These back-to-school days bring back memories of my own education. All these years, I had assumed I graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep. Then I found invisible writing on my diploma that showed I actually attended Hogwarts.
I should have known I was at Hogwarts because our school colors were maroon and gold. Another clue should have been the school’s architecture, with its peaked roofs and soaring spires. This style was popular in ancient times before the Great Fire.
Like Hogwarts, my school was very selective in admitting students. For years, I feared the Entrance Exam. But the day of the test, a magical sleepiness overcame the priest proctoring the exam and I “borrowed” the answers I needed to pass. These black-robed priests were our professors. They were the only ones permitted to carry sticks, or wands, on the premises.
They may have been priests but they taught us comparative religion, studying all the faiths of the world. We were multi-faith like Hogwarts though not yet co-educational. There were no girls named Hermione to hang out with. Instead maidens were bussed from faraway places to dance with us and cheer on our athletes.
Our best sport had been Quidditch, but it was dropped due to exorbitant insurance costs. The priests wanted a safer activity, so they converted the Quidditch pitch into a running track.
The school’s emphasis, though, was more on academics than sports. The professors taught us to communicate in an ancient language that was no longer spoken. However, my professor tired of teaching us Latin. Instead, he told us tales from olden times, about how the continent of Atlantis slipped beneath the waves. He also spoke of how the school used to have a good football team.
When we got into trouble, they used a form of detention from the Dark Ages. It was called Jug. We were confined to a classroom until we could recite the ancient verses we were forced to memorize. Many students developed powers to shield themselves from punishment. I learned invisibility by never raising my hand in class.
Like the Hogwarts students, most of us traveled to the school by train. If we were late, we would conjure the number of the mythical “el” that had broken down. The professors were skeptical about how often mass transit failed us. Other students used the timeless gesture of the extended thumb to travel to and from school.
The curriculum was steeped in tradition and centuries old. The professors drilled us in English grammar until we couldn’t look a preposition in the face. We learned classroom survival skills, like how to get the Biology teacher to talk about the Blackhawks. Like Hogwarts, we had a dress code. We would knot a tie in September and don a sport coat. We did not untie the tie, or clean the sport coat until June.
Many of us developed magical powers, like learning trigonometry, so we could qualify to study at universities. Others are now driving for ride-sharing companies. Regardless, the school shaped our lives and we never abandoned the mystical faith the professors had taught us.
But the greatest miracle I experienced was in the cafeteria. It was a world of kids from different cultures and ethnic groups. It opened my eyes and I was drawn to a diverse community like Forest Park.
We don’t need a Hogwarts to teach our kids that life lesson but I really wish my school would bring back Quidditch.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com