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VOLUME 12 • CHAPTER 2 • April 2012


Campion ...

Reprinted with permission from Morgan McFinn - AKA Don McCoy '69

Campion Jesuit Prep School...

copyright by Morgan McFinn 3/31/2012

Today is the 89th anniversary of my father's birthday. And, he would be 89 years old today if it weren't for the fact that he died 33 years ago. Still, I always manage to remember his birthday. Odd that he has now been dead for more years than I knew him when he was alive. Each year on this day I make note of something that was special about him. Today, it's Campion.

Campion was a Jesuit Prep School along the banks of the Mississippi River in the god forsaken though, aptly named little Wisconsin town of Prairie du Chien. In essence, it was a gloried reform school for boys only. Their motto was, "Give Campion a Boy and Get back a Man". That was plastered on a billboard beside a road that flanked the campus. Some non-reformable reprobate painted in the letters 'iac' to the last word. To a certain extent, that was the last word on the joint.

My father graduated from Campion in 1941. Growing up, I thought every young boy went there. My father loved the place and it was his dream that I would go there, as well. When his dream came true it was the beginning of a four year nightmare for me. Five hundred and fifty boys sequestered on the threshold of nowhere... no girls, no beer, no cars, no parties, no nothing but studying, fights, sports, more studying and the occasional wet dream if you were lucky.

Granted, the Jesuits are (were) great educators. Some argue, the best in the world. Their interdisciplinary approach to education is a good as it gets. Well, as far as I know, anyway. But, they can be mean disciplinarians too. Seems I was in trouble for some petty offense or another from the first day I set foot on campus. Twice a year my parents would receive letters from the Dean of Discipline complaining about my behavior... not making my bed in the morning, fighting, being late to study hall, making fun of a teacher during class and more fighting. I was slapped and paddled and held in detention. Again, mostly for petty offenses. It got to the point where I figured, "Hey, let me go into town and rob a bank or fondle some local girl's boobs." If they wanted to slap me around for that it would be worth it.

All those niggling problems really began to trouble my father. He had sincerely expected that his oldest son would love Campion as much as he had. When he came up for a rare visit early on in my third year we went out for dinner together. He counseled me, encouraged me and, finally, said, "Son, you may not believe this now but, when you're older you will look back on this time at Campion as the happiest years of your life." That remark stunned me. I didn't say anything but I thought to myself, "Holy Jesus, somebody give me a length of rope and point me in the direction of the nearest overhead beam!"

It wasn't simply my behavior that the Jesuits objected to. What really annoyed them was my attitude... my bad attitude. They considered me to be surly, flippant and more than slightly disrespectful of their authority. Jesuits take their authority seriously. They are far and away the most educated of all the religious orders. One needs to have two PhDs in order to qualify for ordination. They're very proud of their elite status. I ended up spending eight years under their tutelage and they ran the gamut in manifesting character traits... both good and bad. With a single exception, however... I never met a dumb one.

(Alright folks, this is long enough for an individual blog entry but, not long enough to do justice to the subject. We'll just call this 'Morgan McFinn Here...Campion 1'. 'Campion 2' will follow when I damn well feel like writing it. See, that's exactly the kind of attitude the Jesuits objected to.)

Reprinted with permission from Morgan McFinn - AKA Don McCoy '69

Campion 2...

copyright by Morgan McFinn - 4/2/2012

As I mentioned in 'Campion 1', corporal punishment was alive and well back in the days of my tenure at Campion. Being paddled and slapped around were part of the routine. Paddling occurred when an inmate (student) accumulated a certain number demerits for objectionable behavior. His name would be posted on a board in the dormitory giving notice. The paddling always took place in the dean's office just after lights out around 10 PM. The problem was you never knew for sure which night you'd be buzzed down for the beating. It could happen on any night during a given week. That was the psychological torture of the proceeding. The Jesuits liked you to sweat for a while. When the room intercom buzzed, down you went. Upon entering a back room of the dean's office, down went your pajama bottoms. I always wore a thick pair of underpants for these occasions. The wooden paddle was about the size of a cricket bat but not nearly as heavy or thick. Soon as you bent over and grabbed your ankles the paddling of your ass commenced... 15 well delivered strokes. If at any point you let go of your ankles, the count started all over again. Actually, it wasn't all that bad although one would tend to squirm in his seat during class for a couple of days. I once got a demerit for doing that which seemed a bit unfair.

As for being slapped around, that could occur with no warning whatsoever and was usually a consequence of a perceived manifestation of 'bad attitude'. The longer I remained at Campion the more often my attitude was perceived as 'bad'. And frankly, it was pretty bad. I really disliked the joint. Still, I managed to get through four years and graduate.

How?

With a damn good sense of humor, that's how. A good sense of humor and the companionship of a fine bunch of young men who supported each other through all the trials and tribulations. We were all incarcerated together... fourteen year old boys sent away from home to become well educated, independent minded young men capable of making some positive contributions to the society of which we would soon become a part. Some of those young boys remain friends of mine to this day. With the possible exception of myself, they have all made the world better by their presence. I may have winced when my father said the four years at Campion would be looked back upon as the best years of my life but, there's no question that some of my most cherished friendships germinated from the ordeal.

Obituaries:
Alumni who have passed in 2012:
nameclass_ofdeceaseddate
James T. Glenn19482012-01-05
Dick D. Crenshaw19602012-01-15
John Bachhuber19542012-02-14
Jerome M. Vulakovic-Hokin19492012-02-17
Fr. Howard E. Kalb19412012-04-04
Terrance Coughlin19662012-04-27
William L. Bergstrom19722012-06-09
Eugene P. Kelly19452012-06-20
Christopher T. Lamal19702012-07-05
Pat Casey19722012-07-11
John I. Reilly19572012-07-13
Don W. Sebastian19412012-07-20
Michael T. Peterson19662012-07-28
Joseph Gerbosi19662012-08-13
Faculty who have passed:

  • Rev. Howard E. Kalb, S.J. 2012-04-04, CJHS Class of 1941; Scholastic 1948-1951, Taught Algebra; Priest 1957-1960, Algebra, Dean of Kostka Hall, Dean of Lucey Hall; President and Rector 1960-1966, Erected Hoffman Rec Center, Xavier Hall, and Superintendent Maintenance Building.

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