Making a Home on Stanyan Street (1930–1939)
The decade of the ’30s was a time of hardship for San Franciscans, as the Depression cost citizens their jobs and savings. But it was also a time of momentous happenings. The General Strike of 1934 marked a victory for the labor movement with repercussions that were felt for decades. San Francisco, just as it rose from the ashes of the Earthquake and Fire, saw that it could rise to the occasion in the midst of an economic downturn and build two wonders of the world — the world’s longest bridge and the longest single-span suspension bridge. It even dredged up Treasure Island from the bottom of the San Francisco Bay and held the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 and 1940, celebrating its status as the capital of the Pacific Rim ports of call. All of these events touched the lives of SI students. Still, high school life went on, and SI students enjoyed athletic victories in baseball (1930), tennis (1931 and 1932) and, for the first time, crew, taking the AAA title in 1939 using whaleboats in the San Francisco Bay.
Diamond Jubilee Celebration
SI marked its 75-year anniversary with a series of celebrations starting May 19, 1930, that included a diamond jubilee rally at SI Stadium on October 13; a celebration at the Civic Auditorium on October 17 with Archbishop Hanna, Mayor Rolph and USF President Edward Whelan, SJ; and a parade and Mass on October 19. St. Ignatius College used this occasion to change its name formally to the University of San Francisco.
Later, on May 22, the Society of California Pioneers dedicated a plaque commemorating the first St. Ignatius Academy of 1855. The plaque was affixed to The Emporium department store, built on the site of that one-room schoolhouse. SI President Fr. Anthony P. Sauer, SJ, rededicated that plaque and installed a new one at The Emporium in 1979, the first year he took office, commemorating the school’s 125th anniversary. The plaque bears these words: “The original St. Ignatius College has developed into both the University of San Francisco and St. Ignatius College Preparatory. Placed in honor of their 125th year by both senior classes of 1980. October 15, 1979.”
The Case of the Missing Principal
In the 1930–31 school year, SI had three principals. First, Fr. Dennis Sullivan, SJ, who had taught as a regent at SI in the early 1920s, took over in the summer of 1930 but left for Seattle on November 3, possibly for reasons of health, and he died there six years later. Following in his stead was the noted preacher Fr. Dennis Kavanagh, SJ, but sickness forced him, too, to resign by January. Succeeding him was Fr. Walter Semeria, SJ ’15, a legendary figure, known not for his tenure of office, but how he ended his association with the Jesuits.
Not much is known about his two terms as principal. He introduced the practice of mailing report cards home to parents and ended the Friday assemblies at which students received awards and medals for academic achievement. The August 19, 1932, edition of The Red and Blue, mentions in passing that he had left for his tertianship studies, and that Fr. James King, SJ, would succeed him as principal.
Four years later, Fr. Semeria disappeared, the apparent victim of a drowning accident on May 15, 1936. The May 27 edition of The Red and Blue reported that Fr. Semeria had died, “a victim of the raging Pacific Ocean.” It mentions that he had been “burdened with periodic sickness,” and had most recently served as “spiritual father of the young men of the University.”
What no one knew at the time was that Semeria had faked his death in order to leave town. SI Athletic Director Robert Vergara ’76 found out what really happened when, in 1983, he interviewed Fr. William Keenan, SJ, SI’s treasurer.
Fr. Keenan told Vergara that Semeria had gone to the beach one day after school and then disappeared, leaving behind a pile of his clothes and a breviary on the sands. The Jesuits, thinking that he had committed suicide, kept the matter quiet. But some, including Fr. Keenan, found it hard to believe Semeria had committed suicide. “It was thought odd, at the time, that Fr. Semeria should go swimming after school that day. He didn’t like the water, but his clothes were on the beach, and he disappeared. It was assumed that he had drowned. About 10 years later, however, USF received a request from a Southwestern Bible college for Walter Semeria’s transcript — an odd request for a man supposedly 10 years dead. At about the same time, Fr. William Dunne, SJ ’15, president of USF and SI (and Semeria’s high school classmate at SI), was scheduled to go to Albuquerque, NM, for a conference. While he was there, he took a ‘shot in the dark’ and looked through the phone book for a Walter Semeria. He found the name, dialed the number, and asked if he could speak with Walter Semeria. When Semeria came to the phone, Fr. Dunne recognized his voice and said, ‘Hello ——.’ Fr. Dunne called Semeria by a nickname that only the two of them used. Semeria knew the charade was over and agreed to meet with Fr. Dunne. They were together for an hour or two and Fr. Dunne had his say.”
Some of the priests in the city had refused to believe that Fr. Semeria had actually pulled this; after Fr. Dunne’s meeting, they were convinced. Further confirmation came when some publication ran a photo of a Protestant ministers’ conference, and Walter Semeria was clearly visible. He had become an Episcopal minister. Semeria later changed his name, and he never told his family that he was alive, worried, perhaps, that the stigma of being related to a runaway priest would be too much for them to bear.
A Song to Fight Over
In 1932, SI hired Eneas “Red” Kane, a nationally-ranked track athlete who had coached and taught there for several years, as the school’s first athletic director. He served in that position until 1936 when he left for a job at City Hall. He was replaced by Richard “Red” Vaccaro, a former star athlete at the college, who held the job until 1953. Following him were J.B. Murphy (1953-1967), Leo LaRocca ’53 (1966–2000) and Robert Vergara ’76 (2000– ). (More on these men in later chapters.)
The school began another sports tradition in 1933 when Fenton Gervase O’Toole ’34 wrote the words that generations of Ignatians have sung at rallies and games. The November 8, 1933, edition of The Red and Blue reported on this event:
“Here It is:
School Victory Song
To the Red and Blue we’ll all be true,
We’ll wave her banner to the sky,
We’ll fight for you, old Red and Blue,
We’ll fight for Saint Ignatius High!
And victory will be our goal —
For we will reach it, if we try,
So let us fight—with all our might—
We’re gonna fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!”
Ignatian’s Song of Victory Made by F. O’Toole
“The Victory Song’s here! A real cheery song of encouragement for the boys who wear the Red and Blue. For a long time loyal Ignatians have been discussing ways and means of instilling more pep and enthusiasm into our student body. Fenton O’Toole ’34 has come to the aid of all loyal Ignatians with a new victory song, to be sung at all games and rallies to the tune of a snappy military march.
