Return To The Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi Cathedral REVISITED. I sometimes can't stop writing about this place. LOTS of memories here, spent six years at school here, my brother Tommy eight, but they cut out 7th and 8th grades in 1960s due to falling attendance. Really. There was not any apartments, townhomes, condos, around to pull attendance, just businesses like Wilson Tower next door. So here are a few photos would like to share with ya'll, with some added comments, in this case, would love to give a shout out to some of the teachers, nuns and priests who made my stay at Cathedral really fun learning experience. I hope that as the possibility of the new bridge coming in, Lichtenstein's and other 'townhomes, condos, brownstones, apartments' possibility being in planning in that area, it will rebound in my lifetime and Cathedral will once again swing open its doors for kids with a Catholic education & the sound of children playing in schoolyard.
PHOTO #1: Monsignor Schmidt's pipe, 'don't leave church without it' he took it everywhere, even when I would serve at funerals and weddings. He never slowed down, at one point at Cathedral they had masses on Sunday 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 11:00, noon and Sunday evening. And sometimes he would convince me to stay on to serve 8am or 9am mass, since we already there for 7 AM mass and I would get free breakfast in basement Mister Castillo & church ladies used to cook, man...was hard to talk to Jesus in church with the smell of bacon, sausage, pancakes wafting up from basement below ha ha. Even Jesus & Virgin Mary wanted to go to basement and eat the pancakes, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and fluffy biscuits. For you non Catholics we have a thing called "confession" so we can get away with a lot of stuff. NOT supposed to do that stuff, like murder, extortion, bank robbery, or in my case, used to steal a lot of stuff, USED to key word here. So when you go to confessional, one one side you kneel, other side priest sits and listens. In between is small window, and has crosses in it, metal, but there is curtain so you can't see who on other side and vice versa. Not that you could NOT recognize Monsignor Schmidt's outline, it was like the outline of Alfred Hitchcock, duh. And the smell of pipe gave it away. And if you were a slow learner, then the 3 Hail Marys and 3 Our Fathers REALLY gave it away. You could have buried a body across street, and "ok, for penance please say three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers" and off you went to hide the wood cutting bloody murder axe. I will say it for rest of my life, Heaven has a special place for Monsignor Schmidt. I am sure Jesus by now has told Monsignor Schmidt to lose the pipe and quit popping popcorn. He was fond of both. Monsignor Schmidt I believe is buried under Cathedral, they had a number of high ranking Catholics buried under there. He is shown sitting in center here. If you ever get down (not get down like K. C. Sunshine band get down) but get down into basement under Cathedral, there is a stage. Behind stage, you will see some locked doors. Thru the hazy glass the light shines thru like crucifix. Not kidding, eerie bluish glass, and behind that door is where they lie in caskets. Warning: haunted. At one Midnight Mass in the 1960s, a number of us altar boys were dropping like flies. The mass was about 3 HOURS long. And several of us were kneeling at altar and pretty much holding gold candle sticks, and the candles eat up oxygen, make you tired, then CRASH! I was one of the guys who fainted! Not know to many parishioners was the bells that came from behind the altar, there was small keyboard on 2nd step embedded into the marble. This was on the right side. Tabernacle right in front of you off to left. During Novenas, you had to play the little keyboard which was maybe 2 feet long, metal, with knobs, at a certain time in Novena. I don't know if I ever got it right but no one seemed to care. Monsignor Schmidt just laughed it off, and when he would start laughing, whole body move ha ha, was jolly fellow God Bless Him. This truly is God's House of Worship. By now the Cathedral altar had changed, and they wanted to bring it 'a little closer' to people, so put big table near rails towards front, used not to be like that.
PHOTO #2, this is the Cathedral when I was altar boy, note altar, the 'kings chair' off to left in photo, the +++ things around Virgin Mary & Joseph, back altar facing parishioners, the large candles on altar, two tables either side, and the long skinny candles I was in charge of lighting with stick thing.
PHOTO #3 compare the changes to alter in this later photo, big facelift, more modern, even put pews either side of main altar, not sure who did that but get them people away from tabernacle, that was holiest thing in church, put the people back in upper choir. This simplistic 'modern' design change really turned me off, gone was the days you felt this was Home & could talk to Jesus personally. Now looked like K-Mart. But K-Mart WAS 'your savings place & momma loved them Blue Light Specials' Hmmm...tough choice.
