Whatever Happened To Mary Costello 1958's Mary Costello
from the 1958 Edsonian

by Bill Cook

Editor's Note: This article kicks off what I hope will be a series of similar Class of 58 articles about some of our classmates, what has happened to them and where they've gone since graduation. I just couldn't think of a better, more appropriate person to start this series off with than Mary. Everyone knew her; everyone just loved her sense of humor; everyone wanted her to be in their circle of friends.

Nowadays what do you call a comical, perky but laid-back, popular female with a loud voice and a big heart. Well, I call her Rosie O'Donnell. But in high school back in the 50's, for me, at least, this person was none other than Southside's own Mary Costello.

Now, this is not an obituary - where you say some nice things about someone who's left us for that big high school reunion up there in the sky. Mary is alive and well and living in Salem, MA and I found her (or she found me) on the Internet a couple of months ago.

While Mary was our Rosie O'Donnell back in the 50's, I don't mean to say that she isn't still all those wonderful things today. I'll bet she is. Just take a look at this recent picture of her and tell me you don't see that Mary Costello we all remember. In writing this article, it was really great to hear from her again and I am looking forward very much to the reunion in July when I'll be able to talk some more about the good old days after so many years.

I first met Mary in a Bob Lynough** English class. Those of you who were in one of Bob's classes will recall that he was always testing his students' limits by putting them in strange and uncomfortable circumstances. The more he "liked" you, the more strange and unusual they were. Bob taught from the "I can't believe I let you in this class of mine" school of articulation and when he spoke to one of us Freshmen, we'd cease eye-contact immediately and assume a face-toward-the-floor position of subordination.

Well, he must have really "liked" Mary and me a lot, because one day he put the two of us in front of the class to read from the script of a play (I don't remember its name, now). Neither of us knew that there was a kissing scene at the end of it and when we got to that place in the script, as I recall, we just stood there and looked at each other. Finally, I shook my head and proceeded to take my seat. Mary followed my lead.

Lynough growled most of the words in Roget's Thesaurus at both of us (the complete unabridged edition), scorn dripping from every syllable. From my subordinated and prone position face-down on the floor, I could only imagine how bad Mary felt about the whole thing. I was dirt. No! Lower than dirt. I was the drain on the basement floor of the SHS cafeteria.

But we were Freshmen; just four months before we'd been snotty-nosed little 8th graders, getting our grammar school graduation pictures taken. We were only a year or two into puberty. I think, for me, girls still may have had cooties, and unlike today's liberated high schoolers, kissing girls was not a behavior I could include in my adolescent psyche (at least not in public). I could only hope that Mary didn't take it personally.

Mary went on to college after Southside. I've had the opportunity to find out from Mary what has happened with her since 1958. Please join us as we talk over old times.

