In 1954 we were the Freshman class

girls from many parishes, wearing

new blue uniforms

with crisp white blouses,

bobby socks and penny loafers,

blue and white beanie caps;

Assigned our lockers

and a list of the rooms

of all our classes.

In my dreams, I still lose

the slip of paper with my

classes listed on it and have

to go to Sister Emily’s office

to get another.  I may have lost

that list once or twice every

year. I may have been slightly 


Religion, English, General Math,

Science, Domestic Science (Sewing).

I was not very good at sewing and

spent a year making a pair of pajamas

with French seams.

Public Speaking. I had a class in

Public Speaking? P.E. I did not like

P.E. and it did not like me.  I think the

teacher took pity on the girl with two

left feet. she allowed me to be the coach.

In 1955, we were the Sophomores

No longer the new kids on the block.

We were worldly, experienced, and knew

our way around the halls and up and down

the stairwells. I still lost my list of classes once

or twice until I had them memorized.

Religion, English, Biology.  (Sister Joseph, I remember

you well–oh, that all the world could have been as

enthusiastic as you!)

World History, Public Speaking (again?) Domestic

Science (Cooking Class; I love you Mrs. Cunningham,

where ever you are). P.E. How did I ever get a 97.5

average in P.E.? (is this really my report card?)

In 1956 we became Juniors.

No longer babies. “Young women” sister said.

Religion, English, U.S. History, Homemaking II.

typing! (I loved typing class) Office Practice.

(Sister Joseph again. We practiced writing checks

for weeks. Sister was a stickler for getting it right.

To this day I write a pretty good check.) P.E. (how

did I ever get a 92.5 average?)

A in Conduct. (OK, I could live with that.)

In 1957 we became the Senior Class.

Religion, English, Business Math,

Problems of Democracy (Democracy is

still having problems  fifty years later)

Typing, P.E., The Senior Prom. Getting our

pictures taken. Final Exams, graduation Day

in front of the school.

(Of all the things, the documents, driver’s license,

birth certificates for four sons, and bits of paper

that have trailed me through life, much has been lost

along the way, but somehow I have managed to keep

four important report cards, proof that I was there

for four years and graduated from Mother of Mercy

High School June 4, 1958).

Requiem for Mother of Mercy High School

Last April I attended the 60th class reunion for the class of 1958; it was held in the school cafeteria, after we had a group photograph taken in front of the school. Then we were allowed to explore the school, much of it just the same as it was 60 years ago when we were students.  Mother of Mercy opened its doors in 1915. A couple of years ago, Mercy celebrated its 100th year as a Catholic girls high school. As of this school year, Mercy is merging with McCauley High School, at McCauley. Our Mercy building is being bought – possibly to the Cincinnati public school system.  – sls




Sandra Lee Schmidt/Smith

Class of 1958


In 2018 I attended my 60th class reunion, held inside the high school, along with perhaps 40-something  classmates. (I think there were about 250 girls in my 12th grade graduating class) it would be our final class reunion held at Mother of Mercy, in April of 2018; Mercy has been in the process of merging with McAuley Girls High School. Mercy celebrated its 100th year teaching girls in 2015.

I wasn’t the only former student shedding tears at what is most likely our last class reunion. I wasn’t the best of student during those four years–preoccupied, at times, with working in the school cafeteria, the school library, and cleaning classrooms for 50c an hour, to help pay for my tuition and receiving free lunches. I didn’t feel as though I fit in at Mercy–the majority of the students in 1954 were from well-to-do families–and like it or not, the nuns knew which students came from well to do families and which ones didn’t.  and we knew that they knew this.  The sisters would insist that the reason we wore uniforms was so we would all be on a level playing field.  Don’t you believe it.

For one thing, our report cards (coming from a poorer parish) went to our parish priest for review before it was given to us to take home top our parents. The parish paid half of your tuition.  I don’t believe I was the only student in the 1950s who was aware of my “lesser” status.  Even so, there were classes at Mercy that I loved – cooking class for one (Domestic Science), office practice, sewing classes,  typing classes (in which I excelled), reading and writing and memorizing poetry. I was a terrible student in American History in my Junior year of school for the first semester. The teacher took pity on me and said I could make up any tests I did not pass.  I was mortified–I knew that the only reason I was failing was my failure to study.  I did much better the second semester –I have often wished I could have let the teacher, Mrs. Schuab, how I developed a great interest in American History about a decade later, and how surprised I think she would have been.

Mrs. Cunningham, my cooking teacher, knew from the start that I was   greatly interested in “domestic science” – my mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was about ten years old.

