Stanyan St. Meets Haight & Ashbury: 1960-1969
In some ways, SI was an island of conservative, traditional values while the changes taking place in San Francisco during the 1960s roiled around it. In other ways, SI was forever changed by those forces of Vatican II, the Civil Rights movement, the protests against the war in Vietnam, and the Summer of Love. Those changes did not evidence themselves so much at SI in the 1960s, but took root, nonetheless, and flowered in the 1970s.
The decade can be summarized by sports, spirituality and school relocation. The sports teams rose to new heights, and school spirit climbed with each success. The football team earned a first-place national ranking in 1962 and won five league championships, the last in the new West Catholic Athletic League after SI left the AAA. The baseball team brought home four league titles, and the basketball team won three championships. Some of the lesser known sports — golf (AAA champs in 1961) and cross country (league champs three times) also did well. The most successful sport, however, turned out to be swimming, which took AAA laurels seven times. In all, it was a golden age for SI athletics.
After Vatican II, SI began rethinking the nature of Jesuit education. In past decades, Jesuits shared their unique brand of spirituality mainly during the senior retreats. That started changing slowly in the 1960s as the idea of being “contemplatives in action” grew to encompass the sodalities (which morphed in the CLCs of the 1970s) and the good work they did throughout the city.
The biggest change came at the end of the decade, when SI moved quarters to its sixth campus, located in the sand dunes of the Sunset District. That move changed not only the location but also the name of the school as it christened itself St. Ignatius College Preparatory and set its sights on redefining itself as one of the nation’s premier prep schools.
The Move to the Sunset District
In the spring of 1957, 600 boys took the freshmen entrance examination, but because of “limited facilities” the school accepted only 287 students. “The major reason for holding the student body down to this figure is the lack of facilities in the Physics and Chemistry Departments,” noted the Ignatian Bulletin that year. In the early 1960s, Fr. Patrick Carroll, SJ ’31, SI’s first president, conducted a study of the school’s strengths and weaknesses and long-term needs, spurred by the formal separation of SI and USF. He asked architects to draw plans for remodeling the Stanyan Street campus to include larger classrooms and for a new structure, an eight-story Jesuit residence north of the school. That plan never made it off the drawing boards. After reviewing those plans and the findings of the study, he determined the school had to move to more modern quarters.
Fr. Harry V. Carlin, SJ
The task of that move was given to Fr. Carroll’s successor, Fr. Harry V. Carlin, SJ ’35. Harry Carlin, the youngest of six children born to William and Evelyn Carlin, grew up in Berkeley and moved to St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco at the age of 13. His father worked for the Bannan family at Western Gear Corporation, and years later, Harry would ask Bernard Bannan, the son of the company’s founder, to join SI’s first Board of Regents.
In 1931, young Harry entered the brand-new SI campus on Stanyan Street, and by his junior year, he knew that he wanted to become a Jesuit. Harry entered the Society after graduating from SI, and his father told him, “Go. I’ll see you in a week. You’ll miss your movies too much.” He worked hard at his studies and at picking grapes with the other novices at Los Gatos. “From early morning to late afternoon, with only a break for lunch, we’d pick grapes,” he recalled. “After two weeks, our Levis could stand by themselves from all the dried grape juice on them.”
In 1942, Harry returned to SI to teach English and coach basketball, and he led his 110’s team to the city championship. From 1945–1949 he studied theology at Alma College, and in 1948 was ordained to the priesthood. Although he felt that teaching was his true calling, Harry was asked in 1950 to serve as Loyola High’s vice principal — the school disciplinarian. Strict but always maintaining a sense of humor, Harry spent a combined nine years at Loyola, Brophy and SI, assigning many a rambunctious student JUG. “I used to tell the students that I didn’t want to hear their excuses for being late unless their car blew up and they brought in the parts to prove it. The next day one student walked in late rolling a tire. He said his car blew up. I had to let him go. I just laughed at his ingenuity.”
In 1957, he returned to SI where he proved a strict taskmaster with both students and faculty, Jesuits included. “If a young scholastic or lay teacher couldn’t handle a tough class, Fr. Carlin would give him a quick lesson in classroom management skills,” noted veteran SI teacher and coach Bob Drucker ’58.
He left in 1959 to work with scholastics as vice president of Alma College, and then was offered the president’s job at SI in 1964, which he reluctantly accepted. He had hoped to teach students instead of running a high school.
Fr. Carlin started raising funds for the new school by launching the Genesis campaign in November 1964 and hiring Duane Press, former director of development at St. Mary’s College, to help with fund raising as assistant to the president. Together, the two men launched the Genesis magazine that year. The first issue included the following by way of explanation of the publication’s name: “Because we realize that no four years will be as full, as rich and as vital as those four years when a boy ‘begins’ his journey to manhood at Saint Ignatius, and because each day we ‘renew’ our total commitment to the growth and development of the young men entrusted to us, we have chosen to call this report ‘Genesis.’”
(The magazine has changed names with each new fund-raising campaign. It changed to Genesis II in 1980 just as the Genesis Campaign neared completion of its goal of paying for the new school construction. The Genesis II Campaign sought to raise SI’s endowment fund from $1.1 million to $4 million over five years. In December 1990, the school announced the Genesis III campaign to raise $16 million to remodel the campus, and the magazine’s name changed, too. Finally, in December 1996, the school launched the Genesis IV campaign — announced in the newly renamed Genesis IV, published in January 1997 — that ultimately increased the endowment to $50 million by 2005. Over the years, the magazine has grown from a four-page newsletter to a 56-page quarterly featuring articles on students, faculty and alumni.)
In 1965, the San Francisco Unified School District put up for sale the 11.374-acre Sunset District parcel, located on 37th Avenue between Rivera and Pacheco Streets (known as Assessor’s Block No. 2094), and asked $2 million for it. Fr. Carlin bid $2,001,100 “just in case someone bid against us,” he noted in a 1990 Genesis IVinterview. “On April 13, 1965, at 7:41 p.m., Commissioner James E. Stratten, Chairman of the Board of Education, rapped his gavel and called the public meeting to order.” After announcing that the district had received one sealed bid, he called for any other bids for the property, but none were forthcoming and the property belonged to SI. With that, SI “made its greatest step forward in 110 years.”1
Now that the school had purchased the land, it had to pay for it. To help dramatize the need for funds, SI staged a photo for the May 1965 cover ofGenesis, entitled “Exodus!” showing 15 students sitting in chairs in the middle of the sand dunes being taught by a Jesuit (Fr. Bob Mathewson, SJ) wearing his cassock.
Archbishop Joseph McGucken aided SI in the purchase of the land with a $1 million donation on April 30, 1965, the largest gift the school had ever received, made “in recognition of the contribution of the Jesuit community during their 110 years of service to the city and the archdiocese.”
Fr. Carlin also assembled the first SI Board of Regents — men and women whose generosity and talent would prove invaluable to building a new and modern campus. They gathered for the first time in 1966 and reconvened regularly over the years since then to advise the school in its mission. (The first board included Joseph Alioto, Bernard Bannan, Mrs. Fred A. Beronio, Fr. Harry Carlin, SJ, Arthur P. Carroll, Thomas Carroll, John P. Cruden, Henry Doelger, Jr., John J. Ferdon, Charles Gould, John Henning, Fr. Leo Hyde, SJ, W. Dobson Kilduff, Mrs. August Koenig, Mrs. Jules Leonardini, Richard O. Linke, Fr. Edward McFadden, SJ, Felix McGinnis, George McKeon, George Millay, Francis J. Murphy (who helped oversee construction of the new campus), Thomas J. Murtagh, Hugh O’Donnell, Daniel O’Hara, Charles Paganini, Frank Paganini, Charles Quarré, James Rudden, Vincent Sullivan, Al Wilsey, and chairman William Zellerbach.)
For money and advice to build the $8.1 million campus, Fr. Carlin relied heavily on his board, and he hired Henry Doelger of Doelger Enterprises as Special Advisor, responsible for the planning and construction phases of the new campus. (Doelger had attended 6th, 7th and 8th grades at SI’s shirt factory campus but left school to support his family when his father died. His firm developed much of the Sunset District and Daly City.)
In July 1965, Fr. Carlin and his consultant, Dr. John Butler (who was given the title of “school planner”), hired Corwin Booth and Associates Architects to design the campus. John Walsh, Jr., served as project architect with Richard Blanchard, and the two designed a campus that combined the old and the new, with “arches, pitched roofs, colonnades… suggested by the mission style, but [with a] contemporary impression.” Blanchard wanted “those elements in the mission style [to be] translated into modern form, using contemporary construction methods and materials.”2
He also hoped to keep maintenance costs down on the 192,000-square-foot structure by using bricks and stucco on the exterior and to maximize classroom space through “minimum waste on corridors.” He also gave SI a unique roof design with connecting “self-supporting square pyramids with skylights at the apex… supported by post-tensioned cross beams, permitting longer bridging….”3
Fr. Carlin worried that he didn’t have enough money to build the entire project, and initially planned to construct the library and Commons at a later date. “I thought we could use one or two classrooms as a library. But the board advised me to borrow the money to build it all. ‘It will never be cheaper,’ they told me. I’m glad we did. We saved a lot of money in the long run. Had we built SI today, it would cost $80 million.”4
Carlin soon became famous among SI alumni for being an effective fund raiser. “At first I didn’t like doing it, but I got used to it, as I knew we had a good cause.” One of his strategies was to ask certain donors to pay the interest on the debt while the school worked to pay the principal. “People responded well to that idea.”
Generous donors included Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Alioto ($110,000), the estate of Joseph E. Krout ($171,000) and Mr. & Mrs. Michel Orradre, who gave $95,600 towards the construction of the chapel in memory of their son, Stephen, who had died in a car accident in 1964. Even the students raised $28,000 on their own to pay for their new campus. Later, SI sold its Stanyan Street site to USF for $1.8 million to help pay for the Sunset District school.
Bulldozers began work in July 1967 grading the football field and track, under the supervision of Hudson, Brennan and Yee, Inc., the low-bidders for the job at $167,100. The architects decided to build the field first to allow two years for grass to establish. (That grass field was replaced in 2002 in favor of FieldTurf.) Williams & Burrows (low bidders at $5,198,000 with final costs coming in at $6,100,000) began construction on the school building February 13, 1968, after delays caused by financial problems, and on March 21, 1968, the school held a formal ground-breaking ceremony with California Provincial Patrick Donohoe, SJ, blessing the site from a PG&E aerial lift.5
While classes opened September 13, 1969, much of the campus still had not been finished, and the 1,185 students left at 1 p.m. to allow workers time to finish the newly-named St. Ignatius College Preparatory. (The Board of Regents approved the name change in May 1969.) The first thing to impress students were the carpets that covered the floors of the halls and classrooms — a far cry from the hard floors of the Stanyan Street campus. John Butler, who helped determine the specifications for the new school, chose carpeting “not only because it is the best acoustical material, but because this keeps down maintenance costs.” Students also discovered the value of rubber-soled shoes after a few static-electric shocks.6
Fr. Carlin, who ushered in the modern age of St. Ignatius, stayed on as president until 1970, the end of his six-year term of office. When he returned from summer vacation, he discovered that the school had named the Commons in his honor. “It was a nice gesture,” he said, “But we probably could have raised money by naming it after someone else.”
Even though SI had a new president in Fr. Cornelius M. Buckley, SJ, Fr. Carlin’s days at SI were far from over. “The provincial told me, ‘You built this; now you pay for it,’” as SI still owed $1.7 million for the school and the $550 annual tuition didn’t even cover the real costs of educating each student. Since then, Fr. Carlin has served as executive vice president, working in the development office and raising money through Cadillac Raffles, Stagecoach West fund raisers, auctions and by the time-honored method of shaking hands, looking people in the eyes and asking for donations. Many of those who met this determined man ended up digging deep to help the school.
Tom Carroll ’43 served on the Alumni Board and on the Board of Regents. A San Francisco firefighter, Tom recalls spending many enjoyable off-duty hours driving Fr. Carlin as he visited parents and other potential benefactors while fund-raising for the new SI campus. “For 10 years, from 1965 to 1975, Fr. Carlin and I would leave SI around 9 a.m. and head for downtown to begin a full day of visits. He would generally see three people in the morning and another couple after lunch. Sometimes he would even visit a family in their home in the evening.
“Fr. Carlin had great success in these fund-raising efforts because he was so personable and friendly. It was my great pleasure to spend those days with him. We enjoyed lots of good conversation, and he was like a father and brother to me. I am very fortunate to be able to call him my good friend.”
Thanks to Fr. Carlin’s efforts, SI paid its debt in full in 1981. Fr. Carlin kept the last cancelled check as a memento of all those years of planning, building and paying off the 2001 37th Avenue campus.
“It’s amazing what he did with no experience,” said former SI principal Fr. Edward McFadden, SJ, in a 1990 interview. “Without him, there would be no new SI campus.”
The Christ the King Award
“By means of a striking gold medal, a citation of Merit, and a reverent, dignified ceremony, the Alumni Association each year pays homage to one of its own who has distinguished himself in his Community, has brought honor and credit to his Alma Mater and has rendered outstanding service to the School.”7 With this announcement, SI established the Christ the King Award as the highest honor it bestows upon a graduate, and its first recipient was Dr. Edmund Morrissey ’16, a world-renowned brain surgeon and chief of staff at St. Mary’s Hospital. The school presented the award to him on the Feast of Christ the King in 1960 during the First Annual Family Communion Breakfast and Alumni Mass.
SI’s Parent Clubs
The Loyola Guild
The Loyola Guild began in October 1925 for mothers of sons who attended either the high school or the college (though wives of graduates and lay professors could join as well). According to the1925 Ignatian, the group existed to “foster a deeper acquaintance with all in touch with St. Ignatius College, and to cooperate with its officers to the effect that faculty and parents may work in harmony for the best interests of the school and students.” They held a monthly meeting followed by a concert or a lecture and raised money in all sorts of ways to help the Jesuits. During the Depression they held a bake sale to help the school pay its electrical bill. One year, the mothers raised enough money to buy uniforms for the college band. “Back in the 1920s, these mothers had a great love for the Jesuits and their mission, just as we still have today,” said Guild President Connie Mack.
At its peak, the Guild boasted 1,200 members and was one of the elite women’s clubs in San Francisco. “It was a white-glove organization,” added Mrs. Mack. “The Guild’s annual tea at the Palace Hotel drew a thousand women and sold out every year at $5 a ticket. For many women, it was the club to join.”
Currently the group has 750 members across the country and raises money to endow scholarships at SI and USF. The group held a gala celebration at SI in 2000 to mark their 75th anniversary, drawing 15 past presidents including Katherine Walsh, who would soon celebrate her 100th birthday.
The Guild still organizes rummage sales, Christmas house tours and fashion shows to raise funds, each year collecting approximately $15,000 to split between SI and USF. Since its inception, the group has raised nearly $500,000 for SI alone, providing 375 full scholarships to SI students in addition to 750 partial scholarships to students at USF.
The Ignatian Guild
In 1959, when SI formally split from USF, Fr. Patrick Carroll created a subcommittee of the Loyola Guild made up of SI mothers who would raise funds only for SI, and he asked Mrs. Dorothy Leonardini to serve as the group’s first president. In 1961, this subcommittee became a separate group, the Mothers’ Advisory Council, and the following year its name changed to the St. Ignatius Mothers’ Club. Three years later, in 1965, Theresa Caldarola — who had a passion for helping educational causes — pioneered the Ignatian Guild and oversaw the creation of the group’s constitution and by-laws. That year the group held a celebrity auction and, at the Fairmont Hotel, its first fashion show, sponsored by Lili of Shanghai. The raffle for the event earned $20,000 to support the school.
The Ignatian Guild continues to hold two successful fashion shows each year — a Saturday dinner and a Sunday luncheon — during the first weekend of November. It also sponsors many other events, including the International Food Faire, which celebrates the diverse cultures that make up the SI community.
The Ignatian Guild also ran Stagecoach West, which started in 1972. The fund-raising dinner featured the Wells Fargo stagecoach, a Western barbeque, gaming tables and dancing. It also sold a cookbook for $5 entitled Food for Thought, assembled by its members and featuring recipes such as Mulligatawny Soup by Mrs. Jerry Cole and Potage Vichyssoise Josephine, by Mrs. Josephine Araldo (a Cordon Bleu graduate and French cooking instructor). The book received favorable reviews in the press, including one from James Beard of the Examiner. In 1977, the Ignatian Guild put out a second edition of the book with additional recipes.
Other Ignatian Guild fund raisers over the years have included the Dorothy Leonardini Scholarship Fund, the Salesmen’s Samples Sale, the annual Christmas Celebration in the Carlin Commons and the Rummage Sale at the Hall of Flowers — run jointly by the Ignatian and Loyola Guilds. The Ignatian Guild also sponsors a Day of Recollection each year for its members and celebrates new officers at an installation Mass and luncheon in May. Other Guild events include the mother-student communion breakfast, the mother-daughter night and the mother-son night.
The Fathers’ Club
The school began a new tradition in 1937 with the institution of Father’s Night, featuring science project displays, elocution contests, Sodality activities, and performances by actors, singers, musicians and members of the ROTC. This was a return, of sorts, to the three-day commencement ceremonies that ended the terms for SI students who graduated from the Market Street and Van Ness Avenue campuses. Two years later, the event evolved into the annual Fathers’ Club Talent Show, where students competed for prizes. Fr. Harold E. Ring, SJ, president of SI and USF at the time, hoped that it would become the foundation of an SI Fathers’ Club. The night also featured a sports review and a talk by Fr. William Dunne, SJ, who would succeed Ring as president. The April 1939 Monthly Calendar for St. Ignatius Church reported that “no alumni meeting brings together more of the ‘Old Boys’ than Fathers’ Night at the High School. The fathers are always surprised to find out what their sons are doing and what they can do in a modern high school. Fathers’ Night is only three years old, but each time it has been an overwhelming success.”
