The Grade School
There is much to write about grade school days at Gesu. Sr. M. Theophane was the eighth grade teacher Fr. Palmer was the principal and Fr. Finnegan was so kind to me. I was a frightened child, he spoke gently to me. I told him that I came to Gesu from a public school, yes it was for the entry into the eighth grade only. What a pity. It was a new way of learning and I sure learned in a hurry, especially the Palmer Method of writing.
Anne M. Bajace Issue 4 September 1991
One sister who had a profound influence on me was Sister Mary Helaine. Sister Helaine came to us from Our Lady of Angels in North Chicago. She was one of the sisters who heroically made a bridge of her body to keep her students from perishing in a school fire that eventually took over 100 children. Although she was badly burned over 90 percent of her body, she never let on to her constant pain and suffering.
I still can hear her voice telling us to enunciate, open our mouths when we spoke ...while she barely moved her own lips. This left me to think that perhaps she was a ventriloquist. She was strict, but her warmth and dedication to her students was nevertheless evident. It must have been the twinkle in her blue eyes that gave me such a great measure of assurance.
It was after graduation that I came to really know and understand Father Mankowski. I remember as a small child how fearful I was of him--maybe because he was always around the school and he represented authority. However, as I grew older I realized that under this authoritarian figure was a warm caring individual. I will never forget the many Friday nights that I spent trying to beat this man at Chess. He was unbeatable, never saying a word, just smoking his pipe and waiting tor me to make the wrong move. With the music from his radio and the ping pong balls flying over my head, it was rather hard to concentrate.
Never a dull moment was spent tor we had so much we could do. Our parents didn't worry about us because we were at Gesu and under the influence of Father Mankowski. Our CYO program was successful because Father Mankowski, realized the necessity of good Catholic background and recreation tor younger members of the parish. He provided hope and inspiration for many students.
Carmen Sustach Pine Issue 7 February 1993
I'll always recall the fire drills at Gesu. Our class was located on the 3rd floor South. When the bell rang, "WOW', all in our class room went to the south of the room, stepped up the platform built especially for pupils to walk through the window to the iron fire escape and walk down to the sidewalk. Lee Macy and a couple of the other heavyweights made the structure sway a little.
Father Palmer's regular closing words, " You can take the road to the right leading us to the right path or to the left, leading us to troubles."
George Pripish Issue 12 May 1997
Father Cahill, as busy as he was, always found time for Laurie and me. Every Friday afternoon he would be waiting in the sacristy to greet us. He had a way of drawing us into conversation. I believe he could talk about any subject, person, place or thing. He was particularly concerned about the future. He wanted to make sure that we were receiving not only the best religious education, but also wanted us to excel in culture and social development. Father gave us the opportunity to learn a foreign language. Russian was introduced to us in our 8th year. He felt that the fear of the unknown was greater than life itself. You have to remember this was the late 80's, a time when every American feared Russia and its power.
Father also encouraged many field trips. We attended many plays in Chicago and also visited the Science and Industry Building, the World Museum, the Aquarium and other local facilities. Laurie and I had an advantage that, till this day no one else knew about. Father would ask us what we would like to see and do. The next thing we knew the 7th grade class was on a field trip. Sometimes Father would join us on our trips. Other times he would give the Sisters money to buy the class hot chocolate and candy. Father Cahill's generosity did not stop there. He realized that most of the students who attended the Grade School came from large families with modest incomes. He made sure that no one missed out on the opportunity of a Catholic High School education by providing tuition for those who needed it.
Carmen Sustache Pine Issue 11 June 1996
I remember how the nuns taught us to sit with folded hands at our desks – and even now I will find myself with the same folded hands. We were also taught to rise from our desks when ever an adult entered the classroom. One man (not associated with the school) was startled when the entire class rose when he entered. At the end of the day, a nun would walk with the class to the ‘tunnel’ on Wisconsin Ave. making sure that it was used for our safety. The biggest present for me was a walk to the Milwaukee Public Library on Wisconsin Ave; (I didn’t know that it was there until that walk in the fourth grade.) After that, it was my second home on Saturdays. That’s one present for which I am grateful.”
