The Kids of St. John’s


Wayne Michael DeHart   (March 7, 2021)

From nineteen fifty-four through nineteen sixty-two,
we roamed those halls, and that schoolyard too.
Some years a lay teacher, but most with a nun,
some years a split class, but all remained one.
As we grew up together, we lived by one rule:
this fortress, these bricks, were more than a school.
Discipline was swift and the homework took hours,
as lessons were learned, their values became ours.

The public school students threw us a glance,
as we engaged in our pomp and our circumstance.
Though we learned with grace in that parochial space,
Sacred Heart School enlightened at much the same pace.
The “Irish church” (St Joseph’s, right next to the school)
and the “French church” (Sacre Coeur) were utterly cool.
That’s what we thought, so that’s what we said,
when asked by others if we saw transfers ahead.

Green was our color, gold were our stars,
we led with our right, and we left without scars.
Some departed, some came, (“Hey, what’s your name?”),
but most stayed the course, the bond stayed the same.
Some struggled to keep up, to fit in, to belong,
but we weathered the storms and we all got along.
At some point in time, grade five or grade six,
we knew we’d be fine and we knew what to fix.

The nuns seemed more gracious as the years passed by,
and we all got smarter, as we reached for the sky.
Crushes were born and notes would soon pass,
as flirting at recess became flirting in class.
Our last two years we learned compassion and care
but that life could be daunting and not always fair.
The eighth-grade teacher, Scholastic and stern,
pulled me aside, told me “write what you learn.”

We graduated and moved on to Laconia High,
with new friends to find, with new things to try.
We brought memories born of eight years a team,
but were starting all over, swimming upstream.
Our academic foundations served us quite well,
we knew how to think and we knew how to spell.
Some of us went one way, and some went another,
but she stayed my sister, and he stayed my brother.

What strengths will we have, which skills will we lack?
What point might we miss, if we never look back?
“You reap what you sow”, “You are what you know”,
“To fail is to grow” – perspectives gained so long ago.
So we turned back to the books, heading into the turn.
We had courses to conquer, and a diploma to earn.
Some days tested our mettle, but none brought us down,
thanks to family and friends and the good folks in town.

Our grammar school home from those formative days,
now renamed and relocated, has evolved in its ways.
The students are fewer, but the same standards apply.
Do your best, help the rest, and still reach for the sky.
I’ve heeded her words and written down what I’ve learned;
respect is earned, trust returned, and bridges get burned.
I walked the halls of the decayed building before it was locked.
Felt their presence, heard their voices, as they listened and talked.

We choose to remember things we’d rather forget,
because we treasure the triumph of challenges met.
The forty-seven students who shared their last days there,
have traveled different pathways, have breathed different air.
But one thing has stayed constant, across life’s many lawns,
whether I’ve stood up with knights, or stood down with pawns.
From so many sunsets, through so many dawns,
I’d still see the faces of the kids of St. John’s.


(Writer’s note: “The eighth-grade teacher, Scholastic and stern,” – the word “Scholastic” is capitalized for a reason, i.e., the 8th grade teacher was a nun who chose the vocational name Sister Scholastica, who truly was both scholastic and stern, yet a true and dedicated educator with a passion for music on the side.)

The 47 faces of the kids of St. John’s School, Class of 1962, Laconia, NH:
To those who have passed, may their stars burn bright.
To those who remain, keep reaching for the sky.
In spirit, the bond remains intact, and the 47 remain as one.

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7 thoughts on “The Kids of St. John’s

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  2. This story is so wonderful. No being very popular all through my school years brings back some sad memories but also some great ones. I will say, tho, I wouldn’t trade it for any other life. We had a great education and a life long connection of which I am grateful. It took my adult years to realize the value what we have. Thanks for the memory!


    • Marsha, thank you for the kind words, and you have clearly recognized the essence of the poem – to remind us, and any reader that may have been part of a small, somewhat-structured, sub-group within a much larger group during the early years , that being part of something special, to share a bond, often takes a lifetime to truly appreciate. We were offered a degree of guidance that many were not, even if we didn’t always truly understand the reasons for the hurdles and hardships that sometimes came along with it. Fifty-nine years later, it is clear that one’s “popularity” at age 9 or 12 matters not on the pathway of life, matters not in the final measures of success, fulfillment and happiness, and matters not to the people whose lives they’ve enriched along the way. “What point might we miss, if we never look back?” That says it all and in looking back, the “popular” class president, at age 72, can attest to the fact that he, perhaps more than all the rest, missed the point over and over again, because he was too preoccupied with looking ahead. As for the “sad memories”, I’m guessing they became building blocks that made you the woman, the person, you are today. When I wrote “and we left without scars” early in the poem, I was more than aware that I was selfishly speaking for myself right there. But I left it in simply because scars, be they emotional, psychological or physical, can serve as unrelenting reminders that “We choose to remember things we’d rather forget,
      because we treasure the triumph of challenges met.” I believe most of our class, and those SJS classes that came before and came after, met their challenges, and carried their St. John’s bedrock with them every step of the way. – WMD


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