Chalk-Dust Memories: The 1930s

Fr. Bernard Hubbard came to SI in 1928 to deliver four illustrated lectures at the Little Theatre at St. Ignatius College dealing with “The Great Gapatsch or Mountain Climbing in the Central Alps,” “Conquering the Wild Taku,” “Castles and Folk Lore of Central Europe,” and “The Wonders of Yellowstone National Park.” The last two lectures were illustrated “by 400 colored slides,” according to the November 21, 1928, edition of The Red and Blue. In the next edition, the paper reported that when Fr. Hubbard taught in Los Angeles, he would “go swimming far out into the Pacific in search of small octopi. Finding one of these, he would let it fasten its tentacles about his arm and would swim back to shore with it. The next day he would exhibit the creature to his students.”

Dr. John E. Tobin, Jr. ’34

While I was in my second year Latin class in 1932, San Francisco experienced one of its infrequent snowfalls. A student in our class made a large snowball and placed it on the teacher’s desk. When the teacher entered the room — Val King, who later edited the archdiocesan newspaper, The Monitor — he saw the snowball on his desk and asked who had placed it there. He received no confession, and had the entire class stay after school and write out The Ancient Mariner. We all remembered that snowball well; also, we have not forgotten Mr. King.

Barney Ritter ’36

Fr. James Strehl, SJ, the prefect of discipline, kept me on an even keel and got me to quit smoking. I used to get tossed out of class on a regular basis. I wrote from Luzon during the war: “If it hadn’t been for you, I don’t know where I would be today.” He wrote me back: “Barney, if this was the only letter I ever receive, I know my priesthood will have been a tremendous success.”

Andy Leoni ’36

Three students commuted to SI by ferryboat — Al Wilsey and two others. One day they were late, and Al Wilsey made up a story about how the ferry came in backwards by mistake and had to back out to reenter the port. Mr. Clem Schneider, SJ, a scholastic, swallowed that story hook line and sinker. Everyone knows that ferryboats are designed to allow passengers to embark and disembark from both ends.

Bill Britt ’36

We had a great guy named Bill Barry in our class. He was a character, always getting in trouble. Fr. Strehl, who was the prefect of discipline, was always calling his mother to come get him. By the end of his senior year, Bill said, “My mother should have received a diploma. She spent more time at school than I did.”

Robert Barbieri ’36

Bill Bennett used to get us both in trouble, and we had to go to JUG all the time. He’d hum during class, but because I sat behind him, I would be the one to get in trouble. One year we had Ray Sullivan (who went on to become a California Supreme Court justice) for our teacher. Once, during lunch, we shoved paper in the keyhole of the classroom door to prevent him from opening the room to start class. He worked for 10 minutes on that lock and then got Fr. Strehl, who saw what the problem was and used his knife to extract the paper. We all had to stay until 5 p.m. that day!

Jack “Doc” Overstreet ’36

As sophomores, we hung out during lunch at Reds, a small store across the street from the school. We bought cigarettes for a penny apiece. But that got old fast, and one day we went to the reservoir on Folsom to shoot craps. When we came back to school, there was Fr. Strehl telling us to stand out of line. We had no idea how he knew we were playing craps. Then we looked down at our knees and saw the red dust on our pants from the reservoir. “See you at 3 p.m.,” he told us.

Contemporary Ignatians know it as “detention,” but most Ignatians throughout the years called it JUG — the name either derives from Justice Under God or the Latin ad jugum or ad iugum, which means “under the yoke.” Students coming late to class had to write out pages of Latin or copy chapters from books. Bob Lagomarsino ’39 (who died in 2004 shortly after being interviewed for this book) recalls being the last one in from PE because he was chasing down a basketball. “My teacher, Eneas Kane, told me, ‘You’re going to JUG.’ I had to write out by hand several chapters of Treasure Island. I did that in lieu of homework for about a week. All that for chasing down a basketball after the whistle blew!”

• • •

One semi-official tradition involved the annual hazing of the freshmen. Leo Carew ’40 believed, along with many of his classmates, that there really was a swimming pool on the roof. “We were told that you had to be a sophomore or older to go there,” Carew said. “We never saw it, but we all believed it for about a week or so!”

Hazing could take a more physical turn, as evidenced by The Heights of 1932. It records that on August 24, 1931, freshmen experienced “the prettiest piece of scrub hazing in years — certain scrubs possessing hairy chests were brought to Stow Lake and bound securely. Chicken feed was sprinkled over them — and didn’t the ducks have fun!”

Owed to JUG

Fie on Thee, Foul Jade!
Fair Thou never art,
That from Stygian Shade,
Winged shafts dost dart
To fill with pain my unsophisticated heart.

Thou, the Grim Suppressor
Of my youthful joys —
Turning each Professor
’Gainst poor, meek-eyed boys,
When by chance in school, they make the slightest noise.

At the final setting
Of the Golden Sun,
Must I keep on sweating
Over lines that stun,
Until it seems my unfair task is never done?

Oft the shades of even
Melt around my plight,
Till the stars of heaven
Serve alone for light,
And still I’ve got about six hundred lines to write.

Waking or asleep,
Thou dost haunt my soul,
O’er my visions creep,
Heaping fires of coal
Upon the heartless Prof who sent me to this hole.

Yet Revengeful Powers!
This one hope I find:
Though I’ve squandered hours
’Neath your ruthless grind,
If Winter’s in my soul, can Spring be far behind?