Sunday, July 18, 2010


Friday night we had dinner with old friends and we were talking about high school days back in Tampa. My husband and Shelia and I all went to H.B. Plant High (class of '60) whereas Shelia's sister-in-law Angela attended the Academy of the Holy Names.

I shuddered when she mentioned this.
The Academy was the stick my mother shook at me to bend me into compliance with her idea of what I should be doing.

"If you don't (insert demand here,) I'll send you to the Academy as a boarder."

That threat was usually enough to make me do whatever it was she had decided would be an improvement.

I had no experience with nuns but Marcella, across the street, who went to another parochial school had told me plenty. I wanted nothing to do with these scary creatures.

And then there was the matter of the uniform.

I'd seen what the poor prisoners at the Academy wore -- their exercise yard   phys ed area was behind the school separated  by just a chain link fence from a road we often traveled. (I probably imagined the razor wire.)  

There's a snapshot in my memory of Academy girls in pleated navy blue wool skirts, wilted white shirts escaping from their waist bands, playing sweaty volley ball on a hot day. 

Nope, not for me. 

This was the Fifties and I was quite fond of my full skirts, buoyed up by crinolines, the cinch belts, the bobby socks . . . the whole look. 

The whole idea of an all-girls schools, of nuns who, it was whispered, shaved their heads, of uniforms ---no, it was unthinkable and the threat of the  Academy continued to keep me in line.

As dinner continued and I had another glass of wine, I confided in Angela my long-ago fear of being uprooted from Plant High and sent to the Academy.

She grinned. "I loved the Academy.  And when my mother got mad at me, she used to threaten to send me to Plant High."
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Catalyst said...

I guess it's all in what one sees. But . . did you ask Angela about those rulers the nuns wielded? ;>

Callie said...

Great story. We are always more comfortable with the devil we know. Love the photo. I remember wearing layers of crinolines under my tiered skirts. And some of them were scratchy but stiff. I would put those in between the other smooth crinolines, but would still get snagged now and then.

Martin H. said...

Interesting post. I balked at the idea of attending school, full stop. The authoritarian regimes, unimaginative teaching styles and subsequent boredom sent me on a one-way ticket out at the age of 15. Not sure how the nuns would have dealt with my year. They would probably have pulled their hair out - no need for shaving!

Miss_Yves said...

When I was young, I hated the idea to be a boarder...even without nuns! (I love your funny statue)

Great post, great photos!Especially the old fashionned skirts.
The boarding-school is worthy of a movie !

I'm going on holidays, but I've prepared an "automatic programming") (?) /le jardin de Castillon , Caen , Granville and so on .
Have a great summer time!

Brian Miller said...

ha. love the varying perspectives...each threatened with the life of the other...hmmm...

Pat in east TN said...

I had to laugh at twist at the end of your story ... guess you never know.

My mother always threatened me with boarding school if I didn't respect her wishes also ... why o why, but I walked that straight and narrow line to please her. Must have been the times that brought this out in mother's?

Friko said...

A Catholic school for me but only one nun. It wasn't too bad. As we were teenagers, we made damn sure we asked very detailed questions at biology lessons, with plenty of innuendo.
We got more than one teacher - male and female - to blush bright red.

Jean Baardsen said...

I went to Catholic high school. Goody-goody two-shoes and the nuns loved me. Tried to get me to enter the convent. They had vocation day each year when we had to pray for a vocation. I told the nuns later that I had prayed and prayed, but God didn't seem to be giving me a vocation. (No way I was going to miss going to a coed college!) Sometimes I feel I'm still in recovery....

tony said...

Old Habits Die Hard!

Elora said...

Great post and great storyteller!

I went to school at Delaware State University with a girl who wore a shirt that said, "I Survived Parochial School."

OTOH, with respect to those uniforms, as an adult, I worked for a brand new hospital in Charleston, SC in which the management decided on uniforms for their administrative staff. At first I was shocked, but then discovered the freedom of NOT having to decide what to wear every morning and spend a fortune on clothes. The clothing wore like iron! It was wonderful!

I've always thought school uniforms have a leveling affect on young, sometimes cruel, children. Uniforms eliminate children's ability to use fashionable clothing (or the lack thereof) as a weapon.

Thanks, again, Vicki!

Jon Lee said...

That is great. it is such an ironic story. We are always fearful of what we don't know.

NCmountainwoman said...

That's too funny. It's all in your perspective and mothers seem to know how to use it.

Liz said...

I went to an all-girls Catholic HS and loved it - including the uniforms! As you can image, I am awfully disappointed in the current Pope who has criminalized ordaining women with the same force as pedophilia!

Vicki Lane said...

Catalyst -- Angela seemed to have all good memories of the nuns.

Callie -- oh, I remember. And even hoops which were really awkward!

Martin -- That would have been unthinkable for me -- besides, I actually enjoyed a lot of my classes as I found I could make Bs without much effort.

Have a wonderful holiday, Miss Yves! I'll be over to have a try at translating that last poem eventually!

Brian and Pat -- Yeah, I loved that all new perspective on high school -- fifty years later!

That's too funny, Friko!

You ended up a long way from the nunnery, Jean!

Chortle! Clever boy, Tony!

I totally agree with you about uniforms, Elora -- now that I'm an adult. But back then it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

So true,Jon Lee!

Mothers do indeed, Mountainwoman!

Liz -- Maureen Down has a great op-ed piece on the subject in today's NYT.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Vicki: Is that a nun salt shaker. There are good nuns and bad nuns. Like young priests and old priests. I guess if you can survive the mean nuns you are a survivor! I know I've had my share! And now we cant really tell if they are nuns which just isnt fair!

Tipper said...

Funny the ideas we have about what lies over the fence-cute story!

Vicki Lane said...

Chiccoreal, it's a windup toy called Nunzilla. I, myself, have no nun horror stories -- but as a teenager, I found the whole idea pretty strange and a little scary.

Tipper -- like they say, walk a mile in the other's shoes . . .

Amy said...

Too funny! I went to Catholic school for 18 years (and then a Jesuit college!) and my mother always threatened me with public school! It scared me to death!

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Amy -- I love this! Those mothers of ours!

Merisi said...

Not only the grass is greener ... or how did that saying go????