Remembering Middle School Classmates 1955-1957
Middle School Years
My middle school years were spent at Catholic schools in Mukwonago and Waterford, Wisconsin, during the period 1955-1958. We had just moved out of West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, to a farm east of Mukwonago in March of 1954. Mom and dad put me into Saint James School in Mukwonago where I completed the fourth grade, all of the fifth and sixth grades, and most of the seventh grade before moving again to another farm between Waterford and Burlington.
This article calls to mind my middle school years at Saint James from March of 1954 until March of 1957. After reminiscing about seventh-grade classmates, I share my personal recollections and findings from Ancestry.com's historical newspaper records of their activities after seventh grade.
Saint James School
While living in West Allis, my folks sent me to Saint Mary's Help of Christians Catholic Grade School on South 60th Street. It was only fitting then, as devout practicing Catholics, for mom and dad to send me to Saint James School in Mukwonago three or four miles from our farm. If they hadn't sent me to Saint James, I would have attended a one-room schoolhouse about a half of a mile away.
Saint James School was run by Saint James Catholic Church of which our family was parishioners. Grades one through six were held in the church basement and grades seven and eight in the basement of the church rectory. Since the student body was 100 or less, there were only four School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns who each taught two grades in one classroom.
A typical school day started at 8:00 in the morning and ended at around 3:30 in the afternoon. At between 7:00 and 7:15, my sister and I would walk from our farm on a hill down to old Highway 15 which was about a fifth of a mile away. After crossing the road, we would wait along its shoulder for a school bus which usually showed up at around 7:40.
A fifteen-minute ride got us to the church and school just in time for 8:00 Mass. After a 30 minute service, our school would begin in the church basement. I attended class there for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.
My first classroom was for third and fourth graders. The only thing I remember is being next to the first and second-grade classroom where my sister attended class. One day, she got sick and vomited during lunch hour. Being the big brother, the teacher had me clean up her mess.
After fourth grade, I moved to the fifth and sixth-grade classroom. Sister Julian was my teacher. During the fifth grade, I remember being involved in a snowball fight during lunch hour. As a punishment for my misbehavior, I had to stand at my desk and write the sentence, "Rules are given to be followed and not disregarded," at least 500 times.
In the summer of 1955 between the fifth and sixth grades, one of my classmates, Jimmy M suddenly came down with polio and died. Jimmy had been a Mass server and I had to substitute serving for his Masses for at least one week that summer.
While in the sixth grade, Sister Julian had me tutor a new Hispanic boy whose English was not very good. Sister also taught me how to diagram sentences, and by the end of sixth grade wanted me to skip from the sixth to the eighth grade. My parents let me make the decision and I decided not to skip the seventh grade. I guess I was afraid my classmates would be jealous and wouldn't like me.
During the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, I also remember having to attend a Holy Hour in church every Thursday afternoon from two until three. How I disliked having to kneel for one hour!
My Seventh Grade Classmates
When I started the seventh grade in September of 1956, I had known some classmates since the fifth grade. The boys included Donald H, Jimmy P, and Warren B. For girls, there were Maureen M, Mary Beth W, Judy S, and the twins, Karen and Kathy K.
There were also three new students that I began to know. These included Mark R, Paul J, and Iola J.
I naturally hung around with the boys during recess and noon hour. We played football in the fall and baseball in the spring. During the winter, it was too cold to play any outdoor sport. Donald H was a good athlete and played quarterback when we had games. He was also a good baseball player.
Although I don't remember playing sports with Mark and Paul, I still often hung out with them. Mark lived next door to the nuns and had stories to tell about them. He also found $40 on the street one day. Paul was Mark's closest friend and I remember Paul being shorter than most of the boys.
As for the girls, I had a puppy-love crush on both Maureen and Mary Beth. Maureen was a cute blonde whose father had a high position in the Mukwonago Citizens Bank. Mary Beth was an attractive brown-haired girl with an infectious smile.
During the seventh grade, Iola J also joined our class. I remember her being a taller girl who wore glasses. She sat toward the back of the classroom in the row next to me.
Sister Salutaria was our teacher and Father Conrad A the church pastor. I was in a classroom of seventh and eighth graders held in the basement of the church rectory across the street from the church. Seventh graders sat in the two rows on the left side of the classroom. Eighth graders were in the two rows on the right. There probably were about 30 kids in the room.
Activities of Classmates After I Left Saint James
From personal meetings and research on Ancestry.com, I have learned the following about these classmates.
I received at least one perfumed powdered love letter from Iola after I transferred from Saint James to Saint Thomas Aquinas in Waterford in March of 1957. Iola must have had a crush on me and out of curiosity, I remember visiting her home in the early summer of 1957. Since I had no puppy love for her, I never heard or saw from Iola again after that visit. I had heard that she was going to join a convent, but through my Ancestry.com historical newspaper research, I learned that she got married at the age of 22.
I saw Paul two times after leaving Saint James. The first time was a year later in the spring of 1958 when we were both at Marquette University High School taking an entrance admission test. The second time was in early June of 1963 right before my Sociology final exam. I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and unknown to me, Paul was in my Sociology class. He came to my dormitory one evening and wanted to borrow my lecture notes to study for the final exam. Paul admitted to having cut many of our class lectures.
From historical newspaper research, I discovered that Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1966, the same year I did. He probably graduated with a business degree because another historical newspaper entry indicated that Paul was active with the Milwaukee Business Bureau in the late 60s.
Historical newspaper records show that Donald joined the Army in the mid-60s and eventually became a Captain. He served as a military advisor in Vietnam during the late 60s.
Historical newspaper records also indicate that Maureen became a United Airlines stewardess in the late 60s after graduating from Marquette University. I could find no records about Maureen getting married.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover any other information about former classmates from historical newspaper research.
© 2017 Paul Richard Kuehn