St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
It was Wednesday, September 5th, 1963, and Jim saw the light at the end of the
tunnel. This was it, his senior year. Augie and he were in the courtyard sitting on the
same bench they had sat on for the past two years reviewing the freshman plebes and
swapping stories about their summer adventures.
"Hey, Augie. How’s it going'" asked Jim.
"Great, how about you, Jim?"
"Swell. How was your summer?"
"Far out, man. I went to a logging camp in Northern California to earn money for
college." Augie pulled up his right pants leg and showed Jim a scar on his right calf he got
from falling off a tree when he was topping it.
"That's nasty, man. How did it happen?" asked Jim
"The tree split in half while I was cutting the top off. The force from the rupture
knocked me off the tree. I lost my balance and swung the chain saw cutting my safety
rope and my right calf muscle. I fell about thirty feet, landing on limbs and branches on the
way down braking my fall. When I hit the ground, I bounced and landed on my side. It
took thirty-five stitches to close the cut."
"Holy shit, Augie. That was one mean fall."
"Right on,” and he pointed at a scar below his left eye, and a long scar
on his left arm. Jim told Augie about his polar bear tattoo.
"That's cool, man. When can I see it?"
"When we hit the showers, Augie."
Restoni joined them and said, "Mr. Mazetti died August 8th of cancer. He was
thirty-seven, and was survived by his wife and a seven-year-old daughter."
Mr. Mazetti was a husky man: two hundred and ten pounds, about six feet tall.
Since May the students had noticed that he was losing weight and when school ended in
June his jackets hung on his shoulders. The husky stud was becoming a hollow man.
"That's too bad. He was a good man," said Augie.
Lay teachers at St. Nick’s were paid $4,800 a year. The Christian Brothers
offered to pay the funeral expense, and the Alumni Association pledged to help Mrs.
Mazetti with her daughter’s education. The seniors took a collection, and had two car
washes to raise money for Mrs. Mazetti. St. Nick's took care of their own.
Brother Michael was the homeroom brother in Room 403 and he was also their
Religion teacher. He was a good man and had taught Latin in lower division. Brother
Robert taught Trigonometry in the fall and Calculus in the spring. Brother Daniel taught
Physics. It was another year with Brother Crater, so Jim and Augie sat along side of
Azzoni in Physics lab. Then it was lunchtime. In the afternoon Literature and Speech with
Brother Harold, then English with Mr. Nelson, who had replaced Mr. McTee the year
before, and “The Mole,” Brother Clovis. He taught Civics in the fall and U.S. History from
the end of World War II to the present in the spring.
The Outlaws were members of the freshman football team with the exception of
Duke and Rensom. Last year most of the Outlaws had played varsity football. A few like
Jim had played junior varsity football. Now all of the outlaws were reunited on the varsity
football team. It was like the good old days when Jim played soph/frosh football with
Rensom, Bautista, Augie, Jensen, Teague, and Garcia. Last year St. Nick’s had lost to
Saint Ignatius in the city championship football game. Augie talked about the possibility of
a sweep, beating S.I. in football, basketball, and baseball in their senior year. The last
time St. Nick’s had swept S.I. was nine years ago.
Friday after Civics class the lads went to the gym for physicals, to fill out
insurance forms, get their uniforms, and a copy of the playbook. When Coach Kepen was
their soph/frosh coach he had called them outcasts. Coach Kepen didn’t know at the time
that he had touched a sensitive nerve among his players. Augie never accepted being an
outcast and had modified it to outlaws. His interpreted of an outlaw was someone who did
whatever was necessary to win on the field, in class, and to succeed in life.
The Christian Brothers in their infinite ability to save a dime had hired a nurse to
attend to basic first aid to satisfy the state requirements for medical personnel.
Nurse Cooper was an alcoholic and retired last year. Her replacement was Nurse Kindell,
who was thirty-four, single, a bleached blonde about five foot six, and one hundred five
pounds of lesbian love. The lads called her the Assburn Queen because all maladies
known to mankind were cured with a single Bayer aspirin.
