Betty Altee and the St. Joseph’s Class of 1949

Betty Altee and the St. Joseph’s Class of 1949
Betty and friends 1949

By Laura Jane Pittman
Resident Community News

The St. Joseph Catholic School class of 1949 has been faithfully meeting once a month for the last several years. In the past, they had the usual major reunions, and even some yearly get-togethers, but the recent monthly meetings have been faithfully attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

Many members of the class have helped, but Betty Altee has been particularly instrumental in the get-togethers, regularly sharing tidbits from past years and bringing lots of memories. For example, this month, she is bringing information from the Diocese of St. Augustine about one of their teachers, Sister Peter, who taught at the school for many decades.

Betty Altee Senior photo

Betty Altee Senior photo

“Don’t tell – I want them to be surprised,” Altee smiles, delighted to have found out Sister Peter’s age when she taught and her death date. “We thought she was an old lady when she first taught us, and she was still there, looking the same, after we graduated from high school. We had no idea how old she was.”

Altee’s connection with Catholic schools extends way before she was born. Her mother, born in 1904, was taught in Mandarin by the Nuns of St. Joseph, a group founded in LePuy, France, whose original eight members came to Florida in 1866 to teach and evangelize. The movement continued, and nuns from the order extended their teaching into public schools after the turn of the century.

Altee grew up in Springfield in a rental house owned by her paternal grandmother.

“We lived in a duplex on Cottage Street that is still there. There were two brick apartment buildings next door, and a children’s home across the street. We used to play with all the little orphans,” recollects Altee. “My three bachelor uncles lived on Hubbard Street in several other houses that my grandmother owned. One house was left in trust and couldn’t be sold until all three of them died. Atlantic Bank was built next dooBetty Altee basketball photor, and the house literally sat in their parking lot for years until the bank was finally able to buy it for $10,000.”

When she was eight years old, Altee’s family built a house on Dante Place (pronounced like “Danny” by longtime Jacksonvillians). She went to Assumption through eighth grade, which was located on Gary Street then, and to St. Joseph’s for high school. Altee waited on the corner each morning to catch the bus to get to St. Joseph’s, which was located downtown at 7th and Market streets.

“A couple of my neighbors worked downtown, and if they saw me waiting at the corner, they would give me a ride to school,” said Altee. “It was a different time then. I played basketball in high school, and we would come back from out of town games at ten o’clock at night. We would catch the bus to get to Main Street, to get another bus back home. No one ever bothered us.”

St. Joseph’s was located in a three-story building downtown. The first floor housed the grade school, the second floor contained living quarters for the nuns, and the third floor housed the kindergarten and high school. The basketball teams had an outside practice court, and when it rained or they were the host team for a game, they had to rent the gym at Andrew Jackson High School.

Surprisingly, students were not required to go to mass. There was a chapel at the school, and the nuns had mass each morning before school, which was open to the students if they wanted to go.

“I never went because I never got there that early,” remembered Altee. “We did have a retreat once a year at the church, where the priest would get us together for a couple of days and tell us how to grow and live and other things.”

St. Joseph’s closed its doors in 1952, as did the other two Catholic schools in town – Immaculate Conception and St. Paul’s – when Bishop Kenny High School opened. Yet, the great memories and friendships live on – particularly in the Class of 1949.


Betty and friends 1949

Betty and friends 1949

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