The Mon Pere Story Contest

Here are some of the responses to the "Mon Pere Story Contest." I will add others as they come in. I am grateful to all who have contributed. Mon Pere would be proud of you.

Reverend Charles Wolbang, CM

This picture is from the 1976 St. Joe's yearbook.


I recall Mon Pere taking a group of us to Immaculata College for the annual French Contest. Mon Pere was proud that day to have a contingent of fluent contestants to represent St Joe (...which is why I'm still not sure how I got to go !?!) Anyway, as Mon Pere drove up the tree lined drive of the crowded campus with busloads of contestants milling about,we suddenly found ourselves driving on a concrete walkway, tightly
positioned between campus buildings, forest like landscaping practically scraping the side view mirrors, occupied by multiple, bewildered contestants and professors ducking for cover. As we in the car expressed our concern over the unintended "detour," Mon Pere exclaimed as truly only Mon Pere could...

"Now, I wouldn't understand why they be walking in the road..."

We celebrated a mass of thanksgiving for our survival that day...

God Bless You, Mon Pere... You will live in our hearts, and good memories always!


Joe Lesenko (1972-1976)


The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the Guilty. It was the day before we were to leave for Christmas vacation. All the decorations were down, folded, and back in their boxes. What an unusual tradition: decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving Getaway and put them away before Christmas vacation. I remember my high school years as the one’s with two Christmases.

This particular December 18th we were in no mood for learning and there seemed to be a school wide conspiracy to distract the teachers in every way possible.

If I remember correctly the order of classes for our half day, it being a Wednesday, Father S in religion was easily distracted by John K who suggested that he tell us more about our visit from the Patriarch of Alexandria whom he referred to as ‘Our Bearded Friend’. Second class was a piece of cake. Father P walked in, obviously in no mood for work himself, with the latest copy of “LIFE” magazine in which was printed for the first time a long lost manuscript of Mark Twains “Tom and Huck Amongst The Indians”. Well, it was an English and Literature class. Father P read to us through class time... He only got half way through the story, however, so one of us convinced him to leave the magazine for the next class. The magazine greeted the other Father P on the desk. He said, “Well, what do we have here?There were about three paragraphs left, had to be …Tom, Huck, and Jim had traced the bow and arrow they had found back to the cave. In walks MON PERE for his final class before vacation. “The McCann, firme la Port” (Please excuse my forgotten French)

Well, we had to stretch this one out real well, we were oh so close, you could smell the pine needles and the bayberry candles, we could feel the eggnog pulsing in our veins, sugar plumbs danced in our heads. It was so close and there were only three paragraphs left to Tom and Huck and, by golly it was a lost manuscript after all, an American Classic !!!

Bob F started in with the first chorus of “Frere Jacques”; this was our time tested distraction for Mon Pere, and as usual we all joined in on the first and second chorus, feer of us on the third, and as usual, just Father Charles for the last chorus with the real words and the rest of us kind of mumbling some odd collection of French words. Then John K, Joe H, and a few others started into “Au Claire de la Luna Mon Ami Perot” Mon Pere was directing us with his hands all smiles and chuckles, you could envision lesson eight in our French book: All of the youth of France on Bicycling Holiday, an entire country on a two week summer spree of cheese and bread and long evenings around the campfire telling ancient gallic stories of Roman Legions and barbarian rebels transmuting into wild beasts in the heat of battle. All the youth of France, repairing their bicycle tires and scrapped knees while roasting chestnuts..

Suddenly John K and Joe H and a few others went into their own English version of “Au Clare De La Luna “which they sang to the tune of “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” I think they had been saving it for a Guadeamus Soiree, but decided to spring it early. It involved all kinds of Wolbang phraseology such as: ‘By the light of the silvery moon, should come to you , and knock on your door’ and was accompanied by the physical Wolbangisms we all came to know and love…foot shuffling, shoulder shrugging, hand rubbing, switching eyeglasses on and off,checking out the shine on the shoes, tossing the head back and taking a deep breath between the stanzas of the song and letting o..

What happened next is oh so hard to descibe, guys, but try to use your imagination.

The song was winding down and Fr Wolbang was standing there with a big grin on his face. Bob F and I were nudging Ed F to ask Mon Pere to read the Twain manuscript.

“What is this The Mc Cann ?” Ed F popped in right away, He requested that Fr Wolbang read the rest of the story and convinced him.

OK , here is where you use your imagination, or better yet get out your old copy of Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer or your kid’s. Now just imagine that frustrating Missouri-Mississippi River Accent that Mark Twain introduced to the world for the first time, and imagine it with an eastern European accent!!! Imagine ‘yo’,instead of ‘you’. Imagine yeller, instead of ‘yellow’. Imagine “Lookey here…mind how you talk to me; I’m a-standin’ about all I can stand now-so don’ gimme no sass.” Imagine all this spoken by a man born and bred in eastern Europe. Imagine this spoken by Fr Charles Walbong. Imagine the amount of Novenas it will take to keep all of us out of Purgetory!!! What did you ever do to us Charles Walbong, to deserve this?

Mon Pere reached the end of the story. I never did find out if Tom, Huck or Jim found the Indians in the cave, we could barely understand a word Mon Pere read.

He didn’t miss a beat. He took one of those deep hissing breaths of his and said something that I thought he said at the time for no reason at all ,and he said it in his own unusual phraseology.

I love the English writing authors, although I find American ones hard to understand. I prefer The Shakespeare THE BORED who once said “To be, or not to be: THIS HERE MUST BE
the question…”

“And so my dear students , go off and have a blessed Christmas and try to do a little Vocabulary MEMORIAL work.”

Perhaps a score of years later I finally realized that Mon Pere had made his last comment about English speaking authors for a very good reason, after all . I think as a lover of language he
was a bit embarrassed.

Mon Pere did, however, give me my key to this mysterious tragedy of Shakespeares’ if not the adventures of Mark Twain. Hamlet was not mad after all, only miserably embarrassed by
his Mom and his Uncle.

God Rest Your Soul, Mon Pere, My Dear Father Wolbang.

John “Chuck” The McCann


"Wined Shield Wimpers"

Father Wolbang complained one day in class that he drove all the way back from Perth Amboy in the pouring rain. He couldn't see because of the car's broken "wined shield wimpers."
I have no idea what he said for the rest of the class. I had difficulty not falling out of my seat. Finally I had to excuse myself from the classroom.

I have taught in Europe and whenever I speak French, people look at me and wonder. It's not my Brooklyn accent in French that's the problem. It's my Father Wolbang accent!

Bob Pehrsson, 57-62


[This a comment NOT a story] I don't think many of us could figure out how we ended up at the infamous French Contest. I was so awful in French that when we arrived at the college I was so impressed that everybody was calling Charlie Wolbang the same name we did, "Mon Pere." I just couldn't figure out how they knew that... (Marty)

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