Monday, October 27, 2008


I was surfing the Net last night and ran across a bit of nostalgia dating back to when I was Eleven years olde and attending Parochial school. My grandparents were Polish immigrants, and the Catholic Church was a brooding presence in my life, even though I only attended Kindergarten and First Grade at that school. There was an Awareness that you were always being Watched, you were always being Judged, and all the angels forfend if you were to die with a blemish on your soul!
You could burn forever!!

There were fearsome nuns to insure that the children didn't step out of line, there was the sharp sting of the pointer-stick -- suffering is noble-- , there was attendance at Mass among the images of the Tortured Christ, and, of course, there was the public humiliations before your peers if you weren't sufficiently obedient and might dare to Question Authority. However!
There were the comic-books!

WHAT!? say you? In a Catholic School?? Strange as it sounds... yes. This was a particular double-bind for me. The reason that I had so much friction with Sister Leticia was that I apparently "acted above myself;" I was quite literate in First Grade, far beyond the Dick and Jane primers the rest of my classmates were just learning. The reason? Well, not only did my parents read to me regularly, but when a neighbor's mother bought him his (weekly) comics, she bought two: one for her to read to him, and one for him to look at the pictures. Every week they gave me one set of those comics. Action Comics. Batman. Superman. World's Finest. Wonder Woman. Justice League of America.

A side-effect of reading these fantastic titles was that I picked up factoids that widened my horizons. Nuclear fission. The Age of Dinosaurs. The Golden Age of Greece. Apparently, not things that an eight-year old is supposed to know about. So, I was punished. Intelligence is bad. But as I mentioned, however...

There was a comic book produced exclusively for parochial schools, and it was called Treasure Chest : Fun and Facts. It was a Catholic-oriented publication for children, and all-American, anti-Communist besides. You could read visual biographies of the Popes, and the Saints; it would illustrate Catholic dogma (the difference between mortal and venial sins is that the former could see you burning in Hell); it had mildly amusing, non-sequitar, pun-oriented strips told in six panels; and it carried biographies of sports heroes. One of the most interesting aspects of the magazine, though, was that it was relatively egalitarian in its presentation of the heroes and icons, although their race and ethnicities were not ignored. Jessie Owens and Jackie Robinson, and Hispanic missionaries rising to advance their people and raise their communities up despite humble beginnings and prejudice. In America, with Faith, and Hard Work, anything was possible.

Although I left Catholic School after First Grade (in a controversy that is another tale) and my family moved to another state, my relatives continued to send me the monthly issues of Treasure Chest for years. And in 1964, a story ran across several issues explaining the process by which our President is selected by postulating the campaign of 1976. I did not really remember that series until the initial nostalgic link beginning this diary reminded me, but then, oh how it came rushing back! It was quite progressive for its day, and its theme concerned social justice and the American Dream. It was preaching to the children of 1964 who would be voting in 1976, and it was clearly a challenge and a call to justice.

That was thirty-two years ago, so its arrival may be late, but this parochial comic book did try to be on the right side of history. So, however it came about, in the spirit of Hope and Change, may I just say : "GOD BLESS AMERICA!"

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At 9:31 PM, Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Pettigrew looks like Lou Rawls. Interesting stuff.

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