When we were in grade school, one of the required sections during the year was to talk about family history — where your family came from, what was your ethnic background, what was your religion — probably none of which would be allowed to be discussed in schools today. In our school, it was a great source of interest and actually helped kids get to know each other better. I never remember anyone making fun of another person’s family history – and it gave every child a chance to speak with pride about his or her family.
The year it was my baby sister’s turn to talk about our family was a memorable one. By then, the teacher pretty much knew everything about our family — after all she had taught four Hogan girls before the youngest showed up in her class and they had all had to complete the same assignment. Therefore, when Mary Beth (the now infamous baby sister) gave our family history, the teacher made an immediate phone call to my mother to let her know the information Mary Beth was telling the entire town.
Mary Beth gave the usual information – our mother was related to George Washington (true statement — through a half-brother), our father was Irish (again, true – as evidenced by our last name of Hogan), our father was Catholic (natural assumption and also true) and our mother was a Prostitute.
Naturally, the teacher was concerned and tried to correct Mary Beth by pointing out that what she probably meant was a Protestant – to which Mary Beth replied that our mother had told her she was a Prostitute and proud of it.
The teacher made the phone call to Mom and explained what Mary Beth had said — and that she didn’t really believe Mom was a prostitute – even though she was one of a very few divorced women in town — she knew it wasn’t true. However, she suggested that Mom have a long talk with Mary Beth and explained some things to her — like what the difference between a Prostitute and Protestant was – since it wasn’t the teacher’s place to tell Mary Beth that information (which of course, is MUCH different from today – where sex education is started in kindergarten – but you aren’t allowed to talk about religion at all!).
That wasn’t the only call Mom received that day, since every kid in class went home and told their parents about what they learned in school that day – and of course, number one on their list was that Mrs. Hogan was a Prostitute. From that day forward, Mary Beth was only allowed to talk about Catholics and non-Catholics — just to make sure she didn’t identify anyone else in town as a Prostitute.