When I was young I went to a Catholic Parochial school. Its name was St. Agatha’s. It was like any other school, public or private, but all that changed around the fifth grade. The principle of our school was replaced. The former principle was getting on in years and her namesake was just demoted to: “We are not sure he was a saint or not. He was canonized during the reformation.” So dear, sweet, little Sister Philomena was replaced by a somewhat diminutive, but meaner then hell, Sister Edith.
One of the new principle’s first changes was the introduction of school uniforms. Prior to this we wore regular clothing — neat, clean and pressed but not matching everybody else. Sister Edith asked for input from the various parents and organizations, but let it be known she would have the final say. She had no problem telling this to our parents even in front of the children.
The outfit she chose was as follows: for boys, grey pants with black piping down the side (lovingly referred to as our mailman’s pants), dark socks and shoes, white shirt, a scotch plaid tie, and a forest green blazer.; for girls, matching scotch plaid jumpers, green knee-high socks, saddle shoes (white and blue), and white blouse with a scotch plaid tie. The boys pants, besides being heavy (military grade), were ugly, and both the boy’s ties and the girl’s ties and jumpers were ghastly. But worst of all were the blazers. They were made out of green felt like a walking pool table, and wore just as well. By the end of the first year I had worn holes in my elbows. My parents were unable to order another until the new term began the following September. So my Dad sewed brown leather elbow patches on them. I thought it looked good like a Hollywood smoking jacket.
I went to school and was soon spotted by the principle. I was called to her office where I was accused of altering the uniform to suit my taste in fashion, bringing dishonor on my school and schoolmates, and being a liar about holes in my jacket, and this was my father’s and my feeble attempt to alter things to my liking. She then proceeded to rip the patches from my sleeves. The look on her face when she discovered the worn out elbows was worth the chastisement. My father called her that night and asked if she was going to replace the patches, or should I just continue to wear the blazer with the holes for all to see, because he wasn’t about to re-sew them. She agreed to replace the patches.
This was not the last of my run-ins with Sister Edith but it did set the tone for the future.
July 3, 2013