Bill: Mary, I don't suppose you remember what you wrote in my yearbook in those waning days of ours at Southside. Let me read some of it to you: "Well, it's really been wonderful knowing you these last THREE years. We'll forget the first one..." Uh, guess we both know what that was all about, right?
Mary: Right, and now thanks to you everybody else knows, too. Just when I was on the verge of forgetting all about it.
Bill: Still got that same old sense of humor there, Mary. Say, you were among the St. Mary's Elementary School crowd weren't you? What was it like at St. Mary's back in Ought One?
Mary: Well, it depended, of course, on the teacher. Sister Albertus, my teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades diligently watched to make sure our raging hormones were kept in check. Once when we were having a class picnic at Roberta's (Spillane) cottage on Mt. Zoar Hill, some of us (boys and girls) took a walk out in the woods and then sat around holding hands and talking. Well, when we got back, we were met with the wrath of Sister, who was sure we were up to no good. In those days, most of us did not know how to be up to no good, so she was wrong that day. She must have guessed what was coming up in the 60s. Most of my classes at St. Mary's had at least 56 students in the class, and yet the nun always knew what each of us was doing at all times.
Bill: Big classes. Who all was at St. Mary's with you then.
Mary: I remember Polly Von Hendy, Mike Murtaugh, Mike Sweeney, JoEllen Sweeney, Jim Keenan, Dot Carboni, Paul Agan, Carol Fitzpatrick, Roberta Spillane. I'll get out my yearbook before we leave and tell you more. My favorite times were Friday afternoons when we got to go into the new auditorium and watch a movie, usually a Shirley Temple. No X-rated for us.
Bill: How bad was it back then without indoor plumbing and electricity and walking 5 miles through deep snow to get to school?
Mary: Wicked bad. But we all knew stuff when we graduated after having tables and geography, history, English grammar, spelling, etc. drilled into us. I will never forget how to spell "cistern" because Anne Sheehy beat me out on the spelling of that word when it got down to the two of us.
Bill: These names really take me back.
Mary: I wish I had my yearbook. I remember there was Tom Dunleavy and Margaret Lewis. Also Bonnie Leahy (Ladd) and Frank Aiello. And there was Carol Coleman and Pat Farrell. Let's see, Richard Frisk, David Jenkins and Bob Labuski and Bob Makowiec. I remember Alex Olszowy, Donald Potter, Pat Ruvolo, and, Marj Ryan.
Bill: Say, your English Major is showing, Mary. I believe you got most of those in alphabetical order. You know, we were all about 5 years old when the War ended - any family memories of that time?
Mary: My father was a bit too old, so he didn't go. Both of his brothers were in the Army but didn't go overseas. My father was an air raid warden and I do remember him going out to patrol the streets. I remember the air raid sirens going off and being scared we were going to be bombed.
Bill: You know, I have very similar memories. A lot of homes had the glass in their windows painted over in black because you were supposed to turn the lights off during air raids so that the bad guys couldn't see where to bomb. We didn't paint our windows, we just turned out the lights, and my dad, who smoked a pipe would sit right in front of the big living room window and puff away - I was always afraid one of those bad bomber pilots would see the glow from his pipe and we'd become ground zero. And those air raid sirens really gave off a haunting sound.
Mary: I remember hitting ants with my volley ball and then building a hospital made of stones for them. Then I came along as a Japanese bomber and blew up the hospital.
Bill: Did you listen on the radio to Orphan Annie or Fibber McGee and Mollie? How about the Buster Brown Show?
Mary: I definitely listened to Fibber McGee and Mollie, and Ozzie & Harriet. Had a big crush on Ricky Nelson and wrote him my one and only fan letter. He never responded, which is probably why it was my only one. I also listened to Henry! Henry Aldrich! and The Green Hornet which was possibly a subliminal reason why I wanted to be a cheerleader. My personal favorite was Baby Snooks. Also gotta add Jack Benny and The Lone Ranger. I wonder now what we did with our eyes when we listened to the radio.
Bill: Do you remember your family's first TV set?
Mary: I do. I was about 12 and my first television show at home was Milton Berle. I liked Your Hit Parade, Ozzie & Harriet. Ricky was still pretty cute. Wrestling from Chicago, for some odd reason. Westinghouse 90 and all the other gems of dramatic shows. Weren't we ever lucky in those days.
Bill: Yes, I remember TV as something I really learned from in those days. Not like today where it seems like it's just pure entertainment. Do you think Southside has gone the same way - I mean did we really learn that much in school back in those days? Did you have a favorite teacher that you learned from at Southside?
Mary: Yes, I did, in fact a few of them. I liked Miss Haupt for the wonderful background she gave us in English, put me in good stead for my being an English major in college, which by the way was Mercyhurst College, in Erie, PA. I also liked Miss Bower for making me learn geometry, which never made any sense to me until I took a course some 30 years later in an overview of electronics in a computer class. All of a sudden algebra and geometry took on some relevance.
Bill: I remember those after-school sessions in Ma Bower's class. I even remember the room number - 210.
Mary: Amazing. I also liked Miss Daly's Latin classes. One of my very favorites was Mr. Pazahanick. He made us work hard and learn history, yet he also had a light touch. He wasn't afraid to be tough.
Bill: I had Stenson for history. He had some creative ways to get you to learn, too.
Mary: The last day of Pazahanick's class was the day all the seniors were skipping out early to go to the Arch. Remember? Anyway, his was our last class of the day and he told us we would flunk the course if we missed it. Of course, not being litigious in those days, it never occurred to us that we could sue him for mental anguish, so we went to his class and only had time for a quick visit to the Arch. Probably better for us, huh.
Bill: You get a "possibly" from me on that. Mary, we all saw you from the stands at Parker Field.. What was it like being a cheerleader at a Hornets game? Was that really Sandy Dean out there with you or was it Elsa Brookfield in heavy makeup.
Mary: It was Sandy out there really. You could tell when you got up closer and listened to her yelling without an accent. Actually being out there cheering was great. I remember once when Sandy Schaef had a bad cough - we cheered all through rain, sleet, and snow without hats or gloves or even jackets - she started sipping on codeine cough medicine, which you could then buy without a prescription. I suspect she was stoned by the second half of the football game because she was getting pretty giggly. During one cheer she went the wrong way doing a cartwheel and crashed right into me going the other way. We came down in a heap.
Bill: And we thought you guys were just showing off. How difficult was it for you to make it on the Cheerleaders?
Mary: It's funny looking back now when I realize how important it was to me when I did not make it the first year I tried out. Polly and I spent hours teaching Sandy Dean all the cheers - she had moved over from the other side of town - and then she made it and we didn't. I liked her anyway. I think that cheerleading is the only thing that I worked so hard for such a long period of time so that I could make the squad. We practiced for hours on Collins Street along side of my house. I'm not sure I would know that person that I was then today, but those were the 50s, weren't they?
Bill: Times have changed. Did you ever know anyone in the band? Traffic Squad?
Mary: I think I know where you're going with this one and the answer is no to both. At least not well.
Bill: And who was your best friend in high school.
Mary: Probably Polly and Sandy were my best friends, although as you may remember we did have a whole big gang we ran around with. We had a lot of fun in those days and looking back we were not deliberately rude or exclusive but I'm sure we were sometimes seen that way. Actually our values were all pretty good. We did run around a lot, drink too much at a young age, and drive while drinking, smoke, and in general have a good old 50s time. I know I spent a lot of time on the telephone discussing every innuendo of what someone's boy friend or potential boy friend said and did. We also discussed at length what we were going to wear to every social event. It all seems so trivial now and so herdish, but I guess kids still put a lot of stock in peer pressure.
Bill: Any favorite stories?
Mary: One of my biggest thrills was in Miss Callahan's drama class. I wanted Gene Hassen to ask me to his prom and heard that he was going to but he hadn't yet. He sat across from me and there were a lot of Pitts guys in that class, which is why I took it, of course. Anyway, I dropped something (Freud says there are no accidents) and bent over for it at the same time that Gene did and he came up with his elbow and hit me in the nose. It started to bleed. He was embarrassed and begged me not to leave the room so that everyone would know. So I just sat there and bled. Pretty romantic, huh.

