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Browse comments submitted prior to our 2013 Reunion.  Do you remember?
February 24, 2013

It's about time!!!

It is about time we had a reunion of the Brondell Hall Cubans and their friends!!!
 
I just talked to one of my best friends from Brondell Hall after 49+ years since we saw or talked to each other last, and yes I am ashamed to have missed my friend’s wisdom, laughter, jokes, and teasing for all these years.  Who really knows why we let things like that happen.  True enough all the Pedro Pan Cubans experienced a traumatic turn of events in their lives. For the first time we were separated from our parents, from our country, from our way of life, then we were expected to live commune style with a bunch of other Cuban kids, and attend school where they spoke a different language.  It’s a wonder most of us turned out halfway sane.
 
Even with all the major changes occurring in my life I tell my kids that my Brondell Hall days held some of the fondest memories of my youth.  Often I think, and tell whomever is within earshot, about locking the Cuban houseparent in the basement after throwing snow shovels down the wooden steps to make them think that the boilers were exploding; or having a whole bunch of kids get up in the middle of the night to fool Amaro into believing that it was time to shower and go to school; or getting drunk with Fernando Garde and finding a secret passage on the third floor of Brondell, between the outside wall and the finished interior wall, only to have Fernando misstep and have his whole leg go through the second floor ceiling above the chapel while mass was going on.  I could go on with these stories for it brings me happiness although it may bore the listener.
 
Well, be it nostalgia or wisdom creeping in to my brain once more I find solace in the memories made at Brondell Hall, and of the friends with whom I shared those memories.  I sincerely hope you feel the same about those days long past, but if you don’t, remember that someone else may feel about you the way I feel about my youthful friends.  Hope to see you all at the reunion.
 
Silvio Rodriguez

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Damaso Santana on February 28, 2013 9:46 PM
That Silvio was the J2 in action, as you remember it was Guilleermo Martinez who created the movement that led to the removal of the dictatorial Boa and Anaconda and their croonies,
I remember taking the hinges off the frig because they would lock it to themselves.
 
What a night!!
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Damaso Santana on March 1, 2013 3:01 PM
This is an excerpt of a  chapter of a book I am writing, it is based on our experience as Peter Pans and it covers last days in Cuba, Miami's Matecumbe Camp and of course Helena, Montana. I hope you enjoy...
 
We were told on a very cold and windy Fall day of 1962 that we were going to Yellowstone Park and that since the park would be closing for winter we were to stay with the Ranger families, weeks went by and the anticipation gave way to the  bus which precisely at the appointed time showed up at Brondel Hall.
 
At this time we were approximately 50 kids and of course we were Chaperoned by the ever present Mr. and Mrs. Donald Arrowsmith better known as “La Boa and La Anaconda”.
 
This was our first trip out of Helena and as kids we were immediately impressed by the beauty of Montana, the scenery, mountain passes, there was already snow on the mountains and they day heavy with snow about to fall but that made it special as if we were going into an adventure, traveling through a vortex of snow flurries.
The trip was exciting but uneventful until we entered Yellowstone, precisely at that moment, La Anaconda (Mrs. Arrowsmith) let out a yell, more like the howling of a Coyote and exclaimed at the top of her lungs “ I fucked a Buffalo”, stunned into silence, which at this stage contained some semblance of respect, all 50 of us looked at each other, smirked and continued trying to figure out how could this have happened, some of the older boys in their infinite wisdom approached La Boa and La Anaconda and explained the gaffe that had just occurred, La Boa and La Anaconda spent the next half hour trying to explain that Mrs. Arrowsmith had been so excited at having seen for the first time in her life a herd of Buffalos that she had tried to say “I thought I saw a Buffalo” it would be foolhardy to say that anyone believed her and from there on La Anaconda was looked at in a different way.
We settled on our seats to admire the park while trying to visualize the Buffalo encounter but felt safe in our knowledge that all would be well, we were finally at Yellowstone…little did we know.
 