“You will hear the song at the next rally but in the meantime learn the words so that you can warble the Red and Blue warriors on to victory. Get behind the new school song and make it a real student body accomplishment of the year.”
O’Toole, who later changed his first name to Felton, joined the Society of Jesus after graduating from SI and served as a priest for 50 years until his death. He ended his career as an assistant professor of English at SCU from 1975–83.
If you ask people who graduated from SI in the 1930s what they recall of the Great Depression, they will not say very much. Most recall times of little hardship for themselves. “That was all we knew. We didn’t know we were poor,” was the echo of nearly every Ignatian interviewed for this history.
Still SI was not immune from the ravages of the economic downturn. Perhaps the most obvious effect of the Depression on SI was the elimination of the yearbook. The 1932 edition of The Heights was to be the last SI yearbook until 1946, when it returned as the renamed Ignatian. With Archbishop Edward Hanna’s health failing, and with the archdiocese in economic trouble, Bishop John J. Mitty was called in from Utah in 1932 to serve as Hanna’s coadjutor and set things in order. On November 6, 1932, in an announcement in The Monitor, he ordered all Catholic schools in the archdiocese to stop publishing yearbooks. His reasons: “It has been shown that the preparation of these books has been found to cause a considerable loss of time, on the part of the pupils, a burdensome and useless expense to parents and a great annoyance to merchants who were imposed on to advertise in these books, to defray the cost of printing them.”1
For similar reasons, he instructed SI in 1936 not to raise funds to build a gym, and the school delayed its fund-raising campaign for several years. (In a terse letter to SI Principal James A. King, SJ, Mitty wrote that “no permission for [the gym fund-raising] drive has been asked or granted…. I hereby forbid this campaign and order it to be discontinued immediately.”2
SI suffered in other ways. Stan Corriea ’34, who attended SI in the early years of the Depression, noted that a small number of his classmates could not afford the jump in tuition, from $5 per month to $7.50, when the school moved from the Shirt Factory to Stanyan Street. Those who could not afford the tuition typically lasted out the school year and did not return the following fall; however, Frank Dowling ’36 recalls more than a few mothers coming to SI to withdraw their sons, unable to pay the monthly tuition. “The Jesuits would ask what they could afford. If only $3, the priests would say, fine. Just pay that. We want to keep your boy in school.”
Some of those who did have a little extra money spent it, during the last days of Prohibition, on liquor purchased at a speakeasy at the corner of Stockton and Sutter. “We used to go there in high school and buy a quart of whiskey for $1.50,” said Corriea.
Peter Devine ’66 tells the story of a time when the Jesuits at SI could not afford to pay their electric bill in the mid 1930s: “Several graduates, including my father and uncle, revived the Alumni Association to raise money for the Jesuits. When the mothers in the Loyola Guild learned how hard-pressed the school was, they organized a bake sale. The story goes that the Jesuits spent the night in their chapel praying for money to pay their electric bill. The next morning, the mothers brought them their proceeds from the bake sale, giving them enough to pay it.”
Bob Lagomarsino ’39 recalled that some of his classmates put newspaper or cardboard in their shoes when it rained because of the holes in their soles. “But we thought that was normal. We had three square meals a day and didn’t know any different. Our parents struggled through the hard times to afford the tuition,” which in the late 1930s had risen to $9 per month. “I used to pay for it by working at my dad’s store and by selling magazines at Ocean Beach.”
Lagomarsino sold The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies’ Home Journal for 5 cents to people visiting Playland at the Beach. “But not everyone had money to spare, and the magazines were a tough sell.”
Al Worner ’36, like Lagomarsino, worked to help his parents pay the tuition. Worner delivered the Shopping News on Wednesdays and Saturdays. “That was nice money,” he noted. “And I used to get 25 cents to cut the front lawns for my neighbors.”
In 1935, Worner remembers, SI held its junior prom with a small orchestra in the auditorium at USF due to financial problems. The Depression didn’t keep Worner and his classmates from having a good time when school let out. “If one of us could borrow a car from his father, we would drive to Land’s End on Saturday afternoons and listen on the radio to the afternoon orchestra from Meadowbrook in New Jersey. Or we’d go out to Playland with our families or to Sutro Baths with our buddies. At Playland, we would ride the giant slides, get lost in the maze of mirrors or try to walk through the spinning barrel and get tossed around.
“On Sundays, we would eat at Lucca’s, which offered dinner for 50 cents, including petits fours to take home with you. For 75 cents, you’d get a bottle of wine for dinner.
“If I took a girl on a date, I’d go with a few other couples to a show. Afterwards we would take our dates to the St. Francis or the Mark Hopkins. Six or eight of us would take a table in the dining room, and for $2 we would order a bowl of punch for two and dance to Freddie Martin. The ballrooms loved having us there, because we looked good in our suits and ties, and we kept the places from looking empty. With dinner at $4 or $5, they were having trouble filling those places.”
What did high school students read in their English classes in the 1930s? What electives could they take? According to the Catalogue of 1930–31, students read such classics as The Iliad & The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Everyman, Morte d’Arthur, Pilgrim’s Progress, Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, The Vicar of Wakefield, The Last Days of Pompeii, Ivanhoe, Treasure Island, Captains Courageous and Lorna Doone. They also read Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Hawthorne and a number of poets, such as Tennyson, Arnold, Byron, Coleridge, Pope, Milton and Browning — in short, the Great Books that students had read 30 years previous and would continue to read 30 years hence. This was the same reading list used by every teacher in every school in the province, as they all looked to the Ratio Studiorum to guide their curriculum. (Not until the 1960s and 1970s would teachers be allowed to experiment and stray from this norm with authors such as Kate Chopin, e.e. cummings and Allen Ginsberg.)
SI offered a variety of courses over the four years, but students had few options for electives. Subjects included chemistry, civics, debating, English, French, German, Greek, history, Latin, mathematics, mechanical drawing, music, physics, public speaking, religion, Spanish and social science. In all, 35 teachers and seven administrators helped 850 students march through their four years of high school education.
