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Our time at Quinnesec

May 8, 2012
The Daily News

EDITOR:The solid brick two-story Quinnesec School was built in 1925. I attended from 1950 through 1958.

Some unusual experiences are forever etched in my brain.

The school's ample five acres included numerous ball fields and plenty of space to run wild.

Workup baseball was a favorite, first as a hardball pitched overhand, but changed to a softball by Principal Robert St. Louis after Doug Constantini pitched a baseball that hit catcher Ross Sparpani above the eye.

"Stretch" was a game played by two boys facing each other, each holding their pocketknives. The object was to stick your knife blade into the ground and cause your opponent to stretch his foot to reach the knife. When one player could not reach the knife, he lost or was "stretched."

All of us boys carried pocketknives during school and as long as the knives where out of sight, all was well with the school staff.

In spring as soon as the ground thawed enough next to the school's south wall to allow heel dug "marble pots" the game of marbles became a favorite. Our marbles varied from solids, to purees, cat's eyes, swirls and even ball bearings. We all had marble sacks with pull strings A full marble bag was a great feeling and we happily toted them back to our desks after recess.

The 1950s were the beginning of rockets and we found a way to make our own version. Most ballpoint pens were made of metal at this time, so the long tube made a good rocket body. Using our ever-present pocketknife, we cut the sulphur tips off wood and paper matches to supply the fuel source.

Stuffing the match heads tightly into the "rocket" tube, we then used rocks to prop it up vertical. One of us would light the rocket up and stand back. While the rocket never left the earth, we enjoyed the flames, noise and smoke generated by our rocket. No one was hurt beyond a singed finger or pant leg and the teachers seemed not to notice. We were given a lot of leeway on the playground.

Our favorite teacher was Mr. Ray Mariucci.

He taught Science in 7th and 8th grade and used some innovative teaching methods. During WWII, he belonged to a tank buster unit in Europe. I remember him in his 30's, lean and strong, fun in class, but also respected. One day, to demonstrate his strength, he lifted me over his head. I weighed in at about 135lbs.

He also took over our Physical Education class occasionally. During one of those times, he challenged the boys to an "Indian" wrestling competition.

A pair of students would face each other and try to get the other to lose their balance by pushing or pulling their right arm. This was played as an elimination game, so eventually only one was left (which once was me) and then Mr. Mariucci played the winner.

Not surprisingly, he won.

Black Magic was one of Mr. Mariucci's most wonderful but bewildering games. He only allowed his class "pets" to be the clairvoyant leaders.

He would use "mental telepathy" to inform them what objects in the classroom he was focusing on. We would raise our hands and point at an object and Mr. Mariucci would ask if that was it.

Only late in the year did I find out that the key was when an object picked was black, the next object chosen was "it."

Our regular P.E. teacher was Mr. Cummings, "Dutch" to the rest of the staff. I recently spoke with his son Bill Cummings about his dad.

Bill was 2 years behind me and said his dad also taught Algebra and geometry at Kingsford High School in the afternoons. Bill recalled many of the same activities that I did during our time at Quinnesec.

Most of our Phys Ed classes consisted of games played to make exercising easier to take. One favorite involved sitting on the floor and propelling a huge canvas ball over a net.

Christmas time at school was special.

As we left to start our vacation teachers waited at the doors and handed out paper sacks filled with candy and salted peanuts.

Sometime in early May, the whole school would walk across Hwy 2 and go down to the picnic ground at the Fumee Creek roadside park.

What a wonderful way to spend a school day with everyone enjoying ice cream, pop and unlimited rock climbing or splashing in the creek.

The seventh and eighth graders went to Camp Sanford, which was near Ralph.

The weeklong camp included Mr. George Sanford teaching fly-casting to all of us in the Sturgeon River.

I caught some brook trout during that time which were cleaned and put in the camp fridge until time to take home to mom. Thursday night was parent's night so they enjoyed skits and songs.

I think I fell in love for the first time that night watching a solo singing of "Sentimental Journey" by a cute, tanned freckle faced beauty, named Althea.

I last entered Quinnesec School in the late 1980s when I accepted an offer to play Santa for a pre-school Christmas party. I used the old gym to put the suit on, and just sat for a while in the unlit room recalling the old days.

I mouthed a silent "good bye" and left to play my part and hand out gifts to the kids who would be among the last to walk those old halls.

It was a privilege to spend those childhood years there. The school was demolished in 1996.

Barry Dalberto

Saint Germain, Wis.



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