A first graduate's vivid memory

by Walter A. De Hon

I still have a vivid memory of the entire floor plan of every building and cottage of St. Joseph's Village — except the two story convent building. I know the main east-west corridor and every connecting north-south corridor. I know every building that didn't have a north-west branch corridor like the infirmary building the two story convent building, the school building, the gymnasium building, the staff dining room building, and one entrance to the kids dining rooms-kitchen building. I was in the first bedroom [Dorm 1], sixth bed in the senior boy cottage and Sister Jarlath was in charge. I read some comments about Sister Jarlath and the bad-negative person they depict isn't the Sister Jarlath that I knew for years.

Days before we moved to the Village
I was at Barbara Givernaud from June 28, 1950 to July 4, 1952. Barbara Givernaud was for pre-school children and was located in North Bergen. Then I was at St. Joseph's Home for Boys in Englewood Cliffs for grammar school from July 4, 1952 until we moved to SJV. My chore at St. Joseph Home for Boys was in the kitchen and Sister Maureen was in charge. The committee to raise money for the building of St. Joseph Village met once a month and I bought the refreshments to the committee. I graduated on June 17, 1959. The girls went to St. Joseph's Home for Girls in Jersey City for grammar school. St. Joseph's Home for Boys had a major fire on April 1, 1953 and thus the nuns consolidated the three orphanages by building St. Joseph's Village.

Groundbreaking for our new home
Sister Ellen Patricia was the principal at St. Joseph Home for Boys and she asked me — which I did — to clean and paint the silver blade of an old shovel for the ground-breaking ceremony for St. Joseph Village. Bishop Boland of Newark had the dedication for on a Sunday afternoon in mid October of 1958.

On to Washington
We spent three days in Washington, DC. On the first full day, we saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then we saw the Jefferson and the Lincoln Memorials. After lunch, we went to Mt. Vernon to see George Washington's home and then back into the city to see the Ford Theater. We spent two nights in the Congressional Hotel. The last day, we went to the White House and then met Vice President Nixon in his capital building office and saw the senate chamber. We had lunch in a private dining room where the picture of the first graduating class of SJV was taken on June 17, 1959. (A full caption for this picture listing many of the attendees is in the feature story "From Rockleigh NJ to Washington DC.") The Guild Ladies of Englewood paid for the annual graduation class trip to Washington, DC.

Christmas gifts
The Guild Ladies also gave us an annual Christmas party in St. Michael's Novitiate auditorium and we were allowed to ask for any gift up to twenty-five dollars. Because there were too many kids at St. Joseph's Village for Christmas in 1958, the Guild Ladies gave each cottage a cabinet radio-stereo record player. We had at least twelve Christmas parties each year at St. Joseph's Home for Boys and if we didn't go out for a Christmas party then we had the Christmas party in St. Michael's Novitiate auditorium. One of the best annual Christmas parties was the one at the ATT phone company of Englewood. Each kid got three good Christmas gifts. Even the army air defense base that was located just north of the George Washington Bridge on Hudson Terrace gave us an annual Christmas party.

School uniforms
When I was at St. Joseph's Village, we had two sets of school uniforms, a beige long sleeve shirt, a green tie, and green pants. The girls had skirts. Every school day we had a study period in the classrooms from 6pm to 7pm. My eighth grade teacher was Sister Rose Imelda and she was the principal. And Sister M. Dolorosa was the Mother Superior.

On the big screen
I still have a vivid memory of the swimming pool and the 35mm movie projectors in the gym that were put in after I graduated. The only movie that we saw in the gym before these projectors were installed was a 16mm film named, "Three Coins in the Fountain" shown one Friday night. At St. Joseph's Home for Boys in Englewood Cliffs, we saw a movie every Friday night in St. Michael's Novitiate auditorium and there were two projection machines that were in movie theaters during the 1950s. A film distribution company dropped off a film every Friday morning. One Friday night Sister Ellen Patricia, the principal, thought the movie was too sexy and she stopped the movie and had about seventy unhappy campers on her hands. One movie we saw in St. Michael's auditorium was the first version of the sinking of the Titanic and another movie was "The King and I." There were about twenty-five kids in each of the three dormitories at St. Joseph's Home for Boys and each night we placed our clothing under our beds. Jackie Cannon was in my dormitory and one night he urinated on me and I thought that I was having a dream. The next morning my bed was wet. When Jackie Cannon and I were walking down the dormitory staircase to go to breakfast, I gave him a good punch in his face for urinating on me.

