Capital Region Scrapbook: Coming together … again (with photo gallery)

The Class of '61 at St. Columba's-St. Joseph's was the first to graduate after the merger of two Sch

The numbers at St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s High School were in Paul Swere’s favor.

“We had 60 seniors in our class,” said Swere, who graduated in the Class of 1961. “We had 28 boys. All the rest were girls. It wasn’t too hard to get a date. . . . That’s why we had so many dances.”

Swere is keeping a date with his classmates from the Schenectady school on Saturday, Oct. 22. A fall homecoming will be held at Mohawk Country Club on Union Street, and stories from 50 years ago will be on the menu. Swere, Eleanor-Ann Loughney Olbrich and Mary Kelly Connelly will be serving them. They’ll begin their reunion weekend on Friday, Oct. 21, with an informal get-together at Petta’s restaurant.

Glenville resident Swere said St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s was formed after St. Joseph’s Academy on Lafayette Street closed in 1960. For the 1960-61 school year, senior boys and girls from St. Joseph’s — and junior girls from St. Joseph’s — transferred to St. Columba’s on Craig Street.

Moving around

Junior boys from St. Joseph’s were sent to Bishop Gibbons High School. Girls who would have been freshmen and sophomores at Academy during the autumn of 1960 instead began studies at Notre Dame High School; freshman and sophomore boys from Academy enrolled at Gibbons.

St. Columba’s colors were maroon and gold. “When the new people came — they were green and white — we changed it to maroon and white,” Swere said.

The nickname changed, too. St. Columba’s kids were always Crusaders. St. Joseph’s students were Hornets. Swere said Col-Joes became the new, unique way to describe teams at the new school.

Olbrich, who lives in Rotterdam, remembers special seating charts. “The staff tried hard to make sure, when seated, it was St. Columba’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Columba’s, St. Joseph’s,” she said.

Uniforms didn’t change. Girls from St. Columba’s continued to wear their green wool jumpers with tan blouses. Their new pals from St. Joseph’s wore black jumpers with white blouses. The uniforms carried circular emblem patches with either “SCS” for Columba or “SJA” for Academy.

New friends

Connelly of Scotia said the merger helped introduce new friends and new places. St. Columba’s students had always considered the Sugar Bowl on Albany Street one of their prime hangouts. There were always a few students from St. Joseph’s at Allen’s, another Albany Street gathering spot. “Now we had two places,” she said. “There was downtown Schenectady, which was hopping. Everyone was shopping. The cars went up and down the street. There was Barney’s and Carl’s and Grant’s, all the great shops to go to.”

Olbrich remembers cheerleading, basketball games and dances. St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s didn’t have football, so kids went to the annual Mont Pleasant-Linton football game. “Most of us were from Mont Pleasant, so we knew all the Mont Pleasant kids,” Olbrich said.

Like her fellow cheerleader Connelly, Olbrich remembers a vibrant downtown scene.

“At Carl’s they had the most fabulous displays in their windows,” she said. “Especially at Christmas. They were automated.”

Olbrich also remembers the American Theater on Albany Street, near Hulett. So does Swere. “It was a quarter,” he said. “You got to see a movie, a cartoon and the news.”

Holiday shows

Drama fans from St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s put in time on the stage. Teacher Virginia Murphy put on a show for every holiday.

St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s closed as a school in 1969.

“I loved every minute of it,” Connelly said of her high school days. “I met my husband, Dan, there, we were in the same class.”

The reunion will be followed by a Sunday morning service at St. Joseph’s Church. Members of the class who would like to attend are asked to contact Swere at 399-5730.

Categories: Life and Arts

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