The “Forever a Trojan” slogan emblazoned on the white T-shirt of 90-year-old Anna Puhr Myers says it all. She’ll always be a St. Mary’s High School Trojan – no matter what.
The “Forever a Trojan” slogan emblazoned on the white T-shirt of 90-year-old Anna Puhr Myers says it all. She’ll always be a St. Mary’s High School Trojan no matter what.
Anna wore it proudly when she and two of her six children, Helen Williamson and Ray Myers, all graduates of St. Mary’s, gathered in her living room to share their remembrances of their beloved alma mater, which the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese is closing at the end of the school year.
“I didn’t want to believe it was closing,” says Anna, a 1940 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy an all-girl school and forerunner of St. Mary’s. “I kept thinking something was going to happen and they were going to keep (St. Mary’s) open.”
Located where the athletic field is today just south of St. Mary’s rectory, the academy on North Liberty Street was closed and demolished in the early ‘40s. In 1946, the diocese opened St. Mary’s, a coed high school, at 622 N. Main St.
Anna remembers the academy as a two-story brick building with a little place above the second floor that was off-limits. The Sisters of Mercy, whom Anna calls strict disciplinarians, ran the small school.
“I mean we toed the line. What we were told to do, we did, and I mean we didn’t stray one little bit.”
Anna remembers the time she violated the academy’s no makeup rule and wore lipstick to school.
“You would have thought I was a harlot,” she says laughing. But it was no laughing matter to the principal, Sister Mary Stanlislaus, who summoned her to the office, reprimanded her and warned her never to wear makeup again.
“And I never did,” she says.
However, wearing makeup wasn’t the only thing the sisters wouldn’t tolerate. Anna recalls tardiness was not acceptable, nor was an incomplete homework assignment. Also unacceptable was disrespect of the sisters, whom Anna calls the best, and disobedience of the dress code: plaid skirts and white blouses.
Reflecting on her school years, Anna notes that St. Mary’s Academy and St. Mary’s Elementary School were great schools and the only ones she attended.
“I was very happy attending St. Mary’s. We were close knit, and I have nothing but fond memories,” she says. “The nuns were great teachers ... and I feel like I got a very good education.”
Anna says whenever she drives past St. Mary’s, she notices all the cars in the parking lot. But when she was in school, parking spaces were plentiful and cars were few.
“When I was a senior, I was the only (student) that had a car that drove it to school,” she recalls. “And if a sister needed something, I could go get it (in the family Chevy.)”
Page 2 of 3 - The real purpose for driving the 12 miles from her home in Courtney to St. Mary’s, Anna says, was not to run errands for the Sisters of Mercy, but to get herself and her younger siblings to school and back.
With just seven seniors, the Class of 1940 met at the dairy farm home of Ed Watson for its Senior Prom. Also invited was the Class of 1941. Among the 25 or so attendees were Anna and her date, Steve Kiuska of Sugar Creek, who danced to big band music blaring from a phonograph.
As for the long-awaited commencement, It was no big deal, she recalls. “It was at St. Mary’s Church. We attended Mass and got our diplomas (afterwards). That was probably the extent of it.”
Anna says she doesn’t remember a commencement speaker.
“All I remember is that I graduated,” she says with a chuckle.
Expressing shock and sadness upon hearing the fate of her alma mater was Anna’s daughter, Helen Willliamson, who says St. Mary’s was like a family since it was so small and everyone knew each other.
“And what’s sad,” says the 1969 graduate, “is that other people are not going to enjoy the same memories (my class) went through. Now you’ll have the bigger school, and its not the same. I liked the small school.”
As Helen reminisced, she recalled the girls in her freshman class got upset upon hearing that some of the freshman boys had been out drinking alcohol. Angered by their drinking, which the girls thought was a terrible thing to do, Helen says the girls decided to boycott the boys and not talk to them for a week.
“How stupid is that,” she chuckles. “But once we turned 18, all that changed. We found Kansas.”
Anna’s only son, Ray Myers, a 1975 graduate, has good memories of St. Mary’s, especially the principal, who he says showed little tolerance for misbehavior.
“He would give someone who misbehaved two or three chances,” Ray says of the principal. “But on the third chance, your transcript was mailed in an envelope and off you went.”
Says Ray: “We started out with 150 in the freshman class one of the largest classes ever in St. Mary’s history and we finished with 75.”
Ask Ray what he took away from St. Mary’s and he’ll tell you he learned a lot of good lessons in life including integrity, responsibility and love of neighbors.
“Because St. Mary’s was like a family,” Ray says, “you worked together, you supported one another in good times or bad and when you have intramural competition whether you won or lost you were all happy. The important thing was competition and enjoying yourself.”
Page 3 of 3 - As for Anna’s entire family, they, too, proudly proclaim: Forever a Trojan.