Field trips
We took many trips we took while at St. Joseph's Home for Boys. We went to Rockaway Beach every Monday. We went deep sea fishing. We went to Yankee Stadium often. We saw the ski jump competition at Bear Mountain. We saw circuses and the ice shows at the old Madison Square Garden. We saw the Christmas shows at Radio Music Hall. We had a yearly yacht ride on the Hudson River. We went to Palisades Amusement Park at least twice a year. We saw the annual drum and bugle contest at the Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. And we went to lakes, had picnics, and did so many other things.

About abuses
As far as I know during the school year 1958-59 when I was at St. Joseph's Village there was absolutely no physical or sexual abuse by the nuns. Sister Jarlath was in charge of my senior boys cottage and I was surprised to read some bad comments about her on the web. Whereas when I was at St. Joseph's Home for Boys, Sister Ellen Patricia, the principal and my seven grade teacher, had pedophilia eyesight for bare-assed boys. [Author's opinion] She never came with us when we moved to St. Joseph's Village in September of 1958.

I read on the web, "I remember Sally being the most athletic in her grade. If we ever found Walter De Hon we would come across a wealth of info. He was in Sally's grade and was always taking pictures. I have read some sad stories glancing through the site but I am sure there are many graduates who are successful in life." All the pictures of the kids, nuns, staff, and of the Village that I have are mental pictures.

Sex education
The only sex education that we had at St. Joseph Village was one morning during the spring of 1959. Father Byrne gave the older boys a lecture and he had a Q&A session and then Sister Rose Imelda did likewise with the older girls. After the older boys were given the lecture, I was teasing the older girls in the hallway and I was telling them things like, "You won't believe what Father Byrne told us about your bodies."

A systematic cover-up
I had to get a court order in 1981 to order the Associated Catholic Charities (ACC) of Newark to give me a copy of all of my records that were in their possession. My father hit me during the evening of July 12, 1949 and I was hospitalized in St. Mary's Hospital in Hoboken from July 12 to August 3 of that year with a head injury that caused me to have aphasia, organic brain damage, and retrograde-anterograde amnesia. My mother placed me in Barbara Givernaud on June 28, 1950 and she told the ACC that I was born dumb.

When the ACC found out that I wasn't born dumb, the ACC had a systematic cover-up on my inability to talk for most of the 1950s. The nuns found out about systematic cover-up and the nuns got cold feet about sending me home for good after I was to graduated on June 17, 1959.

I told Sister Baptista that my knee gave out on two consecutive afternoons when playing basketball in the gym. Thus I was admitted into Holy Name Hospital at 12:15pm on June 2, 1959. Two days later the nuns had Holy Name Hospital falsify my medical records with a diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever for the adoption offer.
The nuns needed an air-tight excuse to keep me at St. Joseph's Village after I graduated.

And because I told Sister Baptista the story that my knee gave out twice, the pre graduation physical for all graduating students was canceled. Sister Baptista was in charge of the infirmary and is pictured in the dental room in the Village Brochure show here.

And so the nuns kept me in bed for more than two months in the infirmary and I was offered the opportunity to be adopted. Sister Rose Imelda spoke to me a few times about being adopted and because I turned down the adoption offer the nuns allowed me to go home for good during the evening of August 10, 1959.

As per my medical records from the Medical Center in Jersey City, the nuns had the Medical Center to tell me that I never had acute rheumatic fever and thus, I was never put on prophylactic medication for 5-20 years. As per records from the ACC, Mr. Ryan who worked for the Bergen County probation office was the party that wanted to adopt me.

Starting a new and active life
I spent twelve years in the merchant marine with U.S. Lines, Inc. as a staff officer and I saw the world many times. I retired in January of 2002 and in April of that year, I moved to the Glendale-Phoenix metropolitan area for eighteen months. In September of 2003, I moved back to New Jersey for thirteen months and then in October of 2004, I moved to Las Vegas. I'll be 65 years old on June 5th and I started on Medicare on June 1st which makes me a senior citizen.