Hail, Holy Rosary…

I am not sure what year Holy Rosary Academy opened, but the first graduating class was in 1867. I deduced this because I graduated in 1995, and we were the 128th graduating class. I know the school started out as a co-ed grade school. I am not sure what year it switched to an all-girls high school. I know that Sister Suzanne, who worked in the office, and all of her sisters and brothers graduated from Holy Rosary. I am going to guess that this may have been in the 1930’s or 1940’s. (A complete history of the school was printed in my Freshman yearbook to celebrate the 125th graduating class, but my copy is somewhere at my parents’ house in Kentucky.)

The school had a few different locations before settling on Southside Drive, where I attended. The building was kind of L-shaped and sat on a corner. The long part was the three-story school, and the short part was a convent. There was a door in the main stairwell called the Cloister that the nuns used to use to get to class. By the time, I started it was used as a closet. None of the nuns who lived at the convent taught at the school. Behind the school was the parking lot and the field hockey field.

There were usually between 40 and 60 students in each grade level, divided into two or three homerooms. Each grade level was divided into three two or three sections for Math, English, and Science: honors, regular, and remedial. There were about 16 classrooms and the library divided between the second and third floor. The first floor had the school office, principal’s and vice-principal’s offices, the teacher’s lounge, gymnasium, and stairs down to the cafeteria. Other than the library and one classroom, the only air conditioned rooms were on the first floor. On very hot days at the beginning and end of the year, classes would sometimes move to the first floor or outside or school would dismiss early.

I don’t have the time or details at hand to go through the entire history of the school, but there was a sense of being a part of history there. The walls in the school hallways were lined with class pictures from the sixties, including the mothers and aunts of some of my classmates. The previous ten graduating classes were displayed on the main floor, so every day I would pass my sister’s picture on my way in and out.

Like most Catholic high schools, Holy Rosary had its own traditions. Every incoming Freshman was paired with a Senior Big Sister. Or in my case, I had two Big Sisters and two Little Sisters due to variances in class size. Before school started there was the Big Sister/Little Sister picnic, and a few months into the school year Little Sisters were expected to present their Big Sisters with homemade pillows for Pillow Day. On Pillow Day one of my big sisters gave me a thin gold bracelet that had been handed down from her Big Sister’s Big Sister. I wore it for special school events until I passed it down to my little sister (the other had transferred to another school before Pillow Day).

Usually the first day at lunch was a shock for the Freshmen. Sophomore and Freshmen ate together at second lunch. (Sophs went down five minutes before the bell to keep the line from backing up too much.) Usually one class sat on one end of the cafeteria and the other on the opposite end. About the last ten minutes of second lunch everyday for the first week the Sophomores would teach the Freshmen the school cheers. The Sophs would start clapping and singing, “Sophmores rock! Na,na,na! Sophomores roll! Na, na, na! Sophomores rock, Sophomores roll, Sophomores rock and roll!” (Stomp, stomp, stomp!) The Froshes would always stare dumbfounded. Then a few Sophs would go to the Freshman side and start singing “Freshman rock! Na, na, na…” By the end of the week, the Freshman didn’t need any help joining in. This was important because every school assembly, except religious services, started with the cheers from Senior to Freshman class ending with everyone cheering “Ramblers rock! Na, na, na…” (By the way, the Rambler was our school mascot; it was really just the Roadrunner from Bugs Bunny cartoons. I have no idea why, how, or the legal ramifications.) There was another cheer that ended “Get up, get up, get up, get up! Woo!” And “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the Senior battle cry!”

A less endearing tradition was Tray Day. One day a year the Sophomores got to hand over their lunch trays for the Freshman to clear away. It was kind of banned after a few classes of Sophomore started rubbing ketchup and food on the bottom of the trays to make a mess for the Freshman; it made a bigger mess for the lunch ladies. And the tradition Freshman disliked the most was that after every assembly, they were responsible for cleaning up all chairs, tables, or anything else that was used. The rest of the school would be dismissed, usually for the day, in class order while the Freshmen had to stick around and clean up.

The best tradition was Thanksgiving dinner. It was always the Wednesday before the holiday. It was a dress-up out-of-uniform day, as opposed to a casual out-of-uniform day. We only had two or three classes, then we went back to our homerooms to clean and decorate for Christmas. (Prospective students were invited to an open house the next week, so they wanted the school to look its best.) After that the whole school would squeeze into the cafeteria for a holiday meal. The teachers acted as our waiting staff. We’d give them change to go fetch us drinks from the soda machine and take away our trays afterwards. Then the Seniors would find a clean cup to collect change from all the students. Once the tables were cleared the stereo in the cafeteria would be turned loud and the teachers would start dancing on the tables in exchange for the collected money; the money was then donated to charity.

Seniors wore their caps and gowns three times, including graduation. The first time was the Baccalaureate Mass, an evening or so before graduation. The second time was for Awards Day, which was usually the same day as graduation. Awards Day was a school assembly where students from all grade levels would receive certificates and medals for being the best in a subject or plaques from other special contests or scholarships. The most important award was the Rambler Award. It was given to a graduating Senior chosen by the faculty who exemplified the perfect Holy Rosary Student. It usually went to the most well-rounded student: someone who was athletic, did well enough academically (but not always an honors student), who was generally liked by all the faculty and her peers, and had a lot of school spirit (but not necessarily a cheer leader).

At the end of every assembly, the principal would say, “Seniors, will you please lead us in the Alma Mater.” The Seniors would start the school song a capella and the rest of the classes would quickly join in with the singing. Freshman usually carried note cards the first few times, but then it was quickly memorized. The singing of the Alma Mater was always the most poignant part of the Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremonies, even for those who couldn’t wait to graduate. There was just something about knowing that these were the last times you were going to be singing it with all your classmates that brought most people to tears.

To give and not to heed the cost;To start anew when we have lost.

Friendship, love, and sincerity; These and more are a part of thee.

Hail, Holy Rosary, of thee we sing; And may our loyal hearts forever bring.

Honor, fame, and joy untold; As through the years our lives unfold.

Upon the, Rosary, our dreams are laid; And may thy shining glory never fade.

When the time comes that we must part; Memories will linger in our hearts.

Hail, Holy Rosary, of thee we sing; And may our loyal hearts forever bring.

Honor, fame, and joy untold; As through the years our lives unfold.

Ok, so maybe it’s not: “Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts…” The history and traditions, though, are part of what made Holy Rosary so special.

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