“Now it takes a good son to be a good priest, as Jesus was. You are longing to be one day “another Christ,” to be to those around you, as a priest, what Jesus was to those who followed Him. But Jesus spent thirty long years in just being a good son to Mary and Joseph at Nazareth. You want to be like Jesus; begin now in your home. Ask yourself ‘How much like the Boy Christ am I right now?”from “The “Young Seminarian”
Each day at St. John’s, we had some memorable meals, including breakfast scrambled eggs having a light green color around the edges, which we thought was due to the aluminum cooking and serving pans. There were sausage patties to go with the eggs, although we never got bacon, which was reserved for the head table, where the priests/faculty were served. Saturdays were special, as Krispy Kreme doughnuts were delivered for breakfast. Food was important! In between meals, we relied on our “care packages” from home for snacks to feed our seemingly insatiable hunger. Favorites included “Chicken in a Biskit”, “Cheese Wiz”, and small cans of pork and beans. In my letters to home, I’d reminded my parents to send more food.
We needed this nourishment to assist on one of our assigned after-school work crews, like taking trash to the fire pit on the other side of our athletic field, using a big barrel with wheels, called “Chunky 1” to haul the trash, or helping one of the priests, Fr. Werner, to haul florescent lights and larger objects not suitable for the fire pit. Father was our math teacher and drove the seminary’s early 1950’s Chevy junky utility pickup to haul stuff to the banks of the nearby river which fed into the intracoastal waterway. We threw the objects from the bed of the truck down the banks of the waterway and slung the big bulbs into the water, so we could attempt to smash the long tubes with rocks we found along the banks. I recall one time the old truck almost rolled back into the water. So much for environmental awareness in the mid to late 1960’s. By the way, someone accidentally or maybe intentionally rolled Chunky 1 into the fire pit inferno, so we got another rolling barrel, called “Chunky 2”.
Most of my freshman class had watched The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and were taken, even mesmerized with the groups forming the British invasion of rock and roll. With this influence, it was no surprise that a bunch of my classmates brought electric guitars and drums from home. Fortunately, this was acceptable to the rector, as there was a separate building outside the main seminary building, which we could use to gather and play our songs. For me, this meant bringing the set of Pearl drums my dad had bought me for Christmas in 1965. I couldn’t wait to begin jamming with my classmates. Garage type bands were formed, including “The Agents”, and later “The Common Cold”. We played for the altar boy awards attendees in the Camp Villa Marie auditorium, and later at a special assembly with the bishop in attendance, where I sang the Beatles song (“Boys”) while playing the drums, which began with “I’ve been told when a boy meets girl, take a trip around the world, hey-hey!” No one was really paying attention, I guess.
They found an outlet for our budding teenage energy and “talent” by scheduling us to tour the local nursing homes where we entertained the residents. “The Common Cold” band toured the nursing home circuit, becoming a minor sensation on the Savannah scene, at least in our minds. To reinforce my passion for music, dad, as a former musician in the US Army Band, bought me a Sharp Radio-Record player, with a back lid which opened, revealing a small turntable, so I could play my Beatles and Rolling Stones records at the “sem”.
By my Junior year at St. John’s, I was having so much fun that I couldn’t imagine having to go back home in Augusta to stay with my parents. More about that later.
Back to my freshman year at St. John’s, the day was filled with activity and a structure that insured time for prayer, time for classes with study hall in the evening. There was also time for doing routine building maintenance, such as changing fluorescent light bulbs and rolling the aforementioned trash barrel out to dump in the fire pit on the grounds, which I loved to do. There was time for recreation, including what was called intramural sports. Everyday included morning devotions, the Holy Mass, the Angelus, and Benediction in the chapel, which was down the hall from our dormitory. We were tired out when it was time for “lights out” at 9:00 PM, although we would plug in our earphones to our transistor radios, and listen a few minutes to the local rock station, Savannah’s WSGA AM (only) radio. During quiet time in the chapel, the music was playing in my head, and that never did stop completely through the years.
Next time, excerpts from letters from Mom and Dad in my seminary years.