My oldest brother, John, had started his freshman year there in the fall of 1961, and already I had heard stories of this mythical male world, where priests in long black robes taught their students exotic lessons about diverse subjects – the thinking of men named Shakespeare, Ceasar and Pythagoras, the rules of speaking a dead language called Latin, and understanding the very literal substance of the universe. And where legendary young men with names like Sardisco, Restovich and Cordaro performed wondrous feats of athleticism on the playing fields and courts of the school. (See Jack Marshall's photo below of Coach Frank Cicero and pitcher George Restovich, during Jesuit's 1964 state championship baseball season.)
And where, if you misbehaved even for one second, you were sent to a place called “Penance Hall,” inside of which lurked such terrors that no one dared speak aloud of them.
All of which meant, I could not wait to experience it for myself.
One evening during the fall of John’s first Jesuit year, Jack Marshall took me to a basketball game there, and from the moment we walked into the gymnasium I was in awe. The players' sweatshirts said “Jesuit” on the front, with a big, royal blue block letter “J.” People cheered as they took the court. The building smelled of sweat and liniment and teenaged boys. Up until that time I had no idea that such a place existed, but from that moment on, I counted the days until it was my turn to enter that world.
So finally, in the fall of 1967, I took my place in the one of the periodic classes of “pre-freshmen” who were allowed to enter Jesuit High School starting in their 8th grade year. Which meant I was looking forward to not 4 but 5 glorious years enjoying life in my promised land of academic and athletic excellence.
I was not to be disappointed on either score.
During my brothers’ years at Jesuit (brother Dave had followed John there one year later), and continuing throughout my high school career, Jack Marshall and his camera were ever-present fixtures at school events. Dad photographed sporting events, school plays, fund raisers, dances (Chris Parsons JHS '64 and Carmen Russo SVA '65 are pictured at the end of this post at 1963's homecoming event), special Masses, academic and religious clubs, honor societies, faculty members and graduation ceremonies. He took pictures for the school newspaper and yearbook, and helped students learn to do the same.
Dating from the early 1960s until his death in 1976, the negative files I discovered in Jack Marshall’s darkroom clearly displayed his love of Jesuit and its sister school, St. Vincent’s Academy (the two schools are now combined in a co-ed school referred to as Loyola College Prep). For in those files I found no category of photographs with more entries than Dad’s pictures of the many days and events in the annual, rhythmic life cycles of the beloved schools of his children and their friends.
During my pre-freshman year, the football team, under coach C.O. Brocato, won every game, many by lopsided scores (one game ended 74-0). The season culminated in a thrilling 34-33 victory over Lake Charles in the 1967 state championship game that some say still ranks as one of the greatest high school football games ever played in Shreveport. Jack Marshall’s photograph of Brocato (above) in action during that season shows the intensity of high school football at Jesuit 40-plus years ago.
In my Jesuit years, I was taught by many teachers who would not even consider the possibility that one of their students could fail. (Gerald Johnson, top left, taught us the mysteries of calculus, and Rev. John Welsh, S.J., right, taught us Latin and religion). There was no place to hide in a Jesuit High School classroom. You were engaged whether you wanted to be or not. You did your homework whether you wanted to or not. You answered questions in class – especially if you didn't want to!
Later, while studying at Centenary College and then the University of Missouri School of Journalism, I kept waiting for the "hard" teachers and the "difficult" courses. Certainly college had to be more challenging than high school, I thought. But truthfully, after Jesuit, I never again took a course that challenged me as much as the priests and professional teachers did every day in high school.
Now, more years than I care to admit have passed since the days my brothers and I roamed the halls of Jesuit. My sister Mary's first three children each have walked the very same halls during their years at Loyola College Prep. The school is almost 110 years old. So Jack Marshall's photographs, during the 13 years from the time John started high school until Mary finished, represent only a small slice of the life of this wonderful place of learning and growth.
Even when I was a student there, I realized my Jesuit years were a special time. It is one of the rare experiences of my life that seemed as good when it was happening as it does in remembering. Since those years, a few of my classmates have died. Others have lost touch. But of the rest, even though we are scattered across the country and around the world, many are still my friends today, with the bonds forged at Jesuit alive and strong.
I look at Jack Marshall's photos of that one generation of boys, and I see myself and my friends again, teenagers all, with our lives stretching out endlessly in front of us. Our hopes and dreams were lofty, and even though not all of them have come true, it is easy in the perfect eye of my mind and of Jack Marshall's lens to remember the important lessons learned at Jesuit High School, and to hope and dream of life's wonders yet to come.