Marilyn Hamilton Marks Issue 22 June 2022
Especially remember Sister Mary Seraphine, first grade (no kindergarten), Her class, first 2 doors on right after stairs. Cursive penmanship, arithmetic, and reading, plus the white fenced in area the length of the room, our little library. We were expected to use it too. During my time at Gesu , Girls and Boys were separated after 4th grade. Somehow all girls thru the letter D were placed with the boys for 5th grade. Sister Mary Cassiana was our teacher.
Virginia Devie Lasonde Issue 32 June 2021
Fr. Grace and Fr. Kramer also bring back great memories. All the great BVMs were a godsend. Sister Joan of Arc (7th grade) read to us and got me hooked on reading---in September of 1953 I started a list of BOOKS I HAVE READ…I have continued the list ever since. Sister Charlotte (8th grade) was a mentor who helped me for years even after I left Gesu. I also clearly remember Sister Alexander (2nd grade) and Sister Robert James (3rd grade) as being especially kind. Boy, were we lucky!
Louis Ripple Issue 25 June 2015
Fr. Cahill, pastor of the parish, would stop in almost once a week to oversee our religion class. We knew him as a fun-loving Jesuit. Our teacher, the very strict Sr. Mary St. Brendan, B.V.M., would be excused from the room when he arrived, often with a small football in his hand. Thinking back on him, I suspect he knew we were wound up like tops from the discipline-without-exception atmosphere of our classroom.
Back then, Jesuits wore cassocks and I remember him pushing a few things aside on Sister’ desk so he could sit in the front of the room. Then, swinging a crossed leg out from a partially opened cassock he would toss the ball to some almost unsuspecting boy in the class. We would all laugh and could be heard down the hall in other classrooms. Father knew most of the boys well because they were the group from which altar boys were drawn for the daily 11 a.m. student Mass.
We did not do much official religion class recitation that I can recall, when Fr. Cahill was with us, but always had a giggling-rip-roaring time during his visits. We also knew his personality from times when he would tell altar boys something funny during the Mass making them laugh. It usually happened during the washing-of-hands. They would start to giggle, which was infectious, as those of us in the pews watching would mirror what we were seeing. Following Mass, we were automatically dismissed for lunch. When we returned to the classroom afterward, Sister, as the Spirit moved her, would give us a lecture on “the proper comportment at Mass.” She tried to instill the fear of God in us, but once when Father got the altar boys to giggling, I cautiously looked over and back toward her trying not to let her see me with inappropriate eyes not focused toward the altar. I did not get caught, but more importantly, she was smiling, too. Her bark was far greater than her bite and from then on, I had her number.
Dawn Crowley Issue 31 July 2020
Sister Marguerite, the principal at the time, and my homeroom nun, who was, I’m sure, a center for a BVM basketball team, took me in hand. They got me enrolled in a Marquette Speech therapy class because of my stammer. Can you imagine a kid having trouble pronouncing ‘S’s’ in a school run by nuns where the first word out of your mouth was ‘Sister’? I was cured eventually. They also got me into being an Altar Boy at Gesu church supporting the Jesuits. Between the nuns and the Jesuits I learned duty, obedience, love of God, and discipline. I was there when Pat O’Brien visited the school, making a big impression on me; his Hollywood stature impressed all of us. I remember the head priest with his sloppy-mouth Saint Bernard; the kid-rumors said if a kid screwed up in school we would be fed to that dog.
Mike Jeffords Issue 25 June 2015
Sister Mary Lucille was the principal during my 8 years at Gesu. I'd go into her office with a few pennies to buy holy cards which were a penny each. She was very friendly but also strict. During recess, a few of us were allowed to walk down to the grocery store and buy candy which was really a treat.
