Pennies from Ignatius


As I mentioned Sunday, Mary requested that I revert to calling this feature “Wednesdays for my Wife,” so I’ve rebuilt the graphic.

This is not a family story, but it’s one of Mary’s favorites.

One of my best friends from grammar school was a guy I’ll just refer to as J. His mother and my mother went to school together and had been lifelong friends. J moved to Chicago with his family at the end of sixth grade, and we ended up graduating from grammar school together, and we remained friends through high school and college.

J was an intelligent and good-looking guy, but he tended to court disaster no matter what he did. For example, he had been walking home from school one day, tripped over his own feet, fell forward, and fractured his finger at the knuckle. Another time, he broke his toe by kicking what he thought was a pumpkin but was really a shot put painted orange. But he will always be remembered for what happened after the eighth grade taffy apple sale.

As a community service project, we, the eighth grade at St. Ignatius School, decided to hold a taffy apple sale and donate the proceeds to the missions. We made all of the arrangements with the Affy Tapple Company and agreed to staff the booth to sell the taffy apples after lunch on a particularly nice day in the spring. For the princely sum of twelve whole cents, one could get a delicious confection consisting of one crisp, medium-sized Delicious apple, coated with creamy, chewy caramel and rolled in peanuts (there was a peanut-free version), resting in a paper muffin cup and with a heavy, pointed stick pushed into the bottom so that it could be held like a lollipop.

The sale was an enormous success, and by one o’clock we had sold all of the taffy apples and were now left with the job of counting the money. As you can probably imagine, given the price of twelve cents, combined with the fact that many of our customers were younger, the lion’s share of the coins we received were pennies. Sister Rosemary, our eighth grade teacher, thought it would be a good idea to separate the coins and carry them to the rectory. We spent the better part of the afternoon separating the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies into various containers. We ended up with part of a shoebox full of quarters, part of a shoebox full of dimes, part of a shoebox full of nickels, and two shoeboxes full of pennies. Several of us (I wasn’t one of them) were then appointed to carry said boxes full of coins to the rectory. J, who was trying very hard to impress the heck out of some of the girls, told Sister he would be able to handle both boxes full of pennies all by himself, and would not take no for an answer.

“J, the stairs are awfully steep, and the boxes are quite heavy.”

“That’s okay, Sister, I can handle it,” J said, wearing that big stupid grin that he always wore when he was trying to show how capable he was of dealing with a situation.

“Oh, all right, but please, be careful.” Sister stacked the two boxes into his arms, and he was off.

Before I go any further, I need to explain that St. Ignatius School consisted of two buildings connected by a bridge. The east building had wooden floors and staircases without landings from the ground floor to the second; the west, built to more modern safety standards, had concrete floors and landings. The previous year, the parish school board decided to move Grades 1 through 5 to the west building and Grades 6 through 8 to the east building, leaving the kindergarten on the ground floor in the east building where it had always been. So J had to make it down about twenty stairs, from the second floor, carrying two shoeboxes full of pennies, without falling.

Of course, he couldn’t do that. Within a minute of his departure, we heard “WHOOPS!”, the sound of tumbling and the sound of pennies being strewn all the way down the stairs. Sister just closed her eyes and waited for the commotion to stop before going out and looking. When she (and the rest of us) went out into the hallway and looked down the stairs, there was J, sprawled at the bottom of the staircase with that stupid grin on his face, surrounded by what seemed to be 100 kindergarteners (who were lined up for “toilet recess”) swarming around, feverishly gathering pennies…

9 thoughts on “Pennies from Ignatius

  1. Hi John – what a great story .. wonderful wording especially at the end “by what seemed to be 100 kindergarteners (who were lined up for “toilet recess”) swarming around, feverishly gathering pennies…”

    Yay for Mary – glad you changed it back .. all the best Hilary


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