In 1933, the school changed its curriculum, requiring all students to take Latin, English, history and mathematics in their first two years as core subjects, with honors students taking Greek in their sophomore year. For the junior year, students could choose from three different sets of additional courses, though, as Fr. McGloin notes, “St. Ignatius High School still was determined to retain its character as a college preparatory institution for not one vocational or commercial subject was included in the three groups.”3
SI also began offering three kinds of diplomas in 1933: a general diploma for students taking fewer than four years of Latin, a classical diploma for four years of Latin study, and the highest award — an honorary classical diploma — for four years of Latin and two of Greek.
In 1938, Fr. Edward B. Rooney, SJ, the national director of the Jesuit Education Association, came to SI to evaluate its programs and facilities. He found that the 704 students and 45 faculty of SI enjoyed a “fine reputation” and that the school “was run exceptionally well.” He also noted that SI was “one of the four Jesuit high schools chosen two years ago to participate in the Cooperative Study of Secondary School Standards in some two hundred American high schools. Its rating in this study was quite satisfactory.” He hoped that the school would employ more Jesuit priests as teachers, as SI relied heavily on scholastics, whose time at the school lasted only a few years. Those scholastics, however, were crucial to the running of the school, as they supplied needed manpower and kept tuition costs low. They also served to inspire young men to follow a vocational call to the Society of Jesus as priests and brothers and to become diocesan priests.4
The football team, which left the AAA after the 1931 season for lack of success against the powerful city teams, went undefeated under Coach George Malley from September 1933 to December 1935, finally losing 12–7 to Loyola High School of Los Angeles in the state Catholic prep grid championship. Coach Malley was so popular in those days that you could hear him being interviewed on Bay Area radio stations. His success prompted SI to return to the AAA in 1936. TheSan Francisco Chronicle, at the end of the 1934 season, likened Malley’s team to the “Rockne Ramblers” of Notre Dame. (It seemed in those days as if all Catholic athletes in the U.S. were measured against the exploits of Notre Dame’s great teams.) “Today in San Francisco is an unsung, unnoted football team that embodies about everything that Notre Dame teams of years ago stood for — rambling, fight and Irish — and undefeated records. That team belongs to St. Ignatius High School. The Ignatians ramble over California a bit, next year they may even trek to Reno; Irish names dominate the lineup and the record is clean — not even one point is tabbed for opponents.”
The lightweight football team also enjoyed success, with the 1933 squad, coached by Eneas “Red” Kane, winning 13 games by shutting out each opponent and scoring a total of 219 points. The team was ranked first in Northern California but missed playing Bakersfield for the state championship. SI hoped to raise funds to travel south through the gate receipts of a game against Sacred Heart. When that game was cancelled, SI opted not to make the trip.
In 1936, Eneas “Red” Kane, SI’s first athletic director, left and was replaced by Richard “Red” Vaccaro ’26, who made a name for himself as a football great at SI. In 1924, the year he entered SI as a sophomore, he became the captain of the varsity football team under coach Jimmy Needles. He continued at SI College in 1926 and graduated in 1930 after playing football for SI and the Olympic Club. In 1931 he started teaching at the high school and the following year became assistant to Leo Rooney, SI’s head football coach. In 1936, he became both the new athletic director and head football coach (1936–1941) after George Malley left to coach on the college level.
One challenge Vaccaro faced was the lack of a gym for his basketball teams. The school began raising money for a gym, with $70,000 set for the goal, and in the meantime, SI played at the newly-opened Kezar Pavilion and Stadium.
The varsity basketball team of 1935–36 seemed destined for greatness with the hire of Louis Batmale, a member of Lowell’s Class of 1930 who was a year out of college. Members of the Class of ’36 wondered who this baby-faced choirboy was, as he looked no older than they. Some students began making fun of him behind his back. One day, they turned all their chairs around to face the back of the room. “We thought it was funny,” said Bill Bennett ’36. “He did not.”
Jack “Doc” Overstreet ’36 was one of those who was not immediately impressed by Batmale. “Then one day, I was walking down the hall, and this tall man grabbed me. He said, ‘Are you trying to knock me down? That’s not going to happen.’ No one gave him trouble after that. Later, I realized how much he and all my teachers really cared for us.”
Batmale coached the SI basketball team to seven straight wins, leading up to a big game against Lowell. Bob Fair ’36, who played for Batmale, remembers Kezar selling out all 5,500 seats, and turning away 10,000 more. Lowell beat SI 29–8 that night. “That was pretty embarrassing for all of us,” Fair notes. For Frank Lawson ’36, that loss “was the toughest of my life. Over the years I have run into so many people who said they were at that game.” SI wouldn’t avenge itself until 1943, when Kevin O’Shea ’43 would lead the Wildcats to a city championship.
Batmale succeeded as a coach despite having to scrounge around the city for gyms to use. “All we had were two hoops in the schoolyard,” he noted. “We would use a gym on Page Street and ones at Kezar, the Governor’s Club (now the San Francisco Boy’s Club), Roosevelt Jr. High School and, once in a while, Mission High and Everett Junior High.”
Batmale also taught English at SI between 1935–39 and recalls the faculty make-up was the ideal mix for Fr. James A. King, SJ, whom Batmale called “a great principal”): one-third priests, one-third scholastics and one-third laymen. Batmale, like all the lay teachers, made just enough to get by: $1,700 per year. “Those were Depression dollars,” he added. “An apartment cost $30 a month to rent and a restaurant dinner cost 75 cents.” Still, after he married, Fr. King told him this: “Louis, you can’t work for the Jesuits all your life. You need to make enough to support a family now.” The Jesuits simply couldn’t afford to pay lay teachers as much as they deserved, so Batmale left SI, took a job at Commerce High School, and eventually rose through the public school ranks to become president of San Francisco City College, retiring in 1977.
SI won its first AAA baseball championship under manager Frank McGloin ’25, who had been a star on the SI baseball team. The 1930 season began with the Wildcats winning four of their first five games with stars such as Joe Byrne (an All-City star who later played for the Seals), Roy Harrison and team captain Carl Sever, who later played in the Pacific Coast League for the Oakland Oaks. In the league championship, SI beat Galileo two games to one. McGloin said that team was “one of the best I ever coached.”5
Postscript: PJ Byrne, son of Joe Byrne, wrote to add that the 1930 baseball team had two payers go on to the Pacific Coast League, not just Carl Sever. My dad played for the San Francisco Seals in the early 1930s and was also All-City in baseball.