Mary and I probably could have gone on with this for a lot longer. I thoroughly enjoyed the exchange and I sense that Mary did, too. One of her comments about it's being better than therapy leads me in that direction. But I promised you'd hear about what has happened to Mary since our graduation from SHS. And she wrote about it this way in one of the E-Mails to me.

Hi Bill,
You asked me to share some of my life after SHS. I will, bearing in mind you are not writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. I'm appalled to realize how many decades it has actually been. Wow.

The First Decade ( 1958-1967): These were still pretty innocent years at first. I went to Mercyhurst College to do penance for my life at Southside, at least I thought so then. All of a sudden I had curfews, dress codes, etc. What a shock. Looking back, though, I did get a good education (liberal arts) and managed to escape quite a few times to such exotic places as Pittsburgh, St. Bonaventure's in Olean, New York City, and Washington, D.C. I also visited Connie Francis' Where the Boys Are in Fort Lauderdale (Fort Liquordale), FL.

The Cuban missile crisis scared us out of our complacency. Then JFK was killed. Those were pretty wild times. Later when MLK and RFK were also killed most of our 50s innocence was shaken. After a bus ride from Boston to Mexico and back (wouldn't want to do it now but it was great then), we returned to Laredo only to see Mayor Daly's cops beating protestors over the head during the Democratic National Convention. These events were followed by the Jackson and Kent State tragedies and I was certainly no longer in the 50s. All of a sudden being an SHS cheerleader was no longer very important. It would later become so only out of nostalgia.

On a personal and professional level, I was getting teaching jobs in junior and community colleges - english, lit, speech, etc.; do you detect the influence of Mabel I here? Also I was meeting new people and getting to know more of New England, which I have loved ever since I arrived. I think I was fated to live here.

