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going to pull this off. I couldn’t afford to live on campus, and I didn’t have
a car to commute. It was definitely a wing-and-a-prayer situation!
But I had already met my first guardian angel. Maureen Mooney
had played for St. Hubert’s in the Northern Division of the Catholic
League. She was now a freshman at Immaculata, a year older than I,
and when I came for my interview, she spent the entire day with me.
We immediately hit it off. She was one of the main reasons I came to
After the fire, my family stayed in a local motel for two weeks. Then
we went to live with my grandmother in Havertown. We finally moved
back into our home that fall. And I moved into a new world.
In 1970, I matriculated at Immaculata and went from a school
of 4,000 to a school of 782. It really was a convent. Because all the
Sisters came to our campus, the same convent rules were in effect. We
couldn’t go out after 7 p.m. at night because the doors were locked. If
we left by the front door, we had to be properly dressed. If we weren’t,
we had to leave by the back door.
We had assigned places in the dining room. We didn’t sit just
anywhere. All these customs were part of the IHM way. That’s what
they did. So that’s what we did. The school had its traditions. It still
has. Charter Day is big at our school. It is celebrated on November 12
each year. That’s the day the college was granted its charter in 1920.
And that’s the day the freshman class is invested into the college (now
University) community. During the Charter Day ceremonies, these first-
year students, wearing academic garb for the first time, approach the
podium at which the president is standing in the Rotunda, to be formally
welcomed as members of the Immaculata community. At this time and
until after graduation, they wear the tassels of their mortar boards on the
right side. At graduation, they will move them to the left.
Then, there’s Carol Night just before Christmas. We have a huge
decorated tree standing in the Rotunda. The senior class processes in
their academic attire. We all sing carols and the Baby Jesus is carried in
and placed in His crèche. In the past, following the ceremony, we were
told that the Baby Jesus did some very strange things. He was frequently
being reported missing. Sometimes He reappeared in the elevator,
sometimes ending up in a dorm room or lab. There were messages
left all over. “I’m lost; I can’t get home.” “Can you take me back to my
Mommy?” The Baby Jesus apparently made the rounds. It sometimes
reminded us of that Disney movie,
Trouble with Angels
It seems that today, to prevent such occurrences, the Sisters keep Him
in a safe place.
I’ve met women from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s who love to share
interesting lore of the school. And even in their adult years, they seem
to enjoy repeating ridiculous stories about raids on the kitchen, ice
cream that melted over the fire escape in Villa, Mary Doherty’s famous
(infamous?) Jell-O fights, the filling of the basement swimming pool
(aka, the Roman Bath) with laundry soap, and so on. College life has
changed considerably throughout the years, but the inclination to play
pranks remains constant.
There was a lot of rebellion on college campuses around the country
over theVietnamWar.We heldprayer services inChapel for ourwounded
soldiers, but we saved our real protests for social reform on campus. For
example, we had a regulation dress code that mandated all students to
wear skirts or dresses on campus. This same rule insisted that “no skin”
be allowed to showbetween the hemof the skirt or dress and the top of the
knee socks. Furthermore, if you were seen leaving campus with such skin
showing, your parents were contacted to send you back to campus. This
same dress code forbade wearing slacks – which was probably the “big
issue” while I was there. If you ask the alumnae of that era, the students
eventually won the “slacks battle”; others may have different opinions.
There were three standard items in our wardrobe that were
very important to college life: our academic gown, our mortar
board, and a small white collar called a “dickey.” Any time there
was an academic function, we wore the academic gown – like Mr.
Chips. In those days, we attended Mass every Friday morning.
A healthy percentage of students, especially during warm or hot
weather, wore shorts or pajamas under the gowns. It seems that we
still weren’t making much of a fashion statement!
But the college certainly was making a serious statement about
education. There were no physical education majors. The players on our
team were majoring in French, sociology, and mathematics.
I majored in biology, with a minor in chemistry.
I remember a course I took in organic chemistry. In that class, there
was a lot of nomenclature and a lot of equipment. I don’t know howmuch
of either I was able to digest. We had labs in the afternoon. Sister would
give us an element – an unknown. We went through a seemingly endless
rigmarole, converting the “unknown” from a liquid to a solid to find out
what the darn thing was. I remember asking myself, “Maybe it’s both a
liquid and a solid – at one time a liquid; at another time, a solid.” But, no,
that would be too easy. So we had to set it all up – the beaker thing, the
bunsen burner, and all the other stuff that I no longer remember. On days
when we had a home game, I’d say to my lab partner, “Look, I’m going to
go over and play the game.” I’d take off my lab coat, leave the lab, cross
the walkway to the gym, change into my uniform, play the game, get out
of my uniform, come back across the walkway, return to the lab, and
finish my project. It all took so darn long, and then I didn’t know if I had
the right unknown anyway. How often I was tempted to take a peek at the
answer book on Sister’s desk!
Shortly after I started school, I discovered that our basketball team
didn’t even have a home court on campus because the field house had
burned down two years earlier while they were having a sophomore
cotillion. So we had been going across the street to practice in the
Motherhouse where young women were training to become Sisters,
Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The young postulants used
the floor for recreation before we got there. They were playing basketball
in their habits, jumping up and down on pogo sticks, with their habits
flying, or on roller skates. Do you know how slippery it is to play ball after
people have been roller skating?
Maureen and I knew some of the postulants, and we went over there
early to referee their games. They had little pin cushions attached to their
habits to differentiate who was on which team. After they were finished,
Our coach was Cathy Rush. We thought she was really cool. She was
very young – only 22 years old when she took this job in 1970 – and she
was very attractive, very stylish. She was a golfer. She would play at the
country club in the morning and then drive over to our practice. We