SI students witnessed the historic events of the city in the 1930s, including the General Strike of 1934, when longshoremen began a strike for better wages. That July, street violence broke out and police shot and killed two longshoremen and wounded 109 people. A four-day general strike followed that shut down the city.
Even though his father was a police officer, Bill Bennett ’36 had sympathies for the longshoremen and eventually became one. “I thought they were getting screwed,” he said. “I was from a working class family just like most of the kids from SI then.”
But most of the Jesuits, long opposed to communism, had little sympathy for the longshoremen and their leader, Harry Bridges. “One day they took the students to the chapel and asked us to pray that FDR would not recognize Red Russia,” said Bennett. “It didn’t work, despite all our prayers.”
Few students were touched by the violence, though Bennett did see strikers beat a scab to death, and Bob Lagomarsino ’39, while driving with his parents, had a motorcycle cop smash into the back of his car while chasing a striker. Kevin Brady ’36 worked for a man who carried a gun while delivering pharmaceuticals to city hospitals. “Whenever strikers stopped him, he told them he had to get the drugs to the hospitals. They let him through, but he had that gun in case there was trouble.”