Steel Shamrocks

October 17, 2019

The Steel Shamrocks: Class of 1969

The organizers of Sacred Heart High School’s 50th Class Reunion had cleverly provided, in place of name tags, yearbook photos. As one remarked, it was a 60s version of the aging app. I will not comment on the relative kindness of time delivered upon those yearbook faces I observed that night, but I will say with certainty that the promise, hope, determination and fortitude shown in those class photos had not been dimmed by time. At least not over the course of this evening.

We’re all in our places with sunshiny faces…

Sacred Heart primarily served the Irish community of Yonkers, which meant I’d be regaled this night by true storytellers. As I walked along on the tour of the 1923-founded school building and led by the head of the alumni association, the relentless difficulty she had in getting these former students to follow and keep up hinted that many of the stories I was to hear would involve some breach or defiance of authority. Surprisingly, even wholesome cheerleader Carol added her own tale of civil disobedience, recounting a senior dance decoration scavenger hunt that had her stealing a wooden street barricade complete with blinking yellow caution light that would add a “perfect strobe effect to the ambience of the dance.”

…Overall, though, the tour was a study in pushing string

My guess was that most grew up in circumstances similar to Carol’s – solid working class, but not much in the way of comfort or privilege. Her home at 54 Saratoga Ave. did not age well, yet there was still the pride of memory, as she pointed out where she’d play in the tiny side yard and where she’d store her bike. But whatever Carol may have lacked in socio-economic refinements, she more than made up for, evidently, with a budding love life.

It seemed wherever Carol took me in her tour of Yonkers, it involved some rendezvous, tryst or assignation with somebody named Joe or Joey. First, there was that corner where she experienced her first kiss (Joe). Then came the park bench where she accepted an ankle bracelet (Joey). After listening to several of these related accounts, I had surmised (wrongly, as it turned out) that there must have been a multitude of make-out spots scattered throughout South Yonkers. Instead, I learned there was only one (a dimly lit area down Valentine Lane) but that Carol had been escorted there by a magi or more of young Lotharios, all apparently named after the father of the Holy Family. (It’s also possible I’ve conflated the names of all Carol’s boyfriends into either “Joey” or “Joe” to make the sheer numbers seem less like the Obama Inauguration and more like Trump’s.)

Nobody knew who the guy in the middle was, but he liked to boogie!

When the formal party ended at eleven, Carol and I hung with a group of late-nighters as long as we could, but left the afterparty back at the hotel around one in the morning. A few had partied on until three, but all managed to stand their post for breakfast later that morning. It helped that the omelets, bagels and coffee weren’t scheduled until eleven.

Poets have used the shamrock as an Irish symbol of love and valor. My humble conclusion is that the men and women of Sacred Heart’s Class of 1969 are emblematic of both attributes. And they continue to endure with the toughness and resilience of steel.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Catholic event without a collection. The 50/50 tickets sold out. The money raised was put toward the purchase of Chromebooks for the current students. The winner put his share back into the pot.

As I said, shamrocks. Steel shamrocks.

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