I remember I was a troublemaker, “Dennis the menace” is an appropriate term for me. One time when I going to school at Saint Hedwig, and we walked to school of course back in those days six or seven blocks from where we were living and it was kind of a snowy kind of a cold day and I decided to build a slush dam on the side of the curb you know you just build up the snow and you build little dams and the water would trickle down and through needless to say I was really late for school because I was building this slush dam and when I finally decided I should go to school when I showed up the nuns were a little angry with me I think, they made me take off most of my clothes and put it on the radiators to dry while we had class.
I remember my mother used to pack me a thermos with milk and they had flavor straws that made the thing taste like either chocolate or strawberry. They were horrible things but we would have our lunch, they didn’t have a cafeteria , we would eat in the basement of the school and there was a little it was a wooden floor and there was a knot hole by the area where I sat for my lunch and that’s where I would pour my milk. When they tore down the school I bet somebody thought “boy there must have been a cottage cheese factory here because there’s all this milk.”
Our life revolved around the church and school back in those days and we eventually moved to another part of Erie, we moved to 32nd and Pine Avenue. A short street between Pine Avenue and Florida avenue. It was a nice little house and from Saint Hedwigs, which was basically a polish parish to a German parish, Saint John’s
My exploits of Saint John’s are probably infamous because I continued to be my strange little self and got in all kinds of little troubles but I was good at helping with technology back then. Projectors, sound systems, lighting. When the nuns didn’t know how to use projectors whether it was a slide/filmstrip projector or the 16 millimeter projector, I knew how so they would always have me go to the other classes to show movies, so I got out a lot of my classwork by being able to show short films
During the summer at St. Johns School a few of us would help the nuns by cleaning the school. Stuart Sachalei (sp), Freddy Bernatowicz, John Vogt and I would scrub the floors, wash the walls and ride the floor buffer down the hallways. The nuns would pay us a bottle of coke and a bag of cheese curls. In the process of doing this we discovered a great way to clean the classrooms because they wanted us to wash down the walls with cleanser. I don’t know why but so we would take all the desks out of the room, we hooked up a hose from the deep sink that was in the hallway into the into the room. We would spray down the walls with water and then take a can of comet cleanser put it in the center of the room and place an M-80 firecracker and then it would cover the walls and everything with with cleanser so it was a lot easier than going up and down the ladder. I think we gave the nuns a couple heart attacks in that in the in that process but good memories.
Unlike at St. Hedwigs, St. Johns had school lunches, they had a regular cafeteria and served hot meals, my favorite was sloppy joe’s, mashed potatoes and corn. So to this day sloppy joe’s, mashed potatoes and corn any chance I can get to make it along with spaghetti and meatballs, my second favorite food. It was it was really nice to have a cafeteria where they made the food there and of course the nuns would tell us if you had anything left on your plate “you know what there are starving people in China that would like that” and we’d always want to respond to them “well pack it up and send it” but we didn’t.
I went on to a technical school in Erie for my high school years. Erie Tech Memorial, which was the only technical school in Erie. When choosing a high school you either went to Cathedral Prep (boys only), which was kind of a preparatory school for college or you went to somewhere like Erie Tech and there were others like Academy, East High. For the girls it was either Villa Maria Academy, or St. Benedicts. I was interested in electricity and electronics that comes from the fact that my dad worked in electronics fixing radios and so that’s I think where I got that gene from him.
While at Tech I managed to electrocute myself probably a couple times, Mr. Thomas Carr was the instructor and also the wrestling coach. I was exempt from all sports because of an accident in my sophomore year. I was showing off for the freshmen girls on the trampoline, they were supposed to catch me if I was bouncing off the trampoline, they didn’t and I cam crashing to the gym floor. A week in traction, a year in a body brace and I was good as new. I did serve as the yearbook photographer so I attended a lot of the sporting events, just on the sideline.
A few others in Erie also had radio stations in their basements, Ron Seggi, Rich Ritchkowski (sp), and Tom Lopez would stop by my basement for a couple hours as a “guest” disc jockey.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was at time in class and I evidently am the only person who had a transistor radio in my in my locker. We weren’t allowed to have them but I had it in my locker and once we had gotten the word we were in Miss Shaw’s English class. Miss Shaw was about 400 pounds of fun, she also believed in paddling this was back in the days if you were bad you got a smack with a big paddle. If you didn’t get it all year she would make sure on the last day of class that you got it, so I mentioned that I had a radio so i had permission to go out in my locker and got my AM radio and turned it on and that’s how we listened to the news coverage.
At the house on 32nd street, we had a good garden, we would walk in the garden and as we were walking in a garden it was like walking on foam and we never under never understood this.
My step-dad would because he worked for the railroad he knew where the cars would be parked and sometimes they would leak things out. There was one place called the rendering plant, we had no idea what this place did, we found out later but what they did is they took the carcasses and bones and things and rendered them into fertilizer. So they put it in these cars and some rendering would leak in between and on the tracks so we would have to drive down there and my dad would have these two big metal tubs in the trunk of the car, we would fill the tubs and bring it home and spread it on the garden.