1955 – Father Heller Builds The Primary Wing

Father Heller gave new meaning to the word “Father” with his fatherly concern for all aspects of the parish and school.  While the enlarged church did relieve overcrowding, the problem was still not completely resolved.  The school auditorium/gym was no longer available for Masses as it was now divided into classrooms. Father Heller acquired additional land and built a new auditorium which could be used for Masses and as a parish meeting hall.  Nine new classrooms were also built on the two levels above the auditorium.   This new addition to the school became known as the Primary building and was completed in 1955. It was connected to the main school at the breezeway and a full size statue of our Blessed Mother was erected which became the site for school May processions. Today this wing provides classrooms for the kindergarten, first and second grades; and the recently named Harrison Center.  This center was named on February 1st of this year for parishioner and former teacher, Nancy Harrison, who recognized the need for special education in the school. With Mrs. Harrison’s efforts, a resource room opened in 1995 and continues today to give assistance to students requiring specialized education.  The school auditorium, Msgr. Paul V. Heller Hall, was dedicated on June 10, 1973 to honor Msgr. Heller on the occasion of his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Remembering those days – Lucille Greer Maloney transferred to St. James School in third grade and graduated in 1956. She remembers that, when she came to St. James, Sister Maria Carmen gave her the task of taking attendance so she would get to know the names of her new classmates. Lucille counted 104 students in her third grade classroom! That total was actually in the roll book so the numbers had to add up each day.

Lucille recalls that St. James was among the first schools to host a field test of the Salk polio vaccine in 1954. Pictures of Mother Severa with a student and the doctor went to newspapers all across the country. Some students were in a control group and did not receive the shots, but still the whole class received "Polio Pioneer" buttons. At that time, there were several children in the school who had survived polio.

Lucille’s sister, Margaret Greer, who graduated in 1959, recalls First Friday Masses while a student at St. James. Confessions were heard during class time the day before. Following First Friday Mass, Mother Severa would lead the children in the prayer, “Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,” and the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be five times each so every student would gain a plenary indulgence. These were still the days of strict fast before receiving Holy Communion, and as you can imagine, the students were quite thirsty and hungry by the end of Mass. Two freshly baked raisin-cinnamon rolls and a carton of milk were given to each of the students when they returned to their classrooms. Margaret remembers these rolls “being the most delicious treats that ever touched my lips.”