The Fathers’ Club formally began in 1948 in part to help SI complete the fund-raising drive to build the gym. (By then, the school only had one-fifth of the money needed.) Edward Turkington, father of Ned Turkington ’49, was one of the founders of the Fathers’ Club, according to Edward’s grandson, Ted Turkington (who joined SI in 2003 as the head varsity baseball coach). The group received help from its first moderator, Fr. Fred Cosgrove, SJ, and organized a Father-Son Communion Breakfast in October 1948, with more than 700 attending the Mass and outdoor feast that followed. Before the November Poly football game, the group organized a rally, held in the St. Dominic’s auditorium. According to the 1949 Ignatian, the group also offered sports clinics, a picnic and an Ignatian Heights Talent Show featuring “vaudeville, music, mimicry and general entertainment.” By the 1950s, with the help of moderator Donald O’Gara, SJ, the Fathers’ Club also sponsored dinner dances, a festival and the Cana Conferences.
The group earned money for the school in the 1950s by using the SI schoolyard to park cars for the ’49er games at Kezar. Dr. Elmer Bricca, president in 1954–55 (the uncle of Steve Leveroni ’69, who served as president in 2003–2004) had the dads park the cars together as close as they could. “They would then leave until the game ended,” said Leveroni. “Someone invariably would want to leave early, and mass confusion would ensue.”
The group launched the Cadillac Raffle in 1957 when Fathers’ Club President Bernard McCann ’31 and Remo Tocchini (president in 1958) persuaded a local dealer to donate a car to the school. The first winners, who split a ticket, were Ernest Granucci and Dr. Leo Chelini, both relatives of Steve Leveroni. This event continued as the group’s primary fund raiser until the 1980s.
The Fathers’ Club arranged to have Jim Nabors (TV’s Gomer Pyle) come to the 1966 Cadillac Raffle, where Nabors drew the winning ticket; the event raised $20,000 for the school.
In 1970, after the school moved to its new quarters, SI inaugurated an auction, raising $40,000 that year. The first chairman was Joseph R. Bisho with Mrs. Eugene J. Marty, Jr., and Mrs. L. Cal Lalanne serving as co-chairs. The Ignatian Guild continued this event for a number of years. Then in 1997, the Fathers’ Club began sponsoring the auction, and it has become one of the most important fund raisers for the school thanks to auction chairmen Fred Tocchini ’66, Al Clifford ’73, Scott Erickson ’73, Joe McMonigle, Joe Toboni ’70, Bert Keane ’68, Sal Rizzo and David Pacini. In 2004, the auction helped raise more than a half million dollars to help the Genesis IV endowment campaign. These sold-out auctions have also been successful at bringing diverse members of the SI community together to create a fun-filled evening of food, entertainment and fast-paced bidding.
The Fathers’ Club, moderated by Br. Douglas Draper, SJ, since 1971, holds several major gatherings each year for its members, including two barbecues, a Crab ’n’ Cards night and a father-son dinner featuring a guest speaker. (In 2004, ’49ers’ quarterback Joe Montana spoke of his relationship with his father and regaled the audience with stories of his days playing at Candlestick Park.)
In 1993 the Fathers’ Club began running the concession stand during the football and basketball games, with proceeds benefiting the school, and it joins with the SHC parents’ club to run concessions during the Bruce-Mahoney football game at Kezar.
Fred Tocchini ’66, who followed in his dad’s footsteps as Fathers’ Club president, thinks that the group has become successful over the years because of the “vast resources that lie within the parent community. Also, the group has camaraderie because members are willing to be a part of this long tradition of service to the school. Not everyone can write a big check, but many are willing and able to work hard to help SI in whatever way they can.”
For Tocchini, who served as chairman of the Sesquicentennial Committee and Regent, being a member and president of the Fathers’ Club “was an important part of my life. My older brothers attended SI in the 1950s, and I felt a part of the SI community even before I attended the school.”
Postscript: After the publication of the book, former Fathers' Club president Steven Cannata '66 wrote to praise Steve Nejasmich '65, former SI principal, for his role in opening the Fathers' Club to general membership in 1994, "a decision that significantly expanded participation in the SI community (and, among other things, revitalized the annual auction, which was dying a slow death in the early '90s. For a substantial period of time, at least 10 years, the Fathers' Club consisted of a 'select' group of approximately 20 members who met every quarter or so and planned certain school-wide events... a very exclusive and closed off [group]. The 'old boy' composition of hte Fathers' Club was the source of much resentment among fathers who wanted to participate and be part of the SI community only to hit a dead end when making inquiries about joining this elusive organization. When I was elected president in 1994, Fr. Nejasmich, like the proverbial bull in the china shop, dropped in unannounced during the year's first meeting of the Fathers' Club and, in his inimitable way, bluntly advised the attendees that we should change the name of the Fathers' Club to 'Boosters' Club' as the 20 of us sitting around the conference table hardly constituted a 'Fathers' Club' given the school's enrollment of approximately 1,500 students. Alternatively, if we wished to keep the title of Fathers' Club, Fr. Nejasmich advised that we would need to open the organization to general membership. Of course, despite the belated introduction of this possibility, this latter alternative was the much preferred choice, as some members on the board did want to open the Fathers' Club to general membership. From that point onward, Fr. Nejasmich approved every proposal we brought to his attention and very enthusiastically supported our efforts to expand the membership and activities of the Club. Br. Draper was equally supportive. Staffing the concession stands at school events, initiating new activities such as Crab 'n' Cards Night and year-end BBQs for incoming freshmen fathers all received an unconditional green light from him. No one could have asked for more support in our efforts to enlist fathers into the club, some of whom still harbored a lingering resentment for past slights. Fr. Nejasmich, in no uncertain terms, is the true 'Godfather' of the Fathers' Club, and I was disappointed that he was not given any recognition in the book for his role in making the Fathers' Club an inclusive organization and introducing hundreds of new members into the St. Ignatius community."
SI Football Ranked First in Nation
Despite the plans to move the school in the 1960s, life continued its normal routine, especially in the realm of football. After Pat Malley left SI, the school hired Larry McInerney as head coach and Vince Tringali (a member of USF’s famous “Undefeated, Untied and Uninvited” football team) as his assistant. McInerney’s teams won the round-robin championships in the AAA for two years, in 1959 and 1960, but never won a Turkey Bowl championship game. Then, in 1962, Tringali took over as head coach and hired a remarkable assistant — Robert H. “Doc” Erskine, who left semi-retirement after many years of coaching college ball. Together, they helped SI in 1962 and 1963 win 19 straight games in two undefeated seasons and win consecutive AAA championships. (For each of those 19 games, Coach Tringali wore his trademark red Alpine hat.) On January 4, 1963, The San Francisco Chronicle announced that SI had tied with Miami High School of Florida for first place in the Imperial Sports Syndicate’s 1962 U.S. interscholastic football ratings based on votes from 56 coaches and sportswriters across the country.
The following is an excerpt from “Remembering the glory years of SI football,” first published in the Fall ’88 Genesis II:
By Robert Vergara ’76
The ’Cats opened the 1962 season against Balboa, and with three touchdowns in the second quarter, went on to a 29–6 win. Galileo and Polytechnic were SI’s next victims, with the Lions going down to a 39–0 defeat and the Parrots suffering a 26–0 shutout.
By the time the ’Cats defeated Lincoln in their fourth game of the season, it was clear that they were a major force in the league. In the team’s first four games, SI had scored 107 points to their opponents’ 12. Quarterbacks Lee French and Ray Calcagno and fullback Tom Kennedy sparked the Wildcat offense, aided in no small measure by one of the finest lines in SI football history — Bud Baccitich, Rudy Labrado and Gene Maher, to name a few of the stalwarts.
The ’Cats next took on Mission. Although the Bears had been picked by many to win the league, they too were bested by SI 49–0.
The following week, the Wildcats faced archrival Sacred Heart in a game televised as KGO-TV’s “Prep Game of the Week.” In those days, Channel 7 taped a high school football game played on a Thursday or Friday and broadcast the game the following Saturday morning with Bud Foster and Bob Fouts (the father of Dan Fouts ’69) doing the play-by-play. The TV audience saw the Wildcats defeat the Irish 22–6.
By this time, sportswriters, who early in the season had called SI a “good team,” were now agreeing with the Examiner’s Bob Sprenger when he wrote that SI’s 1962 football squad “has to be one of SI’s best teams in history.”
Next came the Washington game, which led to another victory for SI, and the ’Cats found themselves in the last game of the regular season. That contest, against Lowell, would decide the round-robin champion.
The score was close throughout. Finally, with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game, Ray Calcagno connected with Charlie Parks on a 48-yard pass to set up the winning touchdown. Final score: SI 19, Lowell 13.
The Indians fell into a three-way tie for second place with Mission and Lincoln. At that time the AAA had no structure for a four-team playoff. Only the top two teams met on Thanksgiving Day to decide the championship. Lowell won the draw and met SI at Kezar Stadium before more than 16,000 fans to battle for the title.
SI scored in the first quarter when Calcagno threw a 30-yard pass to Charlie Parks, putting the Wildcats on the Indians’ 2-yard line. Mike Sullivan scored on the next play, and Calcagno kicked the extra point, which turned out to be the margin of victory.
Lowell scored in the last minute of the first half, but the snap for the PAT was too high, and the Indians had to settle for six points. It was a defensive battle from then on as SI held on to a 7–6 victory.
The win gave the Wildcats the AAA championship, a 9–0 record and the first perfect season in SI football history. It was an auspicious start for Vince Tringali’s tenure as head coach of the SI football program.
Those who doubted that SI could continue its success into 1963 were jolted back to reality with the Wildcats’ first game of the new season against Mission, which had been a playoff contender in 1962. In the AAA opener for 1963, Mission fell to SI 58–0, and SI established two yet-to-be-broken records for most points scored and the largest margin of victory in a game.
Next, SI prevailed over Lincoln and Galileo. Once more the Wildcats and the Irish were television stars as they continued their ancient rivalry, featured in the “Prep Game of the Week.” SI maintained its dominance in a 35–0 whitewash. And once more the Wildcat defense — among them Greg Kolar, Dennis Brooks and Bob Unruh — excelled, prompting Bob Sprenger to call the SI line “possibly the finest collection of athletes in the City league in years.”
SI continued its winning ways against Balboa and previously undefeated Washington for its 15th and 16th consecutive victories. Playing in the rain at muddy Galileo field, the ’Cats finished the regular season by downing Lowell 27–6. Calcagno went over the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season as SI sewed up the round-robin championship.
The AAA returned to a four-team playoff format in 1963, and SI was paired with Lincoln while Sacred Heart and Washington were matched in the other playoff contest. The Irish and the Eagles met on Thursday, November 21, with Washington emerging victorious. The next day, SI and Lincoln were scheduled to meet to decide who would take on the Eagles for the title on Turkey Day.
But the stunning news from Dallas that morning altered the plans. Along with a host of other events across the nation, the playoff game was postponed as San Francisco joined in mourning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Thus, for the first time in many years, Thanksgiving Day in the city did not see the AAA football championship game. Instead, the postponed playoff game was held. The Wildcats easily handled the Mustangs 33–6, thereby earning their fourth straight appearance in the title game.
Nine days later, SI and Washington met for the crown, and 8,000 Kezar Stadium fans saw the Wildcats methodically put the Eagles away. SI scored once in the second quarter and twice in the fourth in rolling up a 21–0 shutout. It was SI’s 19th consecutive victory over a two-year period — another Wildcat football record, and SI finished as the top Northern California team.
The Doc Erskine Trophy
Robert H. “Doc” Erskine joined the SI coaching staff in 1962 after having retired from coaching college football, and he worked closely with Ray Calcagno, the quarterback for the Wildcats in his junior and senior years in the days when quarterbacks called their own plays. To learn what plays to call, Calcagno spent hours with Doc, who was a master strategist. “He gave me a good feel for the game,” said Calcagno, “and he influenced my decision to become a coach.”
Doc also had a good sense of humor. During a game against Galileo, Calcagno called a play-action pass. “All three of my receivers were open, and I threw it between two of them for an incomplete. When I came off the field a few plays later, I got on the phone with Doc, and he kindly reminded me that any one of those three could have caught the ball for a touchdown.”
After Erskine left SI, he became a successful head coach at Riordan before retiring in 1969 with a high school record of 29–6–1. The following year, SI and Riordan established the Doc Erskine Trophy to the school that won that year’s football game to honor an individual known for his generous spirit, gentlemanly qualities and knowledge of the game.
Even though Doc Erskine only coached at SI for a brief period, his legacy continues. “I’ve learned a lot about Doc through those whom he coached and influenced,” said Joe Vollert ’84, former head football coach. “There wasn’t any showmanship or flash to Doc. He coached players to execute their fundamentals well and to know their plays — elements that have been the cornerstone of SI’s program since he helped coach some of our all-time great SI teams. He influenced such people as Riordan’s head coach Frank Oross, former SI head coach and Seattle Seahawk offensive coordinator Gil Haskell ’61, and my head coach when I played for SI, Ray Calcagno. Ray had a large influence on me and what I did as a coach just as Doc had that influence on him. I’ve always hoped to carry on his legacy.”
From the AAA to the WCAL
Tringali had two lean years after his twin undefeated seasons but returned with another pair of league championships. This time, however, those championships came in different leagues. The 1966–67 season was the final time SI competed in the AAA. The following year, SI joined the West Catholic Athletic League as 121 of its students lived outside the city, and AAA rules (instituted in 1959) barred them from athletic competition.
For years, SI tried to change the rule, but to no avail. Even State Senator J.F. McCarthy, an SI grad, tried to repeal the rule, but failed. The issue came to a head after a March 21, 1966, baseball game that SI won 4–3. The losing team later filed a complaint that two boys on the team did not live inside the city. The league found merit in the complaint and fined SI a three-game forfeit.
Fr. Carlin asked that the forfeits and rules be overturned, and after some hard-fought negotiations, he hammered out a compromise with George Canrinus, the AAA coordinator of athletics, at a June 3, 1966, meeting. He offered Carlin a deal: extend the residency borders to include Daly City and Pacifica. Fr. Carlin checked his records and found that 125 students lived in those two towns and agreed to the compromise.
At a subsequent meeting of the AAA principals, however, that compromise was never put on the table. Instead, the principals voted only on the question of the repeal of the residency requirement, and that measure lost 7–3.
SI found itself in a tough spot. It had been a charter member of the AAA since 1923, and leaving would mean competing in a much stronger Catholic Athletic League. After the vote, SI chose to leave, despite arguments by alumni that the school would lose money by competing outside the city. In an Inside SI article in 1966, (Vol. 19, No. 2, p 6) Fr. Carlin argued that “it has become increasingly clear that while the residency rule has not affected the athletic program at St. Ignatius High School, it is having a serious effect on a school’s central purpose. Under these restrictions, the school cannot offer every boy a full educational experience. He is forced to become a spectator in activities that have an important bearing on his social and physical development.” He also noted that colleges look favorably on boys with athletic experience and that graduates who lived outside the city limits would be less inclined to send their sons to SI.
The Championship Seasons of 1966 and 1967
SI’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on October 6, 1966, to leave the league. But SI football left with a bang, winning the round robin with a 7–2 season and earning a spot against Lowell at Kezar in the Turkey Day game — the last time SI would ever compete in that city championship match. For this game, Tringali once again wore his lucky red hat that he had donned during his 19-game streak.
The Wildcats had lost key players to injuries, including first-string QB John Cercos, fullback Paul Schneider and right guard Jeff Braccia. Nonetheless, SI fought Lowell to a 14–14 standoff late in the fourth quarter. Then, with seconds remaining, QB Paul Contreras threw to Tom Schwab. A defender tipped the ball, and it went into the arms of SI’s Gary Hughes, who ran 23 yards to score a touchdown with 40 seconds left on the clock.
“It was an incredible moment,” said Boris Koodrin ’67, who played linebacker and left guard for the team. “The crowd tore down the goal posts, and we carried coach Vince Tringali around before a crowd of 10,000. I’m not sure if he liked being carried around, as he wasn’t the touchy-feely type.”
“It was the most exciting sports moment of my entire life,” added Fr. Sauer, then a scholastic at SI. “We all went wild, and although we scholastics were assigned to guard the goal posts, one was demolished by the crowd.”
The following year, SI was not expected to do well in the much stronger WCAL. In fact, some at SI argued that the school should remain in the AAA for fear of being dominated by the Peninsula and South Bay teams. However, in that first year in the WCAL, SI took first in football and basketball and had strong showings in all other sports.
The victories began in the fall with a football team that included all-league stars Mike Ryan ’69, Ray Washmera ’69, Bob Giorgetti ’68, Jim Figoni ’68, Mike Matza ’68, Randy Fry ’68, Mike Mitchell ’69, Dan Driscoll ’69, Bob Sarlatte ’68, Rick Arrieta ’68 and a junior quarterback named Dan Fouts ’69 (more on him later). After going 3–1 in preseason, the ’Cats went 6–0 in regular season play, beating both St. Francis and Riordan 26–20, St. Mary’s 35–6, Serra 27–7, Bellarmine 28–21 and Mitty 41–0.
