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Book salutes closed school – Pupils take their memories with them

By Al Lowe
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jonah Bayer, 10, of Allentown, remembers the bowling alley as the “coolest place” at Bishop Leonard School.

The school closed June 7 and will merge with St. Mary of the Mount in Mount Washington, opening Aug. 28.

Bishop Leonard in Mount Oliver was formed from a previous merger, and is affiliated with St. John Vianney parish. Like St. Mary, it served pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh said the name of the merged school is Bishop Leonard-St. Mary of the Mount Academy. Pupils will go to the St. Mary building on Bingham Street in Mount Washington.

On the last day, copies of a book, “Bishop Leonard Memories,” compiling their contributed written memories, were distributed to the 224 pupils. Jonah’s memories were among them.

“The kids were really excited taking away something with such good memories of their school,” Principal Cindy Baldridge said.

The bowling alley was a favorite memory for many.

“Not too many grade schools have them,” wrote Nina Ricciardi, 11, of South Side. “From the outside, it looks really small, but inside, you can tell how big it is. It’s really big for the kind of space it is in.”

The four-lane alley had been unused for years but was refurbished in 2004 through the efforts of teacher Patty Nelson and other volunteers and was dedicated a year later as a recreation center, featuring air hockey and ping-pong tables. It was used for occasional gym classes, Spirit Days and the Bowling Club.

Some other memories shared by the pupils for the book:

“I experienced everything from scraped knees to a broken heart on that playground,” wrote Maegan Wagner, 13, of Mount Oliver.

“My favorite building is the cafeteria. I love food,” wrote Brandon Lewis, 12, of Arlington.

“What people don’t usually notice is the engraved statue [of St. Joseph] near the front door of the school. When I first came to this school in fourth grade, that was the first thing I noticed. I stared at it and it stared back at me. In seventh grade, we had to make a poem and picture about something. I found that same beautiful, detailed, though faded and chipped statue to draw,” recalled Jami Szalla, 12, of South Side.

“The squeaking bleachers have a vibration. I like it when it does that because at Mass, I get tired and it wakes me up,” wrote Dillon Secilia, 11, of Bon Air.

“I’ll miss the church, the lunchroom with the big windows, the creaky floors, the so-so view of downtown from Room 408, the stairs never ending, the long hallways and, most of all, the school,” wrote Jamie Miller, 12, of South Side.

“My favorite part of the school was the tunnel that connects the school to the cafeteria. I know no other school will have a tunnel,” wrote Dustin Miller, 10, of Bon Air.

“The most meaningful spot for me would have to be the four seats in the cafeteria. Every lunch, my friends and I shared laughs, gossip and, of course, lunches there. We would torture each other and never hold a grudge. We didn’t care who else was at the table or what was going on around us. We were in our world,” wrote Drew Miller, 13, of Bon Air.

The books were underwritten by PNC and were published by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, with funding support from South Side Local Development Co.’s Neighborhood Assistance Program/Compehensive Service Program and the Grable Foundation.

(Al Lowe is a freelance writer. )
Copyright © PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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