Howard Whidden, Division Avenue High School class of 1962, suggested that we ask followers of my Early Levittown blog to reply to the question, "What do you remember about your religious education growing up in Levittown more than 50 years ago?" So I sent the question to a cross-section of people (Catholics, Jews and Protestants).
Oddly, only people who grew up as Catholics and Protestants participated. Most of what has been sent for publication would have offended the parents of the responders, but most of our parents are deceased.
Jim McGrath, class of 1960
We attended St. Bernard's Catholic Church and part of our ritual was mass on Sunday morning followed by a trip to the Peter Pan bakery for hard rolls to have with bacon and eggs. My grandmother would even feed our Irish Setter those eggs. I think he knew when Sunday came. I've never found hard rolls like those anywhere else.
No one wanted to go to the "mean priest" for confession, so we'd stand in a long line to get the "nice" one. I always avoided telling about the really bad stuff I did, but would own up to arguing with my brother and sister and disobeying my parents. I felt I covered everything else with "sorry for these and all the sins of my life, especially for the sin of disobedience."
Sometimes Joey Forte, Ralph DelPiano, my sister Gerri and I would stand in the back part of the church outside the closed interior doors and talk during mass. Looking back on it now I realize the talking must have been quite annoying to others around us. On a few occasions I remember being asked to leave by an angry usher.
When my mother would find out she would become extremely angry. I, of course, always told her that the other three were responsible. She only bought it the first time.
Sandy Adams, class of 1960
I remember being jealous of the kids who got out of school early to go over to St. Bernard’s for religion classes – of course, many of them did NOT go to their classes.
I wondered why our Community Church didn’t have the same type of schedule or if I should change religions to join my Catholic friends.
Frank Barning, class of 1960
My religious education in Levittown was boring, no juice. I could not feel the Holy Spirit that they were preaching about. To experience something that was inspiring, I tuned my radio to a church in Harlem on Sunday nights.
The worst thing that happened was when the Levittown Community Church changed bibles. It switched from the King James Version to the Revised Standard Edition. All the prayers and psalms that I had studied diligently for more than six years were no longer valid. According to Wikipedia, the Revised Standard Edition "aimed to be a readable and literally accurate modern English translation of the Bible."
I can understand why many Catholics were disappointed/shocked when the mass was no longer conducted in Latin.
On the positive side, the Levittown Community Church held dances opened to everyone regardless of their religion. And I was proud that our confirmation indoctrination included learning about Judaism and Roman Catholicism. As I recall, my Jewish and Catholic friends knew next to nothing about other faiths.
Editor's Note: This is the first article in what will be a multi-part series.