Tringali stayed with SI one final year before leaving in 1969, with a record of 54–14–1, to help USF resurrect its football program. Jim McDonald ’55 took over for two years and Tom Kennedy ’63 for two more before Gil Haskell ’61 stepped in as head coach between 1973 and 1977. As testimony to Tringali’s legacy, both Haskell and Alan Saunders ’64 sent Tringali a photo of a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks played on November 24, 2002. Haskell was the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks and Saunders had the same position with the Chiefs. (He had also served as head coach for the San Diego Chargers). During that game, the two teams earned a combined 64 first downs, an NFL record. In the photo are both Haskell and Saunders and this inscription: “To Vince Tringali, in sincere appreciation for your leadership, guidance and support throughout the years. You’ve made a difference in our lives.”
Tringali, long after leaving SI, continues to make a difference in the lives of football players. Thanks to his intervention, Igor Olshansky ’00 made history as the first Soviet-born person ever chosen by the NFL when the San Diego Chargers tapped him in 2004 in the second round of the draft.
Born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Olshansky came to the U.S. when he was 7 in 1989, and enrolled at SI for his freshman year. On his 15th birthday, he stood 6-foot, 6-inches tall and weighed 240 pounds. At an SI football game, Tringali ran into him and asked him if he had a son playing football.
“When I found out he was a student, I asked him why he wasn’t out there playing football,” said Tringali. “He told me he was a basketball player, and I said whoever told you that lied to you.” The next year Olshansky joined the SI football team, and he struggled a bit learning the techniques and rules, but it didn’t take long for the colleges to come knocking. He signed with the University of Oregon, the same school Fouts had attended, and became a favorite of fans there who chanted “I-gor” at each game. After Olshansky left college, Tringali was at his family home, sitting right beside him during the draft, when Igor got the call from the Chargers who eventually made him a starter on the defensive line. “And God help any quarterback he hits,” added Tringali.
Vince Tringali: The Other Side of Fear By Boris Koodrin ’67
Everyone has certain experiences along the way that they can look back on as milestones on their personal landscape. Playing football for Vince Tringali was one such landmark, and it has had a lasting effect on my life, the meaning of which continues to unfold. At the time it offered me the opportunity to face certain fears head on and come out on the other side. Tringali was an especially tough coach and was not known for his softness. But as any wise person can tell you, the ability to tell a convincing story is every bit as important to a teacher as are any of the other skills needed to pull someone through the eye of a needle.
Vince Tringali was a rite of passage. If nothing else, when we hit the field on any given Friday, we believed in our hearts that no team was better prepared to win. Practice was almost as tough as he was. I remember at one point Coach Tringali spent an incredible amount of energy inserting vertical slats into the cyclone fence surrounding the practice field across from USF. I was never quite sure if that was intended to keep out the prying eyes of opposing scouts or of the parents who would line up to watch their kids practice during the week. Whatever it was that he was planning, it called for a lack of witnesses and that, in itself, was a pretty unsettling thought.
One thing he provided to many of his young players was consistency. His way was black or white, and it left little room for any gray. His greatest contribution, however, was the high level of expectation that he held over our heads, and the intensity with which he would get us to rise to that level. Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of those days is of Vince Tringali delivering an inspirational pre-game speech about going beyond the pain and reaching down deep and delivering more than we had to give — you know, the usual stuff. He was asking the impossible from us because, in his book, that was what was required. I can’t really recall his words. What has stuck in my mind all these years is the sight of him holding his hand in the fire that he had built on the locker room floor. His hand remained fixed in the center of that fire the entire time he was addressing us. To this day I remember the intensity of the moment as I watched the glow slowly spread across the cold concrete like some primal ooze that was being unleashed in front of us. Transfixed, I succumbed to the moment and fell victim to the surge of raw invincibility that had taken over the room. I was recently reminiscing about that day with my good friend, Rocky Wair ’67, who played at left guard. As he recalls it: “I don’t know about you, but I remember that we literally flew out of that locker room on fire. Nobody in the world could have beaten us that day.”
I graduated SI having been touched by Tringali’s fire. Over the years that symbol has resurfaced many times to pull me through difficult situations. When push comes to shove, the strength of your personal fire can get you through anything, especially when facing life-threatening situations. Interestingly enough, I spend time these days teaching incarcerated gang members how to make fire using a primitive bow drill. Through dedication, discipline and a healthy dose of faith, they discover the ability to create their own physical fire. Fire has the ability to transform because it takes a certain amount of passion and commitment to achieve it. It can turn a hopeless survival situation into a picnic. When you learn about fire, it has the tendency to jump inside of you and become your teacher. And it can likewise transform a timid heart into a raging furnace.
I don’t remember what teams we played or what the score was the day Tringali built up our team’s fire, but it has remained an important personal symbol. Each one of us walked into Vince Tringali’s fire in our own way back then. The fears and doubts that once caused me to walk away from my life’s desire have now become the fuel that drives my own creativity. For me, it started an endless chain of fires that has taken me to the other side of my fears. Perhaps, just as importantly, it has convinced me of the power that an equally good story can have on one’s own students.
Dan Fouts, NFL Hall of Famer
The greatest quarterback ever to play for SI is undoubtedly Dan Fouts ’69, who went on to the University of Oregon and to the San Diego Chargers (where he played his final year under head coach and fellow Ignatian Alan Saunders ’64), setting numerous records and earning entry into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993.
It’s no cliché to say that Fouts was born to play the game. His father, Bob Fouts, was an announcer for the ’49ers and for other sporting events, and he grew up around pro football players. “I’d like to take credit for teaching him how to throw,” said Tringali. “But I can’t. He picked up the sport through osmosis.” Fouts also met sports greats Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Mays through his father.
Dan transferred to SI in his sophomore year and started playing for Tringali. But because the coach didn’t favor a passing game, college scouts didn’t take much notice of him. “I begged USC to take Danny. I told them he can throw like the wind. He was tall but lanky — he wasn’t that big, but he was tough.”
Fouts loved his days at SI. “They were great years,” he recalled in a 1993 Genesis III interview. “The thing I appreciate most was the attitude that we had. It was one of confidence bordering on cockiness and arrogance. ‘We are SI.’ We are something special. And in those days, athletically, we were untouchable. We worked hard and had a great coach in Vince Tringali. That foundation really carried me a long way.”
He never threw an interception in his senior year at SI, and he helped SI earn the league title in his junior yera by beating a Serra team that featured Jesse Freitas and Lynn Swann. He ended up at Oregon, earning one of two athletic scholarships the school offered and setting 19 school records. The Chargers took him as a third-round draft pick in 1973, and he found himself playing alongside Johnny Unitas, then in his last season. By the time Fouts retired at the end of the 1987 season, he had become one of the league’s best quarterbacks, setting 42 team records and eight NFL records, including most 300-yard passing games. He helped the Chargers rise from the basement of the AFC West to become three-time AFC West champions. In all, as commander of Air Coryell, he passed for 43,040 yards and became the second-highest passer in NFL history. He is the third player ever to pass for more than 40,000 yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and made AFC Player of the Year in 1979 and again in 1982, this time for both the NFL and AFC. Three times he earned All-Pro honors. The year after he retired, the Chargers retired Fouts’ number 14, which he had worn from 1973 to 1987. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993 in his first year of eligibility.
Fouts credits his success with “being at the right place at the right time and then taking advantage of the opportunities. I played for one team for 15 years, and that’s kind of unusual. When Don Coryell came to San Diego in 1978, he really made a difference in my career. We had good players and played an exciting brand of football. It was bombs away.”
After leaving football, he served as KPIX sports anchor, earning two Emmys, and anchored the Bay to Breakers coverage and the San Francisco Marathon. He hosted Game Day with Dan Fouts and found himself doing his father’s job, covering play-by-play for Niners’ preseason games. He left for ABC in 1997, first to announce college ball and then as expert analyst for Monday Night Football with Al Michaels and Dennis Miller for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He had a small role in the Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy along with Brent Musberger and appeared in a Miller Lite Beer commercial with Ken Stabler of the Raiders. He continues to announce college and pro football for the NFL Network. He has received numerous honors over the years, including induction into the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
One month after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, SI lost one of its own. While playing basketball for SI against Bishop O’Dowd on December 20, 1963, Denny Carter collapsed and died 5 seconds before the start of half-time with his parents watching in the stands. Charlie Dullea ’65, his teammate, noted that “everyone just waited for him to get up. The Bishop O’Dowd players covered him with their warm-up jackets as our team just sat on the bench stunned. When the firemen came to work on him, our team went into the locker room and said a rosary. While driving home, I heard the news on the radio that he was dead-on-arrival at Park Emergency near Kezar. His death had a dramatic impact on me and my friends.”
The priests and scholastics at SI spent the next few months doing grief counseling, though no one called it that. “Two scholastics, Jack Keating, SJ, and John Coleman, SJ, who, under the guise of playing Pedro with us on the football field, would engage us in conversation and get us to talk about Dennis’ death,” added Dullea. “They helped me get through the first traumatic experience of my life.”
In 1964, the basketball team inaugurated the Dennis Carter Award, with Edward Engler ’64 as the first recipient. Since then, the team has given the award to the player who has demonstrated sustained excellence in leadership, spirit and commitment to his fellow players and the school.
SI won three basketball league championships in the 1960s, the first in 1960 with Stan Buchanan as coach and the second in 1965 with Bernie Simpson ’54 as coach. Playing for him were Charlie Dullea ’65, who would go on to become SI’s first lay principal, and Bob Portman ’65, a first-round draft pick from Creighton, who played with the Warriors between 1969 and 1973. Also on the team were Bruce Scollin, Mike Doherty, Frank O’Malley and junior Rich Ames. Ironically, the toughest game of the season was the first league game against Balboa, whose star player, Willie Wise, would go on to play professional basketball. At a packed Kezar Pavilion, Portman fouled out with 2 minutes left on the clock, but SI prevailed to win by 2. SI lost only one game that season against Lincoln and the Wildcats found themselves playing an undefeated SH at the end of the regular season. A last-second 15-footer by Portman put SI ahead at the final buzzer. SI proceeded to win the city championship, beating Wilson and Lowell, and went on to the Tournament of Champions to beat Gilroy and Richmond before losing the NorCal crown to Fremont of Oakland.
SI won a league championship again in 1967 under Bob Drucker ’58 in his first year leading the Wildcats. The basketball court in the McCullough Gymnasium bears Drucker’s name for good reason. In his 20 years coaching at SI between 1966 and 1986, Drucker turned in a 394–150 record, taking SI to eight league titles, two CCS championships and one NorCal win. Drucker earned the title “Wizard of Westlake” when Bob Enright ’76 gave him the nickname based on John Wooden’s moniker, the Wizard of Westwood.
After a stint in the Army, Drucker applied for a job at St. Cecilia’s where he coached basketball while earning his degree at USF. In 1965, he came to SI along with Leo La Rocca, and the following year, Fr. McFadden selected him to coach the varsity basketball team. (Fr. McFadden had a rule preventing first year teachers from coaching.) The victories came as did the satisfaction of seeing young boys grow into fine men. One example, Drucker recalled, was Levy Middlebrooks ’84. “He came as a big, shy freshman with some skill, but he struggled a bit when he played on the freshman team. As a sophomore, he still was a little timid. Then something happened in the middle of the season that year. He improved right in front of our eyes. His confidence grew, as did his presence on the court. At the end of the regular season, I moved him up to varsity to help the team practice. Even the varsity kids were noting his improvement. Paul Fortier ’82 became his mentor, and Paul’s determination to help him improve was inspirational. Most kids I coached went through that kind of transformation, but not in such a dramatic way.”
After 20 years of dragging his own children to his games, Drucker was ready to retire from the sport, and he returned to the classroom in 1986. In 1992, he went from teaching history and counseling to working as a full-time counselor, but he returned to the classroom in 2003 as a full-time history teacher. He served as assistant coach to Jim Dekker in 2002 when the SI varsity girls basketball team took first in CCS, and he now serves as the boys’ varsity golf coach.
“It was difficult to ‘retire’ at age 46,” said Drucker. “But I was an intense coach, and my father died at 58. In the back of my mind, I thought that would happen to me if I had continued coaching basketball.”
His intensity, he said, comes from the passion he has for the game. “I love how creative basketball is. Some people paint, and others write. For me, X’s and O’s are an art form. But drawing plays on cocktail napkins while taking my wife out to dinner was not the way to win her heart. The game consumed me.”
Coaching golf is different, he noted. “We’re not allowed to coach on the course during competition. Sometimes I think the most important service I offer our golfers is driving the van.”
Nearly all the Drucker family is involved in SI. Bob’s son, Joe, graduated in 1990, his daughter Chrissy graduated with the first coed class in 1993, and his daughter Katie Kohmann works in the school’s development office as alumni coordinator. His wife, Kathy, and his daughter Molly might as well be honorary SI alumni for all the time they’ve spent at SI watching Bob coach in his distinguished 40-year career.
James Keating & Baseball
Between 1955 and 1974, James Keating helped his varsity baseball team reach the playoffs 15 times and took them to league championships six times between 1959 and 1967. Keating made a name for himself as an outstanding track star and football, basketball and baseball player at Commerce High School and at San Francisco State College. He then played for the Detroit Tigers organization and coached in the San Francisco Unified School District before coming to SI.
In the 1960s, his teams drew crowds by the thousands to watch the Wildcats beat AAA and WCAL opponents. In 1962, for instance, more than 4,000 fans watched SI beat Balboa 2–0, led by junior pitcher Joe Gualco and slugger Bob Ignaffo. In 1965, Vince Bigone ’65 helped SI win another league championship by turning in a 13–1 pitching record and batting .426. The AAA named him the league’s most valuable player.
In 1966, the team was forced to forfeit three games after a complaint was filed that two members lived outside San Francisco city limits. That decision led to SI’s leaving the league, as has already been discussed. In 1967, SI played its final year of baseball in the AAA, with Jim Dekker ’68 and Joe Dutto ’67 helping the Wildcats to a 19–1 record. In championship match, Poly scored four runs in the fourth inning. SI answered with four runs of its own in the bottom of that inning and five more runs in the seventh to win the league title.
In a 1988 Genesis II article, Dekker, who later coached with his mentor, recalled Keating’s “standard coaching outfit of black Converse sneakers, khaki or grey pants and white tee-shirt.” He would end prayers with “St. Jude, pray for us,” and encourage his team by telling them, “Keep going; it’ll blow over,” whenever it started to rain. “He never wanted to stop practice for any reason,” added Dekker. “The teams he coached thought he was invincible. We defeated opponents not necessarily because we were more talented, but because we were prepared and took the field with confidence.”
Dekker’s fondest memory of Keating is of a time in 1968. “He asked me to be the godfather to his new daughter, Shannon, and I felt honored that he and his wife, Betty, would even consider me. We held the baptism at the Keating’s parish church, and I thought that after the ceremony we would have a small party or gathering. Like most high school players, I was unsure about being with a coach in a setting other than the playing field. I shouldn’t have been so nervous; instead of returning to the Keating home after the ceremony, we proceeded directly to Marin Catholic’s baseball field to take Sunday batting practice, with most of Coach Keating’s children shagging balls. He must have thrown to me for at least two hours. Only after batting practice did we celebrate in the customary fashion.
To honor him, Jim Dekker ’68, who took over as head coach, instituted the Keating Award in 1975, with Stephen Baccari ’75 as the first recipient. Jim Keating died in 1988 after a four-year battle with cancer, and was buried in his coaching uniform along with his glove and bat. The 1989 varsity baseball team wore a black armband all season in Keating’s memory. “Knowing Jim, he would probably be embarrassed by the attention,” said Dekker.
SI’s swimming team enjoyed a remarkable run in the 1960s, taking first in 1960–61 and 1963-67. In 1965, Coach Bill Love ’59 helped the team break or tie nine city records and score the highest point total ever recorded in the city. SI’s nearest competitor trailed by 90 points at the finals. In 1968 in the WCAL, SI came in second to Bellarmine despite outstanding efforts by swimmers such as Mick Lavelle, who later returned to coach along with Robert Gogin. SI wouldn’t find gold until 1984, but the team still enjoyed success in the 1970s thanks to swimmers such as Mark Harris, Mark Yuschenkoff and Glenn Ackerman who continued to compete despite the lack of facilities and dwindling interest in the sport, as membership declined from 60 to a dozen members.
Leo La Rocca ’53
Leo La Rocca, who served as SI’s Athletic Director for 34 years, first came to SI as a teacher in 1965 and quickly became known as “The Godfather.” It’s not just because this towering man’s grandparents came from Sicily. Leo is the least threatening man you could meet. He was, however, the man to go to if you wanted a favor done. He gained a reputation as someone who could provide help with just one phone call, whether it was finding a donor for a scholarship for a senior whose father had just died or finding a job around campus for a freshman who had a hard time fitting in.
As a 6-foot, 3-inch sophomore, Leo helped his basketball team take second in the Tournament of Champions. He also made the all-league baseball team in his junior and senior years and boxed for the Olympic Club on the side. In 1965 he left his family’s seafood business and found a job at SI teaching English along with fellow first-year teachers Tony Sauer, Bob Drucker, Chuck Murphy and Riley Sutthoff.