The SI Rowing Club may have been active informally in the 1920s, but it gained formal status in 1932 when Thomas O’Dwyer, a student at SI, organized the school’s first crew, which was coached by William Lenhart. After more than 200 boys tried out, the coach formed two crews, one for the 130-pound weight class and the other an unlimited (varsity) boat. In its first year, rowing in 14–person whaleboats, SI beat Galileo, Lowell, Marin Junior College and several other schools. The team to beat, however, was the crew from Continuation High School, and SI placed second in AAA competition to that school in 1936 through 1938.
James Feehan ’32, who died in 2004, was a member of the first crew. His widow, Geraldine, recalls that her husband “practiced with the rowing club every Saturday morning on the Bay with Angel Island their destination. On one trip, the boys stayed too long on the island. Because of changing tides, rowing back was hard and dangerous. They arrived safely, but it was an anxious and worrisome time for everyone awaiting their return at the South End Rowing Club pier. Monday morning was also an anxious and worrisome time when the team was called to the principal’s office for a full accounting of the episode.”
In 1939, SI won its first league title by defeating Galileo; SI recaptured the league championship in 1941 and 1942 before disbanding. SI would not compete in crew again until 1979. In the 1990s, SI would prove to be a powerhouse both in California and in the nation, taking first place in the U.S. in 1997, marking SI’s only national athletic championship.
The first mention of a golf team occurs in the 1930 edition of The Heights, which noted that the “there aren’t too many good golfers in the prep circles around here, and the Wildcats seem to be blessed with an amazing number of them.” Standouts included senior Frank Devlin, who already had a hole-in-one to his credit, sophomore George Kuklinsky and junior Neal Lyons. Others on the team were Al Buchner, Joe Kelly, Lee Hoagland, John Duff, Frank Keane, Sid Heller, Gerry Lunch, Fred Cosgrove, Jack Sherry, Ed Gilmore, Bill O’Toole and Jack Freed.
In 1930, SI applied for membership in the California Scholarship Federation and formed its first Honor Society, Chapter 211 of the CSF. According to The Heightsof that year, the group was “a junior part of the International Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and any high school member enjoys the help of that body upon his entrance into college.” The first five members that year were William Dowling, William Dunbar, James Gallen, George Myers and John O’Connell. In 1942, Edward L. Burke ’42, who later served for a time as a Jesuit and a professor at USF, won the CSF’s highest prize, the Seymour Memorial Award, honoring him for being the top male student in the state.
Marching for ROTC & Jeans
Fr. King, principal from 1932–1945, added a Military Training Unit to the curriculum in 1935, the genesis of the ROTC program. While students participated in it by the hundreds, they still had a rebellious streak. In March 1937, 50 students came to class wearing blue jeans to protest the strict dress code. When they were told to go home and change, they walked outside and sat in the street. The Examiner ran a picture of the students on March 19 with a “Strike for Jeans” sign during their sit-in, and the caption noted that “for a while, they sat in the street wearing out the jeans at strategic points. But all of them were back in class by noon” and that “the principal called it a lark.” Those boys spent a day in JUG for every class period they missed.
Speech & Debate
Debate continued to be a primary extracurricular activity. In 1934, SI took on Bellarmine over this proposition: “Resolved, that Hitler is a benefit to Germany.” Debaters in the Senate, the senior debating society, gathered first at SI and then at Bellarmine for two nights of arguments. Bellarmine defended the proposition, arguing that Hitler had “checked communism” and had “been a benefit to Germany, financially.” SI countered, with Jack Clifford arguing that Hitler’s government “was one of oppression,” Jack Wade noting that Hitler had “fostered race hatred,” and Jack Barbieri pointing to the trade wall erected by Hitler. SI won that debate round, though it lost the following day to Bellarmine.6
The General Strike of 1934
SI students witnessed the historic events of the city in the 1930s, including the General Strike of 1934, when longshoremen began a strike for better wages. That July, street violence broke out and police shot and killed two longshoremen and wounded 109 people. A four-day general strike followed that shut down the city.
Even though his father was a police officer, Bill Bennett ’36 had sympathies for the longshoremen and eventually became one. “I thought they were getting screwed,” he said. “I was from a working class family just like most of the kids from SI then.”
But most of the Jesuits, long opposed to communism, had little sympathy for the longshoremen and their leader, Harry Bridges. “One day they took the students to the chapel and asked us to pray that FDR would not recognize Red Russia,” said Bennett. “It didn’t work, despite all our prayers.”
Few students were touched by the violence, though Bennett did see strikers beat a scab to death, and Bob Lagomarsino ’39, while driving with his parents, had a motorcycle cop smash into the back of his car while chasing a striker. Kevin Brady ’36 worked for a man who carried a gun while delivering pharmaceuticals to city hospitals. “Whenever strikers stopped him, he told them he had to get the drugs to the hospitals. They let him through, but he had that gun in case there was trouble.”
Two Wonders of the World and a World’s Fair
In 1936 and 1937, San Francisco introduced two engineering triumphs to the world with the Bay Bridge (the world’s longest bridge at the time) and the Golden Gate Bridge (the longest single-span suspension bridge). The Red and Blue of November 6, 1936, ran an editorial drawing a parallel to the Bay Bridge, which would link San Francisco to the East Bay on November 12, to the educational bridge that existed between USF and SI. “Soon a great campus will connect the high school and university, binding them as a great historic sight [sic] in San Francisco… the future!” Little did the writer know that SI and USF would, in 1959, formally separate, becoming two distinct institutions.
To celebrate the construction of both bridges, San Francisco hosted the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in both 1939 and 1940, featuring such talents as Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams in Billy Rose’s Aquacade and Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch on the Gayway. Many SI students and families attended this great event, the twin to New York’s World Fair, including Leo Carew ’40, who went to the Folies Bergere with his cousin. He saw the catcher for the San Francisco Seals, Joe Sprinz (whose son later went to SI), try to catch a ball dropped from a hot air balloon. The ball fell so fast that it shattered Sprinz’ jaw and nearly killed him. Carew also saw the first television, invented in San Francisco, and a talking robot called the Voder.
