The Root Beer Nun


I went to a Catholic grade school. In fact, I went to a Catholic high school and College, also. It was a good education and give me a unigue insight into the world. Something that I believe the public school kids do not get.

Besides the three R’s that were taught in schools (Reading, writing and arithmetic) there was a 4th R that was taught, Relogion. Many times that was taught by the good Sisters of the school. They taught other subjects, too. But, religion was their main subject, even when they were teaching English or History.

I was an alter boy feom 4th to 8th grade in grade school. When I first servevd the Mass was the old type, with Latin and all the rubtic’s on how to do things. It was a heck of a lot harder than what servers have to do today, as far as I can tell.

During the summer, the church alter and linen was handled by on of the nuns of the school, Sister Thaddea. The nuns at that time took names of whatever church model or martyr they felt close to. Today they keep their  baptismal name.

Sister Thaddea was old. Some would say she was one of the first teachers at the school. Though old and little, she had a lot of spunk, and am unusual way of looking at God. “God is good, “ She would say. “Put another O in God, you have good. Take away the two OO’s, You have nothing.” Logical thinking I suppose, but it made no sense during a math class.

She waqs also daring. She would look up at eh tallest, baddest kid in the school and ask “you want a clap?’ when that student would act up. It was all the kid could do not to say “sure Sister.” Then wait and see what she would do. All of us kids would wonder, too.

Anyway, she ould take care of the church during the summer. Often, after the 8AM Mass during the summer, she would ask us alter boys if we could stay a little longer and help her set up things for her in the church, especially on a Friday morning before the week-end services.

Unless we had something important to do for our parents at home, we always said yes. It was not for love of the Church or the good Sister. It ws for what she had that we stayed. She had root beer cards, piles of them. Ready to hand out for helping her out in the church.

At the end of the school year, the local A&W root beer stand would give the school root beer cards  to give to the kids for free root beer. Each student would get 2 of them to use during the summer. It was a great promotion for the business and brought kids there all summer to buy root beer when the cards were used up.

So we would work for an hour or so for the good sister. We would change linens’s, move statues, place flowers where sh wanted. At the end of the hour, she would thank us alter boys and whip out from some hidden place in her habit a wad of root beer cards. “Here take three,” she would say. We took them gratefully.

By the end of the summer, you would think that Sister’s stash of cards would get smaller, but it didn’t. It seemed to get larger. We often wondered where she got so many of them.  She certainly didn’t swioe them from unsuspecting kids. Some joked that she must have had a printing press down in the basement of the convent and would print more of the cards off as he needed them.
By August, she would tell us to take 9 or 12 cards. I suppose to get rid of the evidence. Anyway it was great for me. My family lived only a couple of blocks away from the root beer stand.  I had enough cards for the whole summer. Unfortunately, by August, I was tired of root beer. But those cards came in handy whenever I did have a taste for a little root beer.

These days the good Sister is long at rest and the root beer stand is gone. But I’ll always remember those bright summer mornings when I helped her out. If not for the love of the Church, than for the love of Root Beer.

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