In the fall of 1938 when I started attending the Monongahela High School as a Freshman, Lou was a Junior and Tony would graduate in January, 1939. His was the last class to graduate on a split-year basis. During his last two years in school, Tony worked summers and weekends helping to deliver groceries from Vogini’s Grocery.
He told me that his first job after graduation was pumping gas for three months at $1.00 per day. After working one year for U.S. Steel in Donora, he went to California looking for work. He had a job with the Borax Corporation at Death Valley for six months before he joined the Air Force.
The high school had an enrollment of about 850 students, coming from Central School, the adjacent borough of New Eagle, from East Monongahela across the river, and from all the outlying townships. There was no bussing for town students, only for those students living in the outlying areas. It was a two-story brick building with a large auditorium and a gymnasium on opposite ends, ceramic tile floors, and a football field along side. The access for walking students was up a long sloped ramp.
Sports teams were limited to football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis. This was long before the time when the federal Title IX law mandated that schools had to provide equivalent sports to females, so the sports were all boy’s teams.
I usually walked to school with my neighbor, Gabe Hudock. After the first few days, we had the timing and the shortest route through Mon City down so we would leave just early enough to hit the halls at school about five minutes before the bell rang to start classes.
Those students who carried their lunch ate it at their desks in their home room. We always carried our lunch throughout the high school years. Mom would wrap a sandwich or two in wax paper, along with some fruit and then wrap all of it up in a neat rectangular package in a newspaper. Today kids would “die” before carrying their lunch like that. It wasn’t until my senior year that Mom started buying paper bags for my lunches.
I had always been a pretty good student and a fast learner, so I soon settled in comfortably with the school work. I seldom brought any school work home with me throughout my high school years, as I could keep up with homework in my study periods. It caught up with me when I went to college when I had to develop study habits to keep up with the work.
I took two years of Latin (which is no longer offered in the schools), and found out in my adult years that over 50% of the English words are derived from Latin. This, along with a habit of “studying” the dictionary from a young age when we had few books, has helped me greatly in expanding my vocabulary. I also took two years of French which I had mostly forgotten by the time I was in the Army in France several years later when I could have used it.
Today, keyboarding - the new word for typing, is taught in the grade schools. Back then, if you weren’t in the Commercial curriculum, it was necesssary to get special permission to take typing. Although we didn’t have a typewriter at home, I applied and was able to take a one-semester course. By the end of the course, I was able to type about 50 words per minute, and this typing background has stood me in good stead throughout my life.
I look back with fond remembrances on most of my teachers. Harold Howland, the Science teacher, had the ability to inspire young minds through his encouragement and hands on manner of teaching. He was about 30 years old and left in my senior year to join the Armed Services. Ora Rodeniser was the Literature teacher, still in her 20’s, and made Shakespeare’s Hamlet, McBeth and Julius Caesar so interesting and real that I can still recite passages from them.
In 1940, my sophomore year, I went out for the baseball team. At that time, freshmen were not allowed to participate in intermural sports. I made the squad as one of the starting pitchers. In my first start in Monessen, I was very nervous and inexperienced and our team was shellacked, 9 -0. High school games were seven innings.
My pitching improved as the season moved along, but I still lost several close games. The highlight of my sophomore year was toward the end of the season when we met Donora, the section leader, at our home field in New Eagle. We defeated them, 4-3, in sixteen innings. At that time, it set a record for the longest WPIAL game on record, and still is to this day, equal to two full games plus two more innings. The box score showed that I gave up 3 hits, 10 walks and struck out 21 batters.
When the high school baseball ended, Lou and I started playing sandlot baseball for the Monongahela Merchants, managed by Harry Sickles. During the summer of 1940, when I was 15, Lou and I were the youngest members of the team whose ages ranged up to the late thirties. Lou usually played in the outfield, while I pitched and also played the outfield, and sometimes first base. It was a very busy and exciting summer for us, and we also played exhibition games against teams not in our league. Our Mom saved many sports page clippings of our games in a scrap book which is now yellowed and crumbling.