Br. Louis Bueler, SJ, who worked at SI for 30 years, found a job as a gardener at the fair and helped to put out a fire in the California Building. Bob Fair ’36 recalls being a contestant in Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge. “I won $50 for answering all the questions right about the Big Band songs. I had a chance to chat with Harry Babbit, who sang with Kyser. Then in 1999, I met him again in San Jose and took part in another contest where I had to name the members of Guy Lombardo’s orchestra. I won that contest and, when I got on stage, told Harry that we had met before in 1939. ‘Don’t you remember me?’ I asked him. He thought it was a great coincidence for us to meet 60 years later.”
But on this idyllic island, built to celebrate civilizations from around the world, Carew, Bueler and Fair saw signs that all was not well across the ocean. One by one, they saw various countries pull out of the exposition, starting with Czechoslovakia, as Germany began its European conquests.
Richard Egan ’39
One of the most famous students to attend SI graduated in 1939. Richard Egan starred in Love Me Tender (1956), in which Elvis Presley made his debut, Disney’s Pollyanna (1960), and A Summer Place (1959), playing Sandra Dee’s father.
At SI he performed in The Dragon’s Breath and The Bat and won the Freshman Elocution Medal. He got to know all the priests by working the switchboard at Welch Hall. After graduating from USF, where he participated in the College Players Theatre productions, he enlisted in the Army during World War II and served as a judo instructor before being discharged in 1946 with the rank of captain.
He picked up his acting career at Stanford after the war, earning a master’s degree in theater history, and at Northwestern University, where he taught and appeared in 30 shows.
A Warner Bros. talent scout eventually spotted him and signed him to a contract. After a series of supporting roles, he became a star for 20th Century-Fox, which likened him to Clark Gable, and cast him in a number of adventure movies including A View from Pompey’s Head in 1955, Esther and the King in 1960 andThe 300 Spartans in 1962. He also starred in Up Front, Hollywood Story, The Devil Makes Three, Seven Cities of Gold, Split Second, The Glory Brigade, Demetrius and the Gladiators, and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
In 1962, Egan began a career in television as Jim Redigo in Empire, a contemporary western series; for its second season, the show changed its name to Redigo. Toward the end of his career, he played the role of Samuel Clegg II on the soap opera Capitol until his death in 1987. Among the pallbearers for his funeral were his close friends Robert Mitchum and boxer Floyd Patterson. (Both Egan and his brother, Fr. Willis Egan, SJ ’35, a theology professor at USF, were lifelong fans of boxing. They numbered among their friends many of the champions who fought at the Olympic Auditorium in LA. “I enjoyed watching Richard’s boxing movies when we would hold ‘Jesuit Night at the Fights’ at Loyola University,” recalls Fr. Kotlanger. “He was a generous man who frequently attended SI and USF events to boost alumni enthusiasm.” Fr. Kotlanger also recalls that Herb Caen used to joke that Fr. Willis Egan should have become an actor as he was better looking than his brother.)
During his career he received the Laurel Award and was ranked among the top tier of entertainers by Good Housekeeping magazine. He was survived by his five children and by his wife, Patricia, whom he married in 1958 at Star of the Sea Church at a Mass officiated by his brother. His cousin Grace White noted in the spring 1989 issue of Genesis II that Egan was happy to land the Capitol part as it allowed him to spend more time with his family. “Rich was a wonderful family man,” said Mrs. White. “His family meant everything to him. Even though he was in Hollywood, Rich lived a quiet life and was very private. He was a holy man, truly a religious person.”
Alfred J. Cleary (SI 1900)
In 1930, Alfred J. Cleary (SI 1900 & grandfather of Board of Regents President Mark Cleary ’64) was appointed San Francisco’s first chief administrative officer by Mayor Angelo Rossi. Cleary, who had trained at UC Berkeley as a civil engineer, was chief assistant in charge of work on the Hetch Hetchy Dam and the supervisor of the pipeline that carried its water to the Bay Area. He also proposed the Rincon Hill site for the Bay Bridge and created the Mokelumne Water Project, which supplied the East Bay with water.
Under the city’s new charter, Cleary wielded considerable power as supervisor of both the SFFD and SFPD, the departments of finance and records, purchasing, public works, health, real estate, electricity, street traffic, welfare, coroner’s office and several minor bureaus. The San Francisco News praised the appointment in a December 16, 1930, editorial, calling Cleary an “experienced, successful and highly regarded civil engineer…. In his new post Mr. Cleary will be the real boss of most of the routine work of the city.”
Alluding to the corruption inherent in city government at that time, the News editorial added this note: “To clean up the Department of Public Works and to apply efficiency and economy to its street and other construction work will be in itself a job to test any man’s capacity.”
When he died in 1938, 108 honorary pallbearers, including A.P. Giannini (founder of the Bank of Italy which later became the Bank of America), took part in a funeral procession down Van Ness Avenue. Alfred Cleary Street, on the west side of St. Mary’s Cathedral, was named for this remarkable civic leader.
Al Wilsey ’36
One of SI’s greatest supporters over the years was Al Wlsey ’36. He died in 2002, but his legacy can still be felt at SI, from the library named in his honor to the many years of service he gave the school as regent and trustee.
At the age of 12, he accepted an eight-year scholarship to SI and USF offered to the brightest incoming freshman. He and his brother, Jack Wilsey ’34, traveled daily by ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco to reach SI, and despite the commute, both Wilseys excelled in academics and athletics. In addition to playing football, Al argued on the speech and debate team and was a member of the honor society.7
By 1937, Al’s first year at USF, both his mother and father had passed away, leaving the Wilsey Bennett Company family butter and egg business to Al and Jack. The company prospered under the direction of the brothers, and after World War II expanded into other products, including margarine, shortening and salad oil. Today, among other things, the Wilsey Bennett Company is involved in real estate development and venture capital investment. In explaining his success, Al characteristically responded, “We were just at the right place at the right time.”
