Recollection by Whitman (Pete) Cross OPC '50
One of my early memories of recess in the winter was sledding down the short, steep hill onto the snow-covered tennis courts! If we got soaked, we were allowed to hang up our wet outer clothes in the "boiler room" ... a scary place to visit! One of the Burkes (the family that lived at the rear entrance to the PC grounds and provided many of the workers keeping the school running smoothly: cutting grass, staffing the locker room, etc.) was the "fireman" tending to the huge furnace by shoveling coal into the open grate to keep the fire hot enough to heat the boiler that sent hot water throughout the school to the radiators in each classroom.
During several of my years at PC, many of us held our recess time in the courtyard bounded on two sides by floor-to-ceiling windows along a hallway and the open cellarway that allowed light to enter the basement windows. Sized cinders (same sized grains as course sand) served as the base material we played on. In good weather, we would bring small bags of colored marbles to school to use as prizes or as currency in the many different designed runways we created by building structures in the cinders. Unfortunately, on a number of occasions, our marble bags broke during class time, creating quite an interruption!
A PC experience that one can only appreciate as an adult looking back with admiration: the trips run by Mr. Walters, head of the Middle School. Each year, he took maybe the sixth grade(?) on a train trip to see the sites in Washington, D.C. To run such an adventure required a great deal of planning, good luck and the support of several accompanying parents. From what I remember, each class had a very positive experience. Perhaps one of the more important bits of knowledge that helped make these trips so successful: Mr. Walters knew where every toilet facility was located wherever we ventured in D.C.!
During my time at PC, we were fortunate to have as our music teacher Mr. Maclary, an accomplished choir director for a large church. Each year at PC, he worked with the two chorus groups: the Senior Chorus and the Junior Hundred. As a member of the Junior Hundred, I remember the long hours of practice as we got ready for several concerts during the year. My big embarrassment during these practice sessions came one day when he stepped down off the auditorium stage and walked right up to me to say that I was talking the words, not singing! How in the world could he have the skill to pick me out of the mass of students? The culmination of our efforts always terminated with our annual, combined appearance at the Academy of Music. Classes were suspended for several days as we practiced all day before the big concert. This was a scary but exciting experience to stand on that stage, looking out over a huge audience at the incredible beauty of the Academy’s architecture. But, alas, my voice finally changed, thereby ending my singing career at PC!
With all the discussion these days about concussions among athletes, I always think back to the time when I was playing first base on the second team in baseball. The pitcher and I ran for a fly ball and hit heads. I was knocked out for a minute or two followed by several innings on the bench recovering. Finally, I said I was ready to go back in the game. Well, not for long! In a warm-up session, the third baseman threw a ball to me; suddenly, I realized I had no depth perception! I could only judge how close the ball was by its size! Scary, for sure! As you can imagine, I sat out the rest of the game! I’ve always wondered what a brain scan at the time would have revealed?
I played center halfback on the varsity soccer team during my last two years. There are two memorable experiences we all had that died with the times, not to be part of players in the '70s and beyond. One memory was the soccer shoes, all imported from England. They had a hard box toe that was perhaps two inches high in the front; the cleats were made of leather washers with four nails driven through each of them and into the soles of the boots. Periodically, we wore out or lost a cleat. This required Joe Burke, the locker room manager, to install another cleat. He did this by placing the shoe upside down on a steel anvil shaped like a shoe; then he pounded the cleat through the sole and bent the nails over so your socks would not tear. Often we had to have the cleats pounded down to flatten the nails again. These heavy, fortress-like leather boots had to be softened with oils and broken in through wear over a period of several weeks.
The other memory was the leather soccer ball in use at the time. Each year, the fall soccer season entered into colder weather with occasion wet, cold rain or even snow flurries. Whenever the balls got wet, they got much heavier; smart players never tried to head these balls! If the temp was in the 30s and the ball was wet, we all carried huge red marks on our legs whenever these heavy balls hit us during play. Kicking a wet ball required a change in tactics for players on both sides!