Sunday, September 04, 2011

James S. Riepe. Jimmy Riepe to us.

Jimmy Riepe didn’t come to his 50th high school reunion, I believe he may be far too important for the blue-collar Milford, Connecticut. Or maybe, as is the case with my wife, he and she just didn't want to look back at their days in high school and the people they knew during that short time.



Jim Riepe (upper right) with Tom Coviello (in glasses), Hal Gorman (#19) and Nick Cerino (far left).

Like many kids in the late 50s and early 60s we in the class of '61 benefited from the good education opportunities, the relatively healthy economy, and the some what safe progressive social environment of our suburban Connecticut town.

Jimmy Riepe (right) with his hand on Bruce Kuryla's head sitting in the Coviello's apartment on Center Street.


Whether Riep (pronounced "Reap") was a real friend of mine ... I don't know.  And it doesn't matter in the sense of it not being germane to this story.  I do know that we spent a lot of time together.  I also know we each owe much to Milford, CT.


James S. Riepe - "Take everyone's advice and do as you please"

In the 1961 Milford High's yearbook the Wepawaug Riepe's 'Ambition' was "To go into business management." He certainly did that.  Most kids were not that specific about their 'Ambition' opting only to hope "To attend college."

Jimmy Riepe, #37 (center sitting), in 1960 played for Mario Ponsale's Milford  'Indians.'

In high school Riepe was a good ball player, heady and serious.  Although maybe not deserving of the title 'Lineman of the Decade' that the local paper bestowed upon him when Milford High's doors were close and 6,000 people attended an all-class reunion in 1983.  Jimmy Riepe went on to Captain the University of Pennsylvania varsity football team, proving that the basic football skills and lessons of character taught to him by head coach Mario Ponsalle served Jim Reipe, as well as hundreds of other young men, more than we would like to admit.


Coach Mario Ponsalle (with ball) talks to Hal Gorman (far left).  Jim Riepe (far right) looks on.

Mario Ponsalle was a good man, unique and tough. He died at 50 years old in 1973. When Riepe and I played ball Ponsalle had two assistants, Noel Wilkins and the very cool Vito DeVito.


Before the reunion I looked back at those days, those people and the football experience and thought that the imprinting (good or bad) was pressed so deeply into my very being that it was an anchor that both stabilized me and held me back ... for fifty fucking years. Maybe it was the constant head-pounding of the sport or the team building bond Coach Ponsalle created that imprinted the memories so A.F.O.  hard on me. But it only took one Google search to find out that there is no Santa Claus and how much more I like Mario Ponsalle after searching the internet -finding this scan:


So before being a Milford High School coach Ponsalle took a Civil Service test for a friend. I thought that was the way it was in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1950.







Here one of those stories have to do with Assistant Coach Noel Wilkins, not on the gridiron but in the classroom.  Wilkins taught a high school beginning world history class.  One day he writes on the blackboard the word "Islam." He turns to the class and instructs everyone to take out their notebooks. He clearly directs his fourteen or fifteen year old students to subtitle the "Islam" section. "Under that heading write the word ... " then slapping the chalk on the board Wilkins printed and said  ... "BLOODSUCKER."
"Holy Toledo",  my little brain says. "What was that?"
 Granted in 1959 living in a mostly white back-east suburban town I was naive to future of hate but at that very moment I knew something was very wrong. But  I think the real question is how different people respond to the exact same experience.

Peter Pond (upper back left near radiator) and James Riepe (upper right back near blackboard) with Ron Cloutier  and others at a "Hi-Y" meeting in Milford High  School 1960.

A.F.O.,  Hi-Y and a Trophy Case

Part of going to my high school reunion was to ask forgive or thank everyone I talked to ... or as with Ron Cloutier maybe both.  I was bringing some memorabilia for the trophy case in the halls of Milford High, now the Parson's Center or basically a Town Hall annex government building. I thought to my self that the last time I looked in the funky collection of glass trophy and display cases I didn't see a letter sweater.  


 Paul S








Who Shot Tommy Cov at Reipe's House?