Chalk Dust Memories
Michael Menaster (1982)
I was in Steve Phelps social sciences/history class as a freshman (1978-1979). Steve was talking about guerilla warfare, and I asked if that had anything to do with monkeys. That question got me a detention.
I took Fr. Dodd for Homeric Greek, and one of my classmates, who was not doing well in the class, tried to bribe him with a bottle of Greek wine. I reminded Fr. Dodd, “Never trust a Greek bearing gifts.”
I attended college at Loyola Marymount University with a pre-med and chemistry major. One of the required courses was a physics laboratory. Predictably, the midterm test was very difficult. A couple of days later, classmates in another section came up to me and congratulated me. I asked them to explain. The instructor said that I earned the high score on the exam. He explained that people criticize American education, but that I was an exception because I had attended SI and studied Latin and Greek.
Latin is actually very useful in the medical profession, despite being a “dead language.” During a pre-med course in alcohol/drug studies, the instructor asked what NPO meant. I reflexively responded, “Nihil per orum.” After observing a puzzled look on her face, I translated, “the patient can’t eat or drink anything.”
Fr. Harrington taught me the classical pronunciation of Latin (1978–1979). We learned it so well that I cringed when I heard Ecclesiastical Latin pronounced. During medical school, we studied myasthenia gravis, a neurological disorder. Classmates didn’t understand me when I pronounced the letter “v” in gravis as a “w.” We proceeded to have a discussion about the merits of classical Latin as opposed to Ecclesiatical Latin. I still pronounce the disorder as “myasthenia grawis.”
Paul Totah (1975)
George T Pannos (1953)
I played basketball during the Rene Herrerias and Phil Woolpert days..and the JV coach, Father Devlin.. Father Devlin took an interest in me and when I went back east to college he kept in touch with my Mom and Dad over that time to find out how I was doing etc..When I graduated and went to Prep School in Pennsylvania..he kept in touch with my Mom and Dad to see how I was doing for a period of 5 years or so...
Lo and behold in 1955 I was at Hartwick College, a sophomore...and one Sunday morning I get an early am call at the Fraternity House..and am nursing a helluva hangover from the night before Fraternity Party... The voice on the phone said: "George this is Father Devlin!!"..I said "What?..Is this some kind of joke or what?"..Sure enough it was Ray.. He was there in Oneonta, NY on a Jesuit retreat..
So we met at the local church where he was staying. We spent a few hours talking, and his concern was that I keep my religious principles and "be careful" of the "decadent life within Fraternities.."..
I never for "Rocket Ray" as we used to call him...and his passing brings a tear to my eye and hope he and my Dad and Mom spend some time together in heaven... Rest in Peace, Good Man.
Thought I'd pass this on...in memory of a great priest..and one that will always be in my heart and memories of a great school and an even greater era which Father Ray was part of..
Ugo Pignati (1969)
One of my most memorable experiences at SI occurred after I graduated in 1969, the last class to graduate from the Stanyan Street campus (we had been promised to be the first class to graduate out of the new SI, but the new school wasn’t yet completed). I had come to SI in 1967 for junior year, having arrived from Italy in 1963. Being Italian, I loved playing soccer, and in senior year was on the varsity and made All-WCAL. That year, our team won the first WCAL Soccer Championship in SI history After I graduated, soccer coach Luis Sagastume asked me to return to SI and coach the junior varsity. I jumped at the chance and agreed to take on the JV team. The first thing I did was to try to put together some uniforms for the team. The shirts my team had worn the previous year had been bought by Coach Sagastume in Mexico, and we were lucky to inherit these. (The soccer jackets we wore as seniors were hand-me-downs from the basketball team). The problem was finding the shorts, since there was really no budget for the JVs. I had been given a few hundred dollars as “salary” so I went to a store on Taraval Street, used my money to buy blue shorts for the team, and had the SI soccer logo put on them. Despite our “mix and match” uniforms from two countries, the JVs played quite well, and I was very proud to lead the Class of 1970 team to the first-ever WCAL JV soccer championship in SI history.
I recall trying out for frosh football with 130 kids playing for Fran Stiegeler and Steve Nejasmich, our line coach. He figured out who the best five offensive linemen were and prepared them for the first game. Then Brad Carter, who played left guard, pulled a hamstring in the warm-ups before our first game at Bellarmine. They put in the next guy in line, who had almost no practice time and knew none of the plays. I always made sure as a coach not to do that.
Peter Devine’s English class was very engaging and humorous. There was a playfulness between students and teachers that didn’t exist in grammar school with nuns.
One year, my classmate Brian Duddy died in a car accident. I had been to funerals for old people, but that was my first experience of mortality for people my age. Our whole class went to the funeral. I remember not being able to sleep that night, thinking what a waste and asking why did these things happen.
Daniel Tracey (1977)
Fr. Gordon Bennett, SJ, our chaplain, was young and approachable and got along with kids. Mike Silvestri helped me out after school with math problems I didn’t understand in class. We played Riordan on Halloween night in 1975, and I recall Coach Haskell saying the SH and Riordan games were special because players from those teams would be our buddies after graduation. We beat Riordan 27–0 that night. The day before, Bob Drucker had predicted the score and had written it on the chalkboard in the coach’s room.
