Chalk-Dust Memories

Michael Thomas ’71

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.

Fr. Francis Stiegeler, SJ ’61

(Fr. Stiegeler taught English and coached soccer at SI between 1973 and 1975 before returning to teach in the 1990s. He has taught at all five schools in the California Province.)

When I came back to SI, I found that it still had the same spirit as when I was a student. You still asked what parish the students came from. I was here with nine young Jesuits, and I recall Fr. Curtis Bryant, SJ, coming to SI wearing a mustache. He wasn’t going to shave it off, and that opened the door for the rest of us to wear one.

I don’t see much difference now that we are coed. Possibly the boys are more subdued. When SI was all boys, the school was like a living organism that rolls through the doors each morning. The student body had great camaraderie, with boys patting each other on the back and punching each other on the shoulders like a bunch of pups.

Arthur Cecchin ’63

(Art Cecchin came to SI in 1973 and has served as tennis coach, director of scheduling, director of community service and chairman of the social science department.)

Fr. Richard McCurdy, SJ, asked me to facilitate the Colloquium on the Ministry of Teaching for eight years. In that program, new teachers from SI met new teachers from other province schools and learned about Ignatian education. He took SI to a new philosophical level with the Preamble and the Jesuit Secondary Education Association.

Peter Schwab ’71

There was a certain amount of traditional lawlessness at the old school, with food fights and senior sneaks. When we came to the new school, we found it well lit with carpets and an administration that tried to create a professional atmosphere by coming down a little harder on us when we tried to stretch the rules. The day before our first senior sneak, we heard from the administration if we didn’t come to class, we would be suspended and lose our prom. We had a meeting in Room 214 with most of the seniors (it was a double room), and one person said that his girlfriend would kill him if he didn’t take her to the prom. Another student quoted the Third Rule of Mao. We called them on their bluff and had our sneak anyway. About 150 of us met at The Circle at 7:30 a.m. and drove in a car parade up 37th Avenue to Santiago. There, we got out of the cars and marched to school singing “We Shall Overcome” and the fight song. We all violated the dress code as much as we could, with most of us wearing shorts. We got to school just as the first bell sounded. Then the announcement came that we had 20 minutes to be appropriately attired. Some guys changed and ran to class and others returned to the Circle and then went to the beach. Eventually, 40 seniors were suspended and had to write out Macbeth in order to return to school.

Gary Brickley ’71

During the rocket demonstration in Fr. Spohn’s class, he was so focused on one aspect of the experiment that he didn’t notice that, at the last second, someone had snipped the string and the rocket flew out the window. He never found out who did it.

By Alfred Pace ’74

My First Day

In order to attend SI, it was necessary for me to take a series of buses and the L Taraval from Forest Hill Station. Upon arriving at Forest Hill Station, I was confused about which direction and which car I should take. Within moments, I observed several students wearing red and blue SI jackets … clearly juniors or seniors. Thus it was that I got onto that car, presuming we would arrive at SI in short order. Wrong. The students had just completed photo day and were going downtown. I found myself on Market Street “dazed and confused.” A Muni driver provided the correct info and I took the L back to the Forest Hill Station Tunnel. At that point, I was told we had to disembark as the car was no longer “in service.” As the time was now approaching 9 a.m., I decided to run from the station to SI, a distance of about 28 city blocks.

Of course, this resulted in my first encounter with J.B. Murphy and Br. Draper, whose quote rings in my head to this day: “Mr. Pace, this is not the way to begin your 4-year career at St. Ignatius Prep. JUG for five days.” But because of that lengthy run (my first, ever), I decided to go out for the cross country team.

Hair & Grooming Regulations

From time to time during the 4th and 5th period lunch breaks, the doors of Carlin Commons would abruptly and simultaneously close, virtually trapping the students inside with the teachers and faculty standing guard. Swiftly, Br. Draper would enter, black book in hand and with an air of élan, plug in a microphone and announce, “Gentlemen, this is a grooming inspection!” Brother would then make the rounds, entering into his black book those students whose hair was too long and those who were showing the first signs of facial hair. Of course, this became a bit of an event and a number of students would begin to chant the names of those they thought warranted the attention of Br. Draper.

Such it was one day the doors of Carlin Commons closed and the faculty stood guard. It was not long before some students began to chant “Pace, Pace, Pace!” Brother wandered over and suggested, “Get a haircut by Monday.”

I failed to get the haircut. Monday arrived and at the end of second period, Br. Draper made his usual intercom announcements of the day and then asked those who had been asked to get a haircut or shave to come down to his office. Yikes!

Upon arrival, Brother correctly observed that I had not complied with his request. Accordingly, he asked me to enter his office and sit down, at which time he proceeded to cut off a portion of my dangling locks. Frankly, this is an area where Brother has little talent. The result was a clearly lopsided, partial haircut. Brother then said, “Mr. Pace, I suggest you get the rest done by a professional.”

I did.

I also remember the following miscellaneous events: Aldo Congi ’72 and the SI Juke Box dancing to “Rock around the Clock” during lunch in Carlin Commons; Mark (now Father) Taheny ’74 climbing the exterior corner of the gymnasium, using only his hands and feet; Stan Raggio ’73, several other students and I in Stan’s yellow Plymouth hemi-head Duster listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” blaring out of the 8-track; the Circle; races at Brotherhood Way; my first fistfight on the second floor of the school building; and Mr. Kennedy’s biology class where we launched a boat and deployed a seine net in Middle Lake at Golden Gate Park. The police arrived shortly thereafter urging us to bring the boat and net ashore.