In the true Ignatian spirit of service, over the years, Al gave generously of his time, talent, and resources. He served the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as a trustee, and a room in the Palace of the Legion of Honor is named for him and his wife, Dede. He was an avid supporter of numerous San Francisco institutions, including the opera and the California Academy of Sciences.
When Fr. Carlin created the Board of Regents in the 1960s, he invited Wilsey to join. Wilsey led both capital campaigns — the one to build the Sunset District campus in the 1960s and the one to remodel it in the 1990s after the school became coeducational. To thank him for his efforts, SI named him a Life Regent and made him one of three lay members of the Board of Trustees — the ownership body of the school — when that group was formed in the late 1990s.
“He is one of the most helpful and considerate alums I have ever met,” said Fr. Sauer on the day Wilsey received the school’s Christ the King Award. “He is among the rare individuals who helped us through major hurdles and difficulties of all kinds to allow SI the freedom to concentrate on advancing our mission as an educational institution.” His son Alfred S. “Lad” Wilsey, Jr., is a member of the school’s Board of Regents.
The Glacier Priest By Fr. Gerald McKevitt, SJ
Among the famous persons in the United States in the 1930s was Fr. Bernard Hubbard, SJ (SI 1906), popularly known as the “Glacier Priest.” Though listed in Santa Clara University’s bulletin as a member of the geology department, the peripatetic Hubbard spent most of his time exploring Alaska and lecturing about his travels to audiences across the country.
Hubbard’s career as an explorer began when he was a youth climbing the Santa Cruz mountains with camera, gun and dog.8 Later he was called “Fossil” by his SI classmates and at Santa Clara because of his interest in geology. Hubbard entered the Jesuit order in 1908 when he was 20. Even as a religious, he showed great resourcefulness in finding opportunities for mountain climbing and exploration. Sent to Innsbruck in the 1920s to complete his theological studies, Hubbard devoted more than his spare time to probing and photographing the alpine peaks and glaciers of the Austrian Tyrol. It is here that he earned the nicknameGletscher Pfarrer — “Glacier Priest” — which he carried all his life.9
In 1926, Hubbard returned to Santa Clara to teach Greek, German and geology, but it was not long before he again pulled on his hiking boots. During summer vacation in 1927, he made his first major expedition to Alaska to explore the Mendenhall and Taku glaciers. That trip, over country never before traversed by man, brought the 39-year-old priest extended publicity. So great was the interest generated by nationwide newspaper coverage of the expedition — beautifully illustrated by Hubbard’s own photographs of the glacial wonderland — that another trip was organized the following year.
When Hubbard returned from the Alaskan wilderness in 1928, he announced that he was “the first human being ever to reach the rugged and almost inaccessible interior of Kodiak Island,” where he found mountains 6,000 feet high of which “no one had previously known the existence.”10 His knowledge of the Taku River region led the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey to seek his services the following summer as a guide for a party erecting triangulation stations there. The summer of 1929 also found Hubbard trekking through the rarely visited and spectacular Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes toward the summit of the towering volcano Mount Katmai.
Frequently accompanied by strapping athletes from the Santa Clara football team (“chosen to stand hardship,” a New York paper explained) and occasionally traveling alone (as in 1931, when he mushed a 13-dog-team 1,600 miles from the interior of Alaska to the Bering Sea), Hubbard pursued his interests in both geology and the great outdoors. They had long since overshadowed his devotion to the classroom. In 1930, he was released from teaching at the university for full-time lecturing, writing and further exploration of the Alaskan wilderness.11
Financing his trips with proceeds from his public lectures (any surplus was destined for the Jesuit missions in Alaska), Hubbard turned his attention in the early 1930s to the volcano-torn Alaskan Peninsula. He had visited Aniakchak, “the largest active volcano in the world,” for the first time in 1930. The next year Aniakchak erupted in a spectacular display of fire and molten rock. Hubbard returned to explore and photograph the volcano’s still smoking crater. For two weeks he and his party of university athletes trekked around and through its smoldering dangers. The results of that expedition were described in National Geographic.12 Hubbard returned frequently to the giant craters of Aniakchak, Veniaminof and Katmai in succeeding years, as in 1934, when the National Geographic Society participated in his expedition to explore and map both the Alaskan Peninsula and the adjacent Aleutian Islands, whose topography had been greatly altered by the recent volcanic upheavals.13
When the adventures of this unusual Jesuit were serialized in The Sunday Evening Post in 1932, the name “Glacier Priest” became a household word. Sponsorship of his lecture tour and radio broadcasts by the National Broadcasting Company that same year enhanced Hubbard’s finances as well as his fame. Accompanied by a couple of his Alaskan sled dogs, Hubbard thrilled audiences across the country with stories of how he had traveled with Eskimos on a 2,000-mile trip to the Arctic Circle, celebrated Mass on ice floes, narrowly escaped death while flying an airplane into the crater of a still active volcano and hiked for weeks through the vast center of the mighty Aniakchak. “Half the year the highest paid lecturer in the world, the other half a wanderer among treacherous craters and glaciers”: thus The Literary Digest described him in 1937. When he stepped down from the lecture platform at New York’s Town Hall in May of that year, after eight months on the road, he had delivered more than 275 talks, “probably a world record,” theDigest surmised.14 Hubbard also wrote popular accounts of his travels. Mush You Malemutes, his first book, appeared in 1932; three years later he wrote Cradle of the Storms.
Although scientists occasionally accompanied him (Hubbard himself was largely self-trained), the overall scientific value of his 30-odd expeditions to Alaska was not great. Indeed, his pretensions to expertise on a variety of highly technical subjects, as well as his proclivity for the spectacular and for what appeared to be self-serving publicity, earned him criticism from his fellow Jesuits trained in geology and other scientific fields. Hubbard was effective in other ways, however, for his adventures reaped a harvest of publicity not only for himself but also for Santa Clara and especially Alaska. While SCU’s football teams were capturing headlines in newspapers across America, the “Glacier Priest” was making the name of the university known in lecture halls from Los Angeles to New York.
