We Boys, We Saints, We Men
"We Boys, We Saints, We Men"
Copyright 2010. available in eNovel format.
The second novel by this Philadelphia author; he was once from Last Chance, Alabama.
This is a story with names changed for obvious reasons but the essences of these men remains.
Now it must be for their children or nephews or partners or maybe their grandchildren to read these words.
Read the journey of 200 boys who became men and are now Saints among us all.
The book has a setting of a Catholic university operated by the Benedictine Order of Monks
...And so ended the summer of 1964.
His name would be forever changed to 'Ammo' by the boys he would soon be with for over four academic years. It was a hot late August beach day with seasonably cold ocean currents. It was from his beach chair; the fins of a seemly small pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
No hesitation; he was shoulder deep in the soft foamed surf; then with a forceful kick he was swimming with dolphins. The risk seemed absence in some instinctive way. With a history of Naval Officers in his family tree and the overall years on the beaches of South Jersey , he did believe, this swim was a family reunion.
And so ended the summer of 1964, the summer after high school, the summer after he, along with 200 others boys, realized that life as they had imagined was about to change.
Were you in college in northern Alabama in the
"Mom, I'll be driving south on Tuesday "
" They left their homes almost unnoticed. Their own families were not sure as to their travel plans.Some flew, others on a bus and a few drove. I believe a few rode the train.They came from northern New Jersey , greater Philadelphia area , Michigan, Buffalo, areas surrounding New York city , west from Atlanta, Georgia and north from the Gulf coast states.. Most of the boys were 18 years into their lives when they arrived on a manicured 325 acre Alabama campus. Some,however, were recently discharged veterans from the Nam war. Yes, the boys were alone but only for seconds. Friendship among these young students was a play-filled obligation if you wanted to survive the first days. The dorms were clean but no air conditioning most dorms had newly tiled common shower rooms with toilets and sinks. In the sixties, unkown in todays world, it was rather ubiqiutious to find the open shower area containg 6 or more shower heads within which the boys soaped-up returning to their dorm room with a single towel wrap "
Across the highway was the all girls junior college. These young girls gave the boys some room to play. Fiday night was still used as date night for the boys but this required a car and at this age who had a car. Well the star sports players like Robby Smith, an All-star tennis player, from Georgia. He a free ride for tuition and room/board which left plenty of money for his Cherry Red 1961 Ford.
Have you ever...
'Saint Bonner University' is the background for this novel
A story of youth-filled boys growing to be men.
Benedictine Monks came to Alabama from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in the 1870's.
St. Vincent had been founded in the 1840's from Metten Abbey in Bavaria, a monastery founded in the 8th Century.
Most of the early Alabama monks were Bavarian natives and came primarily to serve German-speaking Catholic communities in Alabama. The town of Last Chance, Alabama was such a community and was settled in 1873 under the leadership of Colonel John Melton, a German refugee who arrived in America in 1866.
Arriving in Last Chance sometime in the 1880's the monks established St. Bonner Abbey on a crisp Alabama day,September 29, 1891. The land and home to this new Abbey was named in honor of Saint. Bonner of Clairvaux, the famous 11th-century French abbot and doctor of the Church.
The new community chose its location because of the area's healthy climate, potential growing season for farming , rapid economic growth, and access to the mail railroad. The crop trains ran all night.
In the same year as the Abbey's founding, the Monks established Saint Bonner Preparatory School on the outskirts of the city - on the grounds of the monastery. The school was chartered by the State of Alabama in February 1893, and though primarily a college preparatory school, including middle school grades, Saint. Bonner regularly conferred a few bachelor's degrees.
Responding to local needs, in 1929 the Board of Trustees elected to establish a formal junior college program in addition to the high school. And then some twenty years later the establishment of a senior college was accomplished. Also during its history Saint. Bonner has educated many young men for ordination to the priesthood through its seminary programs from high school through graduate studies.
