Memories of Josephine Snyder Krawczyk, Orphanage Days at St. Francis Orphanage, Reading, Pennsylvania in 1929
Josephine Snyder Krawczyk visited Alvernia on May 15, 1999 with her daughter, Judy Gladu and her grand daughter Michelle Gladu. Michelle Gladu lived in Shillington apartments while attending Berks College when she called for an appointment for her grandmother, Josephine Krawczyk, who wanted to visit the orphanage where she spent nine months in 1929.
It was during Depression. She recalls the names of Sister Leocadia and Sister Aurelia as gracious and kind sisters. Sister Bernard was her relative who passed away many years ago and her cousin Sister Doloretta, a Bernardine Sister, presently residing in Michigan. All were from Shenandoah.
Jobs were difficult to find and Josephine’s parents left Josephine age twelve and her sister age six at St. Francis Orphanage temporarily while they went to New York to seek employment. Josephine always wanted to come back to see the orphanage where she lived.
As we walked through the building and entered the dining room Josephine recalled and commented on the different sizes of the tables and chairs which had to accommodate the children – the very small and low tables were for the little ones, then there were the medium size tables and the regular size for the older girls
She was really reliving her days and remembered the smallest details of what was in different sections of the orphanage.
Whatever she saw, she would recall saying, “I remember the sinks in the bathroom, placed along an inclined floor so that the little children as well at the growing girls could reach the faucets conveniently.”
As we approached what is now the mailroom, classroom and music are on the lower level, Josephine said, “this was the children’s playroom and along the wall were benches which always reminded me of church pews.
The older girls helped take care of the little children because there are so many.
Then we made our way to the west wind which was then known as the orphans section and elementary school. This area is now the Department of Education with additional offices in the former high school library.
On the upper level, dormitories occupied a large portion of the building. The smaller children used one dorm, the older girls occupied the other large dorm.
The parking lot adjacent to Francis Hall was the children’s playground with many swings of all sizes.
Josephine remembers sliding down the banisters and then adds how the sisters insisted that she speak Polish. She did not know a word of it. A kind sister protected her and saved her many times from such an ordeal.
She recalled Mother Hedwig who was the second Reverend Mother and then became the superior of the orphanage. It was during her office as Reverend Mother that she planned and built this new St. Francis Orphanage.
Today, it is called Francis Hall and serves as the administration building for the college. It is an historical, attractive and traditional piece of architecture which greatly enhances the campus.
N.B. – Joseph Snyder Krawczyk lives in Philadelphia. She has three sons and one daughter, Judy, who accompanied her on the visit to Alvernia.
Interviewed by Sister M. Alodia Podczasy, May 15, 1999
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