By Bill Wall, R'63
at Saint Joseph's College
We all remember those I suppose. I was only at St Joes for two and a half years, and I went on three Class Walks. A Class Walk was an all day outing that each Class at St Joes was allowed to go on, one in the Fall and one in the Spring Semester. We would walk up to the Stevens Creek Reservoir, which was a County Park in the hills 3 or 4 miles from St Joes. A priest was assigned to accompany your Class on this walk, and we were expected to stay together on these walks, and not go wandering off to other places. These Class Walks always took place on a Thursday, which was our day off at St Joes, and we left on the Walk right after breakfast in the morning, and returned back to St Joes in time for dinner. There was a group picnic area up behind the reservoir, which was reserved for us, where we would have a barbecue lunch; and there was an Easter Seals Swimming pool up there where we could go swimming if we wanted. No swimming in the reservoir. These Class Walks may not seem like a big deal to the Civilians, but for we St Joes guys, this was the only time in a whole semester, that we were allowed a whole day off the Seminary grounds with our classmates. It was big deal to us. We were allowed a monthly walk into town, but that was only for a couple hours. For some reason or other, I really remember the details of my first Class Walk in the Spring of 1958. It was a beautiful day. The other Walks, I remember fairly well.
We didn’t go on a Class walk in the Fall Semester of our First High. I guess we were a little too new at St Joes for that. They did have a bonfire scheduled for Halloween Night of our First High, but that didn’t take place because we went home on Halloween Day of that year because of a Flu Epidemic. I wrote a story about that Flu Epidemic of 1957. Our First Class Walk took place in May of 1958 and I will get into that a bit. We went on a Class Walk in the Fall of our Second High, but in the Spring of our Second High, our Class didn’t go on a Class Walk. There was a crack down by the Powers That Be at St Joes on our Class in March of 1959 for reading “unapproved books “, and part of the punishment was we lost our “Class Privileges” that semester. Remember that? Well, one of the Class Privileges was our Class Walk. That unapproved book bust in our Second High is a subject for another writing. I remember a guy that was kind of a king pin of that whole deal. He was a short, red haired, crazy man. That book bust was the beginning point of our Class at St Joes being labeled a “renegade class”.
Back to Class Walks. On a Thursday morning in early May 1958, after breakfast and after cleaning up our rooms, the First High Class of St Joes met by the First High Steps across from the pool. Fr Fredie Fausel would accompany us on our walk this day. Fr Fausel’s first name was “Donald”. I believe his nickname was “Freddie”. We never addressed the priests there by their nicknames for obvious reasons. Our Class was about 85 strong at this time, down from the 107 guys that started the prior September. Fredie was a first year priest at St Joes this year. I think he became a Sulp later. Once we were all together, we all took off in a big herd toward the rear of the St Joes property. We walked by where the Convent was, and then down that paved road and by the house where Bob Bolsem’s Mom and Dad lived. His Mom was the secretary in the front office at St Joes and his Dad was the head maintenance man. I think Bob was only there for our first year. I had never been on this road before, which turned into a dirt road after awhile. We were normally not allowed on this part of the St Joes grounds. We walked on a way, and after awhile we came to a gate at the very rear of the St Joes property. We went through that and crossed some railroad tracks and came to Stevens Creek Road. We headed left on that or towards the houses and civilization. If we had gone right on that road, we would have headed toward that big Permante Quarry that was behind St Joes. We walked down that road for a half a mile or so and came to the corner of Stevens Creek Canyon Road. We took a right on that road and headed up into the canyon to the reservoir. I will never forget. There was a little food store on that corner, and the guy that ran that place was glad to see us. We bought out his supply of candy bars, Cokes, and potato chips. I even remember guys eating ice cream at 8:30 in the morning. Pete Ferrai and some other guy bought a couple of Porterhouse steaks, big ones. Pete and the other guy were determined that they were not going to eat the hamburgers and hot dogs that we would see for lunch. I remember Pete barbecuing his steak later that day. We were good seminary guys, and I don’t remember anyone taking a “five fingered discount” on anything in that guy’s store, and you could see the store manager knew that too. This guy restocked his shelves during the day and we cleaned him out on the return trip.
We walked down Stevens Creek Canyon Road for a mile or so and pretty soon we were out of the houses and into the hills of the County Park.. There was another little store on the right hand side of the road and some of the guys hit that too. How many candy bars can you eat? I remember I was walking with Gary Rae a bit. Remember him? He was nice guy and he didn’t really stand out in any way, but, as with a lot of guys there, he was just a genuine guy and easy to be with. I think Gary and I were talking about what we were going to do that summer. We only had about a month of school left.
When we got into the Park, the road started to climb uphill a bit. Pretty soon, we could see that Stevens Creek Dam, which was a 200 foot high, earthen dam that held back the reservoir, which was about a mile long. There was a big concrete spillway on the left portion of the dam. We kept hiking on the road, which went to the right past the dam. Weather Fact: The Winter of 1957-58 was one of the four wettest winters in California in the 20th Century. Do you remember the flood down on the Campus on the Saturday before we went home for Easter Break. The creek at St Joes really got high then. Well, the lake behind the dam was filled to the top of the spillway, or as high as it goes, and I remember the lake was a beautiful blue that day. With the trees and hills around the lake, it was a very nice setting, good place for a Class Walk. The road stayed by the lake and led to some picnic areas behind the lake. About half way around the lake, there was a small beer and burger place between the road and the lake. I don’t think we were supposed to go in there because they served beer, but some of our guys did anyway to get a Coke or whatever. We must have been on a “sugar high” that day. But what do you expect when you get a bunch of 14 year olds that haven’t seen a candy bar or a Coke in a month. By the very rear of the lake, the road crossed over a creek that led into the lake. The prior winter’s storms had washed out the bridge that was there, and there was a County construction crew there rebuilding the bridge. A number of the construction workers had blue shirts on that said “County Jail” on the back. There were a couple of County Sheriffs there with shot guns and they motioned to us to stay away. We did.
