During the height of the Depression and in the cold clutches of winter, Father Alexander McCabe would ask his parishioners for a few extra dollars for coal to keep the heat on in Charlotte’s Holy Cross School, John “Jack” Foy recalled.
At the time, families gave what little they had so their children could attend the school, so Father McCabe turned to the parish for help, Foy said. Coal was an expensive necessity.
“We were all in the same situation at home, so we certainly understood,” said Foy, 81, who now lives in Greece.
Some people even walked along the railroad tracks in Charlotte, gathering coal that had fallen off rail cars for their own use at home, he said.
Foy was one of many alumni who shared their memories during Holy Cross School’s 100th-anniversary celebration Oct. 22. An anniversary Mass began with a procession of uniformed students, who were carrying items they use daily in school, including textbooks, jump ropes and globes. Afterwards, attendees looked at photos of each graduating class since 1913, and students gave tours of the school.
Other anniversary events being planned include a Christmas bazaar Dec. 3 and the burial of a time capsule in the spring, said Rebecca Maloney, principal of the prekindergarten through eighth-grade school. She taught at Holy Cross from 1983 to 1994 before becoming an administrator.
“We believe strongly in educating students today to be a beacon of hope for the future,” Maloney said.
During the Mass, state Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, Class of 1972, announced that the school recently received notification that it would be getting a $50,000 state grant through the Community Capital Program for its playground project. The school also is selling engraved bricks to help finish the playground.
Robach said some of the area’s top citizens are Holy Cross alumni.
“This place does continue to make kids great,” he said.
The first Holy Cross School was a wooden structure built in 1887 and run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The building burned in an 1895 fire, and a new school was built in 1906 and was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. A brick version was built in 1930, and in 1955 the school was expanded to include more classrooms and a main entrance facing Lake Avenue.
Besides the cosmetic changes, Foy said today’s school is very different from the one he attended years ago.
“The kids today are involved in so many things, I wonder how they do it,” said Foy, a 1943 graduate of Charlotte High School and a World War II Battle of the Bulge veteran. “Back then, there was no such thing as organized sports. If you wanted to play ball, you got a couple of kids from down the street together, and you played ball.”
Foy, who was one of 10 children, has four children and six grandchildren, all of whom went to Holy Cross School. Similarly, friend and Class of 1940 alumnus John Tachin said his 18 grandchildren all have attended the school, as did his seven sisters.
“It was very pleasant coming here,” said Tachin, 81.
Back then, all children who lived within four miles of the school walked to it, Tachin said. He still recalls the names of each of the nuns and the lone lay teacher who taught him.
“Very strict discipline and corporal punishment was exercised, which is a very good thing, I think,” Tachin said.
That discipline helped keep students in line, Foy said. For example, it wasn’t unusual to have 50 kids in a class with one teacher.
“When the sister said to do something, you did it,” Foy said.
Now, only a few religious teach at the school, and many graduates said they miss the nuns. For example, one nun dealt with troublemakers in the cafeteria by making students who misbehaved stand in a tall garbage can.
“We had to stand in a garbage can in front of all the other kids,” said Mary Ann (Foy) Delucenay, a 1970 graduate and a Greece resident. “We never did it again.”
The Catholic-school experience made the students a close-knit bunch, many alumni said.
“I wish our kids could experience what we experienced,” said Aileen (Foy) DiPonzio, Class of 1977.
Tom Lee, a 1959 graduate, said he remembered playing Catholic Youth Organization basketball at the school and the dances that were held every Sunday night. A pastor of St. Cecilia Church in Irondequoit who had a large record collection acted as a DJ, he said.
“Kids from Sacred Heart (School) would come over for the dances,” Lee said.
Though they may not be as frequent anymore, dances still aren’t a thing of the past, today’s students noted.
“I went to a dance this year,” said sixth-grader Toni Tachin, 11, a granddaughter of John Tachin.
Today’s parents say they send their children to the school because of its atmosphere.
“They know everybody in school, and it’s safe,” said Judy Hendershott, Class of 1977, a Charlotte resident. Hendershott’s 10-year-old son, David, is a fifth-grader at the school.
The small size is why 13-year-old Jeremy Martell of Greece enjoys the school.
“I see all my friends every day when I go here,” Jeremy said. “That’s why it’s so fun, because all my friends are here.”
Jeremy is one of three brothers who has gone to the school; his 7-year-old brother Zach also is a Holy Cross student.
“(Jeremy’s) older brother went here, and we were happy with the results,” said his father, Dan Martell.