Alumnus Recalls WWII While Attending St. Rita

Every month Alumni from the classes of 1974 and earlier return to campus for Ritamen gatherings. Every December, Ritamen are invited to return for an All-School Mass and a Christmas brunch.

Dr. Joe Gowgiel ’44 and John O’Neill ’79, Director of Institutional Advancement

On Monday, December 8, 2014 St. Rita High School was pleased to welcome dozens of Ritamen on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

This day was the day after the Commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day. Naturally, as it often does at Ritamen gatherings, conversation turned to current events and Ritamen’s recollections of their time spent as high school students.

Dr. Joe Gowgiel ’44, was a sophomore when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He remembers taking the streetcar to his home in Summit, and remembers the silence on the streetcar as everyone read the Pearl Harbor news in the paper.

Dr. Gowgiel also remembered the United States responding right away. He recalled every citizen being involved in someway–and the St. Rita Family set the example.

St. Rita High School helped students work to graduate early–if they were turning 18 years old–so they would have a high school diploma when they got drafted.

St. Rita teachers, according to Dr. Gowgiel, also helped students prepare to take a test so they could possibly qualify for Officer Candidate School (OCS).

One of the most interesting facts about WWII-era St. Rita High School that was relayed in the conversation was the fact that St. Rita developed an exclusive aviation program, so that students could elect to learn how to manufacture and repair aircraft, so they could be more ready to help the war effort, when they joined or were drafted into the military.

Also, something that Dr. Gowgiel stressed was that he remembers  it seemed like all young men joined the war effort. He said “There were no young men left at home. They were all fighting.” We learned that military police officers even patrolled the streets stateside, ensuring that young men registered for the draft in a timely fashion.

We always look to the future at St. Rita High School; but we never forget our legacy and the 24,000+ Ritamen who have paved the way for our current students.

Our next Ritamen lunch is January 14, 2014.  Alumni from the classes of 1974 and earlier are invited.  Call the Institutional Advancement Office at (773) 925-5029 to R.S.V.P.

St. Rita of Cascia, pray for us!