Every athlete had to have a physical at the beginning of each season. The lads
stripped to their shorts, Nurse Kindell lined up the players, and one by one grab each lad’s
gems as he turned his faces, and coughed. She had a rhythm to the exam. It was one,
two, three, cough, like dancing to a waltz. Any gent who became erect got thumped with
her reflex hammer held in the other hand, like getting hit with a small rubber tomahawk. It
was the lads last year, so what the hell. All of the players dropped their shorts, saluted
nurse Kindell, hoisted the rifle, and displayed their manhood, assuming that she might be
curious She did an about face and walked to her desk, opened the drawer and displayed a
large black rubber mallet. Instantly the lads shouldered their weapon and pulled their
shorts up. She proceeded with a cold stare of authority and grab their gems , and said,
“Cough!” Augie, Garcia, and Jansen saw Jim's tattoo for the first time, and said, "Far out."
When she approached Jim, she lowered his shorts and saw the polar bear. She smiled
and said, “Cute.” She grabbed his gems and he coughed. Then she proceeded waltz
down the row of gents, one two, three, cough.
Garcia had been injured last year when St. Nick’s played Saint Ignatius in the
championship game. He had rehabilitated from knee surgery and hadn’t lost much speed
or strength He was ready for the opening game against Lowell. The first week the team
did stretching exercises and ran to get into playing shape. The second week the team
started hitting with full pads. Jim had improved in speed and strength, and gave Garcia a
challenge for the starting job at fullback. The starting halfback was Chris Rensom. He and
Garcia had played for two years and knew each other’s moves. Last year Garcia was all-
city and Rensom should have been. He was second team behind a sophomore track man
from Galileo High School named Simpson, who had good speed running from side to side,
but had no ability running up the middle. St. Nick's second game of the season was
against Galileo. Rensom and Garcia would get another look at Simpson. Rensom was
looking forward to showing the guy from Potrero Hill his abilities.
Lunchtime in the cafeteria wasn’t the same. Senior’s rule was abolished,
Marcus and Braxton had graduated leaving the piano silent in the corner. Brother Justin
played classical music over the public address system during lunch. On rainy days the
guys would read Time or Newsweek in the cafeteria. Before, when it rained they went
home a half-hour earlier, because they couldn’t go out for recreation. Brother Malkey was
told to behave more responsibly, so Moonface didn’t sing at any of the rallies. The
students began an underground movement to fight back. Each time Brother Justin took
something from the students, they took something from Brother Justin. Brother Justin had
an autographed picture of Pope Pius XII hanging in his office. The lads replaced. The
next morning when Brother Justin arrived at his office and saw a smiling Ed Sullivan
instead of the Pope, he exploded. The inter com beeped signaling a forth coming
message from Brother Chicken Shit.
"This is Brother Justin. Someone has broken into my office and stolen my
autographed picture of Pope Pious the Twelfth. I will not tolerate thieves at St. Nick's.
Lunch recreation is suspended until this matter is resolved."
There was a long pause, then, " I have been advised that I can not punish the
entire school because of one persons act of larceny. The senior budget will reimburse
the cost of my portrait. That is all." There was silence for a moment then Brother Michael
continued. He began to smile while reading the announcements, then he began to laugh,
“Ed Sullivan instead of the Pope.” The students sat silently using discretion.
Actually, several of the guys were involved. It took a bottle of Johnny Walker
Black label that Ciaffi bought from the Turk to relieve Casmir of the key to Brother Justin’s
office for an hour. The Brothers had Morning Prayer from 6:30 to 7:00 AM each day. At
6:35 the morning of the dawn raid Bautista was the look out. Augie entered Brother
Justin’s office and cut the portrait of the Pope from the frame. Augie and Jensen tapped
the picture of Ed Sullivan to the back of the frame. Augie handed the picture of the Pope
to Teague, who walked by on time. Teague had a long body, and wrapped the painting
around himself, then pulled his sweater down covering the painting, and casually walked
down the stairs. Teague passed the clerical help, the nurse, and gave the key back to
Casmir when they passed the administration office. Teague folded the picture into a
brown paper bag , and hid it in his locker.
After school the guys gathered at the park and watched Augie ignite the picture.
They cheered while watching it burn in a trash can. The next day the student presidents of
the four grades and the school student body president met with the faculty, and after an
hour meeting the faculty reinstated senior’s rule. It was agreed that a senior should have
some privilege. Brother Justin had cherished the portrait of Pious the twelfth, and wanted
someone’s head. He was determined to remove all tradition, and impose his will.. Brother
Raymond reminded Brother Justin that when they attended Mount La Sale as seniors they
had some privileges, and backed the seniors to further distance himself from Brother
Chicken Shit. Brother Raymond supported the seniors every chance he had because he
despised Brother Justin being a politician instead of an educator.
