My brother & I arrived at Sacred Heart Home in November 1950. If I remember correctly the main house was used as the convent and to board the girls; while a smaller building served as the rectory and to house the boys. There was a barn, which we were forbidden to go into.
Boys were always separated from the girls. This was especially distressing for my brother and I at 4 yrs old. Even in later years when the pool was built, a special time was allotted for each group to go swimming.
Days were planned according to a strict schedule and I recall that a loud bell designated every change of event; such as waking in the morning, church, breakfast, school, etc.
Punishment was doled out frequently to any disobedience. On numerous occasions, we were told the world was coming to an end. This tactic worked wonders in getting children to obey.
Outsiders attended school there, but would then leave and go home. How we envied them! I remember every night going back to our classrooms to do homework. When report cards were handed out, Mother Alfreda would call us up to the desk. I thought for every “A”, we were given a nickel. My brother thinks it was just one nickel if you had an “A” on your report card. Does anyone else remember this?
There wasn’t much of a social life at the home since we were not allowed off the premises. The playground had a long cemented run for roller-skating, which was fun along with ice-skating on the pond when it froze over. Although the playground offered enjoyment, we could not go to the movies, walk to the corner store, go bowling or to dances, anything that most children take for granted. Occasionally, a movie was brought in. I especially liked the operettas with Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. Seeing these started my love of opera. However, if a movie had any kissing, the nuns would hold their hands over the projector so the kissing scenes couldn’t be seen. Funny!
Sure the home was spotless and we helped keep it that way by scrubbing, dusting, and polishing. After ending up in the hospital a number of times with bad cases of poison oak/sumac, I finally was given a reprieve for having to pick up rocks and pull weeds.
I think the discipline we received during our stay is something most children will never experience and created a very different, hard, childhood. The isolation made me very shy after leaving, but it did create a good work ethic in me. I visited the home often after we left and especially enjoyed visiting on Donation Day. A few times, I would visit the nuns who went to stay in Reading after the home closed. It was interesting to see the changes in the home itself and the rules, which appear to have relaxed over the years – which was good news!