Sure it was a Sports-Oriented School...

Even so, some musicians were produced






Yet Another Award Winning Page From

Harry G. Pellegrin

Novelist and Musician






 

What's Here!


Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

ORDER LOW END

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Mount St. Michael Academy

4300 Murdock Avenue

Bronx, New York 10466

Mount Saint Michael Academy opened in the 1920's as a boarding school. Below is a neat shot of the main building (then the ONLY building) as scanned from the 1974 Mountaineer Year book. The color photo above was taken on 11-26-01.

In 1968 I had begun attending Mount Saint Michael Academy, also known by disrespectful students as “The Concentration Camp on the Hill.”  This was an all-boy's junior and senior high school well known for its sports programs.  The Mount was also considered academically superior to many of the local parochial schools and definitely on a higher level of excellence than the public high schools in the area.  My parents had always been lenient with me when it came to self-expression.  If I wanted to wear green bell bottoms and grow my hair long -- even if they didn't approve of the style – they would allow me to go that route and even defend my right to be strange!  By 1967 my hair was a good bit longer than was socially acceptable and definitely way past the Mount's nothing-on-the-collar code.  I soon realized I really couldn't fight this; I could be going to public school after all.  My father went to bat for me every time the Dean of Discipline would send a letter home in an attempt to have me dress more conservatively.  The Mount had a tie and sport jacket policy.  They didn't indicate either sizing or color -- facts I was well known to exploit.  Needless to say, I had most of my fellow students -- the jocks -- wanting to beat me up because I was different.  To give a glimpse into what six years at the Mount did for me, let me tell you about my response to my ‘recent graduate’ survey.  When asked ‘What is the most important thing Mount St. Michael’s taught you?” I responded “Never trust a man who wears a dress.”

But I was a seventeen year old kid full of vinegar.  The Mount was not to blame for my knee-jerk reaction.  You see, my experiences were gleaned during those last years of the Viet Nam War—a time when the Marist Brothers were overrun by men who didn’t necessarily wish to don the cloth—the camo cloth of the United States Army, that is.  They were happy to hide behind the habit of the Marist Brothers and avoid a trip to Canada.  These few non-dedicated individuals poisoned many a young mind, I am certain.  There were many outstanding educators and mentors at the Mount and I’d like to dedicate this page to them.

Left: a portion of my seventh grade class, class 7-1 as photographed in September of 1968. I was eleven years old and about a foot shorter than most of my classmates. Can you say 'oft beaten'? Knew you could. That's me seated at the right end of the bench.






The BIG GUY (asfar as us little squirts were concerned) was Mr. Richard Tricario, Dean of Discipline. I liked the guy immensely. He would sit behind his desk and gaze up at me with the most exquisite look of pained boredom -- covering a heck of a load of mirth-- after I'd been sent down to his office for either my hair or one of a multitude of sartorial peccadilloes. The student body to a man referred to him as 'Tricky Dicky' but would have never had either the nerve or the disrespect to call him that to his face. I never knew him to raise his voice or a hand, and yet he commanded total obedience and genuine affection from most of us. I truly believe this was due to the man's basic honesty--you knew where you stood with him and could, on occasion, reason your way to a 'bargain' on the hair issue. His brother also taught at the Mount.

Joseph Tricario was cut from the same bolt of fabric as Richard -- kind and honest, he was also a bit mellower, probably because he wasn't the Dean of Discipline and could get away with it. Joe Tricario (as we all called him -- "Mr. Tricario's my brother" he'd say) was my Driver's Ed teacher in 1974. Joe Tricario passed away very young, I believe before the end of the seventies. You know they say 'Only the Good Die Young', well, here's who they were thinking of.when the line was spawned. I took Driver's Ed. as a summer classd in '74 because it had booked solid during the school year. Joe would have us drive around the tree-lined streets of New Rochelle in a big 1974 Impala. He never used the extra brake pedal and made you feel like you were doing well behind the wheel. I'd been driving since I was 13, so I probably wasn't all that bad anyway. Once he showed us the apartment he and his wife had rented when they were first married. It was over a garage. That's the kind of guy he was, he'd share personal things with you and took a genuine interest in us kids as well. He was not pretentious in any way. I felt genuine loss when I'd heard of his passing.

Brother Roch Rotunno was an older brother who had taught Math in 1968. I had him when in class 7-1. He was kindly and dedicated to teaching. He had a great sense of humor as well. He retired in the very early seventies and worked in the Book Store with Brother Leo. Brother Leo was one of those 'Bells of St. Mary's' type clergymen. You just knew he had God's ear. He and Brother Roch were a true blessing to know.

Another Math teacher who made a difference, Mike Ciaiola. I had him for Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. His hair and sideburns were always way past the Mount's standard for proper gentleman's grooming. That's why we loved the guy -- we knew he was one of us! Because of our affinity for him, we never disrupted his classes and tried our best to do well.

Brother Joseph Hager was my freshman year history teacher. He was the first person I encountered in the High School who made me feel I could contribute anything to this world. (I guess some must have thought it would build character, because there were a few teachers who would seemingly concentrate on belittling a student. Not Brother Joe.)







