SECRETS OF THE CENTAUR (part 3): Bricks and a Birthday

Posted on Oct 22, 2012

This was intentional, wasn’t it?

If you stand in the middle of the DeSales University campus in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, and take a 360-degree look around, you’ll notice that four of the buildings are of a darker brick than the rest. To me, this contrast is everything, every time I’m in the valley, as I was this weekend past. These four buildings – two dorms, main, and priests’ residence – constitute all there was of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales back during the years of these Centaur Seasons.

On purpose or not, this difference of brick certainly makes it easy when showing off the school to a newcomer. Everything else – library, student union, theater, science center, etc., etc. – wasn’t here.

Twice on Saturday, back on campus ahead of a 60th birthday party in New Jersey for the class of 1974, I gave this tour to friends, regaling them with the creation story. Nothing … just us … and cornfields.

One friend looked at me briefly askance and said, Well, so what did you guys (you know) DO? But even as she asked the question she divined the answer and so she said it for me: You made it up. You did it yourself. You found your fun. Even more, it was plainly evident she understood the lasting value that comes from do it yourself.

Twice before now in Centaur Seasons I have taken a stab at explaining the Secrets of the Centaur, what it was about the place back then that made it special, unique, different. Some of these secrets, maybe they hide in plain sight, maybe right there in the bricks.

To explain further I told them this story.

When we now-60-year-old seniors of the class of ’74 showed up as college seniors, we were primed to take our turn, to do all the stuff that was ours now to do. I organized a talent show. Two weeks later I bought the house to do a college-only night for the theater department’s “Little Mary Sunshine,” then sold 200-plus ticket at $2 apiece (we sold the place out). Some others hosted a very unauthorized “black-tie” cocktail party in the lounge of the new dorm. Others put together a spaghetti supper, with most of the food lifted from the seminary kitchen.

That kind of stuff. Because there was no one there to do it for us.

Somewhere in this frenzy the newly hired program director told us to cease and desist. The student union building wasn’t coming on line until the following school year, but she’d been hired this year to ramp it up. Suddenly, we had forms to file and a calendar to coordinate. It was, I told my tour-going friends, the first harbinger that whatever Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales had been in its first iteration, it was now on its way to being something else.

Though not for another year.

Interestingly, or perhaps inevitably, the 60th birthday party came together in the same manner as the stuff we did 40 years ago. Someone with an idea talked to someone else. Potential energy turned kinetic. The hall was gotten, the band, the food, the beer. Word spread, and maybe 50 people showed (this from a class with 89 senior pics in the yearbook).

If back then there had been program directors and activity committees and event organizers creating our college experience in lieu of DIY, would this 60th birthday party have even been conceived? We’ll never know, but …

I was supposed to go Niagara University, accepted and all. I ended up at Allentown College. I’m sure many 60th birthday revelers have similar stories. Was gonna go there, ended up here. Keep in mind, this was before choosing a college became a full-time exercise of top-pick/safety-pick insanity. When it came time to go to college, you kinda-sorta just … went. We went to Allentown College.

Some argue that is it was no accident that we — a specific we — went to Allentown. That this particular place in its particular moment exuded a particular vibe only a particular kid could hear. However, whatever, once there, we was all we had — and not too many at that — groping along and good luck to us as we put in a final few years of growing up, teaching each other, our lives out there waiting.  And while we were there, of course, whatever fun we were going to have we had to make ourselves.

That’s what we brought to the party. Because we had been together once, we wanted to be together again. If just for a bit. We could make our own fun. Again. Here it was forty years later and the life that once awaited us we have now largely lived.  Geez. Didn’t we meet just yesterday?

My preferred mode of writing is to talk a first draft into a tape recorder. Driving back to Troy, New York,  Sunday from New Jersey afforded me time to talk plenty.

All of the above, in fact, and this.

These people, however and why they got to Center Valley? They’re the bricks, the richer, darker-red bricks of the college. No, I was not good friends with all of them.  But yes, turns out they they were all a big, significant  chunk of my life.  At a place like Allentown — right there, right then — how could they not be? I clicked on the recorder and, without having to think much about it, said, “I was lucky to go to school with them.”