The Alumni association donated Sports Illustrated instead of Time for the guys to
read on rainy days. Occasionally pictures of Playboy centerfolds were pinned on the
cafeteria bulletin board. Once someone called Chicken Delight and fifty boxes of
chicken dinners for Brother Justin’s birthday party were delivered. The Mexican cook and
his helpers spoke little English, and had signed for the delivery. The receipt said happy
birthday Brother Justin. When Brother Justin walked into the kitchen, the helpers sang
happy birthday in Spanish. It was the day after his birthday. The Brothers ate Chicken
Delight for dinner that night.
The following day Brother Justin declared war, and spoke at lunchtime to the
upper division, then to the lower division. Those who were responsible for the Chicken
Delight fiasco, his missing picture of Pope Pious XII, the mysterious centerfolds on the
cafeteria bulletin board, and the Playboy magazines in the faculty bathrooms had two
days to come forth, or the student body would suffer. Two days passed and, no one
stepped forward. There were a few like Azzoni who thought about squealing until they
were persuaded to reconsider. Standing naked in the weight lifting room with the varsity
football team can be very persuasive. The student council met with Brother Justin and
they agreed that the lower division plebes shouldn’t be punished for what seemed to be
upper division pranks. Therefore, Brother Justin couldn’t cancel pep rallies or dances.
Members of the Alumni Association and the Father’s Club no longer had time to volunteer
their services for charity. They reminded Brother Justin that he was putting himself in a
precarious position. Brother Justin called it mutiny. Most of the brothers and lay
teachers agreed with Brother Raymond’s proposal to have an open discussion between
Brother Justin and the faculty regarding the budget cuts and school morale. The faculty
had challenged Brother Justin’s absolute authority, and he had to show cause for his
actions. He refused to attend such a heresy of disobedience by the faculty. Brother
Raymond received a letter from Brother Paul informing him that Brother Justin’s loss of
control at St. Nick’s was being observed by the Regents. Brother Justin was sinking
Jim got a job at Kezar Stadium through Foxie Gannon selling programs at Forty-
Niners football games. He made a few bucks, and saw the game for free. A couple of
times he was able to sneak Lupe in to see the two expansion teams, the Vikings and the
Falcons. Jim spent less time with her because of school, football, and selling programs on
Sundays. Lupe began working part time at the National Dollar store on 20th and Mission.
They agreed to concentrate on school, and they needed spending money. Monday’s were
a time to mend. After practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays Jim met Lupe
at work. They walked home together, and she told him all of the gossip at school.
Saturdays and Sundays were spent going grocery shopping, going to Church, going to
Mission Dolores Park, or watching a movie the El Capitan Theater and getting more free
Fridays were game days when warriors dressed for battle and were blessed prior to
engaging the enemy. Mr. Kepen used the symbolism of the Crusades. It was a holy war.
When the team broke their sidelines huddle he would yell, ”No prisoners. No one
surrenders. This is war!” The team became holy assassins and ran onto the field. The
insanity ended when the game finished. Lupe was always there, and reality re-entered
The following Friday, September 21st St. Nick’s had a pep rally for the beginning
of the varsity football season. Brother Justin gave a brief speech about teamwork. "If
we were going to reach our destination, all of us have to row together in the same
direction," he said. The students took that as a small victory, and disbanded the
underground. Brother Justin was a savvy politician, and saw his shining star diminishing.
The pep rally was mild compared to years past. Ace and Deuce O’Connor had graduated.
Dancell was a junior and the new cheer-leader. Augie thought that as seniors they didn’t
show much spirit by abdicating to a junior as cheerleader. Last year the varsity football
team had lost two games to Saint Ignatius. One during the regular season and the other
was the championship game. In two hours their quest would begin with the goal to play in
the championship football game on Thanksgiving Day at Kezar stadium.
Garcia was the starting fullback, and Jim was second string. Garcia was a good
blocker, but Jim had better hands catching the ball, and played when it was third and
long. Jim also played on special teams. He was a headhunter on kickoffs and one of
the guys in the wedge when receiving the kickoffs. It was a head on collision ending in
a pile of twisted bodies. Every time Augie and Jim entered Kezar Stadium, and walked
to their lockers, they felt like gladiators entering the Coliseum in Rome. Sometimes they
heard the lions roar.
More next week...