The memories included on this page are pulled from the Gesu Grade School Alumni Association Newsletter.  Each memory includes the issue number, date of the newsletter and, when possible, the name of the Alumni.   They are organized by topic and at the bottom of the page is a link to additional memories. 

In addition to the memories, photographs and 3-D scans are scattered across the page as well as a selection of newspaper clipplings. Additional memories can be access through a link at the bottom of the page.

Bell Ringing Duties

An anonymous alum recalled another bell heard throughout the school to release the students from class for lunch and at the end of the day. There were three small buttons, each about the size of a dime located in the wall of an empty classroom on the first floor. The 7th grade student would wait until the big hand on the hall clock had reached the appropriate number at which time the buttons would be pressed in the proper sequence to sound the bells for dismissal. 

On one occasion the altar boys were called to a meeting prior to the lunch break. Normally, these meetings were called at the end of the day when the boys would leave the school early. Their leaving would also alert the bell ringer it was time to ring the bell. Unfortunately, on this day the bell ringer left with the altar boys thinking it was the end of the day. As a result, the lunch bell was rung 20 minutes early. On returning to the classroom to face certain death, the nun asked the student what happened. The student forced out the words, ’I make a mistake’. The nun responded, ’Get to your desk before I mistake you’. Bell ringing duties was immediately transferred. 

Alumni Newsletter Issue 31 July 2020 

Click here to listen to the bells

Fire Escape

After military service, Puffy Cabanatuan spent a summer working at Gesu school. When his young co-workers doubted the safety of the fire escape, Puffy demonstrated its safety standing on it outside the 3rd floor window. Being young and Gesu kids they decided to have some fun. While guffawing, they locked the room’s windows and doors, believing that Puffy was forever stuck outside. Less than ten minutes later, the kids were surprised when Puffy appeared in the classroom ready to resume work. Upon questioning, he explained that he climbed the escape to the roof, crossed it to the north of the school, descended the downspout to the landing between the 2nd and 3rd floors, leaned over to open the window and climbed inside. Of course his co-workers didn’t believe him. He then repeated the event as they watched in amazement from the windows. 

Alumni Newsletter Issue 22 May 2012 

Joe Harden

When we get together and discuss old times, two topics always seem to come up. After Terry McCullough and Pete Kurowski try to agree on which of Joe's [Joe Harden] teams was the best ever, the topic turns to Joe and the huge commitment he made to coaching. He coached his B team, A team, Cadets, Juniors, and Seniors. After working all day, Joe conducted prac­tices Monday through Friday to get the teams ready for games on Saturday and sometimes Sunday.  

Despite his long days, sessions were fast mov­ing and rigorous. He worked hard at instilling disci­pline through the teaching of various plays or "pat­terns" as Joe called them (some were tough to remember). He drilled the team in the fundamentals including shooting (the fun part), rebounding, fast­break, press and of course, out of bounds plays (numbers 21, 22, and 23, sometimes I was able to remember them). Joe prepared his teams so well dur­ing practice sessions that attention to detail led to many successful seasons and Gesu championships. 

Rick Sheehan Alumni Newsletter Issue 12 May 1997


CYO was the center of many stories. There were the bowling alleys where we set pins by hand while jumping two lanes, and of course, the billiard tables that provided many hours of oneupmanship. Our special CYO programs included boys' basketball and girls' volleyball and who could forget our Friday night CYO dances with our favorite 45 recordings. There were very special people mentioned like Joe Harden, our basketball coach, who often helped the boys off the court. If you didn't have shoes to play basketball he would buy you a pair, paying for them out of his own pocket if he had to. The girls were so lucky to have Gerry Smith '50 as their volleyball coach. She often involved them in extracurricular activities such as swimming at inland lakes in summer. She also taught both girls and boys how to dance. Waltzes, the jitterbug, you name it and she taught it. 