Rat Week 1964
"Shave his head?" said the elder senior. Wow, this was crazy. Hazing was a common thread running within the college campuses during this time. It was 'rat-week' and for the next seven days us freshmen 'rats' answered to the call of our 'rat-master'. Carry my books, get me coffee, call my girlfriend by her last name only, polish my shoes ( yes, we had real leather shoes), and more hazzing.
This was a huge embassesment for all of us; the shaved head.
These young girls gave the boys some room to play. Fiday night was still used as date night for the boys but this required a car and at this age who had a car. Well the star sports players like Robby Smith, an All-star tennis player, from Georgia. He a free ride for tuition and room/board which left plenty of money for his Cherry Red 1961 Ford.
The farm land used as a Pig raising operation
" The Pigs are raised by a local woman and her daughter on the University's land", said Father Pablo as he addressed the new arrivals. He continued, "The 1960's PIG Farm was active so it's great to see some of you boys from up North learning the old southern ways."
Big Sophmores now 1965
Returned from Summer break to the manicured lawns of the college. We all had new stories from the months apart.
After the summer of 1965 we returned to the late August sun of Alabama. Some of 'the saints" traveled north from the panhandle towns of Alabama, Fort Walton beach and one classmate, 'the bear' from some town the name of which I couldn't spell back then and still can't today. But our friend' the bear' was a genuine southern boy at least to the northerns here. His red car with its' 'trucker' radio was a mode of travel for our thanksgiving trip to Mobile. Seems one of the boys, Jimmy, had a girl that he was dating from the junior- college across the road. She had asked Jimmy, in her pure sourthern voice, to come meet her family. Jimmy had one condition, " Could I bring a few of the 'boys'?" And off we went with 'bear' down the interstate due south with the sun pouring in from the east. Thanksgiving dinner was great. We all eat like the boys we were.
A few tales apparently still roll around in the heads of the men, now in their sixties. One such 'rumor' with multiple endings , as many a tale will have, started will the following e-mail. "I didn't f'---up my knee, you did. I can remember it like it was last night, and it still hurts! ", wrote Willie to Ammo. Willie's knee was injured, a life-long injury, with a demonstration of Ammo's judo proficiency.
Chapter Four- Junior Year at St. Bonner University
we are Saints
No computers back then, and in one Junior-level business course, Willy and Ammo wrote a paper on the elasticity/inelasticity of the gasoline market. Remember this was spring 1967. They proffered that the gasoline market was elastic, suggesting there is no substitute for gasoline, and that people would keep paying even as the price skyrocketed. VOILA! What we have into 2010's has proven their young theory correct. There is some disagreement as to which professor, but one could have been a Mr. Thomas Cashman. Ammo wrote an email back to Willie in the summer of 2011. "Your 'corona' ball typewriter and the multi-colored penciled charts really dropped what would have been a great 'A' with my fine business acumen . ", Ammo ended this email with 'LMAO'.
In another course ,a female professor, probably in a Economic History course. I was teamed up with Tom (Daisy) McBride and they did a presentation on Karl Marx and his theory on capitalism. Daisy did the historical background and Willie the economic theory. When Willie finished the teams oral pitch, Professor Glaser, called Willie to the back of the room where she was grading the presentations. She showed Willie what she thought. She gave him two "A"s, she was so impressed. Willie later confirmed that these events were highlights of his life and so he remember them like they were yesterday."
The Fifth Chapter "Soon to be Men"
1967 to June of 1968
Our class started with hundreds of guys from various states but now 3 years later our numbers are falling. A few of the boys were not able to meet the academic side of college life and others could not handle themselves around the beer and spirits. One of the boys arrived back, Wally, with a letter announcing his Academic Probation status and within the same luggage were his 20 or so comic books. He never finished.
I guess we had a college using an older approach to graduation requirements; namely, oral exams. The process ,each student meeting with faculty from their respective departments for at least a thirty minute oral discussion on topics within your academic major. A few of our classmates needed to spend a few extra weeks on campus the '68 summer inorder to pass these orals.
