Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mack The Knife And Villa Cabrini Academy

I am listening to "Mack The Knife" It reminds me of when I was 7 years old. I went to Villa Cabrini Academy (a Catholic, all girl, boarding school, with day students that "sometimes" spent the night).

Sometimes, on the way to school, my mom would stop off at this diner located across the street from the Burbank airport, and we'd have breakfast before school. We'd get to order hot chocolate and a donut. The highlight was being given a quarter to put in the juke box to play a bunch of songs. That's when I would play Bobby Darin's Mack The Knife!

Which got me to thinking about those early days. I googled, zaped and yahoo'd, and found nary a picture of the school from the old days. This is a picture of what the inside of the church looked like.

But, I did find interesting sites put up by girls that went to the school.

Once, I remember a "famous" person coming to the school, and was later told it was Edward G. Robinson. Funny, I found a site where students who attended the school when he came to visit, actually have written about it.

Another interesting site contains stories written by girls influenced by girl's schools. I had not realized that the school was also an orphange until I read the piece, but I did know it boarded because, on occasion, when my mother failed to pick my sister and I up, we would spend the night at the school. Those were very interesting evenings. Bed was a cot in a large room. Dinner was in the large cafeteria. We were up early, breakfast, then mass (or perhaps mass was first, I really do not remember). We also went to summer school there. I was always fixated on the high school girls that would play music (for some reason I recall a juke box available to the high schoolers) where they would dance, and I, all of 8 or 9, would imitate them.

Best of all, they had an indoor swimming pool, and we went swimming every day in the summer.

I used to have a statue of Mother Cabrini. The nuns wore all black, full habit, like in the picture below.


frankl said...

in the early, early sixties, my mom, who was white, enrolled me (who was and isn't white by US standards) at Villa Cabrini for 1st grade as a boarder when i was 5.

on the appointed day, we arrived at the school, the nuns took mommy aside , she got back in the car and we drove home.

seems that burbank then had a ruling that no "colored person" could remain within the city limits and spend the night there.

thus ended my career at the Villa Cabrini.the next year, i went to Ramona Convent of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and happily, i went to school there for more than 10 years. i'd still be there at that school if they still had a boarding school and there was no curfew! we had a great music department in those days (before the whittier earthquake), an entire wing of the building was made of single piano practice rooms, with no piano from later than 1918! we had a rosewood steinway concert grand, a baldwin concert grand,a couple of lesser german brand small and baby grands: it was heaven. i thought all schools were so blessed with music.

boy was i wrong!

Carrie said...

That was the way it was, then. I am happy to say that when my family and I converted to the Baha'i faith, we joined with the Interfaith Council in Burbank to integrate Burbank for the first time. I mention this to people sometime, and I get greeted with a little disbelief from native Californians that do not want to remember that Burbank was a separate city from Los Angeles, and while Los Angeles was integrating, Burbank hung in there, much like most of the south, in banning it. I was only at Villa Cabrini for four years. As for music departments, they seem to have all but banished from current schools ... sad.

Anonymous said...

I was a member of the last eight grade class at the Villa. The Villa is still one of the most fondly remembered parts of my life. When I was, I believe in the 6th grade, our sister told us we were getting some new classmates and we should welcome them. We got two black girls. The first in my class since kindergarten. To the best of my knowledge they were accepted. One girl was very outgoing. The other much more quiet.

While Burbank was known as a segregated city, the Villa had members attending from all over the world. In fact, not many of my classmates were from Burbank. I think that is why the school was able to integrate easily when the time came.

We must remember history. The sixties were a time of change. And the Villa successfully changed with the times. Unfortunately, I believe the greed of the Church was instrumental in closing the Villa. The property was far too valuable.

As for your memories of the juke box, Carrie. If you remember, the playground was segregated high school from grammar school. There were tables in both areas but a wall divided them. The high school girls had the juke box but we all enjoyed the music.

Carrie said...

Now that you mention it, I do remember that there were lunch tables under an awning and alongside the edge was a cement wall, which was the "separation" between the elementary school section, and the high schoolers.

For me, it was cool to see older kids, high school age, when I was in first through fourth grade, because I learned to dance, not the ballet/jazz stuff, I was already taking classes for that, but the American Bandstand type pop dancing. Although the twist was very popular, my first dance that I learned was the mashed potato.

Anonymous said...

Have you girls checked out the Villa Cabrini web site:

I am the webmaster and would love to hear any of your memories.

Drop in and take a look, and send me an email.

VCA alumna, 1949

Carrie said...

