Thursday, March 6, 2014

An Unfinished Poem from Years Ago: Lent in Euclid, 1958

Today I found an unfinished poem, abandoned by me many years ago. But there are some things in it that I like and I plan to work on it some more. The poem briefly gets into what Lent was like in Euclid (and Eastlake) in the 1950s. Brief trips here to the Harbor Bar in Eastlake and to St. Patrick's Day in Cleveland, as well as St. William's Church in Euclid. By the way, the fish fries around here featured "Blue Pike." That fish is now extinct!

Lent in Euclid, 1958  draft 1(work in progress)

I believed every word the nuns and priests said,
Probably more than old Father Fleming,
Who probably smiled at the theatrics of the rituals.
For me every word pointed straight to Heaven or Hell
And I wouldn't have been surprised if Jesus just appeared
And took me direct to my eternal award—
Or punishment.

In our family, Sunday was not Lent—
Whether that was official doctrine I don’t know—
There were no dietary rules that day,
Except for the Communion Fast.

And Friday was no Day of Atonement.
After the grim ritual of the Stations of the Cross,
My family would head to the Harbor Bar in Eastlake
For a delicious meal of Blue Pike filets, French fries,
And Leisy Light for the adults.

St. Patrick’s Day was not Lent either.
It was a Holy Day of Opportunity,

And we took advantage!

Yes indeed, Lent was a big deal for Catholics back in the 1950s and 1960s (and remains so for many today). There was a regime for fasting and abstinence throughout Lent. On Fridays you could not eat meat. Period. Nobody did! and I vividly remember when Gary Czyzynski broke this rule around 1964 at the McDonald's across from Villa Angela Academy and Euclid Beach. Gary ate a hamburger (15 cents was the price back then) and for that 15 cent hamburger, I thought that Gary was going to burn in hell. Also, adults had to eat small meals and abstain from eating between meals. Children normally gave up something for Lent, like candy. Another thing that we did was attending lots of church services, from the Stations of the Cross, to Benediction services, to the incredible Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. Good Friday was flat-out scary! My recollection is that there was no music, and all statues were covered with purple cloth. I even remember that instead of ringing bells at certain times in the mass, they used wooden clappers (called a crotalus). That's how I remember it; I wish I knew if these memories were accurate. Lent was a big frickin' deal back then!

Clapper ("crotalus") used on Holy Thursday

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