“WE NEED SHOES” with this cry every eye in the room went to every one of our feet, all fifty pairs.
In a podium at the center of the huge barrack style dining room stood Donald Arrowsmith-La Boa.
He had been asked to say a few words to the park administrators, the Rangers and their families, he chose to speak about the situation in Cuba and how faced with a communist dictatorship our parents had to make a very hard decision, his phrase of choice was “we needed to choose” but in his excitement and burdened with a thick accent, this came out as “we need Shoes!”.
That night with a full stomach and safely tucked away with a Ranger family, I went to sleep and dreamt of Over sexed Buffalos and Shoes and yes, Boots made of Buffalo skin, strange indeed.
 
Reply
Manuel Perez Capon on March 7, 2013 12:46 PM
Well, I do remember the trip to Yellowstone, remember driving the small blue VW beetle from the lady ranger that allowed me and two others to go up the one way to the top of the Yellowstone mountain where the mirador was.  If anyone had to drive down they had to communicate it to the one attempting to drive up as two vehicles would not fit on the narrow path and it had NO guardrails. Scary but she trusted me and everything was OK.  For those who may not remember, we also used to do nutty things at the Hall.  I used to get the hose from the boiler room where our rooms were and stick it out the basement window on the right side and flood the grass front to create a skating ring when the water would freeze. Remember that?  Also we would have contests to pass the time and some of us would go to the top floor, front window and piss out of the window when it was below 20* and as soon as the yellow liquid hit the air it would freeze into a yellow arch and land on the snow below.  Someone would be down on the ground and measure the arch width and whoever pissed the widest one would get a pot of quarters from everyone who participated on the "Pissing Contest" as the price.  Remember that?  1962 first visit from MRS> Louise Cooper, Catholic Charities rep from Miami.  Msgr  Harrington sat ALL of on the living room sofa and chairs and around them and stated she is coming tomorrow, whoever complains goes back to Matecumbe the next day.  No one did but do you remember when I and Oscar Ramirez opened the door in the evening because our "Guardian" could not find the key hole?  I and Oscar had to take him upstairs because he was so drunk.  We undressed him and put his pj's on and that was the first time we knew he did not wear a shirt but a T'shirt with a hanging bib in white and a collar under his suit.  The next day he called us two to his room and gave us his JCPenney's credit card and told us to buy whatever we wanted as a reward for having helped him in a moment of "distress".  Yeah, right !  His acqua color 4 dr. Olds 98 parked in front had he last ritess box on the center of the front seat, it wAS piuked all over, his dentures on the floor by the brake pedal, he had just had dinner with the rep from Miami.  Remember that one?  Remember when he was trying to trade in his 61 OLDS acqua also for a 62 and Bishop Hunt said there was no money in the budget?  Remember when he took a bunch of kids to Butte and crashed it unto a bridge guard rail and the next day he got a new oLDS.? I think Orestes was in the car at the time, dont recall.  Remember when I had the accident on the top of Park avenue in front of the PO that some lady passed me on the righj and scratched her VW bus with my side view mirror.  Some idiot came out of the barber shop with the sheet on him and blamed me when I was STOPPED.  I got a ticket which Harrington took care of.  Remember for freshman initiation we had to climb the C mountain and paint the rocks in white so it could be seen from the valley? Oh boy, do I have stories to remind you all of when we get together, I can not fricken wait !!!!!!   See you soon God permitting.
Reply

Damaso Santana on March 2, 2013 10:46 AM
Life is laughing, learning and crying, whatever you do, enjoy it all. There are lessons to be learned.
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Damaso Santana on March 2, 2013 10:51 AM
ALICE:                              "How long is forever"
 
WHITE RABBIT:             "Sometimes only a second"
 
In that sense those last 50 years have been precisely that, this reunion coming up could be just that. Both forever and a second do apply.
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Damaso Santana on March 2, 2013 11:34 PM
So...make it count!
Reply

diana macaraeg-langenfus on March 2, 2013 12:31 PM
Damaso, I have always loved your stories. I cannot wait to hear many, many, more.
Reply

