In the spring of 1976 an Impala convertible driven by Tom Groth ’77 cruised smoothly down West 30th Street between Carroll and Lorain Avenues. Riding shotgun were Dan McGraw ’77 and Rich Tischler ’77. Sitting atop the back seats were Fritz Fisher ’77, Jim Slaby ’77, Tom Litzler ’77, and me.
We were the Student Council slate of FHSL and we were one of three cars in the parade – the others being CJGB (Jim Connors ‘77-Jim Jensen ‘77-Mike Gavin ‘77-Dan Bader ‘77) and BOMB (John Brady ‘77-Brendan O’Leary ‘77-Pat Meehan ‘77-Bob Brink ‘77). CJGB won the election. BOMB had the best slogan: Vote For BOMB Or Else. And we, well, we were a respectable runner-up.
That parade was part of a tradition reaching back into the 1960s where the three slates (president-vice president-secretary-treasurer) that survived the primary election would ride along West 30th Street, make a left onto Lorain, make another left into the back parking lot behind the main building, drive through the lot onto Carroll Avenue and then start the process over again. Three laps of shenanigans: wearing straw boaters, throwing candy, smoking cigars. Our own version of panem et circenses. It was about as good as high school could get.
I couldn’t help having that event play in my head as I stood at the corner of West 30th and Lorain on Sunday afternoon waiting for a different sort of parade, but one that marked for our seniors a moment that was about as good as high school could get – under the circumstances.
Seniors sat on car roofs, reclined in the backs of pick-up trucks, dangled legs out the backs of SUVs, and stood on back seats with heads and torsos rising through sunroofs. It was a time for us to honor our graduating seniors on what would have been “their day.” The calendar said: Graduation, 1 p.m., Cleveland Auditorium. But that was not to be, and so we, in the great tradition of Wildcat sports teams, called an audible – and thus the parade of graduates was born.
The awkwardness of standing on the street hidden behind a mask was soon replaced by a sense of being swept into the moment as the first cars began to roll by with young men, students whom I had not seen in person for over two months passing before me. To my right, the sound and sight of our President Fr. Raymond Guiao, S.J. ’82 ringing an old school bell over and over again for about an hour added to the surreal nature of the event. One could not blame people for yelling out, every time Father took a brief break to change arms, “More cow bell!” It seemed like a Fellini film. But in a good way.
As the last car approached I immediately noticed that its inhabitants were great friends of mine – the family of Mike Malloy ’20. Mike’s dad Tim and I went to college together, and so he was also a member of the Class of 1977, just not at St. Ignatius. This was Tim and Caroline’s last son, and therefore their last son to attend our famed Alma Mater. It made me, to say the least, wistful, and reminded me that time does not fly, it – as the Latin phrase tempus fugit really means – runs away.
So as I watched the Malloy-mobile drive slowly past and into the chapel parking lot I turned to Fr. Guiao and said something like, “That was great.” He agreed, and noted that maybe this should become a tradition. That would be fine by me – I really like parades that go by that particular street corner. Plus, according to how we do things at West 30th and Lorain, it already is a tradition.