On September 1, 1965, the Mt. Carmel High School Class of 1966 began day one of senior year and what a time it would be. We were ready to take charge and end our four years with unparalleled accomplishments. Our student body leaders, Tom King, Terry King, Janice Lowe, and Jeannine Mandola were more than up for the task of celebrating the school’s tenth year of providing educational excellence to the young men and women of Houston. This was our time to shine and we took on the world with confidence and determination.
The Vietnam War was raging and dividing the nation. The editors of the school yearbook, Elke Ahr, Diane Martin, and Monica Krider chose to dedicate the 1966 edition of Zelo to peace. Our school would be touched by the tragedy of the far away war when a member of the Class of 1965, Mike Hoelcher, was killed in the service of our country. It brought home the reality that our days of comfort and youth were drawing to a close. Soon we would be moving into a new phase of life that would demand that we demonstrate the wisdom and grace that our parents and teachers had instilled in us. But at least for the coming months it was our moment to enjoy the fruits of our labors as students.
Our academics had become ever more rigorous. We learned how the world around us works in physics and began to better understand the politics of the United States in civics. Our mathematics ventured into the realm of Pre-Calculus, challenging us ever more. We became more and more proficient in languages like German and Spanish. We spent hours reading and doing research for our senior year English papers, the culmination of all that we had learned before. Our religion classes delved deeper into ethics and questions that have confounded philosophers and saints for centuries. There was no respite from the mountains of school work that never seemed to decline no matter how hard we worked.
Of course there was time for play and development of our extracurricular interests as well. Frank Abegg and Claudia Dean were tapped as editors of the CarmeLight newspaper. I must admit to being disappointed that I did not get the nod. Being the general editor was the one distinction that I had most desired because more and more I wanted to spend time writing. I was instead named the news editor along with Susan McKenna. My dismay was only a temporary setback and I was soon enough working long hours to meet deadlines and keep the news current and interesting. Our Forensics group was doing its own bit to burn the midnight oil in preparation for tournaments that they would win again and again. Paul Colby and Harry Butler continued to dominate in debate.
The Medical Careers Club brought home three awards for excellence that year and continued to grow in size and stature. I was proud to be the president of the organization but had quietly realized that medicine was not in my future. Judy Loisey, Frances Harris and Linda Derks led the Future Teachers club while Kit Lyle and Marjorie Neely were officers of the Mission Club dedicating most of their efforts to sending parcels to Vietnam. We had an active Civil Air Patrol with Mario Zuniga and Carl Eschbach as commanders. Jeannette Mikeska and Linda Daigle chaired the ever popular Dance Committee that stayed busy that year planning twelve special events. Frances Harris and Manuel Manriquez enriched the Spanish culture of our school with a moving Nativity presentation while the senior members of the Texas Association of German Students created a riotously funny skit called “Ich Spion” that featured the guys dancing in fake lederhosen.
Our sports programs brought us honor and winning seasons and even the possibility of beating our biggest foe, St. Thomas High School. The football team gained respect by defeating opponents like Jesuit, Alvin, Kelly, Kirwin and Bishop Byrne. We became the surprise of 2-AAA with a team led by standout players like Leonard Luna. Senior players, Mike Bole, John French, Mike Getz, Mike Villars, James Mushinski, Paul Jauma, Allen Bare, Tom King, Donald Descant, Paul Kasper, Terry King, Tad Trahan, David Sonsel, Ronald Block and Jack Villagomez made Friday nights more exciting than they had ever been even though our ultimate goal of finally winning against St. Thomas never came to pass. The varsity basketball team placed second in the district with Paul Kasper, Joe Madden and Leonard Luna playing key roles. The track team went even farther fielding both district and state championships with Pat Hulin, Leonard Luna, Johnny French, Ronald Block, Chris Nixon and Donald Descant. Not to be outdone, the ladies played hard at volleyball, basketball and swimming with Linda Wilson, Janice Repsdorph, Diane Martin, Ruth Hoesel, Janice Lowe and Jeanette Mikeska representing us with determination and pride. Of course our cheerleaders, Lucille Warchol, Tommy Morrison, Jeanette Mikeska, Johnny McAughan and Patty Balke were ever present to lead the student body in supporting all of our Carmel athletes.
Homecoming that year featured an amazing bonfire with Mary Jo Cipriano reigning as our queen. The football field and the dance that followed was awash with extravagant mums that only Texans understand and a beautiful and sweet court of young ladies who had exhibited their school spirit in a multitude of ways. Janis, Margaret, Stephany, Jeanette, Jeannine and Kit were all smiles and the rest of us would always remember them as Mt. Carmel royalty.
The Cadettes were winners on and off of the field, bringing home a first place trophy for the International Trade and Travel Fair Parade. Officers who had marched rain or shine for three years before earning their stripes were Janis Lowe, Kit Lyle, Ruth Hoesel, Judy Loisey, Jeannine Mandola, Margaret Rae, Karen Wilson, Cindy Cash, Carolyn Snow, Diane Martin, Susan Kelly, Lou Anne Bering and Janet Key. I was asked to be the official announcer during their routines on the football field which was a job that I loved. It also allowed me to attend the Cadette Ball in the spring. I always felt thankful to whomever had come up with the idea of including me in this wonderful organization.
Of course Mt. Carmel High School was first and foremost about academics. Bill Winn and David Patton were finalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition while Paul Colby and Claudia Dean received letters of commendation. After years of hard work prompted mostly by fear of failing and a need to honor my father I had the number one rank and became the valedictorian with Judy Loisey as the salutatorian. Hard work paid off for those of us who were senior members of the National Honor Society including Mario Zuniga, Mike Petru, John Kurtz, David Patton, Richard Powers, Bill Bailey, Frank Abegg, Judy Loisey, Margaret Rae, Linda Caldwell, Linda Daigle, Claudia Dean and me.
With spring came the Junior Senior prom and the traditional senior trip to Bandera. One hundred forty four of us had made it to the finish line. We played in the sun, danced, rode horses and recalled four years of memories. We followed the traditions of presenting a senior play and crowning the Virgin Mary in May. We received our “Academy Awards” from the juniors and at long last gathered together in the gym on May 22, to receive our diplomas. It was one of those bittersweet days for which we had longed. It was the culmination of our accomplishments and our friendships. We would process into the building as a family and leave to travel in many different directions. There would be many whom we would never see again. Our days as high school students were done. It was time for us to begin to assume the mantle of adults and demonstrate to the world what it really means to be a graduate of Mt. Carmel High School.