In his second year on the job, both he and Drucker were vying for the varsity basketball coach’s job when Fr. McFadden called him into his office for a chat. “He said to me, ‘You really don’t want to coach basketball, do you Leo?’ I said, ‘Yes I do.’ ‘Wouldn’t you rather be athletic director?’ Little did anyone know that J.B. Murphy was stepping down.”
For the next 34 years, Leo scheduled games, reserved fields, hired coaches and supplied teams with equipment. He also attended thousands of games, including all but one of Drucker’s basketball games. “I was sick one day,” Leo explains.
In his long tenure as AD, he saw many changes, including the move from the AAA to the WCAL, the shift to coeducation and the increase in the number of teams and sports. When Leo first began at SI, only a small fraction of the SI student body competed in track, baseball, football and basketball. Now there are 13 boys’ sports and 13 girls’ sports, and nearly 900 of the 1,400 students participate in the athletics program. To assist him in this transition, SI hired Teresa Garrett in 1989 as associate athletic director, and when she left that position, Bob Vergara stepped into the job.
LaRocca never judged his success by whether his teams won or lost. “Driving home after a basketball game, I couldn’t tell you the final score. I get the most satisfaction not from watching a team win, but from watching kids play as hard as they could, win or lose. Championships are nice, but it’s far more gratifying watching kids grow into men and women, have families, be happy and do well professionally. I only hope that I’ve been a little part of their success.”
To honor him, SI renamed its winter basketball tournament the Leo A. La Rocca Sand Dune Classic, and the SI crew named a boat for him. He also received the Christ the King Award in 2004, the highest honor the school can bestow on an alumnus.
Fr. Mario Prietto, SJ, who served as SI principal for 13 of La Rocca’s 35 years at SI, announced on the day he got the job that “as long as I’m principal, Leo La Rocca is the AD. I’ve never regretted that decision. Leo is one of the kindest, most loyal persons I know. His devotion to SI has always been a great source of strength and inspiration for me. His heart is like his hands — big, warm and outstretched in service.”
Cross Country & Riley Sutthoff ’60
Each year since 1971, the cross country and track and field teams honor a “most inspirational” athlete with the Riley Sutthoff Award, named in honor of a man who started teaching French and coaching cross country at SI in 1965 before his tragic death in a car accident in 1970.
Terry Ward ’63, Bellarmine’s athletic director and track coach and a former SI coach and teacher, was a freshman runner when Riley was a senior. “When you are a freshman, it is easy to be in awe of seniors,” he noted. “ I ran very well as a freshman and was the city champion in the 660-yard run. One of the major reasons why I competed so well was the tutoring Riley gave me. Riley would always say hello to me and would compliment me when I did well. In the early ’60s the classes did not mix and to have someone who was about to graduate validate what I was doing left a lasting impression on me. In my junior and senior year, I made it a point to always help younger athletes. What Riley did for me, I wanted to do for others. This is my 35th year coaching track and field, and every day I try to make the 150 athletes in my charge know that I care for them and want them to succeed. From the fastest runner to the slowest jogger, I live with each step they take, just like Riley lived with me in the 1960s. I was very proud to succeed Riley as cross country coach. Riley was a great man whom many of us still miss.”
Fr. Tom Reed, SJ
Fr. Reed (whose life is detailed in the previous chapter) served as principal between 1957 and 1964. Paul Vangelisti ’63, who has gained fame as a poet, recalls being sent to him for discipline one day.
“Fr. Reed was more liberal than he let on. One day in religion class, our teacher was absent, and we thought we would have the period to study for physics. Suddenly we see an old priest sent in to proctor who, years previous, had been tortured by the Chinese. We were a little rowdy, but we studied hard. He decided he was going to have a class on religion and talk about Mary. That was the last thing we felt we needed. He started by asking each of us for an exclusive definition of ‘man.’ By the time he got to me — with my last name starting with a ‘V,’ I was at the end of the line — every definition had been exhausted, so I said, ‘Man is the only animal that habitually copulates in more than one position.’ The whole class went ballistic. He threw me out and told me to go to Fr. Reed.
“When Fr. Reed saw me, he said, ‘Paul, you’re a good boy. Why are you bothering me?’ I explained, and he walked back to the classroom with me. To the priest he said, ‘Father, we may punish boys for some things, but we don’t punish them for showing intelligence. Sit down Vangelisti. Father, I want to speak with you outside.’ I’ve always had a soft spot for Fr. Reed since then.”
Bill Kennedy ’50, who taught at SI between 1960 and 1997, recalls his first year working for Fr. Reed, who was a little behind on his accreditation report that year. He enlisted Kennedy to help him. “I had to go to several older Jesuits for information,” said Kennedy. “It was the first time they had ever been approached by a lay person asking for accreditation data. I amassed all the material and wrote some of it, but it was a very slap-dash affair as I was teaching a full load at the time. It was an absolute disaster, as the school was ill prepared for that accreditation. We got it, but it was a dicey proposition.”
The Death of JFK
After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, students attended a memorial Mass on November 26 with Fr. Reed delivering the eulogy. An Inside SI article noted that “everyone in the church was moved to tears as [Fr. Reed] recounted a little anecdote about ‘John-John.’” Mark Murphy ’64 eulogized him in Inside SI by noting that “not one of us knew the man. There were 1,100 of us clustered around radios that day, listening to the broadcast of the assassination. Each one felt a curious sense of personal loss. None of us had voted for him: we were too young. Had we been old enough, perhaps many of us would not have voted for him. And yet, the very fact that we, as Americans, can have the freedom to choose, made the loss more acute…. Perhaps it was because he was a young man that we could feel a close identity with him. He played football, he sailed a boat, and he was a man we could understand. We could have sat down and talked to him; we could have argued with him, exchanged opinions; he would have understood. He was so young to die that somehow our youth binds us closely to his memory…. No more work was done that day. Bunches of tight-lipped students went over the tragedy in low tones. Teachers gave up their classes to study periods or to discussion groups. Because it wasn’t necessary, no attempt was made to keep order or silence. The classrooms, which on a typical day might have been filled with spitballs, wisecracks and paper airplanes, were strangely silent and devoid of any light-heartedness.”8
Fr. Ed McFadden, SJ
In the 1960s and 1970s, SI turned from a good city school into a great regional school; much of that was due to the efforts of Fr. Ed McFadden, SJ ’41, who served as principal between 1964 and 1976. He helped usher in the modern era of high school administration at SI. “When we grew up in post WWII America, many men, including priests, were products of the military,” said his close friend Bob Drucker ’58. “Their watchwords were power and obedience and authority. Relationships between scholastics and priests and students and teachers were adversarial. That waned with the ’60s when people questioned authority and with the advent of Vatican II when relationships became more collegial and collaborative.”
Drucker found this true in his relationship with Fr. McFadden, whom he grew to respect. “He was a visionary who recognized the need for more laymen and the need for a professional counseling office. He knew we needed to expand the language department to include more modern languages and hired Riley Sutthoff to teach French. He saw the need for more honors and AP courses, and he was a pioneer in the Jesuit Secondary Education Association.”
Drucker most appreciated Fr. McFadden’s hands-on advice he would give to new teachers. “He’d give you a few suggestions after visiting your class, and he would choose what classes you would teach each year. He cultivated his faculty in that manner, hiring young laymen such as Chuck Murphy and myself.”
Fr. McFadden gained a reputation as a blunt but loving teacher and administrator who traumatized freshmen but who gained the love and respect of his students as they became upperclassmen. A Jesuit for 60 years, Fr. McFadden entered the Society of Jesus after graduating from SI in 1941. As a student at SI, he wrote a column for The Red and Blue called “Doings from Other Campi,” filled with topical jokes, puns and witty comments. Later, as principal of SI, that sense of humor would surface whenever he signed notes to coaches as “The Owner.” Later, as a teacher at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, he signed his notes with “Edward the Professor.”
After his ordination to the priesthood in 1954, he began his life-long work as a high school teacher and administrator, working as prefect of discipline and principal at Loyola High School in Los Angeles before coming to SI to serve as principal. (He eventually earned SI’s highest honor, the Christ the King award, in 2000.)
Throughout his career as an educator, he was known for his one-line advice to novice teachers: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” His take on students’ rights sometimes came as a shock to student councils when he emphasized, “One man, one vote. Mine!” And whenever a teacher complained about the dog-days of April, he would simply advise, “Get in there and pitch.”
His friend, Fr. John “Jack” Mitchell, SJ ’58, recalls that after Fr. McFadden left administration in 1977, he had a special way of starting the year with his freshmen at Bellarmine. Even the seniors each year would gather outside on the first day of class to watch. “Ed would enter the classroom hardly even glancing at the students sitting nervously at their desks. (Actually, Ed was more nervous than they were, but they did not know that.) He would walk directly to the board and write on it while saying aloud, ‘Summer is over.’ Then he would write down an assignment due the first day of class and walk out of the room. The freshmen would wear wide-eyed expressions of wonder at what had transpired and what it portended for the future, and the seniors outside would roar with laughter.”
“He used to scare the freshmen to death. He kept the kids on their toes and just expected the best of them,” Fr. Sauer said. "There was a method in his madness.
“I came to teach in 1965 with Bob Drucker, Chuck Murphy, Leo La Rocca, Riley Sutthoff and great young Jesuits,” added Fr. Sauer. “Fr. McFadden was our mentor and my friend for many years. For a long time, he was the only principal I knew. He was at my side at my first Mass in 1971, and I was honored to give the homily at his funeral Mass.”
SI in the early 1960s had “a lot of male testosterone in the halls with a militaristic atmosphere,” noted Peter Devine ’66. “Some of that changed when Fr. McFadden became principal. He emphasized academics and promoted the arts and Inside SI. He softened the hard edge and hired good laymen. The school needed that infusion because it had been slipping academically.”
Devine added that Fr. McFadden was clever in advancing his agenda. “He threatened to have us wear uniforms with blazers and ties. That was a smokescreen for what he really wanted to do. While students were busy protesting the uniforms, he made a host of changes, including having students, and not teachers, move between classrooms from period to period. He asked students to take a third year of a foreign language and biology in their sophomore year. He encouraged the lay faculty to be experts in their fields, so we started having better quality teaching. In the old days, the principal would hand a textbook to some poor scholastic and tell him to keep a day ahead of the students. At the end of the year, he told students that he was a principal who listens, and that he wouldn’t ask students to wear uniforms. They loved him for that.”
Leo Hyde ’47
For SI grads from the 1970s to the present, Dean of Students Douglas Draper, SJ, is synonymous with discipline. But for those who attended SI in the 1960s, Fr. Hyde holds that distinction. He was in charge of keeping discipline, of punishing offenders and, at times, of showing mercy when it was most needed.
In one sense, Leo Hyde’s SI history mirrors that of the Stanyan Street campus. He and his twin brother Robert Hyde ’47, were born at St. Mary’s Hospital in October 1929, across the street from the Shirt Factory, which had just been vacated as students left for the new Stanyan Street campus, and he was instrumental in supervising construction of and transfer to the 2001 37th Avenue campus.
As a student at SI, Leo Hyde was a member of the Sanctuary Society, which Fr. Carlin (then a scholastic) moderated, and through that organization, he grew friendly with many priests such as Fr. Ray Buckley, SJ, and Fr. Charles Largan, SJ. Hyde joined the order upon his graduation from SI and was ordained in 1960. He returned to SI in 1962 and served as prefect of discipline and as assistant principal until 1970 when he left SI. (He left the Society of Jesus in 1971 to wed, and he and his wife, Gail, now have two children, Jennifer and Kym, and one grandson.)
“Students were a bit afraid of me when I came to SI,” Hyde noted. He was tough but fair, and as one student wrote to him years later, “You were never an SOB. You always let us talk and explain why we were in trouble. You might send us to JUG, but we always had a chance to explain ourselves.”
For a young Peter Devine, on his first day at SI, there was nothing more frightening than Fr. Hyde. “He lined us all up in back of north schoolyard, military style. He walked down the line looking at each boy, shouting out his infraction: ‘Shirt!’ ‘Tie!’ ‘Haircut!’ Every so often, he would tell one boy to go to the office. He looked as if he were throwing someone out of school. We didn’t know it, but that boy was simply missing a medical form. To us, it looked like a random expulsion.”
Hyde did impose what he called Martial Law during fire drills. “If a teacher reported a student to me for fooling around or talking, then that boy was automatically and instantly suspended from school.”
Outside his office was an infamous bench where students would sit while waiting to meet with him. (That bench was moved to the Sunset District campus in the 1990s and now sits outside the deans’ office, a gift from Bill McDonnell, who bought it at a USF auction. Students lounge on that bench to chat with friends, something they would never do at the Stanyan Street campus.)
Sometimes discipline problems involved more than mere tardiness. One day a teacher punched a student in the hall, and the student responded by hitting him back. “He was sent to the office, but the priest involved saw me right away,” said Hyde. “He told me it wasn’t the kid’s fault. I treated that case as if it were self-defense.”
Later, at the famous Turkey Bowl game of 1967, when students began tearing down the goal post, Hyde ran down to the field along with two police officers and grabbed the first kid he saw. “I handed him to the police officer and said, ‘As acting principal, I’m making a citizen’s arrest.’ That broke up the mayhem. I was afraid someone would get hurt and that we would have to pay to rebuild the goal post. Later that day, I drove by the police station to make sure the police had released the young man. It turned out he was an SCU student who had had a few beers by halftime.”
Hyde made a point of not keeping the discipline records on file for long, as he did not want to see students damaged by youthful exuberance years later. “By state law, it was automatic suspension for smoking within three blocks of a school,” said Hyde. “I didn’t feel a suspension for that reason or for serving JUG should go into a permanent file.”
During the construction of the Sunset District campus, Hyde would visit every Saturday with plans in hand to inspect the work. “I knew all the contractors and all the architects. I had always been interested in the maintenance and was in charge of all the maintenance at the Stanyan Street campus.”
The 37th Avenue site had been a dumping ground of sorts, and for every truck load of debris removed, new sand had to be hauled in so the site would settle evenly, according to Hyde.
Hyde stayed on as assistant principal for one year when the school community moved to the Sunset District campus, and Br. Draper, who came to SI in 1966, succeeded him in the newly created post of dean of students.
After leaving SI, Hyde worked at the Provincial’s office for one year before deciding to leave the order. He then found work with his classmate George Millay ’47, the founder of San Diego’s SeaWorld, as a construction supervisor and, later, as manager of planning, construction and facilities for Magic Mountain, which Millay helped create.
Fr. Anthony P. Sauer, SJ
Fr. Anthony P. Sauer, who has served SI for the past 26 years as president — by far the longest of any of its administrators — first came to SI in 1965 after philosophy studies in St. Louis. A graduate of Loyola High School and Santa Clara University, Fr. Sauer had served as a lieutenant in Korea in the 13th Field Artillery supporting the 19th Infantry Regiment at Observation Post Lola at the Demilitarized Zone, 2,000 meters from North Korea. “I had more power at 21 than I’ve ever had since then,” he said. “That’s why I don’t take myself too seriously today.”
After leaving the Army he taught for a time at Loyola High School and was briefly engaged before deciding to join the Society of Jesus. He studied English at USC and at St. Louis University. The day he arrived at SI as a young scholastic, race riots were breaking out in Los Angeles and tanks were driving up and down Stanyan Street to prevent the riots from spreading to San Francisco.
He found himself teaching sophomore and junior English (and, later, senior English) and helping to moderate Inside SI and the Sanctuary Society. He liked his first two years so much that he asked to stay a third. Two weeks before school started in his third year, Fr. McFadden told him that he would be the school’s only counselor, the admissions director and the person in charge of scheduling classes. On top of that, he had one English class to teach. “I had to learn college counseling really fast,” he noted.
Mr. Sauer was a far cry from the traditional Jesuits of the 1950s. Robert Thomas ’68, now a prize-winning poet, had Fr. Sauer for senior English and recalled that he and his classmates didn’t use the stodgy textbooks other English classes used. “He had us use a new textbook that included poetry of Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot and e.e. cummings,” said Thomas. “That was my first exposure to those poets.” Mr. Sauer even taught Ginsberg’s controversial poemHowl, much to the chagrin of a few parents and faculty.
Boris Koodrin ’67 also enjoyed Mr. Sauer’s English class. “I had never been inspired by a teacher the way Tony inspired me. I had never experienced academics the way I did in his class. It was no struggle at all. He had a way of seeing you for who you were. It was an uplifting experience. I’ll always be indebted to him for giving me something I really needed.”
Koodrin’s classmate, Michael Shaughnessy ’67 (a teacher and campus minister at SI since 1981) calls Tony Sauer “my personal hero. When he came to SI, everyone was scared of him. I swear he used a riding crop as a pointer and slammed it on desks to get our attention. He worked our fingers to the bone, but you could tell he cared about us, not just as students but as people. Now I am very lucky to be professionally related to him. He’s been a remarkable president, and I feel cared about and cared for.”
When students asked their teacher to consider the poetry of modern rock songs, Mr. Sauer agreed. He listened to the Beatles and Bob Dylan and even staged a debate between juniors Tom Schaefer ’67 and Shaughnessy as to whose poetry was better: Dylan Thomas or Bob Dylan.
He attended the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January 1967 when Timothy Leary arrived in a hot air balloon, he saw what was happening during the Summer of Love in the Haight, and he counseled students who considered applying for conscientious objector status for the Vietnam War. He left in 1968 to study at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and to be ordained, but he would return in 1971 for his second stint as a teacher.