The Second Decade (1968-1977): Early on I had one of those life-changing crises from which, if you survive, you become stronger. I did and I did, although I don't want any more of those crises. I am strong enough now. I think that I became more empathetic to other people's problems and life conditions. All in all, I felt changed. We were still involved with national issues as Watergate was going down and Viet Nam was escalating. I remember those guys so well--Nixon, Agnew, Haldemann, Ehrlichman, John Dean, John Mitchell - remember Martha?

Those were still pretty wild times. I kept teaching and trying to keep the lid on my classes because a lot of anti-war demonstrations were permeating everywhere in Boston. I must say though that although the students were more likely to challenge you in classes, they were much more dynamic and interesting than the ones in later decades. I did some traveling out of the country, continued having fun, and also began to work out. I joined a club called the Women's Athletic Club, which was located in the YWCA.

One day, about 18 years after leaving college, I was bench pressing when a rather slight woman in a leotard and tights came up to me and said she hadn't recognized me at first. Well, this woman was a former nun and head of the English Department at Mercyhurst. The last time I saw her she was 50 pounds heavier, 600 miles from Boston, and wearing the old-style habit. We decided to go to lunch and I got the shock of my life when I saw Sister Anne Francis walking naked out of the shower. You have to have gone to a Catholic school to get the full impact out of that.

The Third Decade (1978-1987): They began for me in what we in Boston call the blizzard of 78. We lost power for three days and no one could drive into Boston for a week. I had more fun that week than I think I have ever had before or since. Anyway, people emerged eventually from their dens (we lived on Newbury Street in Back Bay, Boston) and came together for coffee and bacon and eggs we were cooking on our fireplace. (Yes, we had electric heat). We had a wide variety of people living there then, who had previously only said hi but from that day until now have become great friends.

I opened my first IRA and also finally got a job that had a pension and a 401k. In other words, I left teaching in private junior colleges and got a "real" job. In 1987 I had another one of those life crises - losing a job of long duration. I went back to school to get a technical writing certificate and to come kicking and screaming into the computer age. Bill, it must be hard for you to believe since you were at IBM for so long, but until the late 80s, I didn't have a clue about how to use a computer.

The Fourth Decade (1988-1997): I don't know about everyone else, but the 90s have been a time of big changes. I began working as a technical writer in 1989, a complete change for a technophobe. I also lost my father, who died when he was 85. My mother then sold our house and moved to Salem to live with me. In a sense, I became a parent to my parent, as she leans pretty heavily on me. I never imagined this situation back there at Southside. Also, I bought my first home, a condo in a large Victorian house. It's the first floor of a 3-unit house and it has worked out very well for us. Life is different, though. I've changed from a night to a day person, as I'm out there pretty early in the morning waiting for a train.

I've also changed from being responsible only for myself to being responsible for other people, who depend on me. I have dug in here in Salem and through being involved in neighborhood groups, etc., have made it my home. Salem has some of what Elmira had when we were growing up, and also has an ocean, a big plus.

All of us from the Class of 58 have common roots that go back a long way. We emerged together from the portals of the 50's when everything was simple and decisions were a lot easier. Each of us went our own way. And, like Mary, many of us have seen our lifestyles changed considerably. But I think she expressed it best when she said:

"In short, I've changed a lot since the 50s, but hope that I have kept my sense of humor. Even though I can't do a cartwheel any longer, I can still remember all the words and motions to Go Hornets Go. I wonder what that'll get me on the open market. Do I care? No, I haven't changed that much."

So, whatever happened to Mary Costello? Well, like she says, "a lot." And thanks to the wonders of the Internet and Mary's computer, we now know a lot about the answer to our question. Dare we ever ask it again, we'll need only to get caught up starting from the Fifth Decade. The fifth decade since SHS? Hey, I've got a new question to ask. While we weren't looking, did you get caught going through four decades like Mary and the rest of us?

Well, just stay put then because you could be the featured alum in our next "Whatever Happened..." story.

You can click on Mary's picture to send her E-Mail. And clicking on any picture above in this article will produce a larger version of that picture for viewing

**Editor's Note: As tough as Bob Lynough might have been on his Freshman students, later in our high school days we came to love him and his wife Marilyn who hosted many get-togethers for us at their home and were our chaperones on a class trip to NYC. I personally considered Bob one of the most influential and helpful adults of my teen-age years and have very fond memories of times spent with him and cast members after rehearsals for the Junior and Senior plays, which he authored and directed for our class.

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