On October 22nd, 2012 at 10:26 am, Tim Kelley said:

Steve,

Everything you mentioned in your blog is so true. It was great being with our classmates one more time. I thought and mentioned it to a few people that night, if but once to have the opportunity to go back in time and relive any day at Allentown College would be amazing. Realizing that wasn’t going to happen I took solace in being able to reminisce those special times. It is always an “experience” being with the A. C. clan. Thanks to the organizer of the party, it was another memorable event.

Tim Kelley 1974


On October 22nd, 2012 at 1:03 pm, Zeke said:

Saturdays gathering in NJ was yet another testament to the notion that ” relationships matter “. The ability of this group to stay as close as it has over the last 40 years says tremendous amount about who you all are. I have never seen a more caring, enthusiastic and fun group to be with. I feel very fortunate to be part of this very special group of very unique people.

Lastly, I want to say a special thanks to Tommy, Eddie and Joe. Events like Saturday only happen when people like you step up to make thinks happen.


On October 22nd, 2012 at 4:59 pm, Maria Martinez said:

I am now back home in Florida thinking of Saturday night’s event. Thank you Tommy, Eddie and Joe for getting us together. It was wonderful seeing everyone that atttended. We spent 4 great years together and Steve is right when he says we found our fun, whether it was the carnival, the dating game, the non-theater student productions, etc. etc.we had great times.

Our 40th is coming up in 2 years and I am hoping to come and see you all again.


On October 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 pm, Joe Monte said:

I was overjoyed by the turnout. We as a group should continue to find any old excuse to see each other. So with that in mind Tommy and I have figured that it may take up to 20 meetings to organize the 40th. Of course these meetings will be held at the Copper Top bar in Center Valley on various Saturday afternoons.
Steve an interesting take. My head still hurts from Saturday, so I can’t go to deep. Thanks you guys are the best. Joe


On October 22nd, 2012 at 9:33 pm, Jim Greene said:

Steve, I couldn’t agree with you more. We were and are lucky to be part of Allentown College and the Class of ’74.

What we had, we had to make up … and it made the A.C. college experience that much better. I can’t imagine it would have been a richer experience if we went to a more mature and experienced college or university.

To have a milestone birthday celebration deep in the middle of the dark woods in ‘bucolic’ Hunterdon County, is so Heidelberg-esque and so ‘Class of ’74’. Thanks to Tommy, Eddie, and Joe for making it happen and to everyone who made this event and all the memories possible.

What a great group of people you all are and I feel privileged to be part of it.

Thanks again, Steve, for the memories and remembrances. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.


On October 23rd, 2012 at 2:55 am, Gail “Clyde” Mallett said:

Well said Steve! You totally nailed it in describing what and who we were/are and just how wonderfully we all come together. It is a tough phenomenon to try to explain, so I usually keep it it uncharacteristically short: it was a really small school, it was the richest four years of my life and the friends I made there are my friends for life. We are bound by the fabric that we wove as a group; because of who we were and what we shared, it is so elastic that it can stretch all over the world, yet so durable that nothing can sever it, not distance, death, nor time. Saying “I had a really great time” doesn’t even come close to what Saturday night meant to me. Lots of stories, plenty of laughs and the absolutely tremendous good fortune to experience so many of the people that are the stuff my dreams are made of in one room again, even for a few hours…thanks to the guys who put it together and to everyone who showed up and for including your buds from ’75. Another legendary AC event. Keep in touch everyone, love you lots.


On October 23rd, 2012 at 6:59 am, Walt Pfeil said:

Steve,
So glad you included Saturday night in your blog. I can reread it a few times and stretch out another great memory of Allentown College. I have been saying for years that I would give a month’s salary to go back to AC (as it existed in the early 70’s)for a weekend and Saturday night came close to that (and in true creative AC fashion it didn’t cost me a month’s salary). It was like being back at “Catty”, The Willows or Cin Kay ballroom only there was actually food being served. I guess we have matured with age.
Sue and I had a great time at the party and at brunch the next day. Thanks to Eddie, Tommy, Zeke, Joe, Coop and all the other organizers. And thanks to everyone at the party that took the time to say hello and relive some memory of AC.

Steve, relative to your comments about picking a college to attend. I remember my acceptance letter to AC. It said ” you have been accepted into the History Department of Allentown College. If you have not already done so please take the college boards”. You talk about a safe school. I immediately tore up my applications to Villanova, St Joe’s and LaSalle. Certainly one of the best decisions of my life.
Walt



 
     

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS.

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