A place where memories are made

... and these are some of mine

by Kay McCarte

I was ten years old and never remember being in such a big place.

During the years 1937-1939 St. Mary's Parish held a Reunion at Memorial Hall. I have
no idea how I happened to be there - ten year olds are not usually invited to such
grown-up affairs. All I remember is sitting high on the side and watching entranced
as couples marched in from both sides to the middle of the hall, processing one
couple from one side and then one couple from the other, towards the stage.

There they were directed to process to either side of the hall and to the back where
they formed rows of two couples each, around the hall again to the back where they
formed rows of four couples, around again to form eight couples. At the front this
time they were directed to break up into four couples, around again and broken back
to two couples. What happened after that I have no clue, all I know is I was so
impressed I can still remember the Grand March at Memorial Hall after all these

That is my first impression of the hall that was to hold so many memories over the
next seven decades.

First of all is the Christmas Cantata. St. Mary's grammar and high schools acted out
the story of the Nativity every year. Practically everyone in the audience knew all
the words and, even now, if you had a group of the alumni together they could recite
the whole program.

What fun it was to see the first graders lined up across the front of the stage in
white robes, red sashes and green palms reciting "We are the Holy Innoooocents
slaughtered long ago..." as some of them spotted their parents and, despite warnings
from the Sisters, waved to the audience. At least when it was over those of us who
had first graders in our homes did not have to listen anymore to them learn their
lines as they practiced, and practiced, and practiced for their debut.

Everyone from the high school was in the play. If you did not have a speaking part
you were a member of the angel choir arranged on tiers behind a curtain at the back
of the stage. Due to the lighting the choir was practically invisible to the
audience during the scenes where it was not needed but when the lighting was changed
there we were in all our angelic glory.

The eighth grade boys were shepherds and guards in Herod's court. In my senior year
I was picked to be the third king. I had no ambition to have a speaking part and I
did not audition for it but, if Sister said...you said "Yesister" and acted

Next came graduation which was also held at Memorial Hall.  The freshmen, sophomores
and juniors were seated on tiers and the seniors (in my class all 15 of us) marched
into the Hall to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance played on the beautiful organ.

After the musical program by the whole high school, the speeches, awarding of
diplomas and prizes, switching of tassels, we marched back out to Land of Hope and
Glory, ready to start the next phase of our lives.

There were also Minstrel shows (how politically incorrect was that), variety shows
and other plays and programs in which I took part.  

We have presentations by our wonderful Melrose Symphony Orchestra, Polymnia, all
kinds of concerts, health fairs, art fairs, flu clinics, food fairs and, now with
the recent renovations including air conditioning, it can be used all year long.

When the Rotary Club wanted to honor "The Mayor" Jim Milano on his 99th birthday he
told them he would go along with it only if it was held at his very favorite place
in the whole City of Melrose and if he could play the organ once more.  They agreed
and what a fabulous time was enjoyed by all those present.

The citizens of the City of Melrose are, indeed, very fortunate to have such a
beautiful building to call our own.

May 4, 2012

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