Mr. Alexander Joseph, Big Al to us little fry. His was a hard-boiled visage, hiding a soul full of humor and a commanding personality. He was an amazing character who could have stepped from the pages of a Dashiell Hammett novel. This picture doesn't capture him accurately -- he most often wore a bow tie. He had that rare knack of making whatever subject matter he was teaching seem interesting.







Brother Thomas Simmons was a science teacher in the Junior High when I arrived in. He was the first teacher at Mount that made me feel like I had half a brain in my head. That's a good thing when you're a year younger than every kid in the class and because of that something of a pariah.





Brother Daniel Andrews taught American History and could often be heard to say "Pellegrin, Monaco, get up, get out!" Jay Monaco and I were always doing something to pester the guy. He did nothing to deserve it. He taught history in a way that made you feel he was there -- and no, he wasn't that old!






Frank Orlando was a new teacher in the Fall of 1971 and was assigned to teach me and my heathen buddies sophomore year religion. He was nervous. He also needed to maintain discipline. My favorite anecdote recounts the time one of my classmates took an eraser to the head that had someone else's name on it. This other guy who sat on the front row (naturally) would start sliding his desk towards the door a few seconds before the bell would ring. he'd get closer and closer, distracting everyone from whatever doctrinal dissertation Mr. Orlando would have embarked upon. One afternoon, the kid crept closer and closer towards the door -- and Mr. Orlando, about midway down the room was watching. As the bell rang and the kid took off, Mr. Orlando wound up and blasted the wooden eraser at the departing miscreant. Of course, another kid about three feet ahead of Mr. O's arm had jumped up and took the erase point-blank to the back of the head. You know how a scalp wound bleeds! Mr. Orlando always considered this one of those days that taught him how to be a teacher! No real harm was done...

Howie Smith -- the gym teacher and football coach. Howie was a great guy. I read a piece in a Mount publication in '94 talking about him in the past tense. I assume that he's gone -- aside from the fact that he'd be about a thousand years old by now! I have one great Howie story. There was a blow-out during a gym class -- one that I was not involved in. Howie lined us all up and came down the row. When he got up to me, he turned and punched me a good one. Hey, I was a big enough jerk for him at times, so even though I wasn't guilty of this particular transgression, I figured I was entitled to it anyway. Weeks later, Howie pulled me aside and apologized. He asked me why I hadn't told him at the time that I was not deserving. I told him the same thing -- I was paying for my past transgressions. He laughed and put an arm around me. I believe from that moment on, Howie and I had an understanding -- that he was a decent guy, and that I could be counted on to accept responsibility for my actions.

Hey, just some shots of me and the boys... Here's a portion of class 3-F in our yearbook picture taken in September of 1972. That's me in the upper right hand corner. Anthony Pernice is front row center. Joseph Petrone, the world's biggest Imus in the Morning fan stands to the left. My hair is pretty much regulation length here, but you can't relaly see the purple paisley shirt and maroon velvet vest in this black and white photo. In this next photo, below, right, you can see the paisley shirt and maroon velvet waistcoat -- plus a ten foot long American flag tie. My hair was not regulation length by this point in October of 1973. Man, when I think how I dressed -- totally Fire Island! (And I don't mean that in a good way.)


The next picture, below left, was taken April 23, 1974 at the first annual talent show organized by our typing teacher Anne Swanson. She was also hoemroom teacher for class 3-F and almost made me late for my first gig-- I got jug that day... Following me is a nice yearbook photo of Mrs. Swanson. I won an award at the show. It still hangs on my wall -- it is a high point of my High School career. Funny how I was more or less a school outcast up until April 23, 1974 but found more friends after my performance. You can see the knees of one of my friends before and after, Matthew Manfredi, straddling the music stand.












The director of our Glee Club and all around great educator, Paul Guadagno. He let me play bass (and Walter Murphy of 'Fifth of Beethoven' fame was on piano) for a rendition of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' at a school performance in 1969. This was my first-ever public appearance with a stringed instrument and I can remember every dropped note 'til this day! He worked hard with us boys and we always managed to sing well...










I owe some of my success as an author to the man pictured at right. William Vallar was my junior year English teacher. I signed up for Creative Writing for senior year, but Mr. Vallar told me I'd never be able to write. Did you know my novel LOW END was released 3-8-04 -- after a long carreer writing for various publications? I don't think he ever intented his critique to be inspirational. Still, I guess he deserves a left-handed 'thanks'. BUT don't construe this to mean he wasn't a good teacher and a decent enough guy. He was on both counts. It's just funny how our words can have incredible ramifications, eh?>



One educator and mentor stands head and shoulders above the rest. Joel Occhiuto was my Spanish teacher for two years. It was during his class that Regents College Scholarship winners were announced. I had won one and my classmates decided to ride me a bit. Mr. O came to my defense very eloquently and I'll never forget the good tingle of vindicated self-worth I felt. Someone outside my family thought I had some value. Mr. O is still at the Mount and this is a good thing. Young men need this kind of influence in their lives.











Harry G. Pellegrin

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LOW END is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of American Book Publishing.

ISBN 1-58982-074-6

LOW ENDCopyright 2003 Harry G. Pellegrin

In God We Trust













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