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Lifestyle Stories

Pigskin pals forever

Special to the Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: July 9, 2013 at 07:06 PM

These are not the world champion Cleveland Browns, but the year was 1951.

This photograph of our eighth-grade football team was taken on Thanksgiving Day in the Bronx, N.Y. We look happy enough, although we'd just lost our game, 12-6.

As classmates at St. Helena's School, we were also close friends beyond the schoolroom. The neighborhood consisted of six- and seven-story apartment buildings for the most part. Consequently, everyone lived within a few short blocks of one another.

Ours was a very stable postwar neighborhood. The subsequent flight to the New York City suburbs hadn't yet started. With few exceptions, this ragtag bunch of grade-school gridders went from kindergarten through the eighth grade in the same classrooms.

They'd probably tweak me: "I hope you said 'ragtag' only because of our non-uniform uniforms." My "jersey" was my dad's well-worn sweater, which I was able to stretch over my shoulder pads.

There are some very decent amateur athletes pictured here. I guess you could have nicknamed our team "the Gaels," as all seven members in the back row happened to be of Irish-American heritage.

It's easy to reminisce about these old friends because we spent so many years together.

Back row, from left to right:

Jimmy, who worked on Wall Street, has a younger brother who wrote the screenplays for two Hollywood hits, "Moonstruck" and "Doubt."

Peter, who also worked on Wall Street, was Jimmy's best pal.

John was witty and kept everyone laughing, even the teachers.

Richard is a retired New York City policeman.

Hugh, who was the best man at our wedding, is a retired New York City Fire Department lieutenant. For three years running, he was the most valuable player for a popular semi-pro football team in the New York metro area.

Tommy played baseball at the college level and is a retired FBI agent in Virginia.

Marty, a computer executive, is retired in South Carolina. He was our best all-around athlete.

Front row, from left to right:

Greg, a very successful businessman, has been very generous to our old parish and the high school founded by, and later named after, our saintly pastor, Monsignor Arthur J. Scanlan. He lives in Brandon now.

Andrew, a talented young artist, at age 13 was already painting flats for local theater groups. Tragically, he died in an accident just prior to our eighth-grade graduation that year.

Willy is a successful restaurateur whose restaurant, four blocks from Ground Zero, was adversely affected by the business climate after the Sept. 11 attack. Fortunately, with the help of a loyal staff, he was able to keep things solvent for several years. Willy was a high school football star.

Eddie, a proficient amateur boxer, also worked in the Wall Street area. He is retired in the New York suburbs.

Ralph and Bob have drifted off my radar screen.

I became a Madison Avenue copywriter and worked on campaigns including "It's better in the Bahamas." I am now retired in Florida and do occasional consultant work.

Artie, second from the end, had an identical twin, Charley, who was there that day cheering us on with other locals.

Peter, far right, was one of five children raised by one terrific and inspirational single mom. He was a salesman and has sons who are successful in the building industry in the New York City area.

Laurence Veras and his wife live in Clearwater. They have four children (one in the Tampa Bay area and three in New York), nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Did your first attempt at cooking a holiday meal take a turn for the catastrophic? What's the most unexpected gift you've received over the years? Did your family subject you to quirky holiday traditions when you were a youngster? Share your stories - cheery or not - with us this holiday season. E-mail submissions of no more than 500 words to baylife@tampatrib .com or send typewritten stories by mail to Emily Seawell, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606. Be sure to include a recent print or JPEG photo of yourself and one or more pictures that help tell the story, along with a telephone number so we can reach you.

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