Fernando Santana on March 2, 2013 9:15 PM
Does anyone remember our Christmas in Anaconda and how we criticized John Mc Carvil for never being at Brondel Hall only to later find out he was working his butt off so that he could finance our trip and give all of us a beautiful Christmas.  Let us not forget our trip to the Bishop's Lodge and the great time we all had
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Enrique Sainz on March 4, 2013 11:09 PM
This is in response to Silvio's comment that he meassured the distance from Brondell to the Commons because when we had to walk it,it felt like forever and Google came up with 1.1 miles. I used a different software and it came up with 0.96 miles. I guess we just were wimps at that tender age.
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diane macaraeg-langenfus on March 5, 2013 4:08 AM
Enrique, (Rick) in those days I lived on the 1100 block of Hollins one of the streets that ran perpendicular to Carroll College. I had to walk from the 1100 block to St Helena School in a uniform, legs bare or with hose....had snow boots but feet still froze.  No, you were not wimps, it was cold as hell...well not hell...but damn cold in those days to walk even two blocks.  So you think for one minute kids today could walk that far even if it ment getting a meal?????  NOT....
Reply

Manuel Perez Capon on March 7, 2013 1:24 PM
Well, I do remember the trip to Yellowstone, remember driving the small blue VW beetle from the lady ranger that allowed me and two others to go up the one way to the top of the Yellowstone mountain where the mirador was.  If anyone had to drive down they had to communicate it to the one attempting to drive up as two vehicles would not fit on the narrow path and it had NO guardrails. Scary but she trusted me and everything was OK.  For those who may not remember, we also used to do nutty things at the Hall.  I used to get the hose from the boiler room where our rooms were and stick it out the basement window on the right side and flood the grass front to create a skating ring when the water would freeze. Remember that?  Also we would have contests to pass the time and some of us would go to the top floor, front window and piss out of the window when it was below 20* and as soon as the yellow liquid hit the air it would freeze into a yellow arch and land on the snow below.  Someone would be down on the ground and measure the arch width and whoever pissed the widest one would get a pot of quarters from everyone who participated on the "Pissing Contest" as the price.  Remember that?  1962 first visit from MRS> Louise Cooper, Catholic Charities rep from Miami.  Msgr  Harrington sat ALL of on the living room sofa and chairs and around them and stated she is coming tomorrow, whoever complains goes back to Matecumbe the next day.  No one did but do you remember when I and Oscar Ramirez opened the door in the evening because our "Guardian" could not find the key hole?  I and Oscar had to take him upstairs because he was so drunk.  We undressed him and put his pj's on and that was the first time we knew he did not wear a shirt but a T'shirt with a hanging bib in white and a collar under his suit.  The next day he called us two to his room and gave us his JCPenney's credit card and told us to buy whatever we wanted as a reward for having helped him in a moment of "distress".  Yeah, right !  His acqua color 4 dr. Olds 98 parked in front had he last ritess box on the center of the front seat, it wAS piuked all over, his dentures on the floor by the brake pedal, he had just had dinner with the rep from Miami.  Remember that one?  Remember when he was trying to trade in his 61 OLDS acqua also for a 62 and Bishop Hunt said there was no money in the budget?  Remember when he took a bunch of kids to Butte and crashed it unto a bridge guard rail and the next day he got a new oLDS.? I think Orestes was in the car at the time, dont recall.  Remember when I had the accident on the top of Park avenue in front of the PO that some lady passed me on the righj and scratched her VW bus with my side view mirror.  Some idiot came out of the barber shop with the sheet on him and blamed me when I was STOPPED.  I got a ticket which Harrington took care of.  Remember for freshman initiation we had to climb the C mountain and paint the rocks in white so it could be seen from the valley? Oh boy, do I have stories to remind you all of when we get together, I can not fricken wait !!!!!!   See you soon God permitting.
Reply

