with a huge debt due to Thomas Aquinas Burke '63 et al
1...My Aquinas (from the 2005 centennial)
My Aquinas (from the centennial celebration)
Folks, attending Aquinas College High School was not just attending a high school. It was a life experience that set the foundation of our lives. The Aquinas Spirit went beyond the official 760 school days of high school. Every Aquinas student became involved in the activities of the school. They were involved as a student, player, participant, contributor, or spectator on an equal basis. Compared to other schools, Aquinians were given a great deal of independence in managing their extracurricular class activities.
As a member of the Class of 1963, my memories and experiences overlap those of the Aquinas Classes of 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965 and August of 1965. Each class had its class clowns, scholars, and regular students who made our school days interesting - to say the least. While I attended, Aquinas was a fully functioning high school having freshmen to senior classes with an average of 25 Priests, one layman (the coach) and one lay brother on the faculty. The decision to close was not made until 1962.
Many of us were following the footsteps of a relative: Grandfather – Father – Uncle – Brother – Cousin or even a Brother-in-Law. Every student’s mother was a member of the very active Aquinas Mother’s Club. Aquinas parents felt they were part of the school no matter what their profession or backgrounds were. This made complaining about school at home a virtually useless exercise. Several of us were proudly named after the school’s patron Saint, but that did not make school life any easier.
From our first assembly, in September 1959, to our graduation on June 4, 1963, we were called Men of Aquinas. During those years we grew from youngsters to men under the watchful care of the white robed Dominican friars who, on formal occasions, definitely looked like monks when they added their cappa – a black cape with a hood. What made Aquinas so different – so unique and so memorable? The Answer – It was the Dominican Priests. Under their guidance we developed as individuals.
The Dominicans were dedicated to the School – to the students and to God. Some spent a substantial part of their priestly ministry serving at Aquinas. (JR Smith 34 years, Minichiello 26, Segren 25, Vollmer 25, Crombie 24, Taylor 24,Thomas 23, Sheehan 23, McEniry 22, Grady 20, Sherer 14, Francis Clem McKenna 15 and Heuschkel 10 and Brother Luke 23). We had some excellent classroom teachers although many were probably overqualified. If you wanted an education, it was there for you. Outside the classroom, these priests gave us their time and talent by being Class Moderators – Coaches – Drivers – Advisors and Friends. During the 60 years of its existence – 198 Dominican priests served at Aquinas – 36 different Priests served from 1959 – 1965.
Yes! There was discipline at Aquinas. Although it sounds harsh today, that discipline, or even the threat of it, did prepare us for the realities of life. Unfortunately, the discipline is mentioned more than the everyday routine classes and studies, or the outstanding extracurricular activities that we enjoyed.
If you forgot your tie, you had to borrow one from a friend or humbly go ask Fr. Smith for one. Fr. Smith’s ties seemed 4 times as wide as regular 1960’s ties. This prompted speculation that he got them from the Aladdin Circus Clowns. Believe it or not, some Aquinians never learned how to tie a tie. I remember one Senior, in the Class of 1960, who was proud that he wore the same tie for 4 years, and it had never been untied. It looked it.
Sports were taken very seriously. We were a member of the Columbus City League and were very competitive. Even basketball seemed like a contact sport when Aquinas played. From 1959 – 1965, our only sports crowns were in 1960 when our Freshman Baseball Team were City Junior High Co – Champions and in 1965 when our Varsity Basketball Team won the State Tournament Sectional Title. However, each year, the City newspapers selected some of our players for the All-City Teams of the best high school athletes. The over 400 pages of sports statistics in Bob Stark’s book is ample proof of Aquinas’ athletic prowess through the years.
Our main social activities were dances - each sponsored by a different class. One continual challenge was to decorate and disguise the Chapel and cafeteria in the1905 building, so our dates would not notice the Green Institutional Walls, the Cafeteria’s florescent lights, or the high ceiling in the Chapel. Surprisingly it often worked with our dates marveling at the decorations.
What most students did not know is that Brother Luke Barnes actually lived on the same floor as the chapel. His room was under the Stairs that led from the Chapel to the Priest’s house. The dance music must have kept the poor man awake at every dance. He liked music but he also had to get up at 5:30 AM to prepare the Altars for the priests to say their Daily Masses.
Our class Moderators encouraged these dances to develop class spirit, earn money for the class treasury and encourage us to learn the social graces. To their credit, the priests did not inspect, censor or review our dance dates as other High Schools did. Our dates could even wear patent leather shoes!
In my sophomore year, as a fundraiser, our class sponsored a school-wide Euchre tournament with cash prizes going to the winning team and runners-up. The Euchre tournament went on during lunch for two weeks and nearly the whole school participated for a modest entry fee.
It wasn’t until 1967, that Fr. Smith told me that he almost shut down that tournament. I asked him why? It was good for school spirit and made our class a sizeable sum of money. Ah, Fr. Smith said, “that was the problem – You were running a gambling operation. Keeping part of the entry fee makes it gambling in Ohio”. He said he did not stop it because Fr. Crombie had approved it and the tournament had already started.
Speaking of Euchre? I remember one Aquinas Mother’s Club Card party. Euchre was the game and students were recruited by the Priests to play against the ladies. Even our best players lost that evening. Those ladies taught us that giving signals to their partner was an art they knew well. Complaints to the Priests were met by an admonishment that the ladies were just having fun, so play along. We did and enjoyed the evening with the grey- haired card sharks.
The tradition of Aquinas Plays was revived in 1961. The Class of 1963 staged the play ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’ with an all male cast. All 98 members of the class participated in the play’s success by helping in some way. They built the sets, made the costumes, became make-up artists, sold tickets & ads, ushered, and did everything needed to make the play a real theatrical production. Three even assumed the female roles, which make the play even more amusing.
Under the direction of Fr. Norbert McPaul, with the help of Fr. Edward Keefer and our special consultant Peg Fitzpatrick, this play packed the Whetstone High School auditorium for 2 sold out shows. It was a financial success beyond our dreams. Even after spending lavishly on two class parties, money remained and we gave it to Aquinas. As a class, this play was the crowning achievement of our 4 years at Aquinas.
Aquinas College High School lives on in our hearts and minds, and influences our daily lives. It brought joy to our youth, pleasant memories as we age, and will be remembered when we are gone because it made us forever - Men of Aquinas.
THOMAS AQUINAS BURKE
Aquinas College High School : Class of 1963
COLUMBUS OHIO October 8, 2005
The Story Behind the Aquinas Stories
The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is difficult to describe. So it is with the story behind each Aquinas Glimpses’ story.
I am neither a Hemingway nor O Henry, just someone trying to preserve Aquinas’ rich history. Most history disappears into the stars if not committed to writing or recorded in some way. Catching the essence of life at Aquinas from 1959 – 1960 was important to me. The stories had to be informational and truthful. Veritas - truth was a motto of Aquinas College High School.(I think Harvard also uses it) In other words, no bull.
When I began to write in 2003, most of the stories told by Aquinas Alumni were either about the schools’ discipline or sports. I knew there was more to Aquinas than just those two topics. In particular, I thought the discipline stories presented a rather skewed view of life to persons never attending Aquinas. New generations were hearing stories that made me cringe.
By 2003, Society’s views on punishment in all Catholic Schools times had changed. Physical discipline of the 1950’ s and 1960’s had been repudiated and made criminal offenses in some cases.
Aquinas was like a family in many ways. Many of us spent more time there than at home. United, the true Aquinas College High School was its’ faculty, students and Alumni forming a special segment of society. Their lives made History come alive daily and deserved to be recorded for prosperity. I tried to portray the real Aquinas through anecdotes. Hopefully these stories will give future generations a more positive view of a great school, its outstanding Faculty and talented students. Most Aquinas Alumni look back with fondness on their High School days. I hope my stories bring back the good memories and banishes the bad ones.
Aquinas College High School has been gone since 1965. However, it truly does live on in every Alumni’s heart.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School
Class of 1963
28 August 2016
Getting to Aquinas
In downtown Columbus, Aquinas College High School was a citadel of learning. Or so we students thought. The reality may have been a little different. One thing that was certain, traveling to Aquinas from various parts of the city was a challenge. City streets were often clogged with traffic.
When Aquinas was founded in 1905, most students lived close enough to walk or take the streetcar. By the 1950’s, Columbus’ land area had expanded and urban sprawl had begun. The automobile had become the major mode of transportation.
From 1959 -1963, I rode to Aquinas with my dad in the mornings. He dropped me off about 7:45, on his way to work at Thurman and City Park. Our trip got easier as the North Freeway was progressively built during my high school years. It was a marvel seeing the new roadway cutting through the city. No one gave any real thought about the harm this ribbon of concrete did to displaced homeowners, businesses, or neighborhoods. Ultimately, the Freeway reached the Fort Hayes area and proceeded south, cutting across Mt. Vernon Avenue, thereby isolating the near Eastside Black community.
When I got my driver’s license and dad was flying out of Port Columbus on business, I drove his 1961 Pontiac Catalina. Dad would drive to the airport, and I would take the car and go to school. The Catalina was a beautiful cream-colored car with simple styling, yet had a V8 engine that gave it real power to move. No! I did not hot rod with it. However, I did test it for speed a few times.
My only chargeable accident in my life was in October 1961. It was an Assured Clear Distance Ahead charge for squarely hitting the rear of a 1959 Ford. The Ford with a high bumper was damaged slightly but the Catalina’s headlights were facing the ground. I remember my dad surveying the damage without going too ballistic. He simply said “you are paying the deductible”. I had broken the motor mounts. It cost me $100 out of my savings from my summer job as a Deputy County Recorder.
I remember during the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1–28, 1962), driving my dad to Port Columbus, and seeing two armed fighter jets parked at the end of the runway near Stelzer Road. The pilots were clearly visible and obviously ready to take off and fight. Seeing their bombs scared me. They were there day and night until the Russians started re-packing their missiles for the trip back to Russia from Cuba.
Many Aquinians car pooled. My brother George shared his memories about this with me. “My first two years I rode to school with Tim Fallon (later Doctor ) in his Pontiac. As an underclassman I rode in the backseat. Jim Dodd was picked up first and rode in the front seat as did John Cherubini.
For my last two years, I rode with Jim Dittoe in his 1951 Chevrolet convertible. I rode in the front with Jack Mahoney, while Mike Mahoney, Tom Woodward, and Tom Verhoff rode in the back.
Jim had the car long before his birthday on January 20. Before he got his license, we used to get in his car, sometimes putting the top down, and he would drive from the front of his driveway to the back of his driveway at his home on Torrence. For reasons I can’t explain, I found the drive (of roughly 60 feet) to be exciting, even though we only reached a top speed of around 5 miles per hour. Jim was a very conscientious and safe driver who drove much slower than I felt was necessary. (It was many years later that I realized that this was a sign of his maturity and my stupidity for not realizing that speed really can kill. But as you know all too well, maturity was not one of my attributes when I was at Aquinas.)
I did get to drive Jim’s car once. We were on our way to school in the far left lane, going south on Summit (which was one way going south). As we reached roughly Patterson, a young boy darted out from between the parked cars and right in front of Jim’s car. Jim didn’t even have time to hit his brakes. In an instant the boy appeared, and the next instant he disappeared in the air. Jim stopped as quickly as possible. We got out of the car. I was expecting to see blood everywhere. Instead, there was a 10 to 12 year-old boy laying stunned on the pavement. He was not bleeding, and did not appear to be in pain. He pleaded with Jim not to call the police or an ambulance since he said he would get in real trouble with his mother for crossing Summit without looking. All he wanted to do was get to school at Holy Name. We picked up his lunch bag, gave it to him and made sure he got across the street safely. Jim was very shaken by the whole experience. His face had lost all its color and was a pale white color. Jim asked me if I would drive the rest of the way to Aquinas, and I did. This was one time I was glad Jim was just driving at or below the speed limit.
Dittoe’s car joined the hundred or so cars in the Aquinas main parking lot. Viewing the parking lot, a person might think it was the city impounding lot. Yes, there were new cars but a great many appeared to be escapees from the scrap metal yards on Joyce or McKinley Avenues. How some actually could move defied the laws of physics.
Bob Bower, my best friend, got his driver’s license just after his 16th birthday. Bob bought his 1951 Ford sedan with a stick shift, from his mom. It had previously been owned by his brother Mike, Class of ‘56. Mike had tried to restore it before running out of money, so Mrs. Bower bought it from him. It had a beautiful blue naugahyde interior, big speakers for the radio, wire wheels, and was mechanically sound. Bob paid for it by painting the Bower house on Tulane Road during the summer of 1960. To Bob’s frustration, he was not allowed to drive his car until he got his driver’s license. Until then, he watched his sister, Mary, enjoy the fruits of his labor.
He called it “The Gord”. Ugly would not adequately describe it. It was covered in black dull primer paint . Bob could fix it with a crescent wrench, screwdriver, and hammer. Yet, it ran and helped produce many high school adventures and memories for us. Bob also used his car for his after-school job.
In “The Gord”, a week after graduation, Bob and I drove up to Ruggles Beach on Lake Erie. Then we meandered to Pepper Pike, and Erie Pa. to visit friends. Then it was on to Ripley, NY for our first legal shots of liquor. Ultimately, we ended up sleeping in the parking lot on Goat Island, Niagara Falls NY and spent the day sightseeing and shopping in Niagara Falls, Canada. We then bee-lined to home. Thank God for cheap gasoline, as I think we made it back to Columbus with maybe one dollar in our pockets. “The Gord “got us home safely.
Many Aquinas students were similar to Bob. Their cars were their chariots, no matter how ugly. Although utilitarian, they also were symbols of status and the owner’s coming of age. Everyone took pride in them. Sharing the ride with friends came with the car. Often the Aquinas parking lot was packed tight with vehicles, yet no one scratched another car. It truly was an accident if this occurred.
Occasionally, Fr. Francis Clem McKenna, OP or even Fr. John R. Smith, OP directed parking in the main lot near the driveway entrance to Aquinas. The south lot behind the 1925 Building was rarely used. When the priests were in the parking lot many student cars slowed down before entering, so cigarettes could be extinguished, and then thrown out the windows, and ties put on. Cars often came into the lot with so much smoke coming out of the windows that a viewer might have thought they were on fire.
The electric trolley bus delivered around a third or more of the school’s students to the southwest corner of Jefferson and Mt. Vernon Avenues. This was just a few yards east of the parking lot entrance to Aquinas. Since the demise of the streetcars in 1947, the electric trolley bus was the mainstay of the Columbus Transit Co, a subsidiary of Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Co. In 1959, most of the transit routes were running electric trolley buses. There were only a few diesel bus routes but later the entire system would use diesel buses.
An electric Trolley Bus is a bus that is powered electrically by two overhead wires. The overhead wires did not beautify the city. These live wires could kill if touched. They often sparked and when heavily iced would not conduct electricity, thus the bus stopped running. I think the fare was 12 cents and the driver hated to make change. In October, 1961, I tried to pay the fare with a $100 bill. The invectives let out by the driver were unprintable. Of course, I had witnesses to the prank. Luckily, the driver promptly gave me back the $100 bill and I gave him a bus ticket. I needed the $100 to pay the insurance deductible for my accident with the Catalina.
The progress of the freeway (I-71) eventually cut off Mt. Vernon Avenue, making it a dead end just past Jefferson Avenue. The Mt. Vernon Avenue trolley bus was re-routed to Long St. The other closest bus stop was Cleveland and Mt. Vernon Avenues. Riding the city buses was fun at the time. It gave us time to read our school assignments, but written homework was difficult to do because of the bumpy ride. Of course, the more students on a bus the less homework was done. Transferring buses downtown often lead us to shop. I bought my first old book, Paradise Lost, an 1826 tome for 25 cents, from a bookstore in front of my downtown bus stop.
However, some students really did walk to Aquinas even as late as 1965.
Bob Stark, Class of August ‘65, shared this memory with me “I only had 3 years at Aquinas, but I never got blasted by anyone and I only went to Smitty’s once because I was tardy once. So I got a late slip ---- then Fr. Cenkner says I didn’t need to do that because religion class hadn’t started yet! So my final record shows no missed days and one tardy. That’s the only time I had to see Fr. Smith. I even had a reason – my sister had missed the bus to St. John the Evangelist grade school so my mom told me to walk her there. Normally, I walked to Aquinas which was maybe a mile and a half in the opposite direction, so I figured there would be no chance to avoid being late. I walked my sister to the school at Ohio Avenue and Newton, nearly to Livingston Ave., then proceeded to do the fastest race walking I ever did to get to Aquinas which was at least 2 or 3 miles away. As it turned out, I was only 3 minutes later than normal and if I had gone straight to class, my attendance would have been perfect.”
No matter what mode of transportation was used, getting to Aquinas on time was a serious matter and paramount to each student, because being tardy meant going to Fr. John R. Smith’s office and facing the consequences. A scary thought.
Aquinas College High School closed in 1965. The campus was sold to Columbus Technical Institute. It became the nucleus of today’s sprawling 80+ acre Columbus State Community College with over 24,000 enrolled students. The average class size is 18 students. Each day thousands of students still try to get to class on time. The 1925 Aquinas College building is now called Aquinas Hall.
THOMAS AQUINAS BURKE
Aquinas College High School
Class of 1963
31 August 2016
Learning the Social Graces at Aquinas
“Oh Hell! There goes our profits”. These were my thoughts when Fr. James G. Crombie O.P., President of Aquinas, told me that I had to dump 30 gallons of cider down the drain. I had stored the cider in the furnace room under the old red building. I had bought it two weeks earlier for the Junior class’ Halloween Dance. It was a great buy at 40 cents a gallon plus 10 cents for the glass jug. I bought it at a cider press near Granville, Ohio. At the orchard they pressed their own apples and let the customer fill the glass jugs. It was fresh when I bought it, but I made the mistake of putting it down in the furnace room. Voila – it became hard cider. Fr. Crombie would not let me sell a drop. However, I did refill the glass jugs when I went back to the orchard a few days before the dance. We sold every drop either by the drink or by the gallon, making a healthy profit. (Two weeks later a jug of it, in my parent’s basement fridge blew off its cap. It was hard cider all right!)
As Class President, I was in charge of the Halloween dance. I thought we needed pumpkins, so I took Bob Bower, Tom Kusan, John Tonti, Frank Weirick, and Ray Highfield with me to eastern Pickaway County where I bought a TON of pumpkins. We hand picked the whole ton and loaded them onto a pickup Tonti had driven and put some in my Dad’s 1961 Pontiac Catalina. It cost $20 for the ton, plus we had fun. I let Bob Bower drive the Catalina on the way home. Unfortunately, westbound on State Route 22, I saw an orange pumpkin fly thru the air. Whoops! Someone had lobbed it out of the Catalina. I saw an eastbound car slow down when the pumpkin hit its grill. The eastbound car turned around and was in pursuit. Its’ grill was covered in orange pumpkin rind. I had Tonti pull over, stop, and hailed the pursuing vehicle. The Driver was angry. I told him no harm was intended, and we would pay for the damages. It cost the Class treasury $40 for his car grill. Our Moderator was skeptical about our story behind the expense, but accepted it. We still made money from selling the pumpkins at the dance. We used the smaller ones for table decorations, not aerial bombs. The Class treasury still benefitted.
Aquinas was an all-male high school. The twenty-five friar (priests) teachers and one layman coach made up the all-male Faculty. Only the two cafeteria cooks were female. It was not a finishing school, but school events helped us acquire the social graces. Each class had a Moderator to oversee its’ activities. Each class controlled its’ own treasury, and paid expenses out of it. During my sophomore and junior years, while I was President of the Class, coming up with ways to improve our class finances was always on my mind. Dances were our primary sources, but they also served other purposes.
In the late 1950’s, many of us had begun to learn how to dance in grade school. While we were at Aquinas, parish CYCs (Catholic Youth Councils) often had dances, or “sock hops”. However, generally, no one took a date to these dances. Dates were mandatory for an Aquinas dance. It was a given. Here your date met your Dominican teachers. It was a definite social occasion with a chance to show just how refined you were. You could practice your etiquette, and your deportment was beyond reproach. Foul language was not permitted. Making a good impression on your date was very important.
Having dances at Aquinas posed many problems. Our chapel and cafeteria were in a 1906 building with walls painted in institutional green. The cafeteria on the first floor had long Formica lunch tables with metal chairs. The steep stairway to the chapel on the second floor often unbalanced people, especially those with high heels. The chapel itself was one huge room with very high ceilings. In the southern end was a raised stage with an altar as its focal point. Immediately inside the chapel to the right was a staircase to the 2nd floor of the Priest’s residence. Brother Luke Barnes, O. P., lived in a very small room under this stairway. His entry was a door in the west wall, on the landing, just before you entered the chapel.
It took unbelievable imagination, creativity, patience, and vision to make the chapel and cafeteria the setting for dances like the Holly Hop, Mardi Gras, and Halloween Dance. Other high schools used their gyms, but Aquinas had a wood gym floor so we used the chapel and cafeteria.
The Class of 1961 put on the first Holly Hop. The entire cafeteria and chapel were covered with evergreens and fake (flocking) snow. It was truly a winter wonderland that transformed these drab rooms into a place of wonder, especially to those of us who knew what was underneath. Our dates were totally impressed, and this made us proud. One year for the Mardi Gras dance, we filled a real parachute bought from North American Aviation with 500 balloons, which were released from the ceiling at the end of the dance. We waded in balloons for 20 minutes breaking them all.
Our dances had live bands. Some were fantastic, others average. The Rhodes Brothers sang at a few of them. Later, the Rhodes Brothers played clubs nationally and released a few record albums.
All Aquinas dances were not held at the high school. The Aquinas Ring Dance for the Class of 1963 was held at the Seneca Hotel at Grant and E. Broad, in its Ballroom. The Junior and Senior Promenade (Prom) was held at Valley Dale Ballroom with the Chuck Shelby orchestra playing. Aquinas students wore only Black Tuxedos because a priest had said “you should not wear white until after Memorial Day”. How is that for refinement!
After his Senior Prom, my brother George did the usual crazy things. He and many of his classmates met at the White Castle, at 5th Ave. and Cleveland, just before the dawn was breaking. Ah! Eating Sliders after a hard night partying must have hit the spot.
The following Monday, I was with George when he stopped at Moe Glassman’s to return his Black Tuxedo rental. Because he was driving, George had me take in the Tux. I gave it to a clerk who looked it over. During this inspection, I noticed a very clear, dirty, large, truck tread mark. I told the clerk I knew nothing about it when he asked me. As I was leaving the clerk said “I hope he was not in this when it was run over”. With a smile on his face, George peeled out of the parking space.
Yes, the Prom was a big event. Both classes shared the expenses for the building rental and the band. Our class used a Polynesian theme for our Prom. Of course, we went to the Kahiki Supper Club afterwards, which really impressed our dates. The Prom programs were printed by the Empire Press on S. Greenwood Ave. in Franklinton. Larry Stiles was the proprietor who printed many Aquinas programs, invitations, and tickets beginning in 1925.
Aquinas students lived all over the city. Our dates for the dances came from every Catholic high school in Columbus except St. Charles. St. Joseph Academy was almost our sister school, so many dates came from there. The Dominican Sisters at St. Mary of the Springs Academy appeared not to like us, and favored the St. Charles boys. Still, some of us found some young ladies from St. Mary of the Springs who were willing to come to Aquinas as our dates. Both Academies had absolutely charming, gorgeous, and witty young ladies.
Fr. Michael Jordan Minichiello O. P., was the only Aquinas priest to have daily contact with every student. He was the Director of the Cafeteria. Daily, he guided the students to proper etiquette and deportment by maintaining strict order in his cafeteria. He permitted no cutting in line, or leaving trash on the lunch tables. Pulling pranks and having food fights caused “Mini-No-Neck” to look side-to-side for the instigators. (He really did not have a neck.) Once he found the culprits, he was a rocket of anger. Unfortunately, he knew every student’s name.
Social graces are skills used to interact politely in social situations. At Aquinas we learned these well.
P.S. After reading a draft of this story, my brother George sent me this note.
“For the Holly Hop, all of our evergreens were “liberated” from a number of local establishments selling Christmas trees. Tom Benadum, who just knew we were going to be apprehended and end up in jail, provided the key transportation, his father’s pick-up truck. And to this day he remembers every detail of our “Operation Tree Liberation.” Fr. McPaul didn’t outwardly question our story that all were donated, but I think he suspected the truth.
Jim Dittoe was absolutely furious that he was charged an extra $5 or $10 when he returned his tux because it had a small mark on it, while I paid nothing for my tux which had not only tire tracks all over it, but also grass stains and alcohol stains everywhere.”
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School
Class of 1963
27 August 2016
WROTE THIS WHEN I COULD NOT SLEEP LAST NIGHT. TAB
In the blink of an eye, we saw the student’s body disappear through the open window, where only certain injury or death awaited four stories below. Before we could say Hail Mary, a white habit was streaking thru the air with outstretched hands, diving and catching the student’s legs in mid-air. Hitting the floor, Fr. George G. Maley, O.P. managed to hold on and brought the student back into the classroom. None of the 30 other students had moved. Then a collective gasp of relief filled the air. Stunned, Fr. Maley sat on the floor with the student. He yelled at the class “Put your heads on the desks.” and then sat down at his desk and did the same. He had just slapped the student with such force that the student went backwards out the window. The students in the class were now totally silent in disbelief and remained so until the end of class.
This was an actual and very real event that terrified all the students in the class and Fr. Maley himself. It was the most dangerous and dramatic disciplinary action I ever witnessed or heard about while attending Aquinas College High School, Columbus, Ohio. Fr. George G. Maley was well liked. He had an easy going personality and was the school’s sports photographer. I never knew what caused him to slap the student. However, I do recall that he never struck another student in our class for the rest of the year.
Aquinas College High School was well known for its discipline. We were called Men of Aquinas from the time we entered Aquinas to our graduation day. Acting anything less like a man meant facing some type of discipline.
I was lucky. In my four years at Aquinas, I was slapped only twice.
The first time was in my freshman year algebra class. It was midwinter and the window next to me was open 12 inches. Snow was blowing onto my test paper and smearing the ink. (Yes! we used real fountain ink pens.) I got up and closed the window. As I turned around, Fr. William L. Smith, O.P. smacked me across the face, knocking me sideways into the window frame. It seems he had opened the window before class and liked fresh air. That night my face was swollen, and I found out my dental plate was broken. My dad asked me what happened, and I told him the truth. Dad had graduated from Aquinas in 1929, and to him, Dominican priests could do no wrong, so obviously I must have done something really bad to upset the priest. Mom thought otherwise!
Mom called Fr. James G. Crombie, O.P. the President of Aquinas, who listened to her, and then told her he would check it out. Fr. Crombie called back an hour later. Mom & dad listened on separate extensions, while Fr. Crombie explained how I had upset Fr. William L. Smith, O.P. by closing the window without asking permission during a test. Mom pointed out that Fr. William Smith had broken my dental plate and his use of force seemed extreme. My dad took the explanation as an apology, and told Fr. Crombie that if any priests hit me again, “they should not hit him in the mouth”. It cost $125 to repair the dental plate.
In my senior year, fifteen or so seniors were having a giant snowball fight on the track near Fr. John R. Smith’s office. Ice balls, not snowballs, hit the windows of Fr. Smith’s office and broke a window, just missing Fr. John Segren O.P. No one admitted making the infamous ice balls so our just punishment was a slap on the face by Fr. Segren. I say just punishment because he could have been injured by the ice ball and broken glass. The slap really did not hurt that much.
Our families sent us to Aquinas, fully aware that it had a Dean of Discipline – Fr. John R. Smith O.P. No other high schools had a named Disciplinarian. A student placing his hands on Fr. Smith’s glass desk-top would quickly find out why they called Fr. Smith ‘Frog’. He would spring from his chair with lightning speed, thus scaring the student with a push or shove.
In addition, the teachers were also known for disciplining their classes, sometimes physically. In the 50’s and 60’s, a “good Catholic” did not question the actions of a Priest or Nun. Sisters in Catholic schools still disciplined children by hitting them with rulers, and sometimes paddling. Priests were our conduit to God and spoke God’s word. A priest was never challenged for any action and his command was always obeyed.
At Aquinas, the teachers were Dominican mendicant friars (priests), trained to preach the word of God. They were never formally taught how to teach high school students. At Aquinas, they were assigned a class and told to teach it. The priests learned on the job at the expense of the students. Some were natural teachers, some were not. Discipline was a means of controlling the students in the classroom. New teachers were given hints from older teachers.
In 1961, under the guise of discipline, one new teacher, small in stature, was told by an older teacher, how to control his class -- “He should daily berate and harass the largest student in class to show the class who was in charge”. The priest followed this advice and picked on one student. That student had no one he could trust to help him stop the harassment and bullying of the priest. His parents thought priests were always right, and could do no harm. This continual harassment and bullying during his freshman year caused the student problems, even into his adult life. It took many years for this man to overcome his hatred for the priest. Using harassment and bullying under the guise of discipline was unconscionable. The harassment and bullying should have been stopped and condemned at the time. Unfortunately, it was not. I did not know about this until years later when I asked various alumni about the discipline they personally encountered at Aquinas. A few alumni, including this person, told me about being slapped, harassed, berated, or bullied by priests, or witnessing it, at different times during their days at Aquinas. However, this one teacher did it continually to one student whose fellow classmates verified his story.
In this 2016 world, the physical discipline administered by ALL Catholic schools, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, would cause criminal charges to be filed against the school, teachers, and perhaps the parents. Human nature has not changed, instead, the world has changed. Today, continual harassment and bullying by a teacher would be despicable and criminal.
Yes, there was discipline at Aquinas College High School. Although it sounds harsh today, that discipline, or even the threat of it, did prepare us for the realities of life. Unfortunately, the discipline is mentioned more than the everyday routine classes and studies, or the outstanding extracurricular activities that we enjoyed. Many of us enjoyed our high school days at Aquinas, but to a few it was hell. Often we remember only the good times and forget the bad. Ah! Selective memory.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School Class of 1963
19-22 August 2016
P. S. My fellow classmate and friend Bob Bower, after reading a draft of this story, sent the following message:
“My recollection of the story is that Fr. Maley slapped the student again as soon as he
had recovered him from danger. Fr. Maley then told the student that this second slap was for trying to leave the room without his permission.”
On older memories, here’s what Mark Twain had to say:“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened”. Bob
Addendum from classmate Larry Haldeman:
“Tom, on your Aquinas discipline article, I was the student, and as far as I can remember, this is what actually happened. It was the day after the parent/ teacher conference , Fr. Maley had asked that any student who had not completed their homework to stand up. There were about 5 or 6 of us that stood. When he got to me, all he said was “Haldeman, your mother is so sweet”, and then he hit me. All I can remember was falling out the window and him grabbing my legs as I was going out. After that I sat back down and it was all over. He never slapped me again, and we actually got along very well the next 3 1/2 years. I never mentioned it to my parents or anyone else. Larry Haldeman - 5 October 2016”
TAB note: I could not honestly remember who went out the window. The fact someone did was so unbelievable and mind-numbing that, over the years, I often questioned myself whether it really happened. It did. I thought it was in our Religion class our junior year. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
5 October 2016
Random Aquinas Memories from T A Burke, ‘63
My Aquinas College High School education started when I was born, since I was baptized Thomas Aquinas.
I heard about Aquinas, its traditions, and faculty members from family and relatives. My dad – Bernie ‘29, brother George ’61, cousin P J Connor ‘60, cousin John (Jack) Ryan ’56, Uncle George ’38, Uncle Bill Connor ’33, my cousin’s husband Ernie Bryant ’47, and even my confirmation sponsor Bob McNamara ’32, all graduated from Aquinas. In my freshman year, my sister Karen Anne started dating Joe Zang ’59, and married him in 1962. Over the past 54 years together, they have created a family of 10 children, 23 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
I first set foot on the Aquinas Campus in mid-August, 1959. I began my student life as a Varsity Football Manager. I shared this honor with another freshman, Tom Nye, and a sophomore and senior. We were the grunts, doing whatever was necessary to keep the athletes properly equipped and well hydrated.
I vividly remember Coach Mamajek wanted the team to have tea after their twice-a-day pre-season practices. It was fun to make two 20-gallon batches of tea each day, then adding a pound of sugar. We served it out of a 25- gallon crock I found in the boiler room of the old red building. So for two weeks or so I brewed 40 gallons of tea a day. I used a pillowcase as a tea bag. Every day, I bought a 25-pound block of ice from City Ice down Mt. Vernon Avenue at Nielson, to add to the tea in the ceramic crock. I think I made over 520 gallons of tea. The football players guzzled it all down.
Being a football manager, I could study the personalities of different football players. I was there when they celebrated the wins and suffered the wounds of defeat. The team was mostly seniors and juniors, with a sophomore or two. One had to admire their camaraderie. Sometimes in the locker room and showers, Johnny Rhodes began singing, then John Cherubini joined in, and the rest of the team added their voices to the song. Poison Ivy was a popular song at the time and a team favorite. It was surreal. People only did this in the movies, or so I thought. It was not a fluke-- they also sang on the team bus, and while traveling to our out-of- town games against Steubenville Central Catholic, Lakewood St. Edward, and Bellaire St. John.
The guys had fun, but were tough football players, and played hard. I witnessed players get concussions and still play. Suck it up said Coach Mamajek. After the game, some were still confused. In my senior year, one of my classmates suffered a concussion nearly every game. Sometimes he did not know where he was until long after the game. He was a great player who was fearless and loyal to a fault. Thinking about this now, I wonder how the concussions affected those students’ lives in later years?
Going on road trips were logistical nightmares for the football managers. We had to pack and load all the team equipment into the charter bus. Then we off-loaded the equipment at the stadium, and got it ready for the players. I think the players only carried their football shoes. Gathering up all the equipment after the game and repacking it in the buses was a hassle. Nothing could be left behind. The team bus did not move until we finished, and everyone wanted to leave immediately. After we got back to Aquinas, in the wee hours of the morning, we had to unload and lock up the equipment.
In the afternoon that same day, we football managers returned to sort out the equipment. Football jerseys and game pants were readied to be sent to the laundry. Shoulder pads and helmets had to be checked for problems. Wet parkas were laid out to air dry. All had to be ready for practice on Monday. Aquinas went on three road trips during the 1959 football season. One was to Steubenville Central Catholic on the Ohio River, a second to Lakewood St. Edward on the shores of Lake Erie. The other trip was to Bellaire St. John, near the Ohio River.
I remember the Lakewood trip was my first visit to the Cleveland area. With the Lake Erie breezes blowing over the stadium, it was below freezing. Rocky Eramo’s16 mm camera froze up - literally. He and I spent maybe 30 minutes warming up the camera so he could continue making the game film. Rocky, class of 1958, filmed all the Aquinas football games for years. In 1959, he was one of the reserve football team’s coaches. Later, he made a career of recording and filming events like weddings and reunions. A skilled amateur radio operator, Rocky served as a reserve police officer on the Columbus Police Department for many years. He led the Police Reserves as Commander when he retired.
We used Rocky’s short wave portable radios when the football team travelled to the Bellaire St. John and Lakewood St. Edward games. As big as a backpack, the short wave radios had long antennas making them look like something used by a combat platoon. We used them so the team bus could keep in touch with the bus carrying the Aquinas fans. Neither the team nor the fan bus had a bathroom so frequent stops were necessary. In the days before Interstate 70, we travelled to Bellaire via US Route 40 (The National Road). I think we took Ohio Route 3 north to Cleveland. I do not remember the route we took to Steubenville.
During the three road trips, seeing the Ohio countryside was an eye-opener for some students who had never left Columbus. There were no Interstate Highways. We travelled over roads originally pioneer trails. The hills of eastern Ohio appeared to be mountains compared to the hills on Cooke Road. Cows were really in fields.
Aquinas was a member of the Columbus City League. We joined it shortly after Aquinas was opened. We were the only Catholic high school in the League. We fielded two football teams - the Varsity and the Junior Varsity, also known as the Reserves. The Reserves were sophomores hoping to eventually play Varsity ball. It was indeed the farm club for the Varsity. Occasionally, a talented sophomore moved to the Varsity during the season. This player usually played in the backfield or had great speed.
The Reserves (JV) was our introduction to the nasty world of high school football. Grade school football was a gentle and civilized game by comparison. The name calling, trash talking, and physical beatings during games were new facets of the sport to many of us. Our face mask had a single piece of plastic across the front of the helmet. It provided very little protection. In pileups, players from the opposing team still got their hands thru to gouge you in the eyes or pull your nose. Body blows occurred often as players fought for control of the ball in pileups. Being punched in the face occurred even with a face mask in place. The City League high school games were especially rough physical games.
In October, 1960, I played guard on the Reserves when we played Linden McKinley’s Reserves. During the game Linden fumbled the ball. A scramble for possession ensued. I thought Linden recovered the football and promptly tackled the ball carrier. Great tackle, but the wrong move. Aquinas had recovered and I tackled our own player. Before I could get up from the ground, I heard my dad’s voice. He had run onto the field, and was yelling at me for the being a dummy for tackling my own teammate. He was right. I felt stupid. I played without my glasses, so objects generally were pretty fuzzy and blurry. In fact, without my glasses I could not tell if a person was a male or female unless they were two feet from me. Discouraged, I did not even try out for the Varsity team the next year. However, I did earn my Aquinas sports letter for reserve football.
In late October, 1960, after reserve football practice, a group of us went down to the Statehouse to see and hear John F. Kennedy speak. He was a candidate for President, and very popular at Aquinas. We arrived to see a crowd of 50,000 persons packing the Statehouse square and overflowing on to the streets. Sardines could not have been packed closer. We found a spot by climbing up and onto the west veranda of the Statehouse near the WW1 Soldier Bronze. It afforded us an unobstructed view of the raised speaker’s platform that stood maybe 50 feet from the west entrance to the Statehouse. Hoping to see JFK close up, I went to the west entrance. Going inside, I found a spot at the bottom of the stairs from the Rotunda. A few people were already there.
Kennedy arrived and proceeded down the stairs from the Rotunda. As he came by me, I shook JFK’s hand and then kind of passed it on to the Religious Brother standing next to me. The crowd quickly closed in behind JFK. I followed with the crowd. It was then that someone pushed me 3 or 4 times in the back. Getting angry, I threw back my elbows into someone’s chest. Hearing a rush of air coming from his lungs, I turned and looked behind, and saw a black-haired man with very large press credentials on his chest. Gasping for air, he asked me to get him out onto the speaker’s platform. I said sure, and parted the crowd in front of me as only a young football player could do – by force. We went right out onto the speaker’s platform, bypassing security. The man thanked me. It was then I realized JFK was only feet away and I did not belong there. Before leaving the platform, I turned to my classmates and waved. They knew it was me. I was wearing my Aquinas jacket. Returning to my classmates was a lot easier with security clearing the way. My classmates believed me when I told them I shook JFK’s hand. After all, they saw me on the speaker’s platform with him. That night on the late TV news, I saw the black-haired man I had assaulted. He was Pierre Salinger, JFK’s Press Secretary.
My brother George was an outstanding basketball player. He won the City Recreation Department’s city-wide free throw competition. He also was on the City League’s all- city teams several times. Later, he was a walk-on to the freshman team at Notre Dame. I shared none of his skills, just the opposite. I had trouble dribbling a basketball. I often wondered if “Klutz” was my real middle name when it came to sports.
At Aquinas, I was the scorekeeper for the freshman basketball team for 4 years. The freshman team played teams from the Columbus Public junior high schools. In my sophomore and junior years, I was the scorekeeper for both the Junior Varsity (Reserves) and Varsity teams. Some weeks I scored 5 games a week, and travelled to three different schools. I saw every junior and senior high school in Columbus. Among the City League schools, only Aquinas had a scorekeeper who was a student. I was that student. The other school’s scorekeepers were all teachers.
In my junior year, near the end of season, the North High scorekeeper, Mr. Richards, gave me an envelope. In it was a check for $15. He told me “the City League paid scorekeepers for their services, and students were no exception”. They paid $10 for a Varsity game and $5 for a Reserve (JV) game. Shock and anger were my initial reactions. Feeling cheated, I held onto the check because it was made out to me. When Fr. Edward Louis Martin O.P., asked me for it later, I told him what Mr. Richards had said. He answered that “Richards should have minded his own business”. Fr. Martin did not deny that it was City League policy to pay scorekeepers, and that I was entitled to the money. Fr. Martin simply said nothing and offered me no explanation. From then onward, he gave me the cold shoulder, or ignored me as best he could until I graduated the following year. Richards later told me Aquinas paid visiting City League scorekeepers.
Morally and legally it was theft, and the money should have been given to me. As the Aquinas Athletic Director, neither Fr. Francis Clement McKenna O.P., nor Fr. Edward Louis Martin O.P., ever told me that I was involuntarily funding them or the Aquinas Athletic Program. Arguing that I was not entitled to the money, because I was a student, is a fallacious argument. It was modern day slavery. It hurt even more when I found out that at our Aquinas home games, the visiting scorekeepers were paid. All I ever got was two years of free tickets to football games, which saved me a mere $10. That the priests would cheat me, and steal money that was rightfully mine was mindboggling. I did feel like a fool who naively trusted these representatives of God. Deeply embarrassed, I never mentioned it to anyone until after I graduated. In those days, priests were always right and no one challenged them.
As the Aquinas home scorekeeper, I called in the final score and the names of the high point players to the Dispatch sports desk. Both the Dispatch and Ohio State Journal published the information. Unfortunately, when my brother George played his highest scoring game, the name of the high point player listed in the newspaper was “Tom Burke”. George was extremely angry. The Dispatch paid me $1.25 per game.
I also was paid to be the official Catholic Youth Council (CYC) scorekeeper for one season. The CYC Inter-Parish high school basketball games were held downtown in the Salesian Center (now the Bosco Center) at State & 6th streets. It was 10 continuous games one day each week for 8 weeks. The CYC paid me and the official timer $2 per game.
In my senior year, Fr. Martin told me my services were no longer needed as the scorekeeper for the junior varsity (Reserves) and varsity basketball teams. Yep! He sacked me. He said I could still score the freshman games if I did it for free. But my score-keeping of a varsity game had one last act.
In 1963, I went to the Coliseum, at the State Fairgrounds, to watch Aquinas play in the District Basketball Tournament. Fr. Martin approached me just as I was about to enter, and asked me to be the official Aquinas scorekeeper for the Aquinas game. I hesitated, and then he pulled out a $20 bill and gave it to me. Twenty dollars was the Tournament-mandated compensation for team scorekeepers. I joined the Official Tournament scorekeeper (Mr. Richards) and the official scorekeeper for the other team. I told Mr. Richards that Fr. Martin paid me $20 to be the Aquinas scorekeeper. He quipped, “It’s about time”. I had the satisfaction of scoring the last game for my classmates whom I first saw enter the basketball court as freshmen.
In my sophomore and junior years, I was Class President. Coming into office, I found unpaid bills and no money in the class treasury. I thought up a fund raiser. Our class sponsored an all-school Euchre tournament with cash prizes. The entry fee was $2 per team. It would be played during the lunch periods, with judges watching to prevent cheating. Students would follow the winner’s progress by checking a chart posted daily in the cafeteria. Yes, Minichiello gave me permission to hang it up. The winning team took home $50. and the runner-up team got $25. Even teams getting to the semi-finals received some cash. It was a great success. My class paid its bills and still had a very healthy treasury leading us to sponsor the Mardi Gras Dance just before Lent in 1961. In my junior year, the Halloween dance was also a financial success.
Because I rode with my dad, I arrived nearly an hour before school started. This led to my serving at the 8:05 students’ Mass in the chapel of the Priests’ house. It was open to all students but not many attended. One hindrance may have been getting to it. A student first entered the priests’ house at 557 Mt. Vernon Ave., then proceeding through the hall to the chapel door. It was a small chapel, designed so that all the priests could gather to say the Holy Office. The vesting room was a small room off the chapel. The vestments of the day were laid out by Brother Luke Barnes O.P. He also cared for the 5 other priests’ house altars that the priests used to say their daily Masses in the 2nd floor corridor. The celebrant of the student Mass was usually a young priest. The Dominican Rite Mass was said instead of the Latin Rite Mass. The only differences were the beginning prayers. Fr. James Gerald Crombie O.P., and Fr. John R. Smith O.P., attended daily. Fr. Rudy Vollmer O.P.,would sit in the confessional waiting for the occasional penitent. Even with a short homily, the student Mass never lasted more than 25 minutes. One time, Fr. Thomas Norbert McPaul O.P., did it in 15 minutes. After Mass, I would have a free milk and donut in the cafeteria before class as a reward.
Comparing the priests’ names in different yearbooks shows why students were often confused over their teachers’ names. Some listed the priest beginning with his baptismal name. Other times his religious name was used first. Fr. Michael Jordan Minichiello O.P., is an example of his baptismal name being followed by his religious name, Jordan. However, he signed his name J.M. Minichiello O.P. John Edward Keefer O.P.,was difficult to find after he left Aquinas because we looked for Edward J Keefer O.P. (Eddie J). He was in plain sight as John E. Keefer O.P. In a religious community, the religious name the person takes is used to the exclusion of their baptismal name. The priests always referred to Fr. Edward Louis Martin as Louie. I never knew his baptismal name until I read his obit. However, some rosters of the Aquinas faculty members used the baptismal name, religious name and surname, in that order.
Although I was the MC for some pep rallies and assemblies, doing those events petrified me. I am not a rah-rah type of person, but I do appreciate those with athletic talents. I love history--what else can I say. After giving over 550 speeches in my lifetime, I still get nervous --no matter how prepared I am. Be it an audience of 4 or 400, the jitters are there at the beginning, but fade away 2 – 3 minutes after I begin the presentation. Maybe Fr. Christopher P. Grimley’s O.P., speech class did teach me something.
Founded in 1905 as St. Patrick College, the name changed to Aquinas College in 1911. It retained this name until just before WW2 when it became Aquinas High School. Fr. John R. Smith O.P., told me that it was changed to Aquinas College High School in the mid 1940s. Why? He said to make it sound more like an eastern prep school. From 1911 until it closed in 1965, the corporate name was “The Aquinas Literary Society”. To the students, it was always just “Aquinas”. Recent Aquinian obituaries refer to it as “St. Thomas Aquinas High School”. It was NEVER called this. Historically, in all the United States, there has been only one Aquinas College High School. My dad’s 1929 diploma stated “Aquinas College”. In 1963, mine stated “Aquinas College High School”.
When I applied to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the vanity license plate “ AQUINAS “, I had to explain to the clerk it was not a dirty or obscene word. The clerk had never heard of the philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas. I proved it was a proper name when I showed him my driver’s license. He then approved the application, but I did not have a check with me to pay for it. This was in the Bricker Building at the Ohio State Fair, so he put the application under the counter until I could return with a check. I walked back to the Ohio Historical Center where I worked in the State Archives and got a check.
Returning to the Bricker Building, the clerk was gone, having being replaced by a young woman. Happily, I knew Bessie Redd from the State Auditor’s office. In fact, she had typed up hundreds of my letters when she was a secretary in the Land Office. Having typed my full name on all my letters, she got a good laugh when I told her about the previous clerk questioning me about AQUINAS being a dirty or obscene word. It was surprising what you could buy at the Ohio State Fair during your lunch hour.
In the Class of 1963, my cousins Mike Ryan and Frank Weirick were classmates with me. However, each of us was in different Class Sections (A–B–C). We each experienced Aquinas in different ways. Aquinas College High School, Columbus, Ohio, was a place of learning and adventure to me. Experiences and memories that have lasted a lifetime began there while I was student. Some of these were good, others bad, thus preparing me for adulthood. My extracurricular activities enhanced my perspective of the school. When did I study? Well that’s another story.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School
Class of 1963
4 September 2016
Forfeited Football Games-1962
For the Aquinas College High School class of 1963, a major event was the declaring of Jim Fortkamp ineligible for football in October, 1962. It caused us to forfeit 6 football games that season. Who turned us in to the Ohio Athletic Association (OAA) seems to be a controversy even today. The real facts are: Fr. James G. Crombie, O.P. called me into his office two periods before he announced that Jim was ineligible and our games forfeited. As President of Aquinas, he wanted to know how I thought the students would react to the news. I said expect a riot. He then told me what happened.
Fr. Crombie ran into a priest from St. Charles while at the game. (Aquinas 20 – St. Charles 0) The priest asked him “Didn’t Fortkamp go to the Josephinum before Aquinas?”. Crombie replied, “Yes”, then the priest said that that would make Jim ineligible for football. Crombie said: “No! The OAA ruled on that the year before, and they said Fortkamp was eligible”. Fr. Crombie called the President of the OAA --Mr. Webster-- the following Monday and talked to him about it. Webster said Jim was INELIGIBLE under the OAA Rules and that all our games were forfeited. Webster said he did not know Aquinas had inquired about it earlier. Fr. Crombie said he called OAA because he felt he had “a moral obligation to verify Jim’s eligibility” since he did not talk to the OAA the year before - someone else from Aquinas did. He asked me not to tell anyone about our meeting.
Why did Fr. Crombie tell me? I can only surmise that it was my involvement in student activities, not being on the football team, and I served the daily 8:05 Mass since I was a freshman. So who turned Aquinas into the OAA over Fortkamp’s eligibility? Father James G.Crombie,O.P. President of Aquinas. In other words, Aquinas turned itself in and accepted the consequences.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School – Class of 1963
May 9, 2003
The Aquinas Class Ring
I attended Aquinas in its twilight years, 1959 – 1963. Opened in 1905, my class was the last one that saw a full school having classes from freshmen to seniors. There would be no class of 1966 and, as it turned out, the last class graduated in August, 1965.
One of the unique aspects of Aquinas was the student body. Some were great athletes, others great scholars, and some class clowns, while most of us were just plain students attending a high school we enjoyed, and that made our youth so memorable. Many of us were the sons, nephews, cousins, and brothers-in-law of earlier Aquinians, and we were expected to meet their expectations, as well as those of our teachers.
The personalities of young men, from literally all over the city, united to make Aquinas College High School such a great school. Most Aquinians grew into adults while at Aquinas and learned the values taught by the white-robed, black-caped friars we called Dominicans. Aquinas was not just the discipline. It was our fellow Aquinians who added the unique chemistry of their personalities that made Aquinas an extraordinary High School.
The diversity of nationalities belied the “Irish Terrier” mascot sewn on our letter jackets. Amalgamated in our classes were many Americans of Irish, Italian, Polish, and German descent as well as other nationalities. Some were naturalized citizens while others were second and third generation Americans. None of us paid any attention to our classmates’ parents’ nationality or economic backgrounds. We were just all Aquinians who wore ties and carried our rosaries. Our Aquinas Class Ring became a symbol of brotherhood.
The Aquinas Class Ring was rather plain by modern standards when I received mine in 1962. It had no fancy sparkling stone set in the center of a huge gold mount like other high schools. Instead, it was an unpretentious ring similar to a signet ring. The Dominican St. Joseph Province Shield was recessed in the center of the 10-karat ring. The three flowers represent purity while the carpenter’s square dividing the shield represents St. Joseph. A Celtic cross was on one side of the shank and the year 1963 separated by the torch of knowledge on the other. The words “Aquinas College High School” surrounded the Shield. Below the shield was the single word “Veritas”. My initials were engraved on the inside. It was a symbol of Aquinas and a symbol of hope – yes, it also reminded us that we may actually graduate. The Ring Dance, at the old Seneca Hotel, was one of the rites of passage to manhood when we received our Aquinas Class Ring blessed by the priest.
Later, I remember comparing my Aquinas Class Ring with my father’s. His 1929 Aquinas Class Ring was well worn but still showed the same plain elements of symbolism that mine did. One tradition was that a man of Aquinas would wear his class ring until he married, or so we were told. For a reason he never explained, dad wore his Aquinas Class Ring until he died in 1992. He did tell me how he worked to get the money for the ring, and that times were tough. Dad remembered how his brother George (Class of 1938) had worked, and then borrowed a few bucks to get his because it was so important to have one. He also remembered that many could not afford a ring since food on the table was more important during the tough economic times of the late 20’s and during the Depression. Ultimately, the Aquinas Class Ring became a proud outward symbol of friendship and loyalty-not only to Aquinas-but also to the others who wore it.
Whether replaced by wedding bands, college rings, or simply outgrown, Aquinas Class Rings have been kept or passed down as family heirlooms as one of the symbols of an Aquinian becoming a man. Many men of Aquinas still treasure their ring today. The Aquinas Class Ring is a very personal remembrance to the thousands of Aquinians who went to Aquinas College High School. Veritas
Thomas Aquinas Burke – Class of 1963
Aquinas College High School
July 25, 2003
The Yellow Bus
Unlike most freshmen, I arrived at Aquinas in August, 1959, more than three weeks before classes were to begin. Tom Nye (Class of ‘63) and I had been selected to be football managers, joining Gary Marconi (Class of ‘62) and Domenico Cervi (Class of ‘62) under the direction of George Wolfe (Class of ‘60).
My first day, I noticed the Yellow Bus emblazoned in green on its’ sides with the words “Aquinas College High School”. That, I was told, is how we traveled to our games. The driver was Fr. Francis Clement McKenna, O.P. our Athletic Director. To my eyes, our yellow chariot looked old and worn, even in 1959.
It was amazing that the Yellow Bus held the entire football team and all the extra football equipment. Our football players would suit up at Aquinas and then travel to the games. We traveled in our faithful but seemingly cranky Yellow Bus to our City League games all over the city that season. On long road trips such as Steubenville, Bellaire, and Cleveland, we used a chartered bus, often having another bus for fans.
We never called the Yellow Bus a school bus, for it was more than that to us. It was the Team Bus. The Monday after each game, we swept out the clots of dirt left behind from the football players, and occasionally washed the windows. Often it smelled like a locker room. Fr. McKenna was proud of the Yellow Bus. When it was working just right, his smile was as wide as the State of New York. When it wasn’t, the scow on Father McKenna’s face meant ‘do not talk to him’.
The 1959 East High versus Aquinas football game was a daylight game because Harley Field did not have lights. The game was the climax of the season as pointed out in the 1960 yearbook. Aquinas beat East 29 – 14. It was also a true test of endurance for the Yellow Bus.
A hard fought game, our victory left the East High fans really upset. So upset, that after the Aquinas team got into the Yellow Bus, East High fans started to rock it from both sides. I do mean rock it. We swayed back and forth until it seemed like the Yellow Bus would tip over.
Fr. McKenna was having trouble getting the bus started, and our players were trying to get him to open the doors so they could forcefully calm down the crowd shaking the bus. A few small rocks hit the windows, but Coach Mamajek got the players to calm down before a mini-riot began.
Finally, the Yellow Bus came alive. Fr. McKenna revved up the engine, and we nearly ran over the few disgruntled East High fans that were in front of the bus. Alas, the Yellow Bus held up, and we got out of harm’s way, and so did the angry East High fans.
We also used the Yellow Bus to go on some field trips. One trip to the Battelle Nuclear Reactor near West Jefferson nearly got us killed. The poor Yellow Bus stalled out on the railroad tracks near Battelle, but Fr. McKenna got it running after 5 minutes, before any trains appeared. We thought the Yellow Bus was rebelling from having to go outside Franklin County.
As the scorekeeper for the freshman basketball team, I traveled on the faithful Yellow Bus over the next two years to Junior Highs all over Columbus. In early 1961, during rush hour, we were returning from a game on the west side. Father drove up the Broad St. hill from Front St. to High St. We were in front of the Wyandotte Building when the poor Yellow Bus sputtered to a stop.
Fr. McKenna tried everything possible to get it started, while trying to keep it from rolling backward. Prayer and a couple of invectives failed to start the Yellow Bus. We were blocking traffic. Trolley buses could not get around us, and we had nowhere to go because parked cars were at the curb.
Finally, like a great Captain of a dead-in-the-water ship, Fr. McKenna yelled – ‘everyone out and push’. So the team of 11 guys plus the coach and I jumped out and got behind the bus. Father yelled “push”, and put the Yellow Bus in neutral. It almost flattened us when it started to roll back on us. Then he yelled push, and kept yelling until we eased the Yellow Bus slowly up the hill towards Broad and High.
Luckily, the alert Police Officer directing traffic at that busy corner saw us, and stopped traffic as we finally crested the hill. Of course, it helped that Fr. McKenna was blowing the horn, as were some cars behind us. We slowly rolled over High St. until Father stopped next to the curb at the Southeast corner of Broad and High. Yes, it was a real workout but we were safely on flat ground.
We all climbed aboard again, but the Yellow Bus still would not start. By now, Fr. McKenna was crimson red with frustration and embarrassment. He got off, found a telephone, and called for taxicabs to get us back to Aquinas. The Yellow Bus was towed back to Aquinas. After that, we took cabs to the remaining games.
Affectionately known as “Fuzzy Was He” because he had only a few strands of hair on the top of his head, Fr. Francis Clement McKenna, O.P. left Aquinas that year. He died February 7, 1973, and is buried at St. Joseph Cemetery, Somerset, Ohio.
I do not remember when our Yellow Bus disappeared from next to the building, I just remember never riding in it again after pushing it up the Broad St. hill and tying up traffic at Broad and High.
Perhaps someone remembers when Aquinas sent the Yellow Bus to the end of the bus line? Does anyone know when Aquinas acquired the Yellow Bus?
Addendum from Bob Stark '65
From the minutes of the Dec. 4, 1963, meeting of the Aquinas Literary Society---Same council heard and approved financial report for Oct. 1963 as read by Fr. Sukovaty. Bus broke down; Council decided to accept $150. -for the junking of it
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School – Class of 1963
July 6, 2003
It Was Nearly a Riot - Just Another Day at Aquinas
Aquinas College High School was unique compared to other high schools in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus had two other all-male high schools, but Aquinas was located at 557 Mt. Vernon Avenue in the inner city with its five acres surrounded by poverty and crime.
Aquinas was a ‘little white island in the black sea’ as the expression went at the time. Fifty years after its founding, the once Irish neighborhood had become a predominately black neighborhood. The neighbors rarely seemed to bother the students or priests, except for an occasional wino asking for money to buy a drink. Just down the block near Cleveland Avenue was an employment office where day laborers hung out from 7AM to 3PM. Just east of that office was a vacant lot that looked green all year around. However, close examination showed no grass at all, just broken wine bottles littering the whole lot. A bar on the southwest corner of Mt. Vernon and Washington Avenues was the scene of constant fights. On one occasion, a man’s throat was slashed and he was thrown out the front door to die in full view of the students on our baseball diamond. Across Mt. Vernon Ave., diagonally northeast of the Aquinas parking lot gate, was La Chevous. A noted red-light establishment whose inhabitants loved year-round open windows, which made it easier to discuss current prices for services, and to make sure the clients actually had money before letting them in. Aquinians could not help but notice La Chevous--it was directly in front of the westbound trolley bus stop.
After one of our home games, early in the 1960 – 1961 basketball season, two Aquinians were jumped by 4 or 5 neighborhood thugs while waiting for the trolley bus in front of La Chevous.
Fr. John Aloysius Segren (1909 – 1979) and Fr. Rudolph (Francis) Vollmer (1893 –1971) were in the Aquinas parking lot at the time, and heard the commotion. Both went to the aid of the students, and managed to get them just inside the Aquinas gate before being confronted by the thugs and more of their buddies. Another student, seeing all of this, ran into the locker room where the team was finishing up their showers, and shouted “N…..s have surrounded Fr. Segren & Vollmer, and are going to hurt them in the parking lot”. This announcement briefly stunned everyone in the locker room area of the main building. Then all hell broke loose with oaths of forthcoming violence being quickly spoken. (Note: This was an era before “Political Correctness” became a phrase in the dictionary.)
Students, who had been waiting for team members, quickly ran for the northwest door while team members hurriedly put on their clothes and shoes. Someone suggested weapons were needed, and we ran to a side door leading to the tool and boiler room underneath the Chemistry lecture room. There we found old pipe wrenches and tools that had been used on the old printing press the school once owned. Some were 2 feet long and weighed 25 pounds or so. Thus armed, we ran out and met the basketball team members, who were coming out of the main building.
Over 30 Aquinians marched toward the parking lot, lead by Bob Vacin using a partial hula-hoop as a horn. No one seemed to have given any thought that this could create a possible race riot, or that some people could be seriously injured if a fight ensued. The only concern seemed to be the possibility of the thugs having knives. It was quickly agreed that any fast moves by the thugs would justify a wrench to the head or arm at full force. The adrenalin was pumping and the
Aquinas student warriors were literally ready to battle.
As we rounded the corner leading into the parking lot, Fr. Segren saw us and we heard him yell he was ok, and he did not want any trouble, but we could not see him. Finally, when we were 10 feet away near the gate opening, we could see the Roman Collars and a couple of green and gold student jackets, and some very surprised looks on the faces of the local tough guys. Our Aquinas group literally surrounded the now 15 – 20 thugs as Segren spoke to them, trying to diffuse the situation and getting them to leave. I recall that one thug seemed not to get the message, and made a move toward Fr. Segren. Tom Letzelter gently tapped the guy on the shoulder with a mighty big wrench, and the guy froze in place. The guy was lucky--Tom’s dad was a State Trooper, and I think Tom would have definitely whacked the thug if he had touched Fr. Segren. It took Segren another 5 minutes to get the thugs to leave peacefully with Aquinians providing a line on both sides of the driveway to the gate. What kind of amazed us was that some of the thugs had beards, and a few appeared to have been drinking. Most were not teenagers. After they left the parking lot, Fr. Segren appeared relieved and good ole Fr. Vollmer said something like “Thank God “.
Fr. Segren said there was no need for this show of force and weapons. He said he thought he had it under control, but did thank us for coming to his and Fr. Vollmer’s defense. I think the heavy weapons surprised Fr. Segren, especially when we told him where we got them. He told us to put them back immediately.
Crisis over, we all walked thru the parking lot. Some of us went to the tool room while others went to the locker room to finish dressing. It seems that most of the basketball players did not put on socks for the battle, nor had they even bothered to dry off after their showers.
This is the only instance that I know of, from August, 1959, to June, 1963, that a problem from the neighborhood actually encroached onto school grounds. The language is cleaned up a little, but the incident and facts are true.
Thomas Aquinas Burke
Aquinas College High School - Class of 1963
April 5, 2009