Celebrating 75 years of Secondary Education
The way we were:
The Class of 1946
Seventy years ago, on June 6, 1946, a class of 21 seniors graduated from Shrine High School for boys. Three of us, members of that class, thought we could walk back in time and remember the way we were. To do so, it seemed appropriate to remember some of the events, personal, national, and international of that era which occurred up to that graduation date and thereafter.
We selected some categories to focus on these various events such as education at the Shrine; starting school traditions; and, the effect of World War II on the members of the Class of 1946.
The Shrine and its Schools
The Shrine of the Little Flower was established by the Archdiocese as a parish, Rev. Chas. E. Coughlin, Pastor, on or about May 3, 1925. In 1926 land was acquired and construction started on the wooden church dedicated to St. Theresa of Lisieux (The Little Flower). On March 17, 1936 that Church was destroyed by fire. In 1933 construction of the present Church began.
The First Grade School. (Scotia Rd.)
In 1934 the parish leased the Marion-Barton public school located on Scotia Rd. in present day Huntington Woods. The school was often referred to as The Scotia Road School. It opened its doors on September 17, 1934 to 230 students in grades 1-8. Students who lived proximate to the Shrine were picked up and transported with the Four Nuns of the Sisters of Charity who also rode the bus to school. Scotia Road, at that time, was a two track with open ditches and on one or more occasions the bus or buses, slid into a ditch and into snow and ice, and we walked into school.
The New Grade School (12 Mile Rd.)
In 1938, the parish commenced construction of the elementary school on Linwood south of 12 Mile Road. August of 1938, ground was broken for the foundation of the new Shrine Grade School, grades 1-8. The Jerome A. Utley Corporation was the General Contractor and Mr. Clair Ditchy, the Architect for the ten-room grade school. The 12 Mile Road Grade School initiated enrollment on January 4 with 365 students.
On January 4, 1939 the present elementary school opened its doors and everyone at the Scotia Road School were accepted to the now Shrine Grade School.
The Little Flower High School. (Girls)
The Girls’ Academy located on Thirteen Mile Road and Woodward opened its doors on September 15, 1941, and was dedicated on October 3. Thirteen seniors graduated in the spring of 1942.
The Shrine High School.(Boys)
The events of 1941, and thereafter, precluded the acquisition of real estate and materials to erect a boys’ high school. Our classrooms were scattered and included the Choir Room in the Church, the former souvenir shop, and classrooms on the first and second floor of the new Elementary school. The first graduation class in 1945 consisted of seven boys; two of whom had a younger sibling in the Class of 1946 (boys).
The curriculum for seniors, Class of 1946, included chemistry. The facilities were not available in the grade school. The girls’ high school included an up-to-date chemistry lab. We had to use various means of transportation, including the parish truck, to use the chemistry lab at the girls’ high school.
In 1948 the high schools merged into a co-educational program and the boys’ high school moved to the 13 Mile Campus.
Events at home or abroad:
The 1930’s saw a continuation of financial crash of 1929, and its aftermath of unemployment which impacted many families in various ways and different degrees.
Sometimes classmates, families moved to different locales to find work. The outbreak of World War II in September of 1939 had little immediate effect on the United States. Allegedly, the country was “neutral”, but soon it became evident that the U.S. was becoming more and more involved, notwithstanding the official position of the federal government was that the U.S. would not become involved in the War in Europe. The dramatic collapse of France in May of 1940, and the withdrawal of Britain at Dunkirk did not bode well for Britain, it stood alone against Hitler’s Germany until he followed in the footsteps of Napoleon and invaded Russia in June 1941.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sunday, December 7, 1941, “a day which will live in infamy” as President Roosevelt stated, changed everything. Thousands volunteered, automotive companies soon stopped building autos and built tanks, 6×6 military trucks, B-24 bombers, etc. Although these events did not immediately affect the Class of 1946, we followed events on radio and newsreels in theaters. It did play an important role, and to some degree, dictated and impacted decisions regarding employment, college, professional careers, and, of course, the draft. Colleges and universities had specialized programs to train officers, technicians, including V-6, V-8 programs.
- Germany attacked Poland September 1940. Britain and France declared war on Germany.
- The Bataan Death March – January 1942.
- D-Day –June 6, 1944 – Normandy, France.
- President Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented 3rd term – 1944.
- The Battle of the Bulge – December 1944.
- President Roosevelt dies – April 1945.
- April 1945 Harry Truman becomes the 33rd President of the U.S. He approves the attacks and use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
- Germany Surrenders – May 1945.
- August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered; in September the Japanese signed the documents which ended World War II as did General Douglas MacArthur for the United States and United Nations.
- The Korean War – June 1950.
The Class of ’46 had a rather unique position in 1943-46. This first graduation class of the boys’ high school in 1945 had seven graduates, but none of whom had started in the 1st grade at Scotia School. The Class of ’46 was the first class with students who attended grades 1-12 at Shrine and had 21 students, and early on we had the opportunity to:
- Adopt the school fight song – music by Ron Nancarow’s mother; words by classmates of the Class of ’46. Not many high schools had their own original fight song.
- School colors: blue and gold; because it rhymed with warrior “courageous and bold.”
- Knights: It just seemed to fit.
- First school play: “You’re the Doctor.” (All males cast!) Directors and casting Sister Catherine Therese and Sister Mary Conrad, a Sister of Charity.
- First winter dance (1943?) – with The Jimmy Straus Orchestra, an English Christmas Village created out of cardboard, painted with windows, etc. Tickets $5.00 per couple. Complete with reflective ball, crepe paper, streamers, etc. Somehow we found the money to pay the bill for the orchestra.
- Football: 10 or more the seniors participated in the upset and defeat of Royal Oak St. Mary’s 19 to 7 in late November of 1945. Unfortunately, the team lost the championship game the next Sunday.
The records at Shrine High School apparently do not identify any students or past students who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II, or thereafter in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. The Class of 1946 did have one classmate who enlisted in 1944 or 1945, and was not in our graduating class. At least 9 of our classmates served in the Navy including (Seabees), U.S. Air Force, Army or Marines including one who served in Korea during the hostilities. He returned from Korea, succeeded as a sales representative and subsequently, passed away.
The way we are now: 70 years later.
Currently, at this writing, 10 of our classmates have survived, and 11 are deceased. The survivors live in the area, Southeast Michigan, Oakland or Macomb County, one in Florida, one in California, and one in Minnesota. We have not seen at least one or two classmates since the night of our graduation when we all gathered in our classroom and said goodbye to Sister Catherine Therese; a great teacher, who would smile while she scolded you for a mistake in Math. We also were fortunate to have Sister Mary Conrad for Spanish and Typing Class; Sister Helen Marie, English and Latin language, and Sister Marie Mateo, Math and other subjects. She was very knowledgeable, demanding and insistent that her students can, and must succeed, and many did.
Respectfully submitted – any errors in names, dates or otherwise are of the mind and heart, and for which we apologize.
Thank you and best wishes to all and “never forget your goal.” Many thanks to Dick Christie, Charles Kleinsmith (for assistance and encouragement) and to Marty Alves for his patience.
John (Jack) F. Shantz