School Yard

St. Cyril of Alexandria in East Lansdowne PA was a great big Roman Catholic complex with adjoining Rectory and, further down the same block, the Convent.  Up behind them stood the school and, for what it was worth, the school yard.

Please understand, I have no argument with people worshiping what they will, but why is it that every Roman Catholic school I’ve ever seen has the distinction of NOT having a playground in their school yard.   It’s not that we didn’t have Recess every day….we did.  Sort of.

The idea was to stand us all up on these specially painted parallel lines, arm length apart, and do calisthenics.  Gee, that was fun.  Meanwhile our counterparts just down the road were playing on squeaky swings, slippery sliding boards and yelling at the top of their lungs ‘cos they could.

That was the Public school.

We uniformed Catholics got a chance to run around, too.  For about ten minutes before going back inside to continue our education.  What to do with all that blacktop and concrete?  Well, the lines were pretty.

For the most part, everybody stayed in their own groups…the 6 through 8th graders off to one corner neath the shade of said huge church, 5th and 4th over near the school building’s old wing-also a shaded location, and the young-uns near the Convent yard fence. 

It was the same before school and coming back from lunch.  Everybody would cluster into their groups until the first bell, then scurry into straight lines according to grade to be marched into the halls of learning in true pseudo-military fashion after the second bell.

Anyway, one day when I was in about the Second grade, I remember getting a wild idea. I started a Farmer In the Dell game and somehow encouraged everybody in the schoolyard to join in.
Well, everybody…and I mean EVERYBODY got in on the act.

It was incredible!  The entire school yard was rimmed with this circle of St. Cyril’s uniformed students of all ages, boys and girls mixed (HEAVENS!), hands joined and circling while singing The Farmer In The Dell.  The folks at Guiness’ Book of Records should have been there.

We got to the Cheese standing alone when the school bell rung. For a brief moment we all looked around and saw how big the circle had gotten.  Nuns came running out of the school building, clapping hands and ordering us about…

“Line up, everyone!” Sister Mary Drill-Sargent (our name for one of the towering Imaculate Heart nuns who taught the 6th grade)  “Joseph! Where’s your brother James?”  “Line up!”

Their goal was to get us in proper order before the second bell, and they almost succeeded.   Almost.
We were about five minutes late, and heard all about it at the next morning’s loudspeaker broadcast of the school’s daily announcements. 

From that day forward, all disruptive games were banned from our schoolyard. Any large group games would have to be approved before being played, and everyone was chided for what was considered a poor example of St. Cyril’s philosophy and a breach of the school’s discipline.

Gee….I didn’t know The Farmer In The Dell was a disruptive game, bad enough to be banned from the Catholic School playground!  Who’da thunk?!

To this day I wonder why Catholic schools don’t allow playgrounds in their school yards.  I’ll bed if they did, they wouldn’t have such problems.

What does that has to do with Fifty Five being the New anything?  Well, back then I wasn’t afraid to shine and or instigate…actually had no choice. It just seemed to happen.  I want to gain that courage back, to not be afraid.  So for today Fifty Five Is The New School Yard- I’m there for lessons, but ALSO FOR FUN!

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