Probably late in our final year a car full of us drove south along the interstate to the first opportunity for a cold beer. I believe the restaurant with a limited beer selection was called 'Last Beer'. Well anyway, it was the drive back to campus that the six of us damn near met our maker.
Someone reached across the middle passenger in the front side flicking a cigarette out the window vent. Yes, in these days automobiles had two windows on the front doors. One was a triangle shape with a purpose not know to most. Ammo, suggested that O'kie O'Connell through the butt while others believe he was the driver. The driver had been hit in the face with sparks from the butt and pulled the steering wheel left sending the six soon-to-graduate boys down across the median grassed center of the highway and across the south bound double lanes.
The car stopped on a incline and within minutes the Alabama state troopers were there. One of the troopers agreed that all was okay but commented on the loud voice coming from Ammo. Decades later It was in an e-mail from Willie that he shared his belief that " If it wasn't for his diplomatic acumen with the state troopers, Ammo would have an Alabama rap sheet, probably not even allowed back in the state.
Graduation day witnessed a pristine Alabama morning. It was a sun bright walk along the campus encircled roadway. The President of the University Of Alabama as the speaker at the 1968 classes graduation and as we all rounded the academic parade we could see the large sheet painted words, "Go Notre Dame". Funny. These two universities had football programs with enormous histories but ND was the Catholic college considered as a 'brother'.
After all the 1968 candidates for graduation had recieved their diplomas we witness the commission of our fellow 'saints' into the United States Marine Corp. The four stood in thier dress whites with emblems of the corp and shouldered bars indicating their new rank of second lts. The four stood in a line with Willie first , then Phil, and two others standing before their classsmates and the American flag. A great moment for us all. The war in Viet Nam was going to take several of our college friends. That was our war but not our only war.
After the ceromony some flew home, some drove and some left campus to party. Ammo and Squash, as they called him, dropped thier parents at the locaL airport and the newly minted college grads headed for the gulf of Mexico. Arrangements had been made for what was to become a seven day trip of 'laughs' and more memories. Ammo had a newly stamped-out Gulf gas credit card which forced a continued search for Gulf gas stations.
After forty years, I lifetime, a reunion was held on campus with almost 40 of the classmates. Some were fellow graduates buy others were classmates that had left our campus without a diploma. They had transferred to other universities. The boys are now men. Some have gone to a heavenly place. They joined with our classmates that had died in Viet Nam.
Chapter Seven: As the Sun Sets
they are gone
This is a story with names changed for obvious reasons but the essences of these men remains. Now it must be for their children or nephews or partners or maybe their grandchildren to read these words.
Read the journey of 200 boys who became men and are now Saints among us all. There were no legends in this group, there were no box office stars, but you can be assured that within this group you we find true heroes. Heroes to themselves, to their families, to their friends and most importantly, they were heros to their classmates. They were boys when they arrived in the early '60's and then as their mascot was know, Saints , and 40 some years later they are men. Men remembered for each different memory that can be spoken of them. And it is within these stories, within these tales that these men lived out their individual lives with a certain common knowledge, a certain common bond which is seldom found but always treasured.
Some became lawyers, Marines, teachers, coaches, law enforcers, healthcare administrators and accountants. But unique to this small southern college graduate was 'spirit' carried by all.
It was told by some that had worn the uniform of the United States armed services, some that had witness combat, that the ties formed here in Alabama were as strong as those fostered on the battle field.
And so this is a story of boys , to men to Saints of heaven. The boys are now men. Some have gone to a heavenly place. They joined with our classmates that had died in Viet Nam or some blood-blessed place.
Our fourth year , our senior year, our last months together were special because of the sports and basketball was on top. Top in Alabama B'ball and this was done with a few players from the much colder climates.
We could have won it all this year. just needed a coach.
Kodakan judo was the style we practiced and 1968 was our year to win. The bus to Mobile with Father Pius, OSB never made it on time. Our dual meet at Spring Hill College showed the team was conditioned and ready to play some judo.
Wow, what a team we placed on that white-lined field.
Phil, Kevin, Larry, Paul, Manny, ....