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    Kathy Hans won’t look if the old Holy Name School, convent and gym on South Fourth Street are torn down. Catholic Charities is planning to raze the buildings and make way for a $7.5-million, 31,000-square-foot headquarters. If the day comes, Hans will stop parking on Heywood Avenue with its view of the buildings that have meant so much to the South End. Instead, she’ll park on South Third Street for Mass at Holy Name church, which would be all that remains. She’ll stare straight ahead, ignoring the missing sentinels of a lifetime. “It’s going to kill me when they tear that building down,” Hans says.

    What happens when a piece of neighborhood history vanishes? The plan is to knock  down the neglected 1902 Holy Name school house, the unused 1953 gym and the former convent building — a handsome 1937 structure of yellow glazed brick with a leaky roof, indoor winter temperatures in the 30s, faulty wheelchair lifts and tiny offices. (The school building was an early work by one of Louisville’s premier architects, James J. Gaffney, who also did Holy Name church, St. James church on Bardstown Road and the Belvoir Apartments on Cherokee Parkway.) In their place would be a new three-story building  with a community room, childcare space, offices and training rooms. Parishioners are having mixed responses to recent efforts to preserve the convent and school, with a Landmarks Commission hearing scheduled for this month. A successful petition to grant the two buildings landmark status wouldn’t necessarily save them, though it would require Catholic Charities to pitch its plans to the commission for approval. 


    The convent (left) and school slated for demolition.

    Tom Head, who attended Holy Name from 1933 to 1941, wasn’t happy when the convent was built because it eliminated a play yard. The new construction would include a play yard, although a little late for 92-year-old Head. 

    He and other Holy Name graduates recently reminisced about their church and school.

     

    Father Tim 

    An important figure for many was Father Tim — that is, Monsignor Francis J. Timoney, pastor of Holy Name from 1932 to 1966. 

    “My uncle told us a story about collecting coal from the railroad tracks during the Depression,” says Gary Hagan,  who attended Holy Name from 1951-’56. “The railroad police would chase them away. Father Tim, he’d ask the railroad police to leave the kids alone, and he’d have buckets for the kids to  carry. And he’d tell them, ‘Pick up some coal for the rectory while you’re at it.’” 

    Years later, Father Tim was standing outside Earl Garr’s tavern talking to folks on the corner when Hagan, then a Louisville police officer, and his partner were dispatched to a crime scene. “We got the call, turned on the siren, and Father Tim stepped into the street, raised his hand and gave us a blessing,” Hagan says. “We knew we would be safe that run.” 

     

    First Holy Communion 

    Like all the other little girls, Betty Holbourn (who attended Holy Name from 1937-’45) wore a new white dress for her first communion. “I used to sit and look at that picture and say (in her dreamiest voice), ‘Oh, how beautiful!’” Holbourn says. “My mother, she washed that dress — it was a beautiful dress with lace and all — and it shrunk up to like where a doll could wear it.” 

    “My husband (Don) and I have been married 51 years,” says Sue Hill (1955-’64). “At the time I made my first communion, he stood right behind me.… My veil kept going down, down, down, and he kept pulling it and pulling it. And finally, you know, I just elbowed him real good….He’ll tell you, ‘I married my wife when we had our first communion.’”

     

    Thanksgiving Social 

    “They used to put a big tent out here,” Head says. “At one time we served, as I recall, 3,300 dinners a night.” 

     

    Getting in trouble 

    In second grade, Hill fell afoul of the school dress code, which prohibited girls from wearing can-can slips designed to poof out a skirt. “I got to school and (a nun) saw the skirt. She said, ‘Miss Horsman, come up here!’ So I went up there and she said, ‘Pull up that skirt!’ I’m going, what? ‘Pull up your skirt!’ I had to pull my skirt up in front of the whole class!” She was ordered to head to the coatroom and remove the slip. 

     

    Discipline 

    Until 1957, Catholics who wanted to take communion couldn’t eat after midnight the night before, so Holy Name students who attended daily Mass before school were hungry after the service. Holy Name offered them sweet rolls from Moss’s Bakery across the street at two for a nickel. A carton of milk was two cents. 

    Tom Head’s youngest brother, Harold (1950-’58), says Catholic school kids didn’t race around or chatter as they walked the halls. “At the end of the day, you would march out of the school in a procession. We would walk in the hallway and down the steps and then out onto the street,” he says. 

     

    Sister Mary Teresine 

    “When we came to church marching in line, with noses behind each other, we sat in the pews on the right-hand side,” Hill says. Sister Teresine had marked the back of each pew with a series of large black dots. “And your nose had to stay on that dot,” Hill says. “You better not turn around while you were in church. And those marks are still there.”

    This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos by Mickie Winters, mickiewinters.com

    Cover photo: Former Holy Name student Tom Head, 92, holds a photo of himself and a schoolmate, with the Rev. Francis Timoney behind.

    Jenni Laidman's picture

    About Jenni Laidman

    I'm a freelance writer who specializes in science and medicine but is passionate about art. I'm a hell of a cook. I think of white wine as training wheels for people who will graduate to red. I love U of L women's basketball. The best bargain in town is the $3 admission to U of L volleyball. Really exciting stuff.

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