Chalk Dust Memories



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Michael Thomas (1971)

            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.

            I spent two years at the old school and two years at the new school. We loved the half-day sessions in our first year at the new school. We started at 8:10 a.m. and ended at 12:10 p.m. with no lunch or recess. After we left, work could continue on the school. When we had basketball practice, we would hop in Leo La Rocca’s car and drive to Glen Park to practice there because SI’s gym wasn’t finished.

            Fr. McFadden didn’t talk to me until I was a senior, and Br. Draper commanded respect from the first. We had an elevator at the new school, and in the very early days, students were never allowed to use it. To be on that elevator was a privileged experience. My buddy Mark Stahl and I were there after hours, and somehow we managed to get on the elevator. In typical 16-year-old fashion, we kept telling ourselves, “This is so great!” Then the elevator opened at the third floor, and we saw Fr. Spohn standing there. We hit the “close door” button and hightailed it out of there as soon as we got off on the first floor.

Posted by Michael Thomas on Wednesday January 4, 2012 at 03:40PM

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