I was also the high school starting pitcher for most of the games in the 1941 season, during which we ended up in third place in a section of ten teams. The 1942 baseball season was cancelled due to America going to war after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. The U. S. was then on a war footing and gasoline and tires were starting to be rationed, and spring high school athletics were abandoned for 1942 to help conserve materials vital to the war effort.
In 1941, Frank Furiga, manager of the New Eagle sandlot team, got me a summer job at the Lee-Norse plant in Charleroi, painting the wooden wall along the street and also some interior painting. This was another busy summer playing sandlot baseball.
During the middle of my senior year, my favorite teacher, Harold Howland who was in the reserves, was activated into the service. He had a passion for teaching and made his science classes exciting by relating it to everyday life.
In the early Spring 1942, with the baseball season cancelled, I had time to try out for the senior play, and was surprised to be picked for the leading role. Our literature and speech teacher, Ora Rodeniser, had picked an unusally mature play called “Death Takes a Holiday.”
In our Senior Yearbook, the play is described in this way: “The play was a fantasy in which Death enters a human body and experiences the hopes, fears, pleasures and love that men feel. He remains puzzled to the end about man’s fear of him, for he knows that eternal life is much simpler than temporal life.”
The Yearbook also describes my performance as: “Maurice Tosi played a role challenging even to an adult actor, and presented it with a sympathy which brought Death to life.” Whatever that means!
In the play, I fall in love with a countess, played by Frankie Mae Hamlin, and we had a love scene in which I embraced and kissed her. I can still remember a surprised gasp from the audience at each of the two performances. I guess it was a little “naughty” for a high school play in 1942!
During high school, I was an active member of the Latin Club and also of the Science Club where I was president during my senior year.
On Senior Day, Jim (Cotton) Pollard and I dressed up as a 1900s couple on the beach. He had an old fashioned horizontally-striped bathing suit and was carrying an open umbrella. I was dressed in a pair of girl’s shorts, a halter stuffed with cotton and a ribbon in my hair. I can describe it in detail because I still have a snapshot of us.
During the last of our high school days in May, Anthony Repepi had a car that he drove to school. Four of us decided that it was too late to be kicked out of school, so for the last three Fridays, we went to Pittsburgh to the Stanley Theater.
At that time, there was a new stage show every week, mostly featuring bands and singers. The last one we attended featured Frank Sinatra who was just becoming the rage for teenage girls. When we got there, the sidewalk along the entrance was jammed with young people lining up to buy tickets. During the perfomance, the girls were constantly screaming and I remember several of them swooning and passing out. On our way home, we decided two things. First, it was obvious that we weren’t the only students in the area playing “hooky,” and also that we weren’t too impressed with the skinny singer.
During the summer of 1942, I was hired in the Tube Mill at Combustion, working the 2nd shift. They showed me how to run an automatic welder for an hour or two, and then I was on my own. Wearing welding goggles to protect my eyes, I guided the welding machine along the pipe, welding a fin or plate to it. I never seemed to get the hang of keeping the bead of weld running perfectly straight, but I can’t remember anyone telling me about any bad welds. I still have my union card showing that I was a member of the United Steel Workers of America. Attached to it is a handwritten note in my mothers handwriting saying that I earned $332.05 for the summer.
Lou and I both played for the Monongahela Merchants in a sandlot league which encompassed a wide area around the Mon Valley. Harry Sickles was the manager, and used to pick us up near our house. Games were played on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:00 PM, and there was also usually an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon. In those days, baseball uniforms were made out of a heavy wool fabric which were very uncomfortable on a hot day.
In the Spring, I had applied to Pitt for the Fall term, and was accepted in Chemical Engineering. I traveled there daily for a semester and then dropped out in January to enter the Armed Services. Along with about 30 others from our area, I boarded a train in March of 1943 for a trip to the Army induction center at Ft. George C. Meade in Maryland.
Lou, Tony, Maury ~ 1941