Whenever I think of my sixth grade class at the Eliot School, I am reminded of the 1982 movie “My Favorite Year.” It’s a story about a young writer intern who is tasked with chaperoning an alcoholic swashbuckling actor in the week before his appearance on a live TV show. Peter O’Toole is Alan Swann, the character based on Errol Flynn. The TV show is based on Your Show of Shows and features Joseph Bologna as the Sid Caesar-like comedian. Keeping Swann sober and ready to go before the cameras and the live TV audience proves to be quite the comical challenge for the intern. The year is 1954. The intern says that is his “favorite year”.
That also happens to be my favorite year. It was the best year of my childhood. It was the year I was in Mr. George McCabe’s sixth grade classroom. My classmates and I were at the top. The lowly fourth and fifth grade students could only look up to us in awe. We could do no wrong. We excelled in our studies despite rarely having assigned homework. We were athletic despite not having a gymnasium. We were well fed despite not having a school cafeteria. We all brought brown bag lunches with meatball sandwiches, veal cultlets, and eggplant parmesan to eat at our desks. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread? Not in our school!
The Prado was our playground. During recess we played ball, we jumped rope, we played tag. After school the boys would pelt the girls with snowballs and chase us home. The girls got their revenge when Mr. McCabe would assign them as monitors to take over the class while he was in the principal’s office. (Not only was Mr. McCabe our teacher, he was also the school principal.) The girls would always report that the boys had misbehaved and hand out demerits.
On Tuesdays we would be dismissed early to walk over to St. John School to receive our religious instruction. And then again on Sundays after Mass at St. Stephen’s Church. Saturdays we went to confession and did our penance for all the sins and transgressions we had committed during the past week.
But we were happy. We were carefree. We had no responsibilities. I spent my afternoons rollerskating around the streets of the North End. We played in Slye Park and Battery Wharf.
We didn’t have an orchestra or a band or even a music room at the Eliot School, but this picture is proof that we made music. We took drum lessons and had a great time.
That all changed in June 1955. That was when we graduated and left the Eliot School behind. Some of us went on to the Michelangelo School, some to Boys’ Latin School and others to Girls’ Latin School. Thanks to the dedication and caring of our teachers we were prepared for the challenges of life outside the North End. We would never again be so carefree! But oh what memories we have!
Top photo: Picture of sixth grade drum class at Eliot School
I am the second girl from the left in the front row. Mr. McCabe is the adult on the right. The other adult on the left is the drum teacher whose name I don’t recall. My girlfriends in the front row were Corinne Pizzutto, first girl on left, Kathy Caporale, Elena Ponte, Irene Giuliano (my best friend), fourth , fifth and sixth from the left, and Maryanne Penta, the last girl on the right. I don’t remember the names of all the boys, but Anthony Maffeo is third from the right in the second row and Victor Passacantilli is in the last row standing next to the flag.