I was unable to attention the first four  class reunions, held every five years; the first I attended was our 25th reunion and I think I attended all the rest. I was also able to purchase the four year books for my years at Mercy, when I was there in 2018 – books I couldn’t afford when I was a student.


Sandra Lee Schmidt/Smith




There were some teachers in my life

who stand out in my memory,

Now, more than 50 years ago,

My first grade teacher, Sister Tarcisius,

Who taught my sister, brother, father,

aunt and uncle

and celebrated  her Golden Jubilee

as a Franciscan nun is first

to come to mind;

She was a gentle woman

who taught first graders for five decades

I prefer not to remember my fourth grade

teacher, sister Cecilia, who perhaps

would have been better off

anywhere but teaching young children;

she pulled my hair once when

I entered church without a scarf on my head

(which I had forgotten to wear)

she pulled me by the hair out of church

and threatened to beat me.

I told my mother, who send sister a note

telling her if anyone was going to beat

her daughter, it would be her and not

sister Cecilia.  Sister never forgave me

for that.  Fourth grade was an ordeal.

I wonder now why I didn’t ask to be

changed to another fourth grade class?

It just wasn’t done, I think.

But the fifth grade brought me to Sister Doris Marie,

who taught us long division and diagramming

sentences, who read stories to the class and

loved children; we loved her in return.

The greatest gift I received for sixth grade

was a return to Sister Doris Marie’s classroom.

She taught me to love school.

Eighth grade brought me to the classroom

of Sister Charlene, who was also St Leo’s school

Principal. the 8th grade girls would follow

Sister Charlene around the playground; she

was also greatly loved by her students.

After graduating from 8th grade, I began

going to high school at Mother of Mercy

where I immediately made an enemy of

Sister Seraphia who found me entering

the Cloister as I tried to find my Science

Class on the first day of school. “Didn’t

you see the sign reading “Cloister?” she

remanded. “Yes, ” I said, “but I didn’t know

what it meant.”  Sister Seraphia had it in

for me for four years starting with my

Freshman religion class.

At my 50th class reunion, a group of us

were standing outside in the parking

lot–Sister Seraphia was one of the people

in that group. I told my cloister story and

she said “Oh, you probably didn’t know

what it mean”.  Really, Sister Seraphia?

I carried a burden of guilt for 54 years?


I had several favorite teachers in high school;

Mrs. Cunningham, our cooking teacher was

one–I was finally in my element. Another was

my American History Teacher and my typing

teacher–both read my stories and encouraged

me to write.  These were a few of the teachers

who saw something in me that I didn’t know

wat there at the time.

At my sixtieth class reunion in April of 2018, I

was able to purchase the four Mercy yearbooks

for 1955-1958 and now the names of all these

teachers are firm in my memory.

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written February 2010, updated

June, 2018



No matter how long I’ve been gone this time,

Much of it is still the same;

The house that my grandparents owned, still stands;

The church and school, down on the corner (where my

father, aunt and uncle went to school)–where I went

to school for eight years, remains. The mom & pop

grocery shops on the corners are  boarded and gone,

as are the merchants who sold us their goods;

But there are still thickets of forests and parks,

Mount Airy and Winton woods.

Downtown is different and somehow still the same,

Fountain Square has been moved several feet;

Shillitoes, Pogues, McAlpin’s are gone;

a new stadium makes change complete;

The Ohio River looks much the same,

Newport-on-the-Levee, however, is new,

(and a delight to visit), I don’t recognize the

strange purple bridge    over the river,

or where the expressways go to;

Camp Washington Chili Parlor is still standing (after 75 years

and still family owned) and yet The building was moved

to widen the street (a must to visit for lunches while I am there),

Findlay Market still stands but has been renovated

and greatly expanded to make its transformation complete.

I know its my home. I visit my school where I

graduated from high school sixty years ago; my

school, Mother of Mercy, is merging with another

girls’ high school–my school, built in 1915, the

year my father was born; I attended a class reunion

in April and we were allowed to roam the halls,

bringing back so many memories; our graduating

class of about 250 students has dwindled down to

less than fifty of us in attendance. A photograph

was taken of us, in front of Mother of Mercy, by

a professional photographer,  prints given to all of us

when the reunion was over.

How can so much be changed and yet, so much

is still the same?

I know its my hometown, where I was born (where my parents were born!)

Where I went to St Leo’s school for 8 years, attended high school at Mercy,

got married, worked downtown–and moved to California.  I recognize the

names of the streets where I lived. Except for my grandparents’ home,

the other houses where I once lived are gone.

I am almost a stranger in the place where I was

born.  And yet, there are friends that I greet,

family members gather close to hug and kiss;

Returning home…is always bitter sweet.


Sandra Lee Smith

(originally written in September, 2009; updated June, 2018)