SI’s First Female Teacher
In 1965, SI hired its first female member of the faculty. Mrs. Marjorie Buley (the wife of chemistry teacher Horace Buley) taught biology, though only for one year. Still, the school had a number of women working there. The 1966 yearbook lists nine women: Mrs. Emma Basso (registrar), Mrs. Dolores Bloom (bookkeeper), Miss Judy Galassi (alumni secretary), Mrs. N. Hauck (switchboard), Mrs. J. Jeffs (development secretary), Mrs. Frances McCausland (bookkeeper), Mrs. A. Murphy (president’s secretary), Mrs. A. Schmidt, (assistant principal’s secretary) and Miss C. Swanson (school nurse).
Speech and Debate
From its beginnings, SI has had a proud tradition of argumentation and public speaking. The student forums and debate teams did well in past decades, and in the 1960s, students in the SI Forum continued to excel under the guidance of former Jesuit Charles Henry ’38. In the 1962–63 school year, for instance, students who excelled included seniors Gerry London, Rick Del Bonta, Paul Vangelisti and Robert Carson — the latter two well-known poets — juniors David Mezzera and John Scalia and sophomores Frank Gollop and Eugene Payne. The debate team of Mezzera and Scalia “merited not only state acclaim but also national recognition,” according to the Ignatian, and SI received an invitation for the first time in its history to attend the Georgetown University Debate Tournament along with two dozen other schools in the country. In their senior year, both Mezzera and Scalia debated in the National Tournament in Akron, Ohio. Mezzera returned to SI in 1970 to teach public speaking and moderate the SI Forum. In the 1970s, SI sent speakers and debate teams to compete in the nationals every year except 1973 and 1979. In 1972, seniors Stephen Schori and Gerald Posner (the author of Case Closed and many other books) took third in the National Forensic League finals at Wake Forest University.
The Ignatian & Inside SI
Inside SI started a new tradition in 1963 when Fr. John Becker took over as moderator. He would continue in that role (with the exception of a few years) until 1975. In 1963, the school received a donated press and, with the addition of more equipment in 1967, students began producing the newspaper in-house. They typeset the magazine, made negatives from the pages using a process camera, burnt plates using a carbon arc, printed full-color pages and bound and trimmed the issues. The magazine covered the controversies of the day that ranged from the Block Club being an elitist organization to the Student Council being a do-nothing organization.
The Ignatian continued to excel in the 1960s, with the 1964 yearbook including color pages for the first time. One yearbook generated discussion that continued for years. In 1967, the yearbook staff produced a large, linen-covered tome that contained beautiful black and white photographs and almost no text. Students and teachers either loved it or hated it. The young scholastic in charge, Dennis Alvernaz, and editor Richard Robinson ’67, had one thought in mind while working on it. “We wanted to create a family album,” said Alvernaz, now a retired Catholic priest. “You don’t find captions in a family photo album. In those days, we felt like a family. It was a wonderful time, just before the decline of everything. It was the last hurrah of the WWII generation and their children, and a spirit of camaraderie filled the halls.”
To produce a larger book, both in terms of format and page count, Robinson, Alvernaz and their staff (including ace photographer Vince Piantaneda ’69) stretched their budget by learning to develop their own film and make their own prints. They used a small darkroom on campus and drove a few miles to a public darkroom to rent facilities. They also did their own layouts and turned in camera-ready art to the yearbook company.
They began their book with a 16-page photo essay that included some of the only text (aside from names) found in the document. In it, Alvernaz offered this wisdom: “It was better, he [Christ] thought, to fail in attempting exquisite things than to succeed in the department of the utterly contemptible.” Alvernaz hoped that the introduction would spiritually challenge students and ask them to be self-critical.
Because of the mixed reaction to the nearly wordless yearbook, Alvernaz returned to a more traditional tome for the 1968 edition with editor Bob Cooney ’68. He and Cooney later collaborated on two more unusual yearbooks, this time at SCU where Cooney was yearbook editor and Alvernaz, once again, moderator, while studying theology at Alma College. The two published yearboxes — boxes in which students would find several spiral-bound books.
In the fall of 1961, SI students formed the Rocket Club, moderated by chemistry teacher Horace MacPherson “Mac” Buley. Club members spent the first six months experimenting with various fuel mixes and named their first rocket the TR1 in honor of Principal Tom Reed, SJ. They launched that rocket in May 1962 in Nevada. (California law prohibited vertical rocket launches, so the boys experimented with horizontal flights in San Francisco and traveled to Nevada to see if their machines had the right stuff.) While the first stage of that May launch was successful, the second stage blew up after traveling 1,000 feet high. They planned an October launch with a mouse and a parachute ejection system “so that we can recover him,” reported the October 5, 1962, Inside SI. Then, on January 18, 1963, the club launched a six-foot rocket a mile high into space, making it the “second largest amateur solid fuel rocket ever fired in the U.S.” They worked on another rocket, dubbed “Big Mac” after their moderator. It stood 18 feet high and included two stages and a nose cone with a guidance system that students could control from the ground.9
Peter Devine, who performed in many of the plays in the 1960s, recalled that all the plays at SI were done with an all-male cast until 1964. “I was in the last all-male show, Little Mary Sunshine, performing the role of Madame Ernestine in the spring of 1964.” In the fall of 1964, Fr. Bill Breault, SJ, the new drama director, wrote to Rome to ask permission for women to be allowed to act in plays at SI. He received permission, and the first show to feature actresses was Charlie’s Aunt,which, added Devine, “is about a guy who dresses as his aunt to fool the girls into thinking they have a chaperone.” It also starred SI fine arts teacher Katie Wolf, who was then a junior at St. Rose Academy and whose mother, Jean Wolf, was costume designer at SI.
“Once the shows became coed, the musicals started growing in size,” Devine added. In 1965, SI staged an original musical, Margo and Me, written by Tom Calderola ’65, Dave Miller ’66 and Phil Kelsey ’66. The show was performed at Marina Junior High School and proved so successful that the next year SI stagedOklahoma! at the Marines Memorial Theatre. SI was the last amateur group to play that theatre because ACT acquired it the following year and unionized. “When we went to put our sets and lights in for Oklahoma! in 1966, the union tried to stop us. Fr. Carlin then placed one phone call and took care of it. The union never bothered us after that.”
The theatre department produced a number of wonderful shows during the 1960s including the student-authored Margo and Me and Arsenic and Old Lace. The 1966 production of Oklahoma! Directed by Nicholas Weber, SJ, was one of the best shows produced by SI. According to the 1966 Ignatian, Oklahoma! featuredstudents Norice Moore, Peggy Walsh, Willie Morrissey, Glen Howell, Mike Yalon and Dave Miller, who “exhibited the talent that has been waiting to be expressed at SI musically and dramatically.” The show also featured Peter Devine and Katie Wolf, who would both continue their careers at SI.
Stanyan Street Meets Haight & Ashbury
In 1967, students attended a school rooted in 400 years of Jesuit tradition. Then at lunch and after school they would walk to Golden Gate Park or to Haight Street and find a different world, one that involved protest, drugs and rock and roll.
“I could walk to the park as a senior during lunch and watch hippies dancing around,” said Robert Thomas, who identified with the youth movement both at SI and, later, at UC Santa Cruz where he studied English, attended Grateful Dead concerts and protested the Vietnam War.
Boris Koodrin ’67, a lineman for the football team at SI, noted that much of San Francisco “was a whole different world. We were close to Haight-Ashbury and to Golden Gate Park where it was a clash of worlds, not that there was any antagonism, between students and hippies.”
As a student, Koodrin and many others attended a legendary concert — a fund raiser for SI — at USF’s Memorial Gymnasium on April 7, 1967, that brought Buffalo Springfield and the Jefferson Airplane to SI, with a lightshow by Headlights. “They were up-and-coming artists, not that big yet,” said Koodrin. Still, the two groups drew 4,000 fans to the benefit concert for SI’s building fund. “Several faculty members eyed Haight-Ashbury’s shaggy contingent with glazed optics and twitchy clipper fingers,” wrote Charlie Gavin in the Inside SI concert review.
John Wildermuth ’69, now a political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, recalls that cross country coach Riley Sutthoff would have his team avoid running near Haight Street. “Everywhere we saw guys selling the Oracle and the Berkeley Barb or guys asking for contributions to build a new temple. We saw the Grateful Dead perform on top of a flatbed truck on Stanyan Street and saw the Diggers perform.”
Students and teachers at SI also saw the ugly side of the movement, especially regarding the drug scene. On a Saturday morning in 1967, one of Bob Drucker’s players, Steve McCarthy, cut his eye. “I took him to Park Emergency. When I walked in, I saw a beautiful 18-year-old girl reciting nursery rhymes; she was so out of it from drugs. I had never seen anyone like this. At 27, I was frightened; this was my neighborhood, but I had no idea what was going on as I was a bit naïve.”
Fr. Bill Muller, SJ, who taught at SI as a scholastic in the late 1960s, saw both sides of the changing times. “I used to go walking from Welch Hall out into the Haight, and it dawned on me one night that I shouldn’t be doing this. The kids changed in just those two years. They developed a social consciousness and an awareness of the world around them. They paid attention to the Vietnam War, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.”
SI did contribute to the music scene of San Francisco in the 1960s with Ron Elliott ’62. Elliott and Sal Spampinato (who later changed his name to Sal Valentino) formed the group the Beau Brummels and had several hit songs, including “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just a Little” in 1965, which Eliott co-wrote with classmate Bob Durand ’62. After the Beau Brummels broke up, Elliott pursued other musical avenues, including country rock, and recorded and released The Candlestick Maker.
Many SI alumni served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War and six are known to have died: John Santos ’51, Robert Reed ’51, Denis O’Connor ’58, Richard Bloom ’60, Richard Arthur Timboe ’62 and Paul Medlin ’63. In addition, one other grad, Frederick John Riley ’51, a retired Navy pilot, served in the CIA’s Air America and was killed in Laos.
Frederick John Riley ’51
Frederick Riley grew up close to SI near Haight and Ashbury. As a senior, he served as a cheerleader, and he was a member of the 130s basketball team and the rally committee. He joined the Navy while still in college, according to his close friend Richard Howard ’52.
In the 1960s, he left the Navy to join in the CIA’s secret war in Laos, supporting Laotians in their struggle against the North Vietnamese. Riley flew C-123s into Laos carrying supplies. On November 27, 1962, his plane was damaged by Neutralist anti-aircraft fire while on approach to land at Xieng Khoung. He was mortally injured in the ensuing crash. “He was a hell of a good guy,” said Howard. “He had no business being killed like that.”
Riley is memorialized on the Wall of Honor at an Air America memorial in Texas. He had no siblings and his parents, who have since passed away, “suffered immensely after Fred’s death, as he was their only son,” added Howard.
“Fred’s case has always troubled me. I saw many people die on ships. I lost my wingman during the war and saw a lot of blood spilled. Those people were all remembered and honored, but those who died in Air America were, for the most part, performing an admirable and honorable task for our government. Whether or not you agree with their mission, they were heroes of the first rank and never recognized. It’s heartbreaking.”
Denis O’Connor ’58
Denis O’Connor was born May 3, 1940, and grew up in San Francisco with his parents and six sisters. In a ’56 Chevy that was the envy of his class, he would drive many of his sisters to a bus stop near SI every morning on his way to school. “It says a lot about him that he risked his ‘coolness’ by performing this task in his even cooler ’56 Chevy filled with other SI boys,” said his sister Brenda MacLean. “He had a wonderfully sarcastic humor and his little sisters were treated to the daily observations of the world by him and his friends.” His sister Mary Pratto recalls his pride in wearing his junior jacket and his desire to study engineering at SCU. “Having three sisters older and three younger, Denis established himself at a young age as a strong individual,” she added. At SI he also participated in the Sanctuary Society and the Sodality and held a number of class offices.
Denis’ father, Jim, was a concrete contractor and the owner of D. O’Connor and Son, and Denis worked for him every summer from the time he was 5 to learn the business. After college, he planned to enter the family business and then go into San Francisco politics. “He believed it was possible for an honest patriot to make a difference in San Francisco and even in the country,” said his widow, Patricia (Patty) Ekenberg, who was in her first year at the University of Detroit when she met Denis, a senior.
A finance major, he was active in ROTC, and after college he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. Patty and he were married there in 1964, and they had two daughters — Elizabeth, born in 1965, and Christine, born in 1966.
Denis had a great sense of humor, according to Patty. “Not only was he funny, but he also loved music. He prided himself on knowing the words to every song in every Broadway show and every movie musical.”
As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, Denis was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1966 before shipping out to Vietnam for his first tour of duty in 1967. He was killed three months later, on October 10, 1967, from an explosion in Quang Nam, possibly from a grenade or an artillery shell.
“Denis was one of the lucky people in this world who defined his priorities at a young age,” said Patty. “He told me that his first duty was to God, his second duty was to his country and his third duty was to his family. I understood taking a back seat to God, but was a bit miffed to be behind country, especially when he volunteered for Vietnam. His values would not have allowed any other decision. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. He volunteered for service because he thought that for the defense of our country, we had to help rid the world of communism. He was a man of great honor and principle. He had to do the right thing.”
Patty, who had moved to Sonoma with Denis shortly before his leaving for Vietnam, vividly recalls the day she learned of his death. “It was horrible. The minute I saw the uniformed men coming to the door, I knew what it was. I was numb.”
Years later, one of Denis’ sisters introduced Patty to a family friend and Lowell grad, Don Nelson. Patty married him, and the two had a son.
She maintained close ties to Denis’ sisters. “Our son, Curt, called the O’Connor sisters ‘auntie’ and Don adopted our girls.” Sadly Don died in 1996 and Patty endured another visit to her door to inform her of a husband’s death. She later married a close friend of Don’s mother in 2000 and continues to make her home in Sonoma.
She and the sisters continue to honor the memory of Denis. “He was the best brother and is missed every day of these past 37 years,” said Brenda MacLean. His daughter, Beth, added that “a family gathering doesn’t go by without stories told of him (always accompanied by plenty of laughter and tears).” His sister Mary added that “Denis was very loved by all of us. I still miss and remember him to this day.” His name appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 27E, Row 85.
Richard Bloom ’60
The October 7, 1966, Inside SI included the following notice: “Rich Bloom was in many ways a typical SI student. He was active in his school life, rifle team, track and football, and received fairly good grades in his studies…. When the war in Vietnam began to get hotter, he was sent to fight. It was there that he was killed in action in service to his country and ideals. Inside SI salutes Rich Bloom, a true Ignatian, who gave his life that others might be free.” — Joe Cordes ’67
Born in 1942, Richard Bloom grew up on 35th Avenue and attended Holy Name Church. His mother, Dolores, a third-generation San Franciscan, worked at SI in the treasurer’s office, and his father, a San Francisco policeman, came from West Marin. His friends included Dick Lynch ’60 and Bill Foehr ’60. Lynch recalls that Bloom and his father were “more devoted to one another than any father and son that I’ve ever met.”
At 6-feet, 2-inches and 190 pounds, Richard was “solid as a cement block and an exceptional athlete. As a defensive back at SI, he could run as fast backwards as I could forwards,” said his Marine buddy Richard Torykian. Lynch recalls that he was “very friendly, not too studious, a great athlete and hunter and very into automobiles. He had a ’49 Ford hotrod that we rebuilt.”
After SI, he attended USF for two years where he continued to play football before enlisting in the Marine Corps Officer Training Program. According to his sister, Katherine Bloom, he hoped to become a pilot. He had a girlfriend, but didn’t want to marry until he came back from the war.
He first trained in Pensacola, Florida, to fly the A4E Skyhawk and F8 Crusader and then went to El Toro with the First Marine Division. There he hooked up with Torykian, who recalls the day he met Richard Bloom. “My roommates, two fighter pilots, and I went to a bar one night where I ran into Dick Bloom. We got into a little bit of an argument when I told him his date was ugly. You had to know him to understand how he took it. He had so much life in him and an enormous sense of humor.”
At El Toro the two used to play handball on Friday nights after work and share a few drinks at the Officers’ Club. “When he smiled, his whole face smiled,” noted Torykian. “We talked about going deer hunting with his dad in Olema after the war.”
Torykian thought that Bloom was “an outstanding aviator. We struck up a great friendship.” The two were roommates in Laguna Beach until March 1965 when President Johnson sent elements of the Third Marine Division to Vietnam. Richard went to Vietnam in early 1966 and flew 70 combat missions in two months with Marine Attack Squadron 224 before being killed on September 20, 1966, flying support for ground troops near Chu Lai. Bloom’s aircraft was hit during his third run against a truck park near the village of Ha Tinh, about 20 miles southwest of Danang. According to Bloom’s wingman, small arms fire downed the plane. Bloom’s body was never recovered. Torykian believes the plane burrowed into the soft jungle ground and buried Bloom in his cockpit.
Katherine, his sister, remembers the day two men in full dress uniforms came to the door to inform the family of Richard’s death. “They rang my doorbell, and I heard my mother scream. I ran to the door. It was horrible. I’ll never forget that day. I adored my brother.”
Dick Lynch found out about his friend’s death two weeks after he married. Then, two months later, he received his wedding present from Bloom. “That was really hard. His death was such a useless tragedy.”
Torykian, on his way home from the war, stopped in San Francisco to spend time with the Bloom family, answering their questions about how their son had died. He made a point of visiting them every five years. Both he and Lynch became surrogate sons to Bloom’s father, and both spent time hunting with him.
