Holy Cross School was not much as schools go. When we consider the millions of dollars spent on school buildings today it could be classified among the poorest of the poor. As a matter of fact, it probably would not be allowed to exist: municipal regulations governing school buildings would prevent it.

This parish school was staffed by those wonderful Notre Dame Sisters. They were wholeheartedly devoted to teaching children even though their working conditions left a great deal to be desired. I don’t think we will ever be able to thank those Good Sisters enough for their contribution to society and education.

The school consisted of two portable buildings out in the middle of a field. They were primitive buildings to say the least. The heat was supplied by a huge stove in the back of each class room. It was kept working by the older boys of the school. We were aware of its presence all the time. At times we roasted and at other times we froze depending upon the skill of the boys.

There was no running water and so the washrooms were out in the back behind the school. Winter time took a great deal of organizing and self control all of which could be very stressful. But we survived and flourished under such a tough regime. Since there was no cafeteria we all ate in the classroom unless we went home for lunch.  We bartered with each other to trade sandwiches and desserts and learned to get along with each other. Remember, this  was the time of the Depression and we survived as best we could.

I want to tell you about one wonderful tradition. After all these years it is so rooted in my mind and emotions that I will never forget it.

During the winter it was the custom to serve hot chocolate at lunch time so that we would always have something warm to drink with our lunch. Every day around eleven o’clock one of the senior girls would come into our class to prepare the chocolate. Oh, how we waited to see her come in the door. Class continued, of course, as she went about her business as quietly as possible. Near eleven thirty the sweet smell of chocolate was starting to permeate the room as we sat there trying to absorb our learning as the gastric juices ran rampant through our little stomachs. “Oh, if noon would only come soon,” seemed to be our mantra.

Suppose we broke every hygienic rule in the book as we downed our lunches, traded sandwiches and enjoyed the elixir of the gods. There was always enough for two cups.

Since then I have enjoyed lunches in many fine establishments throughout this country and even the world. However, the Holy Cross cocoa will never be surpassed when it comes to the expectation created by an impending meal.

The young lady, who made our cocoa for many years, was named Josie. Every child in that classroom knew her and loved her. She seldom spoke to us because she was from the higher grade. How often our lives are touched for the better by people we never meet.  They are just there doing their jobs and we enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Here’s to you, Josie, wherever you are!