Joe Beakie.html


At the time, I must have been about 8 years old. I was assigned to one of the several dorms located throughout the huge 5 story main building. Each area had its own group of kids assigned to clean up the area and make beds. Each of these areas had a nun that was in overall charge. These nuns didn’t ordinarily have anything to do with monitoring the kids themselves, but some nuns took extra interest in their areas. The dorm nun in our area was a prime example. She would take a detour at night, down this long hallway, past our dorms, which then would turn left, at a right angle, then continue down an even longer hallway toward the nuns’ quarters.

The nun in charge of our dorm must have been 80 years old. She had a slight hunchback , and sometimes walked around with a wad of tissue paper in her mouth, probably because she had some tooth or gum problem. She must have had large, painful, bunions because she had a hole cut out of the top of one shoe and she walked with a heavy limp because of the bad foot. She walked with a cane and, sometimes, while supervising the work detail, she used a broom, turned up-side-down, as a cane. The nuns’ habit (dress) was white with a black vail and, on dressy occasions, was topped with a floor length black cape. With the cape, the hunchback, the wrinkled face, the wad of tissue, and the broom, she looked like a witch.

Her name was Sister Josephus. We called her "Joe Beakie" because she had a powerful, exceptional nose for smelling. She was a human blood hound! She could smell peanut butter a mile away. She called it coco butter. The kids would sometimes save peanut butter sandwiches from the supper table, and bring them to bed for a midnight snack. On many of those occasions, during her rounds, you would first hear a big heave door open and then slam shut way down the long hallway. Then, you would hear her heavy walk and the tapping of her cane like a horror movie. .. step ..boom; step .. BOOM! Then her monotone, slow but heavy voice; .. "WHO’S GOT THE COCO BUTTER!"; step .. BOOM; .. step .. BOOM! It was eerie! .. in fact it was scary! .. like a Frankenstein movie! All the kids would lay absolutely still in the dark listening to "Joe Beakie" getting closer and closer; louder and louder. Then .. into the dorm where the peanut butter sandwich was located, .. step .. BOOM .. STEP .. BOOM! "WHO’S GOT THE COCO BUTTER! We were on pins and needles! She would go right to the boy with the sandwich, confiscate it, then leave. .. STEP .. BOOM ..step .. BOOM! .. Nobody would dare move! She would fade on down the hall .. step .. BOOM .. boom … boom .. boom … Finally, she was gone. Boy! .. I’ll tell you! .. It was like a spooky movie!

At night, when she made her rounds, any of the kids that were awake talking would sound the warning in a loud whisper, "Chicky! Chicky! Here comes Joe Beakie, .. here comes Joe Beakie!"(Chicky was an institutional slang which meant "watch out, warning") We would all get perfectly still and pretend to be asleep. And the spooky movie would start once more! .. STEP .. BOOM .. step .. boom …… boom …… boom! … Ghostly! .. Real GHOSTLY!


On the grounds of St. Agnes, and some distance from any building, was located a pig pen. It was off limits to the kids unless they came in properly supervised groups. It was just inside the wood line and out of sight from the main path through the school grounds. We kids used to sneak up to the pig pen and watch the pigs act like pigs. How they could eat that nasty slushy all mixed up and stinky food; used to intrigue us! Yuck! Yuck! I remember when the caretaker would dump barrels of slop into the food troughs and the pigs would run over and eat it up like caviar. They then would go rolling in the mud and mire. One time a caretaker had them on a concrete area and washed them down with a hose. And do you know what? They went right back to rolling in the mud! Sloppy critters! They just had to make pigs of themselves! I guess they’re just natural born PIGS!


On the same floor that our dorm was located, there was a room used as a candy store. At this time I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was a very old nun who ran the store by herself. There was a long glass display counter where you could view the available selections. About two or three yards behind the nun, were other items for sale. By the way, a nickel candy bar those days used to be twice as big as today’s dollar bar! Anyway, we used to give one of the kids a dime to buy something that was behind the nun. Because she moved so slow and was so hard of hearing, when she moved to the back of the room, this enabled one of us to run in behind the counter and take handfuls of candy. The nun never caught on!

PETE’S NOTES: In retrospect, this was not a nice thing to do, but who’s fault was that? We were not supervised! We were monitored and herded like animals. We did not have parental figures to emulate! We didn’t have anything that remotely resembled a normal family life. In order to escape the drudgery and monotony of institutional life, we would simply create fun and enjoyment anyway we could!

You know, when there is a lack of proper supervision to guide us, we normally turn to our pier groups for support. In an institution, that doesn’t always work so well but, once we escape institutional life, we usually shuck off these childlike antics and act more normal. I once read or heard a philosophy expounded. It actually had to do with the influence of pier groups verses parental guidance or the lack there of; but I think it is more apropos to these types of institutions! It goes something like this:

"We often become successful, productive, well adjusted members of society, not BECAUSE of our institutions, but in SPITE of them!"

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