Every year, all the classes would put on a play. My 6th grade class danced the minuet, all the girls wore long dresses, which were mostly made by their mothers and the boys wore suits. A lot of the children sang in the choir. We sang in Latin at the 9 o'clock Sunday Mass once a month. The organist was Mr. Leight who was a jolly man with pure white hair, and we all liked him.
The boys especially liked Fr. Mankowski who was in charge of sports and religion classes. A priest would come to our class once a week to check up on how much we knew about our catechism. Our lunchroom was in the basement. We could buy white milk for 4 cents a week and chocolate milk for 5 cents a week which was the favorite of many of us.
Rosetta Scully Szemborski Issue 12 May 1997
I remember Sisters Mary Veronique, Di Salle, Austen, and Pancratia. Sr. Mary Pancratia is my most vivid memory as our 1932 class was her fiftieth and last class of boys. Much of her teaching has been of great value to me over the years , especially her emphasis on English grammar.
James Reavley Issue 14 December 1998
Sr. Pancratia complained that the girls changed their hairdos so often that she couldn’t remember their names. She was responsible for separating the 7th & 8th grade boys and girls into separate classrooms.
Nancy Nowak Yeinak Issue 32 June 2021
During World War 2, the students at Gesu school were encouraged to purchase 25 cent savings stamps toward filling up a war bond of $25. I remember we did so well at this that the school raised an amount that paid for an ambulance to be used in the war. We were all very proud of our contribution as it made us feel part of the war effort even though we were only kids
Wesley Hyde Issue 29 July 2018
We spoke of many well-known people such as Pat O'Brien, who attended this great school. We talked about the "hand bell" that the nuns rang to call us to school and into our classes. Each morning before class, we recited the pledge of allegiance to our flag, which then included the phrase "one nation, under God." We walked, or in some cases, ran through the 13th street tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue because we were forbidden to cross the avenue. There was the University Drugstore hangout where we bought cokes dispensed from the fountain on the rare occasion that we had the change. Then there was the fifty-year late confession to Fr. Herian. Mike, Mike, Bernie & Tom (last names not divulged to protect the innocent) were hired by Fr. Herian to do dishes nightly at Johnston Hall. They were goofing around one night when a huge pile of dishes came crashing down. It must have been the thought of being sent to hell that caused one of the Mikes to finally confess to Fr. Herian at the reunion as to who broke the dishes.
Michael O’Halloran Issue 20 May 2009
For a Gesu girl, our role model became so special that each year we reserved the month of May to learn more about her, spend time with her, build a small altar with her statue surrounded by flowers, sing her praises and, yes, even crown her with a tiara of fresh garden flowers. That role model was THE MADONNA --Mary, Queen of Heaven.
If you were a Gesu boy, time was spent being a Cadet, e.g., helping your classmates cross at the street corners safely and keeping the peace while using the tunnel that crossed under Wisconsin Avenue. Altar boys were trained by Brother John and if you were lucky enough to be Fr. Mankowski's "helper", you got to sweep the halls of the school with a WIDE MOP, clean the bowling alley or load CocaCola bottles.
And, who can forget the courageous effort of Sr. Margarite in her Progress Room? Her diligent effort to help the slow learner will never be forgotten. Marching out of school in single file to recorded marching songs, genuflecting at the snap of a cricket (or sister's clapped hands) school plays, C.Y.O. and Girl Scouts, Len Schuller and his loyalty to Gesu, and Principals Sister M. Lucille and Sister M. Bernardus.
Gesu Graduate Issue 7 February 1993
Fond memories of selling Sachets in the upper grades was a fun part of my school days at Gesu. As I recall, each sachet was a solid white mass, 1 inch square covered on 2 sides with different colors of satin or taffeta and closed with a star on top. Each box had about ten each of five fragrances and sold for 15¢ or 2/25¢. I could hardly wait to return to school both for praise and another box. I wonder if we had homework during this time. Good incentive if we didn't.