Alaska loved him as its volunteer ambassador because of the worldwide attention he drew to the territory’s natural wonders.15 His lecture tours and radio broadcasts, as well as the coverage he received in magazines and newspapers, led a Juneau daily to conclude in 1932 that Bernard Hubbard had generated the most extensive effective advertising that Alaska had yet received.16
But the most important result of his explorations was the thousands of feet of motion-picture and still film with which he illustrated his lectures. Those materials, which are kept in Santa Clara University’s archives, constitute one of the largest collections of images of Alaska in the 1930s. Hubbard’s photographs provide a valuable visual record of many aspects of Alaskan geography and the life of its native peoples that have long since disappeared.
Reprinted from Fr. McKevitt’s book, The University of Santa Clara: A History 1851–1977, published by Stanford University Press, 1979.
SI’s patriarch of Yours, Mine and Ours
Frank Beardsley ’33, his wife, Helen, and their 20 children. Contributed photo, Alex Bogue and Rebecca Webb.
Not many SI grads have their lives turned into a movie. Frank Beardsley ’33, saw his life twice on the silver screen, once in the 1968 film Yours, Mine and Ours, where he was played by Henry Fonda, and again in the 2005 remake starring Dennis Quaid as Beardsley. Mr. Beardsley died in Santa Rosa at 97 on Dec. 11, 2012, and while his story never made it into Spiritus Magis, it appears here for his many children and grandchildren to read.
By Marisa Gerber
When the delivery truck pulled up at the base of their steep driveway, the Beardsley children knew what to do.
The crew, clad in hand-me-down clothes, poured out of their eight-bedroom Carmel home and down the hill. They helped unload 50-pound bags of flour and huge tubs of jam. Grocery shopping for 22 was pandemonium; instead, a restaurant supply company brought the food to them.
“A jar of peanut butter? Gosh, that would last one meal. Maybe,”
said Susie Pope, a middle child in a big, blended family that inspired a Lucille Ball movie.
Frank Beardsley was the family’s patriarch, and he ran his home with a military-trained eye for exactness. A broad-shouldered man with Irish roots and a deep Catholic faith, he was born in San Francisco on Sept. 11, 1915. The Navy veteran, who served aboard the U.S.S. Iowa during World War II, eventually held administration and personnel positions at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
When Francis Louis Beardsley met Frances Louise Albrecht, he took the similarity in their names as a sign. They dated, got married and had 10 children. Then, at 45, he lost his wife to a diabetes-induced coma. The grieving widower, trying to balance raising the children and serving in the Navy, sent his two youngest daughters to live with family friends.
Soon, he received a missive from Helen North. The widowed mother of eight, who knew Beardsley’s sister, sent a small prayer card to Frank. Touched, he eventually called to ask her out.
The couple married the next year.
Any reticence the Beardsley children had about getting a new mother melted away the moment they laid eyes on Helen, Pope said.
She wore an easy smile and owned the same black-and-white satin dress their mom had. Little coincidences like that happened frequently, Pope said. Helen even came to the family with the same set of china as their mother.
“So many things pointed to this,” Pope said. “It was divine providence.”
Helen, her eight children and all of Beardsleys moved into one home. The couple adopted each other’s children and had two more of their own — bringing the total to 12 girls and eight boys.
“You would think two people just wouldn’t have enough love to go around,” Pope said. “But they did.”
And yet, life with such a full house wasn’t easy — or cheap. Beardsley shopped almost exclusively in bulk and at the commissary.
“He would simply buy tons of shoes — patent leather, tennis shoes, white oxfords,” Pope said. “He didn’t care what sizes — he knew one of us would fit into it eventually.”
To make ends meet, the family ran a doughnut shop staffed by the children and starred in a Langendorf Bread Co. commercial, which earned them royalties and 50 free loaves of bread every week for a year. And Helen published Who Gets the Drumstick? a 1965 memoir whose title refers to the family’s common Thanksgiving meal conundrum.
Upon reading the book, Lucille Ball quickly swept up the rights to the story and eventually starred as Helen North Beardsley, alongside Henry Fonda, in the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours, which was remade in 2005 and starred Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid.
Ball, who paid for the Beardsleys to take a five-day trip to Disneyland, took quite a liking to the family, according to Lucie Arnaz, Ball’s daughter.
“The story was very near and dear to her heart,” she said last week.
The film, which portrays an exaggerated us-versus-them complex that the family contends didn’t exist in real life, brought a sudden wave of fame that resonated differently for each member of the family.
“Some of us got a little bit of a big head,” Pope said, through a laugh. “My dad would rein us in and say, ‘Look, you’re nobody without the other 19.’”
Beardsley, who had a knack for telling jokes, valued order above most things. He made unannounced “white glove inspections” of his children’s rooms and allowed absolutely no dust, Pope said. For a while, he put them on an exercise regimen that entailed gathering in the yard for jumping jacks.
“My dad was the disciplinarian in the home,” Pope said. “And my new mom was the heart.”
After his second wife died in 2000, Beardsley remarried again. His third wife, Dorothy, was a nurse, just as the previous two had been.
Frank died in 2012; he is survived by Dorothy and by all 20 of his children and stepchildren, most of whom still live in California. The precise number of grandchildren defied a recent family count but was thought to be 47.
This story first appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Founder of FICO, William Fair ’39 brought data analysis to credit scores
One of the most important men in the world of commerce was William Fair ’39, the founder of FICO.
His company began in 1956 as Fair, Isaac and Company when Fair, an engineer, and Earl Isaac founded their San Rafael-based company on the principal that data, used intelligently, can improve business decisions.
Over the years, the company gained success by providing analytics software, services and FICO scores, the most-used credit scores in the world, to help financial service companies decide how to do business. Customers included credit-card issuers, banks, retailers, auto companies and utilities.
Its early successes included work with Conrad Hilton, who hired FICO to design, program and install a billing system for Carte Blanche in 1957, and a 1963 job for Montgomery Ward, building a credit scoring system for that department store chain.
Fair moved his company in 1961 to San Francisco’s Financial District and, in the 1970s, worked with Connecticut Bank and Trust and Wells Fargo, among other firms. In 1977 his company implemented the first credit scoring system at a European bank and, five years later, opened its first European office in Monaco.
Between 1960 and his retirement in 1991, Fair served as president of his company and later as chairman and technical consultant to his firm and its subsidiary, DynaMark, Inc. The year he retired, the company made its credit bureau risk scores available at all three major U.S. credit reporting agencies.