Years later, someone called Bloom’s family claiming to have his dog tags and offering to recover the body for $50,000. The family called Torykian, who knew it was a scam, and authorities arrested the caller. “Dick’s remains are gone,” said Torykian. “They are a part of the earth. But I still remember him as a vibrant man and great athlete. Everybody loved him. He was a courageous person who feared nothing. I lost a great friend and the country lost a great American.”
His name can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 10E, Line 123.
Richard Arthur Timboe ’62
Born March 23, 1944, he was known as “Rich” at SI, “Art” at USF and “Tim” at home and in the military. Richard Arthur Timboe is also remembered as a hero for giving up his life while trying to save a soldier in the South Vietnamese Army.
Timboe grew up an Army brat in the Presidio along with Margo McRice, whom he later married. “It was like growing up in a little village inside a big city,” said Margo. “No one locked the doors.” Tim played Little League baseball and ran track at SI, and his best friend was Terry Gillin ’62, now a professor of sociology at Ryerson University in Canada, who knew him as a quiet guy. “It blew everyone’s mind when Margo and he eloped a year after he graduated from SI.”
In 1963, after returning from Mexico, Tim and Margo moved in with Tim’s parents while Tim continued his studies in political science at USF. Their son Michael Arthur Timboe was born in late 1963 and Brian William Timboe was born the following year. Tim graduated in 1966 and entered the Army after receiving his ROTC commission.
He went to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for infantry training and then to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to the 101st Airborne Division for jump school training. As a first lieutenant and pathfinder, he went to Vietnam in November 1967, assigned as an advisor to a village north of Saigon to work with the South Vietnamese Army as part of Advisory Team 70. He slept and ate with the villagers and wrote home about drinking homemade liquor. His wife sent him care packages of San Francisco items: copies of the Chronicle, Ghirardelli chocolate bars and sourdough bread.
On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive. On February 1, the Vietnamese commander of Tim’s unit sent out a light machine gun unit to try to capture Viet Cong. One gunner was hit and Tim ran out to carry him to safety. He hoisted the man onto his shoulders and was running back when he was shot and killed. For his bravery, he was awarded the Silver Star.
“He was really friendly and didn’t have an enemy in the world,” said his son, Brian. “He died doing exactly what he wanted to do. All he ever wanted to do in his whole life was serve in the Army.”
Timboe’s family was first told that he was missing in action. Five days later, word came that he had died. “This poor soul in uniform came to the door,” said Margo. “He was a basket case. I was his first case ever, and I had to call my father to take him to a bar to calm him down. He didn’t know what to say. It was probably for the best, as it took my mind away from my own loss worrying about this poor guy.
“Fr. Eugene Schallert, SJ, at USF was such a good help during this time,” added Margo. “He told me not to wallow in self pity and to focus on taking care of my children.” Fr. Schallert presided over the funeral Mass at St. Ignatius Church February 14.
For Gillin, the loss of his best friend was a hard one to take. “I was in grad school when Margo called me. Like so many at that time, I had a kind of confusion about opposing the war while still struggling to honor those who were fighting. I had a tremendous sense of loss and a sense of ambivalence over whether or not he had died for a good and just cause. Part of my sadness was that I thought his death was unnecessary because the war was inappropriate. We need to honor people like Tim who have served their county so selflessly while, at the same time, remain free to intellectually and morally challenge the rightness of any war.” Margo chose to involve herself with Swords into Plowshares. “They know how to heal everyone, even widows.”
Richard Arthur Timboe is buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio, Plot WS 636-B, and his name can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Panel 36E, Line 62. He is also survived by his two grandsons — Christopher and Dylan.
In addition to having their names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and in Sacramento, Denis O’Connor, Richard Bloom and Richard Arthur Timboe have their names inscribed on a memorial in Justin Herman Plaza along with 160 other San Franciscans who died in Vietnam. Brian Timboe spoke at the 2001 dedication of that memorial, telling a cheering crowd of 500 that “there’s nothing to be ashamed of, to be a Vietnam vet. I just want to say this to you: ‘Hold your heads high!’” His father is also remembered in a memorial at USF.
Postscript: After the publication of Spiritus Magis, members of the Class of 1951 wrote to inform SI of two more casualties of the Vietnam War: Robert Reed & John Santos, both of the class of 1951. Their stories are included here.
Robert William Reed ’51
Bob Reed, a fourth generation San Franciscan, was raised in the Haight, attended St. Agnes and played baseball at SI where he socialized with a close group of friends. His sister, Carol Reed Turner, recalled that despite their four-year age difference, “my brother was very attentive to me. I was the tag-along little sister, but he took care of me and let me play with the rest of the boys.”
His close friend Bill Reed ’51 noted that growing up in the Haight was like a scene from the Our Gang movies. “We used Golden Gate Park as our backyard, playing cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. One day, when we were 8, Bob and Dick Clark decided to build a ship and pretend to sail on the ocean. We ran around to the sandlots and brought back enough wood to build an 8-foot boat with little cabins.”
Bill Reed recalled that he and Bob Reed (no relation) traveled to Truckee where they saw their classmate, Paul Getty, and later attended the prom at Sacred Heart High School, where they had many friends, including Vern Buer, who also sings Bob’s praises. “He was 100 percent USA who believed in what he was doing.”
A year after graduating from SI, Reed enlisted in the Marines but discovered that his lack of a college degree kept him from advancing as an officer. He went on reserve status to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in history from San Jose State in 1958 and then returned to active duty.
‘He was a warrior at heart,” recalls his sister. “He liked the service and strategy of warfare.”
He married Therese King in 1961, and they two had sons — Robert William and William Damien.
One of his first assignments after his marriage was to the USS Washburn, a Navy cargo ship, where he discovered that he was the only Marine on a boat filled with sailors — not an enviable post.
After a stint at San Clemente, Camp Pendleton and Quantico, he went to Vietnam as a Captain and commander of C Company, First Battalion, Third Division, Ninth Marine Regiment. After 16 years in the service, he died on April 5, 1967, while reinforcing troops in the Thua Thien province of wounds sustained from rifle fire. He was promoted to Major and received the Bronze Star posthumously. (His company had the nickname of “the walking dead,” as it suffered more casualties than any other Marine unit in Vietnam.)
According to the official report of his death, Reed showed “aggressive and inspiring leadership and intimate knowledge of enemy tactics [that[ directly contributed to his company’s success in the field.” During the operation in which he was killed, he led his company “in a well coordinated assault on a series of cleverly concealed and well entrenched enemy positions before being mortally wounded. As a result of his actions, Company C overran the position and routed the enemy to retreat. Major Reed’s dynamic leadership, exemplary courage and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps.”
The day before his death, his older son had just celebrated his fifth birthday; his younger son was just over two. “As soon as I saw the Lieutenant Colonel and the monsignor from my church walk to my door at 8 a.m., I knew what had happened,” recalls Therese. “The hardest part was having to tell his parents, as he and his father were very close. His father died of a heart attack eight months to the day after his son’s death. But he really died of a broken heart.”
Buer was at work at a retail shop when Reed’s father called to tell him the sad news. “I was devastated,” said Buer. “He had been my best man, and we had done so many things together.”
Therese added that her husband “loved the Marine Corps. I always knew that the Corps came first, and I came second. I accepted that. He was a great guy, a wonderful husband and a Marine through and through.”
Robert Reed’s name can be found on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall on panel 17E, line 109. He was buried at Golden Gate Cemetery across the road from the grave of Admiral Nimitz.
John F. Santos, Jr. ’51
John Santos moved with his family from Hawaii to San Francisco while John was in the ninth grade. “He was a happy-go-lucky, friendly guy,” noted his classmate Floyd Stuart ’51. “He was a good student, and we hit it off. We used to double date in high school.”
Bill Reed, who asked John to be the godfather for his oldest daughter, recalls John’s passion for cars growing up.
Santos studied at USF before enlisting. His sister, Geraldine “Jerry” Mederios, recalled that her brother signed up for the Air Force when a recruiter promised him he could become a pilot. “He wanted to be a pilot ever since he was little. But after he signed up, they told him he would be a navigator.”
Santos finished his degree while in the Air Force and did eventually become a pilot, first in jets and then in helicopters.
With Stuart as his best man, Santos marred Kathryn Godfrey and had four children — Lisa, Steven, Paul and John. His family went with him when he was sent to Thailand as an advisor to the Royal Thai Air Force.
On April 28, 1964, he and seven Thai airmen were to go on a supply mission to a radio relay site near Pitsanulok, Thailand, when their RTAF H034 helicopter lost power as it was taking off near the town of Thit Anulok 200 miles north of Bangkok, killing all aboard. Santos was 30 years old.
Col. Loren Nickels praised Santos shortly after his death as being “an exceptionally capable advisor … During [his work with the Thai Air Force], his outstanding professional skill, knowledge and leadership aided immeasurably in developing and implementing a Helicopter Flight Training program and establishing a higher degree of professional competence in the 63rd Search and Rescue Squadron. The accomplishments of your son reflected credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
“The news of my brother’s death was on the radio, and some people knew about it before my mother,” said Mederios. “She received a call from the military informing her that John was missing. We didn’t know until years later that his name was on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.” (You can find it on Panel 01E, line 50.)
Bill Reed went to the Wall last summer and paid tribute to his fallen classmates. “It was a very emotional day. Regardless of the feelings about the Vietnam War, all served their country well; memories of these two — and my classmate Fred Riley ’51 who died in Laos with Air America — have stayed with me through the years.”
Remembering Paul Medlin ’63 and the legacy of Vietnam
Paul Medlin pictured in his backyard before going to Vietnam. He told classmate Pete Dito that he had a premonition he wouldn’t be coming back.
Over the years, SI has honored alumni who have died in service to their country, with the exception of one of its best: Army 2nd Lt. Paul Charles Medlin ’63.
Medlin’s name was inadvertently omitted from the 150th anniversary book, Spiritus Magis, which named 10 who died in WWI, 96 in WWII, one in Korea and four in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War: Fredrick Riley ’51, Denis O’Connor ’58, Richard Bloom ’60 and Richard Arthur Timboe ’62.
A subsequent issue of Genesis reported on two additional Vietnam casualties: Robert William Reed ’51 and John F. Santos, Jr. ’51.
Then, in 2013, James Stark ’63 wrote to SI regarding Medlin’s death and asked “when you again do a piece on Ignatians who had given their lives for their country, please include Lt. Paul Medlin.”
On Memorial Day 2014, Genesis editor Paul Totah ’75 sat with Lt. Medlin’s 99-year-old mother, Dorothy, and sister, Jane (a 1971 graduate of Mercy High School in San Francisco and an office manager for a Union Square dentist), to tell the story of Medlin’s life and untimely death at 24 on Dec. 14, 1969.
Medlin was the first-born son of Lorin Medlin, a Massachusetts native who worked at Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, and Dorothy, a third-generation San Franciscan, a graduate of St. Peter’s High School and a bookkeeper for Mount St. Joseph’s–St. Elizabeth’s orphanage. Medlin also had a younger brother, Mark, who worked as a CalTrans supervisor before his retirement.
Both Dorothy and Jane described Paul as a quiet and caring young man who enjoyed reading. “Before he left for Vietnam, he told me to read Wuthering Heights and Lord of the Rings,” recalled Jane.
“He spoiled me,” she added. “For Easter, he would hide chocolate eggs around the house and then give me hints as to where they were. I thought he was so smart. I had no idea how he knew where they were.”
Jane also recalled his love for drawing. “He sketched Mick Jagger in a flip book for me that turned into an animated cartoon, and he was always drawing trees and flowers.”
He also loved music, and he taught his siblings about the burgeoning rock scene in San Francisco. Later, in Vietnam, he bought a guitar and taught some of the men in his command how to play. His sister also wrote to him about new album releases and concerts in San Francisco.
At St. Michael’s Grammar School, he joined the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. At SI, he met Pete Dito ’63, and the two became lifelong friends.
Dito, now a director of economics and regulatory analysis in Southern California, described Medlin as “a sensitive person and a poet, who had remarkable expressions for what he saw. One day he came to visit me in Spokane, and we hopped a freight train to Seattle just for the adventure. One side was nailed shut, and he noted that we were only seeing half the world. When the train came to a stop, we wondered why it stopped at a bleak, snow-covered landscape. We leapt out of the boxcar, peered underneath it to investigate and saw a city. Paul was right. You can’t just look at half the picture. You need to see it all.”
While in high school, both men studied Russian after school with Bill Morlock ’49. After classes, the two would argue about which bands were the best. “He loved Duane Eddy and Johnny Cash, while I insisted the Beach Boys and Bobby Rydell were the best. We went head to head all the time.”
After graduating from SI, Medlin attended Humboldt State, where he earned his degree in forestry. (See photo above.) He also spent his summers fighting fires in the mountains of the Sierras throughout the state.
“Paul also had a great sense of dry humor,” said Jane. “One day in college, he took the hinges off his door and sat waiting for his roommates to return. He loved to play tricks like that.”
While in college, Medlin met Cheryll Arvola, a student at UC Davis, and the two became engaged. Later, he served as best man for Dito (see above), and Medlin asked Dito to act as his best man once he returned from his tour of duty.
After his college deferment ran out, Medlin enlisted in the Army despite his parents’ pleas for him to join the Navy. “The recruiters promised that they would place him in the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Jane. “He thought that would help him work in forestry when he returned, but they lied to him and assigned him to the infantry.”
After graduating from the U.S. Army Infantry Officers Candidate School in Ft. Benning, Ga., in 1969, Medlin returned home for a brief visit. Before he left, Dito visited him at the Medlin home on Foote Street. “He was so upset,” recalled Dito. “He told me, ‘You know Pete, I feel like I’m not coming back.’ I told him he was crazy; that really hit me hard.”
Medlin landed in Vietnam on Oct. 4, assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, C Company. He proved popular with the men under his command, many of whom later wrote tributes in various online sites paying homage to Medlin and his fallen comrades.
In the Long An Province in Southern Vietnam on the Mekong Delta, Medlin befriended a fellow officer who warned him about one particularly dangerous area that, in December, Medlin was assigned to patrol.
That officer, on his way home from Vietnam, stopped by the Medlin home to tell the Medlin family the story of Paul’s death. “He told us that Paul had seen something suspicious,” said Jane. “He ordered his men to stay behind while he went to investigate. While bending down to have a closer look, he must have tripped a wire, because a device exploded in his face, fatally wounding him.”
Medlin was flown by helicopter to an Army hospital where he was given last rites and treated before his death.
Shortly after his death, a package of letters arrived to his base in Vietnam. They had been written by Jane and by her Mercy classmates to support Paul and his fellow troops.
The day of Medlin’s death, St. Michael’s pastor Fr. Cloherty called Lorin and asked to come over. “My father kept asking ‘Why? Why?’” said Jane. “We all knew what the visit meant.”
Medlin’s funeral Mass was held at St. Michael’s with burial following at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. “I will never forget the 21-gun salute, the folding of the flag or the photo taken that day showing the grief in the faces of my family and of Cheryll, who took years to get over this loss,” said Jane. Cheryll finally did marry, 10 years later.
Medlin’s family continued to honor and mourn him. Dorothy donates each month to support wounded warriors, and the family has had monthly Masses said in his memory, first at St. Michael’s, then at Corpus Christi and now at St. Stephen’s Church.
“The wound of his loss never closed for our family,” said Jane. “The only good thing is that Paul didn’t return maimed. He loved the outdoors so much, it would have killed his spirit. We are also grateful he wasn’t captured, as we couldn’t have lived through that ordeal.”
The family still feels grief and anger, said Jane. “We should never have gone to Vietnam, and we stayed there forever knowing the war could never be won. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought back memories for me. Every week, while getting ready for Mass, I would have the news on and see the names and ages of those who had died the previous week. They were all so young.”
Paul’s mother Dorothy Medlin, at 99, still treasures the memory of her son and keeps close to her the rubbing of her son’s name from the Vietnam Memorial.
Jane and Mark haven’t visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but they do have a rubbing of Paul’s name (Panel/Row 15W, 56), one made by Jane’s grammar school classmate John Barisone ’71. “I don’t know if I could face the Wall in person,” said Jane. “It goes on and on and on and signifies both a finality and an incredible waste of life. It’s a monolith of waste.”
Dorothy and Jane still live in their family home in the Outer Mission surrounded by photos of Paul, including one taken the day he left for Vietnam, smiling in his uniform.
“Before he left, he asked me to take care of my mother,” said Jane. “So that’s what I’m doing as best I can. We don’t sit around crying, but the pain doesn’t go away.”
Chalk-Dust Memories: The 1960s
Michael Shaughnessy ’67
(Michael Shaughnessy is part of the Campus Ministry team at SI. He has taught religious studies at SI since 1980.)
Some students considered resisting the draft, but most would have gone willingly had they been drafted, including Michael Shaughnessy ’67. “Had I been drafted straight out of high school, I would have gone without thinking about it a second time,” he noted. Now a religious studies teacher and part of SI’s campus ministry team, Shaughnessy has actively opposed the U.S. war in Iraq and encourages his students to judge conflicts in light of the Just War Theory. “As a student at SI, I had never heard of ‘Just War Theory’ or the Catholic peace tradition,” he noted. “The bishops came out with a letter in 1970 saying no kid should graduate from a Catholic high school without knowing about these traditions. That’s when I knew what I was going to do with my life: Teach at a Catholic high school, particularly teaching moral decision-making and encouraging people to take ownership of moral decisions and citizenship. That’s what I’ve been trying to do at SI.”
