School was very much a part of an orphan’s life at St. Francis. One former orphan remembered the classroom for grades 1-4 was on the ground floor of the school built in 1890 on the site of the first farmhouse, and that for grades 5-8 was on the top floor. When the number of orphans was large, a third classroom was added in another building. A few years before the closing of the orphanage in 1936, the older boys and girls attended St. Joseph Elementary School and Calvert High School.
Some of the Sisters recalled that their first experience in child care or in the classroom was when, as young Sisters or postulants, they substituted in the departments or classrooms for the Sisters in charge when they were called away, and remembered enjoying their experience of being with the orphans.
One of the Sisters, Sister Charlotte Kessler, remembered going for a walk with a group of children at noon hour and the boys coming home with their pockets full of polliwogs from the nearby pond. In the winter, a former orphan remembered, one of the farmhands would take the children in a sleigh under a heavy horsehide blanket to the back of the farm where they lived at Portiuncula and get them back in time for afternoon classes and then take another load. They’d sing “Jingle Bells” all the way, she recalled.
The orphans put on plays and invited everyone who lived at St. Francis for the performances. Over the years they attended programs at St. Joseph’s auditorium and elsewhere, went to movies at the local theater, the fairgrounds, picnics hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of St. John, and the Sisters at the convent. Sister Beatrice Herman remembered as a child in Reed, Ohio, that their Reed team and the orphan team would take turns hosting ball games. A trip to the zoo in Toledo might be a special treat.
Life was pretty full for the orphans over the years.