Fair was well prepared for the job. He had degrees from CalTech, Stanford and Cal, and he was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Operations Research Society of America and Caltech Associates.
He died Jan. 19, 1996, at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on his accomplishments in a Jan. 25 story that quoted company president and CEO Larry Rosenberger as saying, “All of us associated with Fair, Isaac — employees, stockholders and clients — are deeply indebted to Bill Fair. The statistically-based decision processes and automated processing technologies which he pioneered, along with his partner, the late Earl Isaac, have profoundly changed the U.S. consumer credit industry.”
He is survived by his wife, Inger; sons Erik and Christian and his daughter, Ellen. His brother, Robert R. Fair ’36, died in 2012.
Chalk-Dust Memories: The 1930s
Fr. Bernard Hubbard came to SI in 1928 to deliver four illustrated lectures at the Little Theatre at St. Ignatius College dealing with “The Great Gapatsch or Mountain Climbing in the Central Alps,” “Conquering the Wild Taku,” “Castles and Folk Lore of Central Europe,” and “The Wonders of Yellowstone National Park.” The last two lectures were illustrated “by 400 colored slides,” according to the November 21, 1928, edition of The Red and Blue. In the next edition, the paper reported that when Fr. Hubbard taught in Los Angeles, he would “go swimming far out into the Pacific in search of small octopi. Finding one of these, he would let it fasten its tentacles about his arm and would swim back to shore with it. The next day he would exhibit the creature to his students.”
Dr. John E. Tobin, Jr. ’34
While I was in my second year Latin class in 1932, San Francisco experienced one of its infrequent snowfalls. A student in our class made a large snowball and placed it on the teacher’s desk. When the teacher entered the room — Val King, who later edited the archdiocesan newspaper, The Monitor — he saw the snowball on his desk and asked who had placed it there. He received no confession, and had the entire class stay after school and write out The Ancient Mariner. We all remembered that snowball well; also, we have not forgotten Mr. King.
Barney Ritter ’36
Fr. James Strehl, SJ, the prefect of discipline, kept me on an even keel and got me to quit smoking. I used to get tossed out of class on a regular basis. I wrote from Luzon during the war: “If it hadn’t been for you, I don’t know where I would be today.” He wrote me back: “Barney, if this was the only letter I ever receive, I know my priesthood will have been a tremendous success.”
Andy Leoni ’36
Three students commuted to SI by ferryboat — Al Wilsey and two others. One day they were late, and Al Wilsey made up a story about how the ferry came in backwards by mistake and had to back out to reenter the port. Mr. Clem Schneider, SJ, a scholastic, swallowed that story hook line and sinker. Everyone knows that ferryboats are designed to allow passengers to embark and disembark from both ends.
Bill Britt ’36
We had a great guy named Bill Barry in our class. He was a character, always getting in trouble. Fr. Strehl, who was the prefect of discipline, was always calling his mother to come get him. By the end of his senior year, Bill said, “My mother should have received a diploma. She spent more time at school than I did.”
Robert Barbieri ’36
Bill Bennett used to get us both in trouble, and we had to go to JUG all the time. He’d hum during class, but because I sat behind him, I would be the one to get in trouble. One year we had Ray Sullivan (who went on to become a California Supreme Court justice) for our teacher. Once, during lunch, we shoved paper in the keyhole of the classroom door to prevent him from opening the room to start class. He worked for 10 minutes on that lock and then got Fr. Strehl, who saw what the problem was and used his knife to extract the paper. We all had to stay until 5 p.m. that day!
Jack “Doc” Overstreet ’36
As sophomores, we hung out during lunch at Reds, a small store across the street from the school. We bought cigarettes for a penny apiece. But that got old fast, and one day we went to the reservoir on Folsom to shoot craps. When we came back to school, there was Fr. Strehl telling us to stand out of line. We had no idea how he knew we were playing craps. Then we looked down at our knees and saw the red dust on our pants from the reservoir. “See you at 3 p.m.,” he told us.
Contemporary Ignatians know it as “detention,” but most Ignatians throughout the years called it JUG — the name either derives from Justice Under God or the Latin ad jugum or ad iugum, which means “under the yoke.” Students coming late to class had to write out pages of Latin or copy chapters from books. Bob Lagomarsino ’39 (who died in 2004 shortly after being interviewed for this book) recalls being the last one in from PE because he was chasing down a basketball. “My teacher, Eneas Kane, told me, ‘You’re going to JUG.’ I had to write out by hand several chapters of Treasure Island. I did that in lieu of homework for about a week. All that for chasing down a basketball after the whistle blew!”
• • •
One semi-official tradition involved the annual hazing of the freshmen. Leo Carew ’40 believed, along with many of his classmates, that there really was a swimming pool on the roof. “We were told that you had to be a sophomore or older to go there,” Carew said. “We never saw it, but we all believed it for about a week or so!”
Hazing could take a more physical turn, as evidenced by The Heights of 1932. It records that on August 24, 1931, freshmen experienced “the prettiest piece of scrub hazing in years — certain scrubs possessing hairy chests were brought to Stow Lake and bound securely. Chicken feed was sprinkled over them — and didn’t the ducks have fun!”
Owed to JUG
Fie on Thee, Foul Jade!
Fair Thou never art,
That from Stygian Shade,
Winged shafts dost dart
To fill with pain my unsophisticated heart.
Thou, the Grim Suppressor
Of my youthful joys —
Turning each Professor
’Gainst poor, meek-eyed boys,
When by chance in school, they make the slightest noise.
At the final setting
Of the Golden Sun,
Must I keep on sweating
Over lines that stun,
Until it seems my unfair task is never done?
Oft the shades of even
Melt around my plight,
Till the stars of heaven
Serve alone for light,
And still I’ve got about six hundred lines to write.
Waking or asleep,
Thou dost haunt my soul,
O’er my visions creep,
Heaping fires of coal
Upon the heartless Prof who sent me to this hole.
Yet Revengeful Powers!
This one hope I find:
Though I’ve squandered hours
’Neath your ruthless grind,
If Winter’s in my soul, can Spring be far behind?