PHOTO #4 This photo makes me smile & cry same time. From 1951 inside Cathedral my mom looks stunning in white, with my dad there probably wondering what the heck he getting into. You see me write about my mom and dad sometimes, miss em both, dad Homer Thomas Stakes, mom Sarah Marie D Alcala up to this day photo taken. If you are paying attention across from the photographer is a small room. Back there was where altar boys used to get dressed, just thrown on black gown, then white smock on top of it. There was also a sort of dresser drawers for lack of better way to describe it, but full of incense! Yes, the same stuff Three Kings dragged all over Asia and Persia to give Baby Jesus, there was REAL Frankincense and stuff called Myrrh. Later when I was a teen used to drive around back roads with friends outside Corpus Christi and stop and cows come up to fence. And you PUNCH them in face, and they all pissed off jumping, kicking going MHYRRRRR. Yes pissed off cows. I don't punch cows in face anymore since learned that is where cottage cheese and chocolate milk comes from. Maybe one of the three kings punched Borden's Bessie in face on Ayres Street and named incense after her? I have another photo just like this and the flash from cameraman's camera the mirror in back room....is a CROSS. I don't remember name of priest shown here, someone told me before, just don't remember. again, 1951.
PHOTO #5. The Cathedral at end of another day, a photo I took upon my return to Corpus Christi after moving away to Houston, note the palm trees not killed by wicked freeze yet.
PHOTO #6. Next to Cathedral was this big parking garage I was always fascinated with. Would have loved to have ridden my bike from top to bottom, but always scared car come around corner & squish me. Besides Enco, was also Esso, and Exxon. The Cathedral playground the bigger one, shown on right. Before people turned into overprotective pussies we had monkey bars, swings that could launch you over Cathedral to Lipan street, a merry go round that could reach hyper sonic speeds and whisk you to another dimension. There was shorter long playground that ran on side of Mestina and Cathedral classrooms but this was main one. When we played kickball in the school grounds, we faced this garage. Unless you got lucky, there was only a few people who could 'kick it out of the park' for a 'home run' like Mark Perez, Fausto Baca, to name a few, you could get the ball rolled to you by 'pitcher' or hold in hand and 'aim'. If the pink ball cleared Mestina playground fence shown there next to parking garage, automatic home run. And the guys across street working at Esso & parking attendants, always gave ball back, nice bunch of people. To this day, have never been on top of this garage.
PHOTO #7 The arrow was Cathedrals Cub Scout house, and I never knew a photo existed of it until I saw rerun of the Route 66 episode filmed in CC. Here is a still. This while house on corner was used for everything, cub scouts, arts & crafts, you name it. yes there was a large lot with stunningly beautiful oak and other trees, towards east from that white 'cub scout' house, sometimes the nuns just to get us off our asses, take us across street and play kickball, baseball, or just wander around. Which was nice break. We never got to play with different grades though. And I remember the big, almost spooky, house lots of pink and white on it, pillars in front, were told to 'stay away from it' and not sure if the property we played on part of that as had small fence.
PHOTO #8 Me on left, late brother Tommy on right I was probably 2nd or 3rd grade here, Tommy 5th or 6th at Cathedral. Cub Scout Group 23. Oscar Soliz was the cub master. I never joined, and my momma eventually got Tommy out of it, as she thought she was getting dumped on by other moms too lazy to carry weight and responsibilities.
PHOTO #9 Late brother Tommy's stuff I found when going thru crates and boxes of photos, as mentioned, the meetings held in the old white house on corner. Sure miss the big guy.
PHOTO #10 I used to leave Cathedral and try to go to La Retama library, and would go into the tunnel on Broadway in front of Wilson Tower, and make way to the "Y" inside, peeking down towards library. If there was ANYONE, I run back other way and go down hill to library, as many times it had winos in there, drug dealers and users, escaping from the heat. Well & cops! A view from Wilson Tower here. Used to go up inside Wilson Tower like I owned it, more later, will probably be long ass post like this, lots of stories about it, throwing paper airplanes out upper floor bathroom windows to see if they would go over building and land on Leopard Street, or drop dead onto top of KZTV looking straight down ha ha.
PHOTO #11. And this is Mestina side of Cathedral school facing church. The AMC Dealership my dad worked at lent Ramblers and AMC cars to the priests, providing the cars sat outside church on Sundays, usually with business cards under windshield wipers ha ha, 1960s sales techniques. Looks like one of the Ramblers, a 66-69 there. I do not remember what the glassed in area right behind the car was, possibly teachers only. Farther back with overhang was Kindergarten. Sharp eyed folks will notice far left of photo one of Southwestern Bells transmission old school towers.
