By Ed Fish and Craig Kelly
Recently there was an article in the paper about Mt. Carmel Church in recent times. In reminiscing about the old days, Craig and I decided to take you back to the old days.
Our story starts in about 1937 when Rev. Horgan was leaving and Rev. Curley was the new pastor. The Mt. Carmel Parish was large and very active considering it included Mt. Carmel and St. Patrick’s in West Granville, known as the mission church. It included the care of the rectory and two cemeteries, plus an occasional Mass in Comstock. The biggest headache of all for the priest was the six night bazaar held behind Mt. Carmel Church every July. It did bring in a lot of money.
The new priest, Father Curley, came in and decided he needed help, so he recruited four new altar boys; Eddie Corcoran, Fred Corcoran, Craig Kelly and Phil Kelly. In a short few years later, Ed and Don Fish, Bernie Corcoran and Bernie Morse joined the group. It was no small task in completing your duties; learning the Latin language and responses, keeping the vestments and church in order. We also had to work in the cemeteries in the summer, which included digging graves. The grave money we received was never appealing to Don Fish or Bernie Morse. Last but not least, Pat Fish joined our group and many times had to serve alone as the group was going on to college and in the service. Don served two more years at Notre Dame University as I did at Norwich University. We still do not know to this day why we went thru five priests in 13 years. Was it the will of the bishop or the stress of the altar boys?
The winters in the late 30’s and thru the 40’s were extremely cold and a climb up to the top of Dayton Hill every morning could be difficult with the snow and ice. We would crawl up on our hands and knees to the church, to find out at times that there was no Mass. Many did not have telephones in those days. We were lucky on some days when the Corcoran boys would be at the top of the hill by the church since they lived on Dayton Hill. They would yell down, “No Mass,” and we would return home. Father Donnelly made us sing in the choir on special holidays. We did not care to sing, however, in those days. Craig Kelly had the best singing voice in Middle Granville next to Edna Tatko and a few Welsh ladies.
In the mid 40’s, the organ stopped and we were all happy. That did not last long, when my great Uncle Patrick Quinlan drove to New York City and purchased a $4,000 electric organ and chimes and then donated it to Mt. Carmel. The chimes still hang on the wall.
It was common to serve four masses in three churches on a long Sunday morning. When the long Christmas and Easter weeks ended, we would run down Dayton Hill with joy, only to get to the bottom and realize that someone had to go back the next morning. Father Dignan would tell us how special it was for us to serve all the masses, especially at the mission church, St. Patrick’s. We would have to shovel the snow to the church in West Granville, break up the ice in the holy water font and keep the candles lit since the draft from the windows would blow them out. Then, we wore our coats under our cassock and surplice to keep warm. Eddie Corcoran agreed with Father Dignan but wanted the mission church to be in Africa where at least you would be warm.
St. Patrick’s Church was located next to the cemetery and the Orchard Nursing Home in West Granville. It was closed, partially torn down and the remaining building moved. Pat Fish and others remember bringing some of the relics from St. Pat’s to be stored in the basement of Mt. Carmel. One such item was a statue of St. Patrick, which was restored in recent years, painted brown, not green, and is presently on display at St. Mary’s Church. Don Fish remembers how we would have to stop at Curtis Store to get the temperature for Father Lang. If it was zero degrees or below, then we would have Mass in a little room in the basement of Mt. Carmel where we would get some heat from the furnace.
We all liked to serve funerals because it usually meant getting a few dollars and being out of school for three hours or more. To this day, we cannot figure out why Fred Corcoran got most of the funerals. Craig Kelly believes it was because Fred could carry the holy water bucket without spilling a drop and he had a pompous face. Our mothers cannot be forgotten in that they were the pillars in getting us up and getting us to church on time. How hard they worked to wash, starch and iron our cassock and surplice many times a year.
History is what it is, even in our church. The doors at Mt. Carmel will close as they did at St. Patrick’s. We have Father Tom to carry us on. The memories as we saw then will never disappear as long as our minds are strong.
If you wish to find out more about these churches, strike up a conversation with Mona Crandall, P.J. Kelly, Jack O’Brien or Jack McHenry. May the souls of all those past priests and especially all the deceased parishioners of Mt. Carmel and St. Patrick’s Churches rest in peace. Amen.