The son of Bert Shaughnessy ’31, Shag, as he is known to colleagues and students, felt an adversarial relationship between teachers and students in his days at SI. “We were brutal to our teachers. We kept track of teachers who either quit or cried, and we would try to make them do one or the other. There was no sense of cura personalis, and much of our education resembled the Baltimore Catechism. It made no difference whether or not you understood what you were memorizing. The only teachers who challenged me to think and not just do rote memory were Jesuit scholastics. Tony Sauer was one of them. Looking back, I did learn more than I thought at the time. I learned how to write a 5-paragraph essay and enough information to win at Trivial Pursuits or Jeopardy. But a big part of my attitude was formed then.”
Shaughnessy describes himself as having been a smartass in class. “One teacher kept throwing me out of class and wanted me suspended. Fr. Hyde didn’t suspend me, because he thought the teacher was at least half at fault for not controlling the class. I had scores of detentions, including one on game day that meant I couldn’t go to the game. I was a cheerleader and went anyway. Fr. Hyde saw me there and gave me five days detention. He said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’ Some days I started and ended my day with Uncle Frank.”
Shaughnessy recalls playing freshman soccer and attending Margo and Me, a play written by students and performed at the Marina Middle School. At school he found himself in a class filled with other Irish kids while another class had all Italians. “It was the first and last year they tried doing that. There was 1D for Dagos and 1G for Gaels. They put a Japanese boy named Shigiyo in the Italian class because his name looked Italian. One African American with the last name of Grogan found himself in the Irish class. Ironically, Fr. John Enright, SJ, was trying to promote Civil Rights and integration, and he brought kids in the Sodalities to marches to carry banners. It was through the Sodality that I first heard of Cesar Chavez and the UFW, and we collected money to give to farm workers’ families.”
Shaughnessy is glad that the relationships between students and teachers at SI are more collegial and less adversarial than in his day. “Education at SI is far beyond mere rote memory. We know about Bloom’s taxonomy and higher levels of learning. And there’s a real respect and care for one another. People are conscious of cura personalis now.”
Bill Kennedy ’50
(Bill Kennedy taught Earth Science at SI, along with math, history, chemistry and drivers’ education, from 1960 until 1997.)
It seems to me that in the 1960s, the students were really almost like a band of brothers. The Jesuit community was great in number and included a number of historical, famous and, of course, talented members. They accepted and respected the lay faculty although we were in the minority. I always thought there was tremendous collaboration between the Jesuit and lay teachers. I don’t think we ever saw them as the opposition. The 1970s was a time of stress for the Jesuits, with some of the priests leaving the order. Some retreats were tough in those years for the lay faculty who were, along with the Jesuits, dealing with the tough transitions brought on by Vatican II.
We managed to have a lot of fun, though. Bill Love, for instance, had a great sense of humor. One day, after Fr. Hyde said he was sick and tired of guys smoking one block from school, Bill and I got in his car along with a big camera. We drove down the street about 20 minutes before school began. We zipped down Arguello, hopped a right and saw 20 students smoking on a stoop in front of a house. As we raced by, I took seven pictures. We had those students nailed to the wall. The next several days, everyone approached Bill Love and me, begging us not to share those pictures with Fr. Hyde. They never went back there to smoke. They knew we had them. They were fortunate that they were never punished.
Chuck Murphy ’61
(Chuck Murphy has served as teacher, coach and administrator at SI since 1965.)
When I started at SI, only four or five lay teachers were on the faculty. Most had another job. Some worked for the Chronicle delivering papers in a truck; my dad worked for Hamm’s and Burgermeister Breweries. I was in a unique position being the first (and at the time, the only) child of a faculty member to attend SI. The school, in those days, represented much of what it does today: strong academics with extracurricular involvement. As an eighth grader, I had to decide which high school to attend when I took the entrance exam. It wasn’t a hard decision. I always wanted to go to SI because my dad worked here, and SI sports were always in the news.
Kids today don’t realize the impact the media had on high school sports. Every week in the News or Call, you would have two full pages on high school sports coverage, where you would see caricatures of star athletes. They were bigger than life. I knew who all the top high school athletes were in the city. The coverage rivaled that of the pro teams.
Schools competed to see which game would draw the highest percentage of students to attend. SI and SH would always win the award and always tie each other with 100 percent attendance. The numbers were huge.
The climate in the school was very much top to bottom. You knew your place. Seniors were gods, the Block Club was the most powerful organization in the student body — much more powerful than the Student Council. Everyone knew who the Block Club officers were, but not the Student Council officers. Rallies were optional and not always attended by everyone. SI could be a hard place for some kids. It took a strong kid to break away from the mainstream, as there was tremendous pressure to be a part of the team as a spectator. It gave you a feeling of togetherness. When SI won, you felt you had a part in the victory.
Art Cecchin ’63
(Art Cecchin came to SI in 1973 as director of scheduling and has since served as a coach, Social Science Department Chairman, teacher and sports editor forGenesis IV.)
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.
Paul Vangelisti ’63
(Paul Vangelisti is a noted poet, editor and teacher living in Southern California.)
Fr. Jake Enright was Caryl Chessman’s confessor. He was a liberal priest who came to SI by way of Los Angeles. Whenever he taught a lesson on birth control, we would all snicker as he drew diagrams of a penis and vagina that weren’t very good. Another guy, Mr. Thomas Franxman, knew dozens of languages even though he was only 27. He could write Greek with either hand from either direction. He was gearing up to become a New Testament scholar and was the most brilliant man I ever met at SI, and that’s saying a lot.
Mark Cleary ’64
(Mark Cleary is the chairman of SI’s Board of Regents.)
One of Vince Tringali’s axioms was for his football players to be “fast getting off the line.” If we were to go on the “first count,” he wanted us to go on the first noise we heard. One day during practice while I was on the line, he came out with a starter’s pistol hidden in his pocket and got down behind us. We didn’t see the gun, but when we heard the shot, we certainly were fast getting off the line.
We also had isometric bars in the field against the gym made of 1-inch thick tempered steel bars. Part of our training was to squat under them and try to stand up. John Deschler, our All City tight end, stood up and bent the bar. He didn’t know he couldn’t do it, so he did it.
Our time at SI was also marked by the assassination of President Kennedy and the tragic death of Denny Carter on the basketball floor. Denny was a good friend, and I served as one of the pall bearers. The entire school participated in mourning him.
David Mezzera ’64
(Dave Mezzera taught at SI between 1970 and 2002, moderated the the speech and debate team and served as Community Service Director.)
On football games days, we followed an activity schedule and finished school 20 minutes earlier than on regular class days. The entire student body would proceed to the gym for a spirit rally, and from there would march en masse down Stanyan Street and directly into Kezar Stadium for the football game. About 85–90 percent of the student body would join in the police-escorted march down to Golden Gate Park to enter the cheering section. The cheerleaders would lead the pack, carrying the SI banner to the game. Block SI’s really worked in the cheering section at football games: Seniors and juniors wore their red and blue jackets to form the block SI and underclassmen would all wear white shirts to provide the background. To me, that was what school spirit was all about.
Due to the ingenuity and contacts of Fr. Richard Spohn, SJ, SI had its own ruby laser rod in 1964 and was able to display holographic images.
Rainy day schedule still existed in the early 1960s. The last 20 minutes of the school day, titled Activities Period, would be canceled on a rainy day or before a big game to give us an early start.
SI's librarian in the 1960s, Br. Len Sullivan, SJ ’44, would not allow students to take textbooks into the Stanyan Street campus first floor library. He would announce that "the library is for library books, not to do homework!" Also, students were not allowed above the basement in the Stanyan Street building until the first bell rang to begin the school day unless going to the library, main office or vice-principal's office.
Each school year began with a fund raiser, and we sold World's Finest Chocolates. Once, when I rang a doorbell in the Sunset District trying to sell a candy bar “to raise funds for a new field house,” the occupant of the home said that that was the same excuse he used when he was an SI student a number of years prior, and SI still hadn't built the new field house.
On May 30 and June 1 and 2, 1963, the Stanyan Street gymnasium was transformed into an ice arena, with a portable ice rink brought in and assembled on the floor of the gym and a portable compressor up on the field to run the brine through the pipes and freeze the ice. A hole was punched through the wall of the gym to accommodate the pipes and hoses, which caused all sorts of consternation from SI. A local ice skating school used the venue to put on its yearly ice review mainly for parents of the young skaters. The company cut a deal with SI that year — all profits would benefit the SI building fund, and students were given quotas to sell two ads in the program and to purchase two tickets for the show, with chairs set up around the rink and the bleachers of the gym pulled out for more seating. For each ad sold, students received a raffle ticket for a scooter. Charlie Dullea, who only sold one ad, won the contest. Prior to the event, in order to pique SI student curiosity, a dozen or so teenaged girls performing in the show came to an SI rally in costume and were introduced to the catcalls of the SI students. The idea was to encourage students to buy tickets to see the show. Three SI students ended up skating. I had a solo and did a pair routine with a partner. Also, for each night of the show, the names of two SI students were drawn from a hat and ice skates were placed on their feet as young ladies gave them a quick skating lesson. The whole thing was a setup; Paul Hanley and Phil Woodard were chosen each night and took part in a well-rehearsed skit featuring pratfalls, real and spontaneous. Some of the young women in the show, many years later, sent their children to SI, and one of the skaters later married Ray Calcagno. The June 1964 fund raiser was a concert production held at USF's Memorial Gymnasium featuring Vince Guaraldi, Ronnie Shell, the Gateway Singers and Bola Sete.
Peter Devine ’66
(Peter Devine has taught English and drama at SI since 1976 and directed 100 plays over a 25-year period.)
This was the time of Coach Tringali when football was king of the school. Some teachers demanded to see our tickets to that afternoon’s football game. If we didn’t have them, they would give us extra homework. On the other hand, those football games were exciting because our team was nationally ranked. We used to march from Stanyan Street after weekly rallies with freshmen and sophomores wearing white dress shirts and juniors and seniors in their red or blue jackets. We would form a block SI in the rooting section every week and have on average a thousand kids at every game. We had to sit in the rooting section. If you didn’t, if you sat with your girlfriend instead, catcalls would bring you back to the rooting section. The Jesuits would line the section to keep order.
When I was a student, women could come up the front staircase and into the main office. They would then receive permission to enter one classroom only on the first floor where they worked on costumes. They weren’t allowed anywhere else. The locker room was reserved for only some teams, so guys changed clothes in the hallways for sports or stage crew.
We loved to play pranks on our teachers. Students stayed in the classroom, and teachers moved between periods. We had all the time in the world to plan pranks between classes. We would deliberately move the teacher’s desk so that as soon as he put books on it, it would fall off the platform, or we put tacks on his seat. Sometimes we would turn our desks to the back of the room, especially when we had a young scholastic. He would enter the room, see us facing the back wall, and then walk down the middle aisle. Just as he got to the middle, we turned our desks to surround him. We drove two poor scholastics to tears, and one had a nervous breakdown. SI could be a rough school. Fr. McFadden told teachers never to smile before Christmas for a reason. I recall one scholastic, a brilliant physicist, who couldn’t keep one study hall under control. Fr. McFadden walked by and, rather than disciplining us, told the teacher, “Can’t you keep the animals in their cages?”
As a student, we had the rigid Fr. Becker English system: a nightly paragraph, five vocabulary words, five lines of poetry memorization, a short story or chapter to read, plus outside reading on the novel of the month — primarily Catholic authors. For example, even though junior year was supposed to be American Literature, we read several of the IMAGE series books on Jesuit Saints in England resisting the Protestant Reformation. We only read one Hemingway — Old Man and the Sea — for the Christ symbols. We also read the “Catholic” interpretation of The Great Gatsby (a man who lost his soul for materialism and modernism), and we read every Graham Greene, every Evelyn Waugh and lots of Shakespeare. (He was a secret Catholic, as our senior English teacher informed us.)
The nightly paragraph writing that we did freshman and sophomore year proved a great practice. We had to memorize rules in the Brown Bible (the grammar text), use one rule and underline it in the nightly paragraph. Each paragraph was an assigned subject with an assigned format, each vocabulary word had to be used and underlined and each topic sentence had to be underlined. By junior and senior years, we had to write longer essays: the 5-paragraph essay with an assigned topic due every Friday. Some of the assigned topics included “Spirit at SI,” “Interview with the SI Dolly” (a student body president at another Catholic high school) and “Hamlet and Jesus.” Our teacher handed back each weekly essay on the next Monday or Tuesday, and our rewrites were due on Thursday. No exceptions to this: every week one essay and every week one rewrite. For every grammatical error, we had to write the rule out from the Brown Bible 10 times with the corrected sentence.
Parts of that system are now worthy of satire, but that solid curriculum helped us to learn how to write and prepared us for college writing. Unfortunately, we were limited in our experience of authors, except Shakespeare and the Greeks, and read no contemporary novels except The Power and the Glory by Greene. However, we were very well prepared for the survey of British Literature in college having read Beowulf, The Inferno, Le Morte d’Arthur and at least eight Shakespeare plays over the course of four years.
Boris Koodrin ’67
(Boris Koodrin is an artist who painted the sesquicentennial mural, which is the cover of this book.)
The senior retreat towards the end of the year was very important to me. I started by fooling around with the group, but when we were split up into our separate rooms, I found that the introspection really touched me. It woke something in me that was very powerful. That’s one of my fondest memories of being at SI. It set me on a deeper search for meaning.
Fr. Tom Carroll, SJ ’68
(Fr. Tom Carroll, SJ, is a retreat director at El Retiro in Los Altos.)
When SI moved to the new school, my parents, Tom ’43 and Peg, wanted to celebrate the occasion with a gift to the school. I suggested the gift of a chalice and paten, the chalice to feature on opposite sides simple crosses centered on two styles of SI rings. One of the rings had belonged to a cousin, Roger Carroll ’14.
I designed the chalice and paten in 1969, and my parents had them fashioned in a metalsmith’s shop in San Francisco, right near the Bluxome Street firehouse where my father worked. The chalice features the face of my father’s ring, with its SI block relief on one side, and the face of my own class of ’68 ring, with its red stone, on the other side.
When the chalice and paten had been completed, my parents gave them to Fr. Harry Carlin, SJ, then the president, for the use by the school. It was presented not on any major occasion, but just in an informal visit to Fr. Carlin’s office. Our family has borrowed the chalice and paten on a number of occasions, using them for family weddings and for my first Mass at St. Gabriel Church in 1984.
John Wildermuth ’69
(John Wildermuth is a political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.)
Everyone has seen priests on the altar at a parish, but Fr. Pallas gave me a different view of a priest. He was a wisecracking guy. I remember coming to school on a Saturday and seeing a guy wearing a watch cap and a beat up old sweatshirt sweeping the corridors. He looked up, and I saw it was Fr. Pallas. He growled, “Get out of the way.” He told corny jokes and related with kids on a personal level. Sometimes you forgot to wear a tie on First Friday, and you tried to get through the entire day without a teacher noticing you and sending you to Leo Hyde for detention. Anyone who had Fr. Pallas would try to make a trade for a tie, because he would notice.
Fr. Becker ran the English Department, which had a heavy emphasis on writing in each of the four years. Each week, freshmen wrote 100-word essays, sophomores wrote three 100-word essays, juniors 500-word essays with a first draft, and seniors had various styles of writing to emulate. That helped me in college because I was used to putting words on paper. He was a kind man, not a “jump-on-top-of-you” guy, who gave you the idea that writing was important and that anyone could do it. And with his syllabus, even some rookie, not too experienced (or even trained) teachers could learn how to teach English by following Fr. Becker’s very detailed day-by-day routine of memory work, vocabulary, grammar, literature and writing.
I stayed in 1F with the same guys all day, every class, for my first year. Then SI began offering modern languages to freshmen in my sophomore year; from then on, you didn’t stay with the same group for all your classes because of the language alternatives. It could have been worse. When my father went to SI, he stayed in the same classroom and the teachers switched. Anyone who did well in Latin had to take Greek. That wasn’t my concern. In the 1960s, kids who didn’t do well in Latin as freshmen had to take double English with Leo LaRocca in their sophomore year. The “powers that be” dumped our second year Latin class and replaced it with a second English course. It was the same English class everyone else took, only taken twice as slowly. There were few future valedictorians in the class. I did poorly in English and Latin my freshman year, and when I found myself in double English, I looked at the people around me, and said, “Jeez! They think I’m like one of these guys?” That jump-started my stalled academic career at SI. When I was at Loyola University and editing the college newspaper, I was told by some younger, Latin-phobic friends that La Rocca was showing his students my name in the newspaper staff box to prove there was academic life after double English.
We had an active life outside SI. Even though we attended an all-boys school, we weren’t in the seminary. We saw plenty of girls at the games, and teen club dances were big in the parishes. They were a great meeting place for kids from all the high schools. They even provided a popular teen basketball league for the kids who weren’t good enough to play for the school.
We were supposed to be the first class to graduate from the new school, but construction problems prevented that. I think it’s better that we graduated from the old school. We’re part of the history of Stanyan Street.
Michael Thomas ’71
(Michael Thomas has been a counselor and coach at SI since 1979. He is also the director of the Peer Assistance Center.)
It never entered my mind that we needed a new school. The old place had a mystique to it. My brother had gone there, and it was full of tradition. I had great teachers, such as Michael Burke for history, Bill Muller, SJ, for English, Bob Grady and Gene Growney, SJ. Then we’d get ready for the rallies, conducted by Vince Tringali in the old gym. You had to experience it — 1,000 guys in the gym and you could hear a pin drop. He would talk for 40 minutes every Friday before the game. During one game I recall being at the top of the SI block that we formed in the stands — we were told what to wear: either a white shirt or school jacket to form the block. I was picked up and passed all the way down to the first row within seconds.