Thanks for the link. I checked the site out, and I will definitely take the time to post some comments, and leave information on how to contact me. BTW, it didn't open up with the "newpages" so I just deleted back to cabrini/ and it worked.

Once again, thanks for the site!

Anonymous said...

Just found this site. Have been looking for so long for pictures of the Villa. As time passes I have trouble remembering what the campus looked like and I know it was beautiful. I remember the gym was up a long flight of stairs and the pool was next to it. I remember the softball field and the main office with the cabinet with the tiny rosaries for sale that were in an egg (yes seriously. It looked like a little Easter egg and the rosary was tiny) I just want to see some pictures so I can remember it more clearly.

Carrie said...

I have all my school pictures, although I only attended first through fourth grade, plus the Christmas program pictures. All are 8x10, and as soon as I have time I will scan them and put them on the site.

Polly said...

Polly Sherman

I want, so badly, to see photos. I want to remember the school as it was in 1969. I remember all those things to. I remember lining up in the quad area every morning in lines according to class, and the fountain. Is there anyway we can get old yearbooks. I remember Father Magnus!!! I was so beautiful. PHOTOS please.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am the Villa webmaster - again.

Due to unforseen circumstances, we will be moving our website to another hosting location. The new name will be

Nothing is there now,I am trying out a guest book that we will lose when we change. So do come back, hopefully by the end of the month.

There is a place there where a person contact us. If you want more info we will get it to you. If you would like to submit a short story of your experience, then by all means send it to us. I am getting short on stories :)

There is a lot here, please send it on. I will see if I can find photos of the villa. So far all we have are of the outside, and not too many of them. If I get enough I will make a page of photos of the Villa.

We had a Homecoming last Spring and plan to have another one in a year or so. so keep checking the site,.

Hope to hear from someone...
VCA Webmaster, 1949

Anonymous said...

Here I am again, the Villa webmaster. The new site is up and running well. We are gathering yearbooks, hoping to make copies of them. We still need quite a few. We also are on Facebook - Villa Cabrini, Burbank.

We just had a trip to the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia, CA followed by lunch and a trip to the Nixon Library is being planned for the Fall.

May, 2012 we are planning for our 2nd Homecoming. The last one was so well received. Some girls had not been back since their elementary school years. It was a wonderful day.

We have been able, so far, to hold our get-togethers on the grounds of Villa Cabrini, which is now Woodbury University. The university has been so gracious to us and we are quite thankful.

Check the web site under Yearly Schedule and Announcements to keep up with what is going on.

So, come on and join us. Hope to see some of you there.

Phyllis said...

In 1962, as a 5 year old kindergarten student at 'the Villa', I was a Negro. Not colored, black or even African American. Miss Miranda (who knew if she was married?), was the prettiest, nicest and smartest teacher ever. She was also my first. I stayed at VCA until I started Jr. High in 1969.
I didn't know about Burbank's 'rules' but, I knew it was a different kind of place. I lived in San Fernando and it took a long time to get to school and back. Then we had a school bus that took us all around the valley before getting me home. The ride to school wasn't as long because I was one of the last few stops along Glenoaks Bl.
I learned many valuable lessons at the Villa. One of the first was in Kinderten. I was always outgoing and recess was a new concept to me. I had a younger brother at home who wasn't much fun. I wasn't allowed to play with the children in the neighborhood so, school was it for me. After dutifully pushing a classmate on the swings
until it was my turn for her to push me, she promptly told me that her daddy didn't allow her to play with 'niggers'.
Seriously? Nancy Schmidt, a german, no less! Funny the things you remember. I'd never heard that word before and I didn't know why she didn't realize I was one when I was pushing her on the swing. Was it something I'd become when it was my turn to get pushed? Had one of the many miracles we were learning about just occurred?
I didn't know but, I knew to go home and tell my father. lol....he never did tell me what that word meant but, he did go to the school and talked to a few folks. My father was a school teacher with almost perfect attendance but I think he took the day off to address that issue.
I remember a lot of things about the 7 years I spent there. None however are as vivid as the first.

Carrie said...

I finally found the 8X10 pictures of me (and my sister) from first to fourth grade, in class as well as in the quad, in our uniforms (remember those caps we wore?) I will scan them soon and put them up. Real memories, to be sure.

Anonymous said...

I keep running into this page!!! Looking for info on M. Cabrini in the early days of L.A.

Just to let everyone know, there is an active alumnae group called the VCAAF. We have an updated web page It contains a Guest Book where you can make comments, and lots, lots more. Drop by and take a look. We have dozens of photos, also.