Fernando Santana on March 9, 2013 11:48 PM
I'm not sure who the rest of the crew was but I remember working in the kitchen at Carrol College one night I went up to the mike and started singing Rag Doll by Frankie Vale and the Four Seasons that night I had the opportunity to sing  I also lost my job I guess  they did not like my voice.  Who else worked at the kitchen?
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emilio valle on March 17, 2013 11:59 PM
When I received the email announcing the upcoming reunion, I was filled with emotion and happiness. Many times over the years I wanted to organize a reunion with all the brothers and sisters from Helena, Montana. Every time a few of us got together in Florida or in California, we talked about doing a reunion. After a few days and weeks went by, the well intentioned plans and ideas for such a reunion would fade away. Then, unexpectedly, I received an invitation to meet in the summer. The “dream” was on.
Old address books, old lists, old pictures and high school yearbooks came out of the closet and were revisited. All those young faces that I had looked at it so many times before became, once again, alive in my memory. The school, the nuns, the dances, the dates, the games, the fights, the struggles with the language, the cold winters, the yearning for our absent parents; all of it resurfaced and became fresh. It was a rush.
Each of us has their own feelings and memories of those years. What it is common to all of us is that we were all affected by the placed and the people in Helena, Montana. The good, the bad and the ugly became part of us and transformed us. I have often wondered how every ones lives were changed because of it. I was fortunate to reunite with my parents within a year. My struggles and loneliness could never compare to what the rest of the brothers and sisters had to endure.
Helena changed me, but above all you changed me. My parents emigrated from Spain to Cuba when I was 4 years old, so I never had any immediate family. I wished that I had a brother or a sister and uncles and aunts and a whole bunch of cousins to run around with. It was not for me to have until I was sent to Helena. You became that brother and sister and all those cousins that I wish I had. My parents too felt the same way, for many visited them often. Many of you shared with my parents and me, your sadness and tears, as well as your happiness and laughs. You became family, instant family to them and to me.  I thank you for that.
The day that we reunite in Helena, will be overwhelming and uncontrollable. The feelings will take over us. Not all of the feelings will be positive. Good things did happen; we shared our feelings as well as our resources. We played, we studied, and we learned from each other, we took care of each other. We were young men and women that had been forced to grow up very quickly in a placed very far from our comfort zone. But other things were unacceptable, selfish and many times hurtful. I am sure that we all carry some of that as well. But just like any large family getting together for an important event, there is a lot to celebrate as well as a lot of healing to do.
With all respect, trust and love to all my brothers and sisters.
Un muy fuerte Abrazo.   Emilio Valle
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diane macaraeg-langenfus on April 4, 2013 7:54 PM
Carroll College: Wow! It seems like ages ago that Orestes Rodriguez and I were walking through the College’s dump when we found a grenade with the pin still in it. I pulled the pin and threw the grenade John Wayne style. Then the most difficult time was not knowing how long to wait before checking why the grenade did not go off. Heck, if I did that now they would probably send me to Guantanamo.
 
This was on the events page and I just had to repost this when I changed the page..the story is Silvio's and just to good to loose......,
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Fernando Santana on April 8, 2013 9:57 PM
The picture in the Brondel site is that of Ronnie Ferrer
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Guillermo Martinez on April 18, 2013 4:50 PM
Sam, it sure is fond thinking  about th0se years. I plan to attend. Take care ,Guillermo
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Damaso Santana on April 26, 2013 12:21 AM
Who is Sam?
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paco Gutierrez on May 27, 2013 2:25 PM
I remember Ronnie Ferrer (he had a smaller brother named Omar) having some of the most spectacular fistfights at St Joseph's home with the orphanage disciplinarian nun who was known to us kids as "Cara de Tranca"   I was sad to read about his passing.
 
Paco.
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Damaso Santana on June 9, 2013 10:34 AM
My brother and I many times walked to  St Joseph's from Brondell Hall, many other times Emilio's Dad used to take us when very cold or snow.
Many a times we would knock and "Cara de Tranca" (Emilio's Dad would call her  "Sargento de Cuadra") would open the door only to slam it on our faces land yelling no visits today. Emilio, your Dad would really let her have it, even if the door was closed, Freddy and I will never forget him for going out of his way and fighting for us.
Of course I also remember goings to the lakes with them and him pulling out his famous "Espana en Llamas" a Brandy concoction sure to keep us warm after coming out of the cold lake water. God Bless!
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jorge ulfe on June 18, 2013 5:58 PM
Coming back home thinking all the good times me and Soraya had in this 50 yrs reunion . Can really express all the appreciation of Helena ground especially Silvio Jaye Diana and Matsumoto .Just thinking of all of you brings tremendous feeling of broterhood that was present every time we gather together. .I dont want to think it is the end of my buccket list .On the contrary is the begginig of something bigger than that .We the grace of the Lord will be just another step of clossiness not of the people we left 50 yrs ago but a new beggining.My wife was very tired when we got home but I know we the hope we put on God and we the prayers of all of you she will finnaly will get her transpllant and for our next reunion she will be fine .Me and the Lord knows she deserves .She love you all of you as much as me the way we have express ourselves.Love you all Sivio love you always and your family Thanks again   Jorge and Soraya Ulfe
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