Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Last Day of School and Madelyn Ciaccio

Dominican University

Fremd High School
I'm sitting here in the adjunct office at Dominican University at 7:00 o'clock in the morning on the last day of school, and let me tell you, things are a lot different here than they were when I was teaching high school at Fremd.  There is nobody here, and everything is quiet.  You can hear a pin drop!

The last day of high school at Fremd was like a tornado.  Even if teachers didn't have final exams, they were running around trying to get checked out.  In order to get their six paychecks, teachers had to have this legal sized sheet of paper signed by every bureaucrat in the school.  We had to turn our mailbox keys in, get checked out by the athletic director and the activities director, turn in any incompletes, get our grades checked by the registrar, and finally get checked out by the librarian.

I usually had a tee time at Pine Meadow golf course in Mundelein in the afternoon, so it was real important to get out of Fremd in a timely manner.  Sometimes I was delayed!

The year was 1989, and Fremd was going through an abestos abatement so the three, large rooms on the north side of the library were closed, and everything had been moved into the main library.  What a mess!

Unfortunately for me, I had the bad luck of having to check out with the head librarian, Madelyn Ciaccio.  Now Madelyn was old school all the way.  A Chicago girl, she had graduated from Rosary College (now Dominican University--where I'm sitting right now!) back in the 1940's and  had taught at St. Pat's, an all-boys school in the city, before coming to Fremd.  Madelyn had seen it all!.  Things were black and white with her; there was no gray. 

Madelyn claimed that I had not returned a Julius Caesar record and wouldn't sign my check-out sheet.  "I think I turned that in, Madelyn," I said.  "No, you didn't, Mr. Wyman," she replied.  The "Mr. Wyman" was my cue that I was going to have to find the record.  There was no "Jim" being spoken today, ladies and gentlemen!

So off I went to the English Office to look for the Julius Caesar record.  Now my desk looked like Mount Vesuvius.  I hadn't had a chance to clean it yet.  After spending ten minutes looking for the record on my desk and the surrounding area, I thought to myself, "Maybe I loaned it to someone in the department!"  I  began to look around all the sophomore teachers' desks.  I then went around and asked all the sophomore teachers in person if they had the Julius Caesar record.  "No," was the answer.  My tee time was getting closer.  Tick, tick, tick . . .

Back to the library to plead for mercy.  "I can't find the record, Madelyn." I said in a wavering voice, "and I have a tee time at 1:00" (It was about 11:15 a.m.).  "Well, then you'll have to pay for the record, Mr. Wyman," she replied.  "How much?" I asked.  "Thiry dollars should do it," Madelyn responded.  Thirty dollars!  THIRTY DOLLARS!  This record was twenty years old and couldn't have cost more than ten bucks when new.

"Can I look through the AV stuff you have piled up  here?" I asked Madelyn, pointing to the middle of the main room of the library.  All the audio-visual holdings had been moved to the main part of the library because of the abestos abatement, and the stuff was piled up seven feet high.  "Just don't move anything, Mr. Wyman," Madelyn said in an icy voice.

I waded into the morass!

About twenty minutes later guess what happened?  I found it!  The Julius Caesar record was a little worse for wear, but it was going to set me free and get me to the golf course.  I was smirking as I took the record up to Madeline.  "Here it is," I said.  "It looks like you guys made a mistake."  Madelyn was speechless.  She took the record, checked it in, signed my check-out sheet, pushed it back to me, and turned on her heels and walked away.  I heard a soft, "Have a good summer, Jim" as I walked out the library door.

"Have a good summer, my ass!" I thought.  I was late for my tee time at Pine Meadow.

The next fall the Cubs were in the NL playoffs, and one day in October I was in the library with my sophomores doing a research assignment.  Madelyn came over and pulled me aside.  "I have four tickets to the Cubs vs. Giants playoff game tomorrow night," she said (Madelyn and her husband were Cubs season ticket holders).  "They're yours if you want them!" 

I was flabbergasted.  "Wow," I said.  "How much?"  "You can have them for nothing," she said.  "George and I can't go."  "Gee, thanks, Madelyn!" I said.  "You're welcome, Jim," she replied.

As I walked back to my class in the English Resource Room, I remembered the Julius Caesar record.  Madelyn was making up for making me late for my tee time in June.  Boy, was she ever making up for it!

My wife, daughter, a friend, and I went to the game and sat in the first row of the upper deck at Wrigley Field.  Madelyn and George had great seats!  Unfortunately, Will Clark and the Giants pummelled the Cubs, but just the atmosphere around the ball park was unforgettable.

Madelyn Ciaccio died in 2004.  She was 77.   Hopefully, this posting captures Madelyn's personality.  Librarians, like music teachers, always walk to the beat of a different drummer.  And Madeline was always out front playing that drum! 

Thanks for the memories, Madelyn!  And enjoy the end of the school year, Fremdites!  Think of me when you are checking out with the librarian!


  1. Madelyn would have loved this, Mr. Wyman. I will stroll through my last check-out soon. And yes, I will think of you and all the other old school teachers I miss dearly.

  2. You're bringing back many fond (and some not so fond) memories! Thanks, Jim. (And BTW, being the "bureaucrat" sitting on the other side of the desk and checking out impatient teachers and signing their "legal size sheet" was no joy either, especially since I couldn't get MY sheet signed until all my department had signed out through me.) Keep up the wonderful posts here!