Alfred Pace (1974)
In order to attend SI, it was necessary for me to take a series of buses and the L Taraval from Forest Hill Station. Upon arriving at Forest Hill Station, I was confused about which direction and which car I should take. Within moments, I observed several students wearing red and blue SI jackets … clearly juniors or seniors. Thus it was that I got onto that car, presuming we would arrive at SI in short order. Wrong. The students had just completed photo day and were going downtown. I found myself on Market Street “dazed and confused.” A Muni driver provided the correct info and I took the L back to the Forest Hill Station Tunnel. At that point, I was told we had to disembark as the car was no longer “in service.” As the time was now approaching 9 a.m., I decided to run from the station to SI, a distance of about 28 city blocks.
Of course, this resulted in my first encounter with J.B. Murphy and Br. Draper, whose quote rings in my head to this day: “Mr. Pace, this is not the way to begin your 4-year career at St. Ignatius Prep. JUG for five days.” But because of that lengthy run (my first, ever), I decided to go out for the cross country team.
From time to time during the 4th and 5th period lunch breaks, the doors of Carlin Commons would abruptly and simultaneously close, virtually trapping the students inside with the teachers and faculty standing guard. Swiftly, Br. Draper would enter, black book in hand and with an air of élan, plug in a microphone and announce, “Gentlemen, this is a grooming inspection!” Brother would then make the rounds, entering into his black book those students whose hair was too long and those who were showing the first signs of facial hair. Of course, this became a bit of an event and a number of students would begin to chant the names of those they thought warranted the attention of Br. Draper.
Such it was one day the doors of Carlin Commons closed and the faculty stood guard. It was not long before some students began to chant “Pace, Pace, Pace!” Brother wandered over and suggested, “Get a haircut by Monday.”
I failed to get the haircut. Monday arrived and at the end of second period, Br. Draper made his usual intercom announcements of the day and then asked those who had been asked to get a haircut or shave to come down to his office. Yikes!
Upon arrival, Brother correctly observed that I had not complied with his request. Accordingly, he asked me to enter his office and sit down, at which time he proceeded to cut off a portion of my dangling locks. Frankly, this is an area where Brother has little talent. The result was a clearly lopsided, partial haircut. Brother then said, “Mr. Pace, I suggest you get the rest done by a professional.”
I also remember the following miscellaneous events: Aldo Congi ’72 and the SI Juke Box dancing to “Rock around the Clock” during lunch in Carlin Commons; Mark (now Father) Taheny ’74 climbing the exterior corner of the gymnasium, using only his hands and feet; Stan Raggio ’73, several other students and I in Stan’s yellow Plymouth hemi-head Duster listening to Led Zeppelin's “Whole Lotta Love” blaring out of the 8-track; the Circle; races at Brotherhood Way; my first fistfight on the second floor of the school building; and Mr. Kennedy’s biology class where we launched a boat and deployed a seine net in Middle Lake at Golden Gate Park. The police arrived shortly thereafter urging us to bring the boat and net ashore.
Gary Brickley (1971)
During the rocket demonstration in Fr. Spohn’s class, he was so focused on one aspect of the experiment that he didn’t notice that, at the last second, someone had snipped the string and the rocket flew out the window. He never found out who did it.
Peter Schwab (1971)
There was a certain amount of traditional lawlessness at the old school, with food fights and senior sneaks. When we came to the new school, we found it well lit with carpets and an administration that tried to create a professional atmosphere by coming down a little harder on us when we tried to stretch the rules. The day before our first senior sneak, we heard from the administration if we didn’t come to class, we would be suspended and lose our prom. We had a meeting in Room 214 with most of the seniors (it was a double room), and one person said that his girlfriend would kill him if he didn’t take her to the prom. Another student quoted the Third Rule of Mao. We called them on their bluff and had our sneak anyway. About 150 of us met at The Circle at 7:30 a.m. and drove in a car parade up 37th Avenue to Santiago. There, we got out of the cars and marched to school singing “We Shall Overcome” and the fight song. We all violated the dress code as much as we could, with most of us wearing shorts. We got to school just as the first bell sounded. Then the announcement came that we had 20 minutes to be appropriately attired. Some guys changed and ran to class and others returned to the Circle and then went to the beach. Eventually, 40 seniors were suspended and had to write out Macbeth in order to return to school.
In our senior year, we were in charge of breaking in a new dean, Leo Hyde. Before him we had John Hanley, who was tough — he never smiled — although he stood about 5-feet, 5-inches. Leo came in and smiled, and we thought we had it easy. We broke him in and taught him all the ropes.
In our junior year, someone made an emergency call that sent ambulances and fire engines to Frank Corwin’s house. We almost lost our prom until the guy who did it admitted it. Dick Spohn was the best teacher I ever had. He scared the hell out of me but made physics informative. We had to build an electric motor from scratch. If it spun, you received an A. If it didn’t, you got an F. Mine spun, and that’s why I became a science major.
Fr. Richard McCurdy, SJ, asked me to facilitate the Colloquium on the Ministry of Teaching for eight years. In that program, new teachers from SI met new teachers from other province schools and learned about Ignatian education. He took SI to a new philosophical level with the Preamble and the Jesuit Secondary Education Association.
Choose groups to clone to: