St. Joe Class of ’62 graduates share memories

This photo from The Spires shows members of the Class of 1962 at their junior prom the year before. The theme was “Stairway to the Stars”, and pictured here are Jack Stover, Peggy Clay, Sam Singer, Marilyn Summers, Andrea Fitzgerald and Dan Stubler.

Here is a sampling of memories gleaned from interviews and email exchanges with some of the graduates in the St. Joseph High School Class of 1962.

Sam Shialabba

Sam Shialabba focused on the two teachers he found the most influential to him — biology teacher and football coach Stan Zagorski and history teacher Sister Mary Peter, later known as Sister Joan Chittester.

Zagorski’s influence “made me want to become a biology major in college,” said Shialabba. The Oil City dentist fondly recalled the casual summer classes he and other classmates took, including the etymology class taught by Zagorski.

“We had fun with those classes,” Shialabba said. “We went out in the field and collected and identified leaves, plants and insects.”

Shialabba said that in addition to teaching American history and world history, Sister Mary Peter was also the debate coach at St. Joseph. “I learned a lot about logic from her,” Shialabba said.

Shialabba also said the bus trips to and from forensic league meetings were a lot of fun, particularly the trips home after the tough competition was over.

“Folk songs were big back then,” Shialabba said. “We’d sing a lot of those songs coming home.”

Shialabba recalled going to the junior prom with classmate Gretchen Owens, and he said they were the last couple on the dance floor dancing to “Stairway to the Stars,” which was the prom theme their junior year.

Gretchen Owens Wagner

Gretchen Owens Wagner, who has lived in the Hermitage-Sharon area since the early 1970s, said her greatest memories of St. Joseph and Oil City “include the dances throughout town — sponsored by WFRA. They frequently brought in current singers — Skip and Flip, Lou Christie, etc. to be at the dances.”

Wagner, her sister Cathy, and their friend, Linda Jones, met Christie at one of those dances, and the three girls, who had been singing around town at that time, became well-known as The Tammys and performed as backup singers with Christie for a few years.

Wagner also said “the simple times allowed us to walk from Seventh Street on the South Side the whole way up to St. Joe’s on the North Side — no fear of drugs, abductions. It was a great town to grow up in — a great school to attend.”

John Edwards

John Edwards, Ph.D., a resident of Wyllis Street in Oil City, said he cherishes the time he spent as a member of the Class of 1962 at St. Joseph.

Edwards recalled a time when he and classmates Mary Jo Weidle, Jim Camp and Marilyn Summers performed a short skit for the nuns. He said Camp and Weidle (who eventually married) were paired, and he was paired with Summers. They were painted up like clowns and sang a song, and Edwards still recalls the lyrics to the song.

Edwards, a U.S. Navy veteran who worked as a research scientist and research program manager, had several interesting jobs that took him to various parts of the country. He eventually retired and moved back to Oil City, and he was a substitute teacher for many years.

Jim Camp

Jim Camp, an Erie resident and a retired newspaperman, recalled that the school was taught almost exclusively by the Benedictine nuns. He said the exceptions were Stan Zagorski and the resident priests, who during his senior year were Fr. Henry Schauerman and Fr. Joseph Jerge.

Camp also said an occasional lesson was taught by Bishop Edward P. McManaman, who resided at St. Joseph as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Erie.

“The bishop would periodically come to the school and walk into a random classroom. One sharp knock on the door was his calling card,” Camp said.

The only sports the school offered were football and basketball, and Camp said the football team practiced on what is now the Hasson Heights softball field. The Irish teams played in the Erie Diocese League.

Camp said a favorite stopping point for the St. Joseph students were the two stores nearby — Kern’s at the corner of Seeley and Washington and Neidich’s a half-block away at the intersection of Seeley and the alley that ran between Hoffman and Washington. Many carried their brown bag lunches to one of the two locations at noontime, he said.

Camp also recalled the weekly CYC dances Friday nights at St. Stephen School and downtown YMCA dances on Saturdays. Favorite stops after the dances were Rollie’s Pizza and Pizza Villa.

Freshman hazing was tolerated to a point by the Benedictine nuns, Camp said.

“The first days of the school year were marked by lunchtime gatherings on Seeley Avenue,” Camp said. “The senior boys would have the ninth graders pushing pennies up the street using their noses. It was common to see freshmen with dirty noses during afternoon classes.”

Andrea Fitzgerald Stubler and Dan Stubler

Dan Stubler and Andrea Fitzgerald were both members of the Class of 1962. They eventually married and have lived in Columbia, Mo., for 35 years, where Dan ran a large kitchen appliance company and Andrea was a teacher.

“We were high school sweethearts,” Andrea said. “We first met in 1959 and are blessed to have shared so many good times.”

The Stublers said what they remember most from St. Joseph are “great academics that prepared us for life, Bishop McManaman, football and basketball games, Coach (Bill) Eckert and Coach (Stan) Zagorski, moving all the books from the SJHS library to the new school in Dan’s old Jeep, old-fashioned minstrel shows with Joanne Callahan and Medora Henry, Stairway to the Stars (our prom theme), Sadie Hawkins dances, student Masses …girls on one side of the church and boys on the other!”

Susan English

Reunion committee member Susan English, who lives in Henrys Bend, remembers the class’ senior trip to Niagara Falls “and how much fun we had running around in raincoats.”

“I also remember that at away games we would roll up our cheerleading skirts above our knees. Once someone told the nuns and we were grounded for the next three away games.”

Carol Edwards Dutcher

Carol Edwards Dutcher of Virginia, who was talked into organizing the reunion, also mentioned the Kern’s store.

“Our favorite snack was a Pepsi and stick pretzel. Stick it in the Pepsi and watch it fizz,” she said. “Got in trouble because I worked after school and would sometimes ‘fib’ and say I had to stay after school and instead go to Kern’s for a half hour. My boss was on to me and I didn’t get away with it but a couple of times. Of course, I then had to go to confession for the lie.”

Edwards Dutcher said her parents “opened our house to all my friends. Every Friday and Saturday evening, if there was no other place to go, I invited them all to the house to listen to music and have fun. We always had 15 or 20 guys and girls there.”

From The Derrick, August 2, 2012.