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Bev's 65 x 365
49 YEARS AGO
13 June 2009
Today is the 49th anniversary of my graduation from high school. I suppose I'll go to my 50th reunion, next year. We were the least spirited class in the history of the school. Nobody wanted to get involved with anything, and hardly anybody showed up for the 25th anniversary. I didn't go to the 40th and the handful of women who attended were all different from the ones who had attended the 25th. It will be interesting to see who (if anybody) shows up for the 50th. None of my close friends went to either reunion.
I attended St. Vincent High School, a small (200 students total) Catholic school which was well known in San Francisco as an excellent secretarial school, but they had recently added a college prep course, and my parents were determined I would go to college.
Most of the girls in my grammar school graduating class went to Presentation (which my sister would attend 4 years later and which, ironically, was later the home of the Lamplighters for some 18 years). I didn't want to go to Presentation because I was vain. I was always in the top 5 of my class in grammar school, but could never get to be #1 because the girls who were going to go to Presentation always beat me. I thought if I went to a smaller school, I might have a shot at getting to the top (ultimately, when I graduated, I was #3 in my class. I guess I was always destined to be #3!)
There were only five of us from St. Brigid's who went to St. Vincent. Most of the rest went to Presentation and a few went to other Catholic girls' schools around San Francisco.
When we started school in the fall of my freshman year, we were each assigned a "big sister." It was similar to what I've heard about college sororities -- they were there to help us through our first year, but most big sisters didn't do much but put their little sisters through initiation day. They dressed us in funny hats, painted our faces and we had to do funny things for them. I really can't remember initiation now, but my big sister was a girl named Joyce Rodriguez and we are probably unique among big/little sisters, especially in high school, in that we have remained friends all these years. (In fact, she called to chat just yesterday.)
This picture was taken the day of my graduation. Joycie and her then-boyfriend (now husband) attended and she gave me a beautiful letter about what it meant to have completed high school and what role the school would play in my life as I moved on to the next chapter.
Joycie was also instrumental in getting me my very first summer clerical job, as a biller clerk in a company that sold those cheap tools you get in the $1 bin in some stores. She was their bookkeeper. We used to meet before work each day and go to a little cafe for a pastry and hot chocolate (why are all my pleasant memories food-related?). She was also totally ga-ga over Jackie Kennedy and kept a scrapbook of everything Jackie-related.
Later, after she and Bob married, all she wanted was a little red-headed baby girl. Robin was born three months after Jeri, a little girl with curly red hair. Now that's planning ahead!
I absolutely loved high school and participated in lots and lots of activities. This being a catholic school, there were lots of religious things. I was a member of the Sodality and the "Legion of Mary" (I'm still not sure what the point of it was, but we had meetings under banners that were supposed to represent Roman legions), I went to the chapel each lunch hour with a group that said the rosary, I was an altar girl, though, being a girl we couldn't actually go on the altar during Mass, but we could kneel at the railing and recite the responses to prayers and ring the bells at the proper time.
I remember we would have "retreats" once or twice a year, where a priest would come to instill lots of religion in us. We would remain silent throughout the day and attend various sessions on various religious topics. When the Q&A came around at the end of the retreat, the questions were always having to do with how far you could let a boy go and still have a chance of getting to heaven!
At the end of my freshman year, Sister Mary William, my English teacher and also the music teacher (and yearbook moderator) invited me to join the yearbook staff as the Sophomore editor. This was a huge honor, since only Seniors got to work on the yearbook and this was a new thing they were trying out. But it led to my being Junior Editor and then Editor in my Senior year. Along the way I also got into the secretarial classes and then joined the school newspaper staff. And I could keep those mimeograph and ditto machines humming like a champ.
High school became my refuge away from the turmoil at home and my father's unpredictable temper. I was usually one of the first girls to arrive each day and one of the last to leave in the afternoon. Sister Anne became my mentor and I know my mother was jealous of the time I spent with her, but if my father was at home, it just wasn't fun to go home. I remember during our sophomore year, in the middle of algebra class, San Francisco had a fairly decent size earthquake. They sent all the students home and had to force me to go home because I wanted to stay there instead. It really was more than a "school" but a real "home away from home" for me, so it has always hurt that my fellow classmates never seemed to share my love for and dedication to the school.
It was a beautiful building. I don't know if it was originally built as a school or not. We students entered from the side street into the basement and went upstairs to the school area, but people who came in the front door entered this beautiful wood-paneled reception area with a gorgeous curving staircase to the right, which led up to the chapel on the second floor.
Of course the school no longer exists. In our time, St. Mary's Cathedral was 2 blocks away on Van Ness Avenue. It was a lovely gothic building with gorgeous stained glass windows (see Photo of the Day...my leaving the altar of the church after receiving my diploma).
A two years after I graduated, the church was destroyed in a mysterious fire (we always suspected the Bishop set it for the insurance money!). The area around the school, which had been kind of a fringe slum, was in the process of being renovated and the old buildings replaced with luxurious condos, so they tore down the school and put up the monstrosity which is St. Mary's cathedral today.
It's easy to point out to people from Twin Peaks...I tell them to look for the building that looks like a washing machine agitator!
PHOTO OF THE DAY