Janie Koback Tomaz Issue 9 July 1995
The fire drills were really thrillers. Our fourth grade class was on the third floor, and we had to go out of the window onto the fire escape. It was really a time to play pranks; however, we caught "hell" if Sr. Ruth caught us in the act.
George Pripish Issue 13 May 1998
I remember when our 8th grade boy's class of '35 were guests of the Men's Holy Name Society at the regular Holy Name Breakfast. Each HN man would host one of us and the menu was tops. All the bacon and eggs you could eat and the best delicious sweet rolls served. Classmates Lee Macy, George Ottosen and John Bauer could easily consume (6) sweet rolls.
George Pripish Issue 16 August 2000
One of the Nuns tried to do a good thing. Can’t remember what grade. She felt it would be helpful if the boys would become Scouts. We met in the upstairs gym. The instructor was dressed in army fatigues. Well there was a lack of control I guess. The instructor proceeded to Karate chop and break wooden chairs. I’m not sure how many he broke. Nice display of temper. I and Dan Patrinos and a few others did one scouting thing. We walked to a nearby woods and cooked some food. I think a can of beans. Not sure if that prepared one for the military or cooking at home.
Salvatore Tomasello Issue 32 June 2021
I also remember serving as an altar boy, playing basketball and being involved in the Boy Scout troop at Gesu. We went on some camping trips and we held our troop and patrol meetings in the upper gym. We may not have been the best scout troop, but we did have fun.
Joe Kluber Issue 22 May 2012
12th and Wisconsin was a busy and crowded intersection during the 40's, 50's and even part of the 60's. There were Marquette students, Gesu kids, neighborhood residents, office workers, and people transferring buses. All in a mix. Among the crowd, you might see some of the local personalities: Charlie Quirk, the Alderman; Harry Hoch, who sang professionally as Harry Hall on the Wayne King Show; 100% American Dan Smith, with his anti-communism buttons; Juste Fontaine, a nationally ranked lightweight professional boxer or Bob Piercy, All Catholic Conference basketball player from Messmer who later played for Al Mc Guire at Marquette.
Perhaps one of the busiest times was before and after the 12 noon Sunday Mass. This Mass was sometimes standing room only and greatly consisted of young people in their 20's. Men in suits and women in dresses and heels were common. Sunday Masses were a time to dress up.
Terry Duffey Issue 11 June 1996
My affection for Gesu began one Sunday morning before I was old enough to attend any school. On that Sunday morning I was playing in the front yard of our apartment house just as our neighbor's children, Dolores and Irene Gardner were leaving to attend the school Mass at Gesu. I was somehow invited to go with them and, by the grace of God, my mother said I could go when I asked her. I came back from that Mass a fully committed Catholic with a little piece of Rosary in my hand. I just knew that I had to go to church the next Sunday and that I would be attending Gesu Grade School because, as far as I was concerned, there were no other options.
Gary Bednar Issue 18 December 2007
5th grade in 1968, has numerous memories of Gesu Grade School and the neighborhood. The family lived across the street from Schroeder Hall on Marquette's campus. She remembers Fr. Schultz visiting her home. the generosity of B.V.M. Sisters at Christmas time, being picked to place the crown of flowers on the statue of Mary in May, her Brownie Troop Leader Mrs. Dean and being tutored by Marquette U. students.
Grace Leal Watson Issue 11 June 1996
Gesu School was a marvelous factor in so many of our lives. Starting each school day by serving Mass at Gesu Church in the early morning for the many Marquette University Jesuits brings back so many happy memories. Brother John took good care of his Gesu altar boys. I particularly remember the altar boy playroom where all of us would gather playing ping-pong or Chess and other activities. The BVM’s took good care of us and focused us for successful futures.
