Gloria Cipollini Endres, a friend and correspondent, has written a charming reminiscence of being part of the first class at Saint Maria Goretti High School in Philadelphia. The piece, appearing in the Philadelphia Daily News, is a wonderful glimpse of life in better times:
The first principal, Father Tracey, was a stickler for ladylike decorum, especially at social events. Although Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and James Dean were the sex symbols du jour, and “Bandstand” might be an “occasion of sin,” we were expected to remain chaste.
Our sex education consisted mostly of “cross your legs, wear mid-calf skirts and keep a phone book on the car seat between you and your date!” Even with all that, some girls dropped out quietly to await what was quaintly dubbed a “blessed event.”
Discipline was relentless. There was a rule against opening textbooks in the cafeteria, for example. Once, feeling unprepared for a post-lunch Latin test with Sister Mary Agnes, I sneaked a peek at my book.
I was caught by one of the disciplinarians and immediately handed a detention slip. Imagine! Others were disciplined for such far-out infractions as striking the “forbidden” backspace key on the typewriter or daring to apply lipstick in the lavatory at dismissal.
Talking back could get you suspended or expelled to the (shudder) public schools.
We can laugh now, but we were in awe of those religious women. (Mrs. Kane, our gym teacher, was the only lay person.) Other schools had college fairs—we had a “convent fair” in the cafeteria with booths competing for applicants to the many communities of nuns that staffed the school.