia Department of Education. We had no idea why they stood, although we soon figured things out in the those early 1960’s school days.
The religious community who taught us at Sacred Heart, were Sisters of Mercy in full traditional mostly black and white habits, and seemed scary and mysterious at first, always eating lunch at the convent nearby (not with the students), and never tolerating any foolishness. We studied religion from the Baltimore Catechism, and were escorted, walking single file, to the beautiful, cathedral-like Sacred Heart Church next door for Mass. The annual May Procession was particularly beautiful. As we entered the pews, one of the sisters used a “clicker”, making two clicks when it was time to sit down, stand up, kneel and so forth. There was no air conditioning in the church, and on many a warm day, we became fixated, waiting on the periodic breeze of the huge oscillating Hunter fans up front near the communion rails, to give us some relief in the pews.
The right word is “inculcate”, and that is how we learned about the essentials of our Catholic faith. There were bright lines as to right and wrong, and eternal consequences were made clear, while, in this world, corporal punishment was swiftly administered for bad behavior at school, like clicking my ball point pen during class.
From the 1941 Baltimore Catechism – “Why did God make us?” (Answer:) “To show forth his goodness and share with us everlasting life in heaven”
(To be continued – from Altar Boy to CYO dances, and “objectionable” movies)