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.

Frank Dunnigan ’70

Read “Streetwise: Looking Back at 1968” here.

Read “Streetwise: Stanyan Street Days” here.

Read “Streetwise: The Sands of Time” here.

Read “Streetwise: That’s Entertainment” here.