That being said, my time at Cathedral was about 1965-1970. Didn't get kicked out by Mister Funk like at Ray. I can name you all my teachers & a little something about them too. 1st grade Sister Alawishes. Older nun who had maybe 70 kids in her class, was packed. Not all kids passed either, some left behind unlike now where we have kids graduating who can't read or write but boy, can they get lot of candy on Candy Crush and know hour new iPhone release. Well, 3 things here, one, one day she called on me and mistakenly said (or did she??) say William Edward Stinks, instead of Stakes, who classroom laughing, me, was embarrassed. Two she told me one day 'you have enough dirt under fingernails to grow potatoes!' and I have used that line in comedy skit, as have dabbled in stand up. Three, we had a test of some sort and whoever finished 1st got to come up for little special thing on her desk. I easily finished 1st. On her desk a Bunsen burner, and loads of foam cut out butterflies. You melt crayons with bunsen burner flame, drip crayon on butterfly, you have MAGIC! Classroom was oooh!!! and ahhh! keep in mind 6-7 year olds. Imagine doing that now, fire marshal and helicopter moms freak out. 2nd grade: Miss Rodriguez, a quiet lady but stern, with round rimmed glasses. She seemed to have a special desk that when you good, stuff came out from endless supply in desk. You never got to look inside the desk, just knew that when she opened it and gave a diminutive smile, you done gone & done something good! Class was fun with here. 3rd grade: Miss Francis. Miss Francis classroom had these weird jars on playground side, filled with colored water. Sometimes when testing, I would look up at them, thinking they would give me special powers & right answers. Didn't work, but later in life I figured out those must have been filled with different Schnapps. 101 proof stuff! Miss Francis had big beehive hairdo like Marge Simpson, just not blue. She was a blast, easy to get along with, especially if you did what supposed to do. I only have one photo of her, and she turned sideways, near Sister Berchmann on steps of Cathedral. 4th Grade: Sister Berchmann was a tall, maybe German nun who glided across the floor looks like she never walked. She often joked about stuff, and while stern, had a real playful side considering age. I used to take one of my Hot Wheels cars to school, & sometimes ask her to go to bathroom, which was next door down. And at bathroom, there was marble ramp about 10 feet to other door to actual bathroom. So I could whip out my Hot Wheel car & let it roll from top to bottom a few times. Didn't really have to pee or anything, just wanted to play ha ha. Never got busted, never confessed to Monsignor Schmidt about this. 5th Grade: We had a new nun named Sister Thompson come in, and for some reason thought she didn't like me. Momma didn't care for her as she wore habit but on bottom skirt, (GASP!!) showed legs from ankle down, a big no no to 'staunch' Catholics. We had a guy named Daniel Thomas who had been left behind so many classes he was now growing beard. I used to draw cartoons for the school newspaper in this grade, was great, am talented you know, and used to draw about this guy with curly hair, and thick Coke bottled glasses. His breath could curdle milk. Pretty much everyone stayed away from him. I wanted somehow to get him to change whatever habit, so brought to school a small airplane bottle of red Scope breath freshener and put it in his desk signed 'Red Phantom' of course he tried, went to bathroom, spit it out, nah, his teeth still looked like piano keys, and later when Sister Thompson found out, I got good scolding, and momma called to school. Both were laughing though as my intentions were good, was just trying to find him friends. 6th Grade. We had another new nun called Sister Anita Jane Anderson who my dad though was "hot" she was young, pretty, modern, so of course momma keep a Catholic eye on her. Class went on trip to West Guth Park, with bikes, but at end of day, not enough parents showed up so 6 of us told to RIDE to Corpus Christi Academy 'maybe some of the priests will give you ride home' Yup, abandoned and riding into wind on I-37 feeder road a few of us 5pm, Lorenzo Gutierrez, me, I believe Raul Yzaguirre, possibly Mark Perez, but was BRUTAL. Now it would be called 'child endangerment' or other fancy term, then was 'sorry, aint got no room. Grow some balls, ride your bikes to CCA before DARK' and tough for kids who been riding bikes all day, to ride facing CC wind inbound. I still don't know distance but guess to Lantana is about 5-6 miles. Got my heart broken when after school Crossing Guard, was walking to bus stop & saw Darence Caveness walking hand in hand with Elsa Del Toro. I thought she was promised to me at birth. Well, they were 'going together' so much for that. Would have loved to stayed on for 7th, 8th grade but those were gone. A few times saw nuns at HEB or Beils. That was awkward as a kid, you didn't think they left the Soviet Compound of Cathedral, but here they were, with shopping cart, buying food and other stuff. Or, maybe they were spying on me?
And Monsignor Schmidt never heard me confess about the Farrah Fawcett poster I had taped above my bed as teen either. It probably would have resulted in 3 Hail Marys & 3 Our Fathers though.