Woony Memories

Woony Memory #999

Not sure exactly why, but I can perfectly picture some really non-descript Woony moments. There are some big, historical events, however, that I cannot remember at all. For some reason, little things seem to stick with me. I’ve often heard that you don’t always remember what people did, but you remember how someone made you feel. Now with over 50 years of life experience, I believe this is true.
I can picture Stanley Brown giving me a hard time after one of my foul balls broke his car window. Stanley may have gone to more baseball games in Woonsocket than any other person who ever lived there. He should have known not to park directly behind the grandstand. To this day, I’m not sure whether he was mad or just ribbing me, but I can see him shaking like yesterday.
The Permanns lived in Woonsocket for a number of years. Rollie and Joyce both worked for the school system. Joyce was a very sweet lady and I understand she, unfortunately, passed a few years ago. Rollie was (and I suppose still is) quite a character. My class of ‘79 had earned a reputation over the years as a troubled group. We’d get the meeting with the superintendent on the first day of school to let us know that this year would be different… yadda yadda… OK. It never was. I doubt the ‘79ers were really any worse than any class that came before us, but we got lots of lectures.
In eighth grade, we were still working on building our reputation and had science with Mr. Permann. He’d been around for a few years by then, so you’d think he’d have gotten used to us already. The classroom had a big, heavy desk in front with sort of a small podium. It looked to be bolted to the floor or at least immovable. Rollie P. had enough of our shenanigans one day and decided to show us what we all looked like. He started yelling and yanking that desk back and forth… hooting and hollering. You’d have thought that big, heavy desk was on wheels. Nobody breathed.
Back in those days, a teacher could take you back into the coat closet. It happened…well, not to me, but it happened. We weren’t sure where Mr. Permann was going with his demonstration and no one wanted to participate in Act 2. Point made and here I am so many decades later seeing it like yesterday.
Those of you “older” folks have all attended high school plays held on the stage at the old auditorium. It was an annual tradition. There’d be a matinee or two. Elementary kids would trek two by two from the school over to the old gym. The large stage had the classic, heavy black curtain that would swing open to introduce a cheap carpenter’s set. Heavy makeup would transform high school kids into a variety of aged characters. It was a significant loss to the town when the building became the school shop and ag center. High school plays moved over to the “new” gym, which wasn’t new at all by then. The stage was built by securing tables together, but the back drops were the same from the old days.
Our director from those days was always Kathleen Zimmerman. I’ve mentioned before that her strict teachings had probably the biggest single impact on my education. Others may agree. Not sure that she ever really wanted the role of play director, but many of the teachers were “given” extra-curriculars to manage.
In 1977 the play was “Pick-a-Dilly.” Cast was chosen and I didn’t get a part. I got to be one of the “assistant directors.” Can you say, “Prompter”? Despite a few weeks of nightly practices, some of the actors were having a hard time learning lines. The “assistant director” may not have been paying as close attention as he should have. “PROMPTER!” I can hear that voice clear as a bell.
I’ve written in the past about my experiences as an altar boy at St. Wilfrid’s, but I didn’t share my most frightening moment. It’s now 40 years or so since it happened and I still catch my breath when I see it on the big screen in my head. Typically, Mass involved two altar boys. After it was over, the boys in black and white (or later in red) would lead the priest counterclockwise around the alter and back into the sacristy. We’d kneel just inside the doorway where the priest would say a little prayer and we were done.
One Sunday morning, Bishop Lambert Hoch was in town and handling the Mass. It was a little more exciting to have the Big Kahuna in church, but our routine was the same… light a few candles, ring a couple bells, pour one drop of water into a big cup of wine. Evidently, not everything was the same, because as we led the Bishop into the sacristy, he didn’t like me walking in front of him into the room. “DON’T WALK IN FRONT OF ME, BOY!” I was pretty sure that the Hell Express had arrived, and there was a one-way ticket with my name on it. Bishop Hoch was as close to God as it got in 1970 Woonsocket and I had never been yelled at by God before. I might still have a ticket on the Hell Express waiting for me, but pretty sure it will be for other infractions besides walking in front of the Bishop.
Oh, Woony, you formed my sensibilities, framed my conscience and pushed me wide-eyed out into the world. While I may not have been ready for the big city when I got there, those early emotional events have filled my heart with so many wonderful moments of how you made me feel.

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