Dick Metrey Issue 33 June 2022
I remember altar-boy picnics – all of us in the back of an open truck traveling to a park – such trips are illegal now. But what fun we had!! And we sang ‘100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’!! Then Soda Pop & Baseball – Paradise. Retro Milw Pic – Wonderful – We lived in that ‘Blatz’ Building on 8th & Wis. It’s now a very ugly bank.
Louis Ripple Issue 33 June 2022
I still have vivid memories of our usual morning Mass and marching back to school. We used to sing hymns in the Auditorium, and I still can hear a boy from the '37 or '38 class who had a Mario Lanza voice, and Sister had him do solos. One summer morning as I was passing the Church, I heard him in the upper choir loft, singing "Sweet Name that makes the Dying Live."
George Pripish Issue 13 May 1998
Other memories include getting pulled from class for a funeral Mass, music lessons in the convent after school, "Pom Pom Pull Away" during recess, the march to stations during Lent, and each class marching to Marquette Dental Clinic for "free" dental work so the students could gain experience. Those fillings lasted over 20 years.
James Othrow Issue 14 December 1998
Gesu has always held a special place in my heart. All my family (the Naber family) went to school there. My mom and dad were a very integral part of the parish.
The Jesuit priests were wonderful men -especially Fr. Mankowski. Our class of '38 had a special rapport with him -I remember girls' basketball, archery, fencing, bowling -he was gruff but very caring. He loved the CYO so much and his basketball tournaments were great fun.
Rita Naber McGrath Issue 3 Spring 1991
There is a story about the time Fr. Mankowski loaded his baseball team in the station wagon with the wood paneling on the outside and took a trip to Mitchell Park for a little hardball practice. As they took the field, a group of local toughs told them the field was reserved for union members. Fr. Max told them his team was from the CYO. Not sure how loud or clear he pronounced the ‘y’. It could have sounded more like an ‘I’. In any case, the locals said “Oh, you’re one of us, you’re okay to play”.
Issue 22 May 2012
Bill [Connell] and I were in the same classrooms from 1st grade thru 12th grade at Marquette High. During our time at Marquette, we were responsible for producing the CYO paper, the ‘Gesu Shamrock’ once a month – on time for the Holy Name Society breakfast at school. He, of course, was the editor and chief writer while I was the poor guy who got covered with ink trying to keep the mimeograph machine working. We spent many a Saturday in the basement frantically trying to publish on time. Of course, thanks to Bill we always succeeded.
Steve Cabanatuan Issue 23 June 2013
Things I most remember and miss about Gesu, BASKETBALL!! Our '67 cadet basketball team was the last Gesu team to win a CYO Championship, I still think about the times spent in the gym, the guys, practice, Coach Joe Harden, what player doesn't remember the phrase "Gutless Wonder", I know it was directed my way a few times. Fr. Max, his pipe, the first guy that I can remember that had a "Man Cave" pool table, TV, frig with SunDrop soda and Golden Delicious apples, Fr. Walsh with always a good word of advice.
Chuck O’Conner Issue 25 June 2015
I remember Joe Harden, a great basketball coach, even after 64 years of being away! I remember everybody on the CYO Cadet Championship Team in 1955. Joe was probably the toughest coach I ever played for. I myself, as well as the other guys, just loved him. I also remember playing basketball at Red Arrow Park. I remember being an altar boy, and if you served mass for 30 days in a row without missing you would get circus tickets – I will never forget that. I loved serving mass for Fr. Mankowski, and if you timed him, I am sure he would set the record for the shortest services!
Roger Hamilton Issue 30 July 2019
Our football coach, Mr. Lilly, lead us to two parochial school championships. I recall Lee Macy, George Ottosen, Bill Fender, Quinten Ade , Joe Murphy, and Jack O'Donnell as my fellow teammates. Most of our helmets, shoulder pads and pants were well used, but we held our own when we played St. Roberts and St. Casimirs whose teams were the latest in style.
George Pripish May 1998 Issue 13