Holy Knuckles

The rear of 222 wrapped, around the southeast corner of 83rd street and Broadway so that one end actually faced east and looked directly at the western side of Holy Trinity’s school building. (Today that building is the Children’s Museum of Manhattan). The apartment of one of the guys looked across the courtyard at the back of that school.

We were all Jewish. That’s just the way it was. And public schools were closed for the Jewish High Holy Days. That also is just the way it was (still is in fact). In addition, we all took off the holidays which follow in the fall as did many of our teachers.

After services, for those who attended, the day was ours. That could mean anything. On at least one occasion it meant looking out the window of 222 and into the windows of the Holy Trinity School.

The nuns in their habits were certainly different from our teachers; ours all wore skirts or dresses. But there was more, particularly in the method of discipline. While our teachers sent us to the corner, otherwise tried to publicly shame us or sent offenders to the principal’s office, their teachers took out a ruler. Students placed their hands on the edge of the desk and the teacher smacked their knuckles.

We thought it was both horrifying and something to laugh at. As I recall we only looked once as a group.

My other link to Holy Trinity was Father Gerald Walsh. I did not meet him until 1969 or 1970 when we served on a community committee together. He had been a somewhat imposing figure before with his black garb and clerical collar but most importantly the awe in which the students of the school held him. When I served with him, I found him to be a kind, gentle and thoughtful man.

The other exposure we had to those of the Christian faiths was “released time”. In those days, some children were dismissed early one day a week so that they could get religious instruction elsewhere. We knew nothing else about this. For us religious instruction occurred two weekday afternoons after school and Sunday mornings.

Discipline in religious school was much the same as in our public school except you could be sent to the Rabbi as a higher authority.

Of course I experienced that discipline as I was a brat. As I reported previously I started religious school younger than most kids because I so loved Rabbi Cohen. This, however, never stopped me from being me and having to make my mark by responding to teasing with less than appropriate classroom behavior.

The water pistol that the teacher tried to wrestle away from me might well have been the last straw if not for the generosity and understanding of that wonderful Rabbi. I did, after all, squirt the teacher square in the face.

water pistol