We walked to the group picnic area behind the lake, which was actually out of sight of the lake. It was big picnic and play area that we had all to ourselves, and that was good because there were a lot of us. A nice creek ran by this picnic area. Someone had driven up in a car to this picnic area beforehand and had dropped off all of the lunch food and barbecue stuff, and some baseball equipment. Fredie Fausel instructed us not to wander too far away from this area. I remember playing softball for awhile in a big open area. Some of the guys were hiking around the hills on trails by the picnic area, and a few guys were down by the creek, throwing rock in the water trying to splash water on each other, kids stuff.
Next, Larry Gilsdorf and I got into getting the barbecue fire started. There was a big, permanent barbecue set up there that was in big open shed. We did our own cooking, which was fine. Around lunch time, we were hungry, so we started to put burgers and hot dogs on the barbecue. Everyone sort of pitched in. We ate off paper plates and it wasn’t very fancy, but it was fun making our own meal. We didn’t do that at St Joes.. I don’t know where Freddie was. I think he was over at the Easter Seals Lodge and Pool, which was over across the creek and up a small road. After lunch, I went for a swim in that pool. We had the pool to ourselves that day. They had one problem with that pool. Salamanders kept falling into the pool and drowning. I remember guys diving to the bottom of the pool to pick up the dead salamanders. Why do I remember things like that? I think Bob Ceremony counted the number of dead salamanders. It actually got warm that afternoon so it was great being in that pool. We played some “Water Slaughter” in that pool with a volleyball. I know you remember that. Those Easter Seals Folks were great. They would teach kids, whose limbs had been paralyzed by Polio, to swim and swim a lot to regain some of the muscle use in their limbs. God Bless them.
One thing I remember is that we were not supposed to walk up the Canyon Road any farther than the picnic grounds. Well, naturally, some of our guys didn’t buy into that. I think there was an old bar or something about a mile up that road, and the road followed the creek. Jim Marchiano and Dan Markey walked up to that bar and hitch hiked back, which was a big “no-no”. About the time we were going to start to walk back to St Joes, I remember a pick up truck stopping at our picnic area, and Marchiano and Markey got out of the back of that pick up truck. It is a good thing Freddie didn’t see that or they would have had a problem. They were the “Cool Guys” of the day for that stunt. They even “found” a couple full cans of beer somewhere. Where do you think they got those?
We started our trek back and it would take us about an hour and a half to walk back to St Joes. Some of us were a little tired and a little sunburned from the afternoon’s swim. We walked back around the lake and I remember stopping at that burger and beer place. I bought a bottle of Coke for 15 cents, and that was my last 15 cents. That sure tasted good on that hot afternoon. As I was standing out on the rear deck of that burger place looking out over the lake, Stan Johnson was standing there. There is a name from the past. He was a tall, blonde guy from South San Francisco, and he was good in basketball. I had never really talked to Stan that much, a little bit. He was friendly enough to me. As we stood on that deck that day, he told me that his dad had some big power boat that he used to tear around lakes in, and Stan said he was going to get a big boat like that someday. I think Stan left St Joes after the second year. I think some of the guys called him “Stan the Man”. We walked down out of that park to that store on the corner. Some of our guys were in that store buying big shopping bags full of goodies to put in their lockers back at St Joes. We were not allowed to buy any magazines or books. We took a left at the store and kept walking and I remember walking along the railroad tracks that paralleled the road. Pretty soon we were going through that gate at the rear of the St Joes property. Next, I was walking down that road by Bob Bolsems Folk’s house behind St Joes. That was a fun day and a great getaway with my classmates, but it felt good to be back at St Joes. I made it back to the courtyard at St Joes with 5 minutes to spare before the Angelus before dinner. I remember, a few our classmates came in late to the Refectory that evening and Cat Canfield got on them for that. That guy didn’t miss a thing. I wasn’t really hungry that evening because of the junk I ate during the day. Right after dinner, we got right back into that Almighty Schedule at St Joes, which they never varied from at that place. Rosary at 7:00PM, the Rule at 7:15, and Study Hall at 7:30. It was amazing how fast all of us could shift back into that rigid routine after we had been gone for awhile.
Well, I went on Class Walks in the Fall of our Second High and of our Third High and they were a lot of fun, but you can see somehow my first Class Walk has stayed with me all of these years. Fr Kruse, who was a Maryknoll Priest who taught at St Joes, took us on a Class Walk. I think it was in Third High. I had that guy for algebra in Second High. He was a good teacher, but zero sense of humor. I tried to joke around with him once. Forget it, I died!
Stevens Creek Reservoir and Park are still there today, and frankly that place is a jewel in the middle of Silicon Valley. There are a few houses around Stevens Creek Park, but that park looks today as it did 45 years ago when we were hiking around there. There is quite a bit of land in that park and it is well preserved. I like to go there once in awhile because it is so quiet. I have taken my family on picnics there through the years and we have had a lot of fun. Once in awhile, I just go by myself and just sit by that lake on a nice day. Many good memories and feelings come back to me when I am there. I mentioned that I have taken my family on picnics there. When my kids got older, they would make one request of me when we visited that park: “Dad, you can tell us any story, but not the story of the Class Walk again.” Why would they say that?
What do you guys remember of our Class Walks??
Bill, No 294
(From the Bill Wall Archives, September 16, 2002)