Michael O’Halloran Issue 20 May 2009 

In 1937 Father Maximilian Mankowski S .J . came to Gesu School as our Principal and ignited the parish. We gathered in the upper gym as seventh graders and awaited our new leader. He had a hearty laugh, and a booming voice that immediately got our attention. As he unfolded his plans for the future of our school, we knew we had nothing to fear. In fact we never dreamed so many worthwhile changes would take place in the near future. He took unused "pony-alleys" in the basement of the school and turned them into a profitable business. For the boys in their early teens, like my husband Bob, they earned money setting up pins. He introduced Drama pro­grams for CYO competition. Mrs. Duffey, mother of Terry, Gloria and Rosemary, led many drama groups. Fr. Mankowski held CYO basketball tournaments by turning the school auditorium into a second gym, and keeping young people busy in various sports. The girls won state tournaments in archery. The young men won their share of trophies in all age groups in basket­ball. 

Marie McCarthy Fitzgerald Issue 10 October 1995

Altar Boys

In the mid 40's, Gesu had a need for a great many "Al­tar Boys", now known as servers. Marquette Universi­ty was staffed with many priests and each said mass every morning. So 15 or 20 of us were recruited to serve in the small army of Latin speaking lads. Actual­ly, we were given a book to memorize; trained and uni­formed under the supervision of a very busy, quick, and healthy brother... 

When not serving we had a rec room at the rear of the church, a separate building with a bridge to the church; where we had a ping pong table and lockers. I heard that some of us got hungry before school and occasionally dined on unblessed hosts (never wine). It was probably under lock and key.  

We were privileged to get into all the unknown, dark recesses of the huge church and even Johnston Hall where the priests lived. I was shocked to find a tavern in the basement... 

During certain holidays the Bishop would say "High Mass" attended by other priests, altar boys and one special older boy picked as "Master of Ceremonies".  

It was a great privilege to be picked and a lot of re­hearsal was needed. One of my pals, Roger Maynard, was chosen. I think he finally got the respect from me that might have been previously lacking. There was a rumor he got the job because he was a neighbor of the B.V.M. Nuns' Home on 14th Street.  

Ed Mesheski Issue 5  June 1992

Gesu School Building Memorial Bricks

Neighborhood Landmarks

The neighborhood landmark that stands out in my mind is the Varsity Theatre. I don't know if the place is still open or not. Chances are it isn't, but in my memory it is still open-a place to go on Friday night and Sunday afternoon ostensibly to go see movies that no one really watched since the only pur­pose for going there was to meet your friends from Gesu and the neighborhood.  

The place was really noisy, but I don't ever remember the ushers doing anything to quiet the place down. This may have been because the ushers were only a few years older than the rest of us. I do recall everyone keeping quiet to see the Superman serial that ran every Friday night. I guess the secret there was that the story was so bad, it was good.  

I also remember one Friday night when the Milwaukee police, so worked up by the "bebop" craze that had come to town, came to visit the Varsity to pull aside anyone entering who had a ducktail hair style. Once they pulled them aside, they would shake them down for weapons, etc.; then give them a threatening lecture on good behavior and what would happen if they didn't behave. As I recall, the prime targets of the police activity that Friday night were the Red Arrow gang and the Juneau Park gang-so named because of the parks in which these 12 year old terrorists hung out. 

Egner Jensen Issue 12 May 1997

One of my vivid memories of the neighborhood is of the groups of elderly ladies congregating in the area of 12th and Wisconsin. I have the impression that many of them were wid­ows. In the cold months, which were most of the year, they were all in heavy black coats, small black hats and black shoes, wearing heavy tan stockings. They were like little flocks of star­lings. Crows would be too big and raucous.  

Often they would enter University Drugstore en masse and sit at the horseshoe counter and be greeted by Otto the counter manager with a "Hi girls." This produced giggles and smiles. As a bonus, Otto would occasionally burst into song, delivered in operatic style.  

After having something light to eat and drink, the ladies would disperse, some to church across the street and others, north on 12th Street. 

Terry Duffey Issue 9 July 1995