Commentaries Schools

My Favorite Year: 1955 at the Eliot School

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.

13 Replies to “My Favorite Year: 1955 at the Eliot School

  1. I believe the music teacher was Mr. Ralph Fucillo. I played the drums at Eliot School as well a few years later.

  2. Great picture, Natalie.
    Victor was probably the smartest kid in that class. I also recognize Sam Rimini, third row on the far right, Sammy’s brother Tommy on the top left, Joanne Giugio first row second from right, Jimmy Deliago, third row far left, Lenny Fabiano, middle of the third row and Carl Deluca, second row far left.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Natalie, Thanks for sharing your memories of our 6th grade year at the Eliot. I was recently given this picture and was able to identify all the members with the exception of the two boys on the left end of row 3 to Donny Sacchetti’s right and the boy to Mr. Mc Cabe’s right. I am not sure that the boy you identified as Anthony Maffeo is indeed him. He was also one I couldn’t recall. He is standing between Bruno Balliro and Joe Testa. I will share this photo once again with my friends to see if we can correctly identify everyone. Our instructor’s name was Mr. Ralph Fuccillo and I still can recall his cadence instructions as we tapped our drumsticks on the stage floor. See if you can pick out Arthur Taje, Nick Ventullo, John Lanza, Frank Toscano, Frank Caruso, Diane Pesaturo, Elena Ponte, Richie Reale and John Ciano.

    1. The young fellow standing between Balliro and Testa is, I think, a Martorano. The young fellow behind me … I think his last name is Gingola??? Could be wrong…

  4. Thank you for filling in the blanks of my memory. Mr. Fuccillo deserves recognition for teaching us to be upbeat. I knew it was Carl on the far left of the second row. I just couldn’t recollect his last name, DeLuca. Thank you, Victor. Frank Toscano is the boy in the third row, third from the right holding up the drumsticks.
    Natalie Romano Cinelli

  5. Natalie, thank you for posting the picture. I already had this photo but Victor sent me a copy a few years ago and we could name everyone except for one boy. Stay well and thanks again for sharing these wonderful memories.

    1. I would be glad to help out and plan a reunion If you chose you can contact me at and perhaps we could attempt to plan a reunion. Ignatius Natty Palermo, my dearest and loved friend, passed away in February of 2010. I still miss him dearly. I recognize the boy behind Maryanne but I don’t recall his name, but will try to identify him. He could be a Papa but I am not sure. It has been many years since I have seen John Giso. Long ago I heard he left the Boston Public School System and settled down in Cape Cod.

  6. I think the boy standing behind Maryanne is John (or Frank) Papa. I could be wrong, too. Where are Ignatius Palermo and John Giso?
    Wouldn’t it be great to have a reunion???
    Natalie Romano Cinelli

  7. Alot of the kids in our class did not take drum lessons, for example Anthony La Penna, Diana Rizzo, Cynthia Luongo, Ira Lew, Thomas and Barbara Benedict, etc.

  8. I cracked up laughing when I read this. I went to the Elliot in the 60’s. I loved it! I tell my children that the Prado was our playground. The Paul Revere Statue was where we played stick ball. The tourists in early June would take pictures of us playing . In regards to those Italian lunches. There was only Italian Tonna (tuna) and sliced bread from Josie the baker. When we moved to Western Mass. it was white horrible bread. No Italian bakeries out here and tonic was now called soda. Continuous ranking on a Boston accent. Thanks for article Natalie. Nice memories.

  9. Yes, I remember Josie so well. The bakery was on Unity Street in the shadow of the Old North Church. The scali bread was so delicious! Perfect for dunking into the Sunday gravy simmering on the stove.
    Natalie Romano Cinelli

Comments are closed.