THE SCRAPPERS  Serving the Dear Neighbor Yesterday and Today

by Katie McNally, Boston CSJ Archivist 

 Boston, MA – Normally around October, schools gear up for charity events – food drives, clothing collections, “Sock-tober”– all in anticipation of the holiday season and in the spirit of giving. The US Postal Service organizes a pickup of canned goods, the Salvation Army collects spare change outside of grocery stores, and preparation for Christmas in the City at the Boston Convention Center quickens its pace.

This month back in 1942, young students at St. Thomas Aquinas school, staffed by Sisters of Saint Joseph, were growing up in the shadow of World War II. Rather than give in to despair, they heeded the call to aid American soldiers overseas by collecting “scrap”. Scrap metal like keys and car parts could be used to build airplanes and ships for the war effort. A teacher noted:

“Every conceivable thing arrived, from a toy boat,
to a dentist’s implements,
to a permanent wave machine. 
Men going to work, strangers, would stop at [the] gate
and add something to the pile.”

The young “scrappers” collected 20 tons of metal, 10 tons of paper, and 4 tons of rubber! For students with family members enlisted in the war, this project was likely a way to feel connected to those they missed so dearly – for others, it was another way to serve the dear neighbor.

Today, as needs arise, both students and teachers continue to collaborate to address social justice issues creatively. In more recent years, students at the CSJ Sponsored Schools have participated in all-school service days, alternative spring breaks, and social justice fairs; they’ve visited with nursing home residents and hospital patients; hosted Black Lives Matter vigils and women’s empowerment programs; collected for food pantries, charities, and more. The context of a global pandemic now presents teachers with constraints on community service curriculums. But looking back to 1942 reveals that teacher creativity, combined with student heart and willpower, can focus service efforts to address the pressing needs of our current time.

1 Unknown author. Handwritten notes with photograph collection. Photo captions are from original unknown author. St. Thomas Aquinas Series. Boston CSJ Archives

Original Picture Captions: Top Left – “Keys to Victory, with a Smile”!; Middle right: “Two Tiny Scrappers”