Dan Tracey ’77

Fr. Gordon Bennett, SJ, our chaplain, was young and approachable and got along with kids. Mike Silvestri helped me out after school with math problems I didn’t understand in class. We played Riordan on Halloween night in 1975, and I recall Coach Haskell saying the SH and Riordan games were special because players from those teams would be our buddies after graduation. We beat Riordan 27–0 that night. The day before, Bob Drucker had predicted the score and had written it on the chalkboard in the coach’s room.

Kevin Quattrin ’78

I recall trying out for frosh football with 130 kids playing for Fran Stiegeler and Steve Nejasmich, our line coach. He figured out who the best five offensive linemen were and prepared them for the first game. Then Brad Carter, who played left guard, pulled a hamstring in the warm-ups before our first game at Bellarmine. They put in the next guy in line, who had almost no practice time and knew none of the plays. I always made sure as a coach not to do that.

Peter Devine’s English class was very engaging and humorous. There was a playfulness between students and teachers that didn’t exist in grammar school with nuns.

One year, my classmate Brian Duddy died in a car accident. I had been to funerals for old people, but that was my first experience of mortality for people my age. Our whole class went to the funeral. I remember not being able to sleep that night, thinking what a waste and asking why did these things happen.

Ugo Pignati ’69

One of my most memorable experiences at SI occurred after I graduated in 1969, the last class to graduate from the Stanyan Street campus (we had been promised to be the first class to graduate out of the new SI, but the new school wasn’t yet completed). I had come to SI in 1967 for junior year, having arrived from Italy in 1963. Being Italian, I loved playing soccer, and in senior year was on the varsity and made All-WCAL. That year, our team won the first WCAL Soccer Championship in SI history After I graduated, soccer coach Luis Sagastume asked me to return to SI and coach the junior varsity. I jumped at the chance and agreed to take on the JV team. The first thing I did was to try to put together some uniforms for the team. The shirts my team had worn the previous year had been bought by Coach Sagastume in Mexico, and we were lucky to inherit these. (The soccer jackets we wore as seniors were hand-me-downs from the basketball team). The problem was finding the shorts, since there was really no budget for the JVs. I had been given a few hundred dollars as “salary” so I went to a store on Taraval Street, used my money to buy blue shorts for the team, and had the SI soccer logo put on them. Despite our “mix and match” uniforms from two countries, the JVs played quite well, and I was very proud to lead the Class of 1970 team to the first-ever WCAL JV soccer championship in SI history.

Anne Phipps, Ignatian Guild President 1980–81

I served as chairman of the February 24, 1979, fashion show, which offered a New Orleans theme, and for that show we offered cookbooks as favors and featured, for the first time, Jesuits as models. We had a Dixieland band from the Fairmont Hotel featuring Jimmy Diamond playing individual songs for each Jesuit. For Fr. Carlin, we played “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and Mr. Kevin Dilworth, SJ, a youngish scholastic, strolled down the runway to “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Everyone seemed to love the show, and more than 700 attended. The show was a labor of love, and it was so gratifying to be involved in such a successful event.

I also helped to re-establish links between the Loyola and Ignatian Guilds and worked on the rummage sale with them in the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, selling items donated by SI families, local businesses and organizations and members of the Loyola Guild. A highlight for our generous Loyola Guild team was a “fashion show” at USF for fun, using rummage clothes.

For all Ignatian Guild events, I encouraged the participation of women who reflected the diversity of the SI community and of San Francisco. I was also privileged to have introduced to the Guild the establishment of the Dorothy Leonardini Scholarship to honor our first president and to assist needy students.

Peter Devine ’66

When I first started teaching at SI in 1974, the English Department had gone through a major revamping. Fr. Becker and others were still doing the old curriculum, but the young faculty were doing the Moffet system. Students only wrote when moved to write. They read no literature not written in their lifetime (meaning 1950 on). The Catcher in the Rye was part of that curriculum, but we were not allowed to read or teach it.

The faculty did not teach grammar. Students learned it by writing, by discovering their mistakes and by wanting to correct them out of their “natural curiosity.” We had senior electives such as Cowboy Literature, Science Fiction and Fantasy and Film Literature. Fr. Becker, in revolt, took his old courses and renamed them. “Mindbending” was his senior elective, because Shakespeare and the other British writers bent your mind to great thoughts; “Pretzels” was his junior course in American Literature (American thought was like a pretzel, heavily salted, going in circles).

By 1977, when SAT scores had declined, Principal McCurdy asked the department to bring back a more traditional approach in the lower division with more emphasis on grammar and writing. Upper division electives were maintained but tightened. We adopted Sir Francis Drake High School’s Writing Project (pioneered by Cap Lavin ’48), adopted minimum proficiency standards for grammar and writing, and standardized the reading list to include both modern and classic works. We instituted standard department exams, emphasized literary terms from the Oregon Curriculum series and taught grammar and writing terms from the Warriner’s Grammar series.

Fr. McCurdy introduced teacher evaluations, and not every teacher was happy about this. However, the exam results, the evaluations and the school-wide writing exam led to many refinements of the curriculum. These changes continued in the late 1970s with the introduction of the Bay Area Writers’ Project that started at UC Berkeley. The department began offering the Advanced Placement English test in the spring of 1978 and taught its first AP English course in 1979. Some members of the department resisted “pulling out the bright lights” from the regular classes, since mainstreaming was big at that time; however, parents and the principal wanted an AP program for seniors. We had two sections, each with 45 students. At that time, we only had one lower division honors class sophomore year and no frosh or junior honors classes. We finally did institute a junior honors class and found that the SAT scores went back up.