I can’t remember ever being called in by a counselor, but Fr. Becker took me under his wing. I worked in the print shop over the summer, and he taught me how to run the old printing presses and burn plates. I would have been in his first group to go to Europe in the summer of 1970, but I had to cancel.
I loved the all-male environment. Teaching at a coed school is wonderful, but I wouldn’t trade those four years for anything. I had a cross section of friends then (they are still my friends today) who made my time wonderful.
“There are places I remember . . . ”
By Curtis J. Mallegni ‘67
The sharp ring of the alarm clock cut through the quiet stillness of the early morning air. It was a typical start of a fog-infused summer day in San Francisco: 6:30 a.m. in June of 1963. Today was my maiden voyage to the fortress at 222 Stanyan Street known as St. Ignatius High. I hurried out of our flat at 3216 Fillmore Street and across the street, to board the 22 Fillmore bus with thoughts of high school running through my head. Equipped with fresh school supplies, clean clothes and the promise and wonder of a new educational adventure, I was ready for any challenge. At Ellis Street I transferred from the electrical 22 Fillmore bus, to the careening, diesel-powered juggernaut known as the 31 Balboa. The note I received from SI said to get off at Stanyan. When I arrived, I beheld the fort: 222 Stanyan Street — St Ignatius High. It would become the hub of my life for the next four years. Without a clue as to what lay ahead, my momentum took me to the front door and through the portals of Jesuit education.
My admission letter indicated that I would have to attend, and successfully complete, summer school to be admitted to the freshman class at SI. I was committed to whatever it took. Wandering through the halls with other bewildered classmates, I had to make it to the right classroom and be on time. The letter I received read Room 310 — Mr. Corwin.
Using my modest instincts of direction, I found the classroom at the end of the third floor facing out over a parking lot with a beautiful view of Turk Street. The smell was of musty chalk dust, cleaning solvent and furniture polish. The classroom was four rows of eight undersized desks of what seemed like early American colonial and probably doubled as a stockade for recalcitrant settlers. I was a rather robust youngster in my tender years (although that has all changed now), so needless to say the fit of the desk was rather snug.
At the front of the room, there was a lonely, larger, but still undersized, desk. It had the effect of making the teacher look much more imposing, perfect for intimidating youngsters. The desk was occupied by a pensive, bespectacled, owlish looking man with a stern look. He wore a herringbone sport coat that had high mileage, standard issue teacher tie, and the balance of appropriate pedagogical attire. He surveyed the room with an expressionless but all-consuming look. Little did I know or realize I was about to get my first introduction to “Uncle Frank.” The settling-in rustle continued for a few more moments. There was an air of nervous angst among the summer schoolers. The Frank Corwin Experience was about to begin.
Then a scarcely audible mutter came from the front desk, which initially failed to quell the student din. Finally in booming Bostonian diction, Corwin announced “Room 310, Mr. Frank Corwin, St. Ignatius summer school,” closely followed by a shrill alarm bell. Class was now formally in session, the honorable M. Francis Corwin presiding. A heavy, nervous silence ensued. Corwin held the attendance folder in his hand and examined it closely.
“I will call your name, and you will answer ‘present.’ If you are absent, don’t answer.” he bellowed. Whatever could he mean by, “Don’t answer if absent”? As confusion reigned, he continued. “As I call your name and you answer, I want you to move to the next available desk so that the class will be seated in exact alphabetical order. Understood?” Once again, Uncle Frank surveyed the perplexed adolescent faces. He was thoroughly amused.
Corwin then proceeded to read off the names with perfect inflection and accent. I knew, as good as he was, he would certainly stumble on my name as did every teacher I had since kindergarten. Then he loudly proclaimed, “Mr. Mallegni, (Ma-len-yee).” Perfect. “Here,” I peeped, and meekly took my place right behind the L’s.
With roll call completed, he placed the absentee slip in the doorjamb outside, and then pulled the door shut. Class was formally in session. To begin, he outlined some basic ground rules: “Buttocks all the way back in the chair, eyes front, back straight.” We sat in silence and watched his every move. He slowly walked around the room, intently looking into our faces as if he were looking for something he had lost.
He carefully perused the grade book in the stilled silence of the classroom. Finally, he stopped and looked up. Then it happened. My worst nightmare. Like a cannon shot, Uncle Frank boomed, “MR. MAL-LEN-YEEEEE! ON YOUR FEET, SUH.” I rose in silence although I felt like Ralph Cramden in the “homina-homina-homina” mode, dumbstruck, gasping for air.
He continued with perfect diction at high volume, “In the great tradition of Jesuit education, do you know where the division between the Pacific and Indian Oceans is located?” I stood in pallid consternation. My paralyzed mind labored for a relevant thought. The stunned silence continued. Beads of perspiration sprung from my brow. Uncle Frank continued to scour the faces of the class as he paced up and down the rows, waiting, waiting. Finally, my jaws separated. and, with what seemed like the creak of an old barn door, I said, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?!!!” he thundered. “You don’t know?!!!” he repeated with a questioning upwards inflection for emphasis. “You must know this, Mr. Mal-len-yee! This is part of a well-rounded education. Your homework assignment, and that for all your classmates, is to determine the boundary line of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Mr. MAL-LEN-YEE!! Take your seat, sir (suh).” Gladly, I thought.
With the passage of time, I could put this in perspective and appreciate my first SI encounter with the legendary Frank Corwin. As I got to know him better, I came to a fuller appreciation of his larger-than-life impact on so many of us. There was a tinge of self-deprecation in his style and delivery as if he were taking a shot at the potential for pomposity in academia. Yet he understood the benefits of order and discipline in academic achievement. Uncle Frank had made his point. The bar had been raised considerably. This was very different from grammar school, and it was adapt or perish. Whatever it was, he left an enduring impression that carried me into freshman year.
With summer school under my belt, I felt like a seasoned SI veteran. I knew the floor plan of the school, including the location of the vice principal’s and principal’s offices and, most importantly, the basement vending machines. With brimming confidence, I was ready for a full load of classes, which included some new and mysterious fields of study such as Latin.
In my freshman year, my first period class was Latin taught by Mr. Morlock. Yes, THE Mr. Morlock. I always admired his persistence in trying to teach us a language that for most of us was really conceived on another planet. The classroom was set up included long white Formica-type desks that faced the front of the room and seated about 8 to 10 across. Each student was assigned a number, and Mr. Morlock would have a corresponding number on the blackboard. (It was actually a green board as I recall.) We would put on the headphones and listen to spoken Latin phrases. If Mr. Morlock pointed to your number, you would have to repeat in Latin the phrase you had just heard over the headphones. If you did it reasonably well, you got a check. If you missed it badly or botched it, you got a 0. He was very efficient, so each of us would get three or so at-bats with each session.
The great thing about this approach is it provides immediate feedback, requiring deft intellectual agility and total concentration. I got off to a rocky start. When Mr. Morlock pointed to my number the first few times, I just smiled and waved. I promptly got 0’s: instant feedback. I picked up three or four goose eggs before I realized I was supposed to repeat the phrase. It was time to get on the stick. Carpe Diem! Then my Italian genes kicked in and I was able to hold my own.
To this day, I remember many useful Latin phrases that I use as ice-breakers at cocktail parties and other social gatherings. Some of my favorites are “vestis virum facit” (clothes make the man), or “mens sana in corpore sano” (sound mind, sound body, or something like that). Here’s one that appealed to our sense of adventure: “A cane non magno saepe tenetur aper” (a small dog often scares a wild pig). If you want to get the hors d’oerves all to yourself, try that one sometime. And finally, one of my personal favorites: “Caelo fulmen scriptumque tyrannis” (lightening is the writing of the gods.) This one is instant social currency.
Anyone who has studied, or speaks another language appreciates the mental agility required to express oneself in a foreign language. It’s another way of looking at things, a different worldview. I don’t think there are many chat rooms in Latin these days, but like summer school, it was another growing experience, stretching our pliable intellects into new and exotic domains.
Webster’s dictionary defines sophomoric as “conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature.” Pondering the nuances of isosceles triangles and other geometric mysteries in my sophomore year illuminated this condition all too well. The illuminator was Fr. Pierre Jacobs, SJ, and he was the perfect antidote for our sophomoric tendencies.
Fr. Jacobs was an Old-World gentleman in the fullest sense, carrying himself with utmost poise and dignity. I can still see the image of Fr. Jacobs coming across the football field to class with beret and flowing cassock as if he were floating on air. His appearance projected precision and efficiency in all things. His beret, rimless glasses and perfectly groomed flattop haircut, chiseled a formidable image of intellectual acumen against a backdrop of the rampant and diffuse trappings of sophomoritis. He was the intellectual razor’s edge.
Amid the unsettled din of the initial moments of class, he would quietly wait for antsy students to settle, and they gradually did. He then proceeded with taking attendance, pausing to look at the faces so as to remember them in his steel-trap memory. He pronounced the names perfectly. Fr Jacobs was pleasant, balanced, mature and always in control. There was no time for foolishness, and he acted as if he were telling us, “When you’re in my class, you have to grow up for 45 minutes.”
Fr. Jacobs was instinctively fascinated with the mysteries of geometry. He was always pleased when he completed the solution to a difficult problem as if to say, “Isn’t it wonderful the way that falls into place?” He reveled in the precise language of mathematics. In his sonorous Belgian accent, he would wonderfully pronounce the language of the trade: isosceles, hypotenuse, circumference and Pythagoras (PI-THAG-O-RUSS). It was all music to my ears, although these concepts elude me to this day.
He had all the geometric trade implements: a compass, a ruler and a protractor. Despite Fr. Jacobs’ insistence on focused attention and calm in pondering mathematical mysteries, one of us would inevitably drop one of these tools on the floor where it would land with a rattle. In quintessential Fr. Jacobs style, he would respond, “Put the toys away, child.” Enough said. The geometric “tools of the trade” could also be used to inflict short jolts of discomfort to classmates. There was nothing like letting the guy in front of you “accidentally” back into your compass at about 9 a.m. — a rude wake-up call.
Affixed to the midriff of Fr. Jacob’s cassock was a small metal tube that held a piece of chalk, attached to a retractable metal chain and used to facilitate the drawing of geometric shapes as needed. As he discussed various shapes, Fr. Jacobs would quickly pull out the cylinder holding the chalk, and by placing his thumb as an anchor on a portion of the chain, draw near perfect triangles, circles and other objects to demonstrate his point. A picture was worth a thousand words, and he knew it.
The highlight of the class was working the geometry problems en masse. Fr. Jacobs would posit the mathematical conundrum, and we would quietly try to solve it using our books, our instruments and our sophomoric guile. You could hear our brains working hard, as Fr. Jacobs strolled the classroom looking over our work with a discerning eye.
After about 5 minutes, he would verbalize what he was seeing and sensing. As he’d peer over someone’s work, he would announce to the rest of the class, “We have one correct answer.” This person would have a gleaming, gloating smile on his face. The rest of us would look on with perplexed resentment. Fr. Jacobs would continue his stroll through the aisles, stop and take a look, then announce, “We have one INcorrect answer.” The student would look befuddled at the master, and, if inclined, Fr. Jacobs would offer a suggestion or two to facilitate the solution.
Finally he would stop at my desk. He’d peer down, look at me directly, shake his head and say, “We have one UNBELIEVABLE answer.” The place would go nuts (for a very short period), and then Fr. Jacobs would say with great sarcasm, “Settle down, children.” And thus was the extent of my enigmatic foray into geometry. In all, Fr. Jacobs greatly helped us in overcoming our sophomoric proclivities, and some of us had lucid but brief moments of geometric understanding. More importantly, he did much to get us farther down the road to maturity and junior year.
As we gingerly made the transition from overconfident sophomores to under-confident juniors, my sojourn in the mysterious world of mathematics continued. The next stop was “advanced” algebra, or Algebra II with Bill Lamon.
Mr. Lamon had been a pilot in the Belgian Airforce. He was the epitome of Old-World dignified honor and expected his students to be of similar mien. He carried himself with the dash and aplomb of the fighter pilot he had been. Some might have characterized him as a mite stuffy, but his standards were high and out of reach for most of us. No doubt our profound mystification with the enigmatic world of mathematics continued with Mr. Lamon.
In keeping with his Old-World tendencies, Mr. Lamon was inclined to read, for all the class to hear, the results of major exams. Our mathematical foibles were exposed to the not-so-tender mercies of our fellow classmates.
He would read the names and proclaim the grades with great drama and formality. Some of the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. With a heavy Belgian accent, he proceeded: “Let’s see … Mr. McArthur. Where is Mr. McArthur?” McArthur would sheepishly raise his hand. “Oh yes.” Lamon would take a measured look at McArthur, and then, using his pencil, he would scroll down the attendance book and then stop. “Mr. McArthur … a DEEEEE! Ah, you need to do much better, much better.” McArthur ignominiously slunk deeply into his chair.
And so he continued, “Mr. Johnson … a DEEEEE! Same problem. You need to work much harder.” Johnson accepted his sentence with a bewildered look on his face. Mr. Scarpone … a DEEEEE-MINUS! Terrible!” a D-minus mathematically is about 0.5 grade points (see I did learn some math). As such, it does not make a great difference in advancing the cause of civilization, yet many got the D-minus. On the other hand, it gave new meaning and significance to the upside of getting a straight D.
After about 20 or so grades were read, all in the lower reaches of the grade spectrum, he would pause for a little editorializing. “It’s unbelievable to me that these grades are so poor. You need to do a better job of applying yourselves. It is your honor, your pride.” We looked on profoundly bewildered, like a herd of deer starkly frozen in the headlights of Mr. Lamon’s grade book.
Exhaling in disgust and shaking his head, Mr. Lamon continued and finally got around to yours truly. “Mr. Malignant … how in da hell do you pronounce dat name?” This was something I had become quite used to, so I tried one of the most successful techniques to facilitate the pronunciation of a nice Ma-len-yee. “Mr. Lamon, think of lasagna. The gn is fused together to produce a n-y sound — like la-sahn-ya.”
“Oh yes. This is very helpful. Let me see.” He scrolls down the grade book. “Yes, Mr. Malignee — EFFF, a complete fah-lure.” With a dumbfounded look, I accepted my fate. Despite the ignominy of COMPLETE failure, my classmates were actually very understanding, themselves all lurking in the D and D-minus neighborhood. With heavy hearts and dizzy heads, we pressed on, determined to improve.
Among other junior year adventures was chemistry class. Who could forget the wily Mr. Buley asking in his smoke-burnished voice, “God ******! Why don’t you guys get this? What the hell is going on?” With his drawn, compassionate face, he asked the critical existential questions. Through the sulphur bombs and titrations, I honestly had no idea what the hell was going on. It was hard enough just memorizing the elements. Just when you had it under your belt, some guy at Berkeley would discover a new one … Seaborgonium or Berkulonium! Yikes! Mr. Buley looked on dolefully as we sustained our profound confusion.
And there was the youngish and very patient Mr. Capitolo: Cappy, The Bear. We were not well suited to English, but he tried to make it fit. Some rubbed off, but most rolled off. Cappy was the embodiment of patience as a virtue.
In senior year we were graced with the young, erudite scholastic Mr. Tony Sauer. He called me either “Chief,” or “Big Curt,” or “Curt babes.” He humored himself with our names as well as our own adolescent attempts to be cool. Little did we realize we were in the midst of such a formidable wit and intellect who would become the intellectual beacon of SI. He was way ahead of us, and we rarely got “his drift” as hard as we tried. Yet he endured as one of the truly great friends of our class, then and now. If only we could go back and take it all in anew with a slightly better chance of understanding what he was talking about. We pondered the Canterbury Tales, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Macbeth. We memorized “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace,” and we imagined Lady Macbeth out outing the damn spot. Great stuff indeed, if only we had known.
There were the personalities for the ages, like the diminutive and fiery Padre Luis Peinado, SJ, and the chanting of Machu Pichu; the young Bob Drucker; and Chuck Murphy cum venerable SI legend Pere Bernie; the super-organized scholastic Randy Roche; Tringali’s English class; the way-over-our-heads American History with Mr. Buckley; followed closely by Fr. George Lee’s “why anything” religion class; or the not-so-silent retreats with Fr. Hanley; the so-quiet-you-could-hear-a-pin-drop library under the watchful eye of Br. Sullivan; and the stern but abundantly fair Clark Kent look-alike, Fr. Leo Hyde, and his then understudy and legend-in-the-making Br. Douglas Draper.
Some places I’ll never forget: the Pits, the field house, the gym, the sandwich place (sign knocked out every few days from a pine cone volley), Kezar Pavilion and the side doors that breathed when the crowd roared, the vending machines in the basement, the chapel and the Fr. Hyde sit-down-and-cool-off bench (now outside Br. Draper’s office on 37th Avenue).
One day the Red and Blue flag came down at the fort at 222 Stanyan and it was all different and yet fatefully necessary. The place had taken us as far as it could. The Red and Blue was hoisted again at the dunes on 37th Avenue, and the lore, legends and memories of old SI followed the flag to the Sunset.
In those great days in the mid-1960s, our lives were imbued with the music of the Beatles. They captured our hopes, our fears and the spirit of the era. The music often expressed what we could not. Their song “In My Life” from theRubber Soul album expresses best what SI was for me then and now:
There are places l remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.