In my more than two-and-a-half decades at The Anchor, I always hearken back to my days at St. Anne School in Fall River each time Catholic Schools Week rolls around.
I attended the large edifice on Park Street, that, with its land, covered two full city blocks. And for a little tyke like me, it seemed like a mansion surrounded by school yards (three), a Little League field, and a beautiful front lawn, which was off limits to terrors like me.
I attended St. Anne’s for nine years in the 1960s, kindergarten through grade eight, as did my brother and many of my cousins on my mom’s side. My mom attended the school as well, and probably some of her siblings, too. Before the enormous school building was built on Forest Street, there were two previous St. Anne’s Schools: one in a parish basement/hall and another in a larger red brick building.
The large Park Street school, with its light tan or beige brick walls, opened in 1925.
I’m filled with fond memories of good old St. Anne’s, for the most part. The times that weren’t so pleasant were the times that my mischievousness landed me in hot water (not literally, of course).
I found the wooden floors that creaked and the classrooms and large auditorium warm and comforting, as I found most of the Dominican Sisters and priests with strong French-Canadian roots who taught there.
It was a place of which to be proud. I mean, what other elementary school had its own baseball field and league? Come on, it doesn’t get any better than that!
But, like many big old buildings, there were those places where little minds and bodies would hesitate to enter.
While the first three floors, each of which seemed to be the length of a football field, were full of life and warmth, it was the fourth floor that was dark and sinister to a young, mischievous imp. Up there, the classrooms were empty because the lower floors easily handled the student population.
I admit, there were times when I would sneak up the southern stairwell to the ”haunted house” and dare myself to make the trek across the seemingly endless hallway to the north side stairs. With only natural light filtering in and the louder than usual floor creaks, it got the heart pumping. It was possible to make it across, as long as I didn’t stop along the walk — or should I say sprint? I didn’t do it often, but the times I did, sometimes with an accomplice, were exhilarating. And I don’t believe I was ever caught. I usually got in trouble for things less dubious.
The symmetry of the old building was perfect. Three warm inviting levels sandwiched between the haunting top floor and the eerie basement, where the rest rooms were.
I found that level even more daunting than its counterpart four stories up. We all went to the rest rooms as a class — the girls in one large area and the boys in another. But once in a while Mother Nature called during class time and we would venture solo to the dungeon. I think I found it more eerie because it was below ground.
I recall once being asked to go down to the sink in the basement to empty a plant from our classroom that had long since given up its ghost. I took the withered weed and emptied the contents and was immediately smacked in the face by a sickening odor from the waterlogged, decomposing plant. My bologna sandwich almost reappeared on that one. And it only added to the creepiness of that floor. But it was still good fun.
It was sad to see the big old building close in 2006 and eventually be razed. My dad, who was retired then, often walked to watch the building come down, and he sneaked onsite and claimed a brick for me. (The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.) I still have the relic.
Hmm. I wonder if it was from the fourth floor.