The Early Years
The Early Years (1953-59)
“We thank God for Trinity. It was started when it was badly needed.”
– Bishop Charles Maloney
When classes began in the fall of 1952 it became obvious to the Archdiocese that enrollment in the two boys high schools – St. Xavier and Flaget – had reached capacity. Archbishop John A. Floersh then began looking at the possibility of starting a new high school, preferably in the East End of Louisville where the young Catholic population was growing.
Holy Trinity Parish, founded in 1882 on nine acres of land on Shelbyville Road near the St. Matthews business district, had announced that they were leaving the site and had broken ground on January 29, 1952, for a new church and school in Cherrywood Village, just a few blocks from their previous site.
On January 16, 1953, the Rev. Charles C. Boldrick, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, inquired of the Archdiocese about what would become of the old place “when we officially move in June.”
The Rev. Alfred W. Steinhauser, Director of Catholic high school education and Pastor of St. Aloysius on Payne Street, wrote in a letter to Bishop Charles G. Maloney, Auxiliary Bishop of Louisville, stating his belief that it was possible to begin “a new high school on the grounds now occupied by Holy Trinity.” On April 6, Archbishop Floersh replied: “Since it appears from your letter of March 28 that you consider it feasible to open a new high school for boys next September in the quarters now occupied by Holy Trinity Parish, I am willing for you to make the necessary arrangements for it and to proceed with an announcement of the plan and with the details concerning the enrollment of prospective students.”
With that permission, Fr. Steinhauser began to implement the details of opening the high school in September of 1953. An article appeared in The Record, the Archdiocesan newspaper, announcing that a placement test would be held Saturday, April 18 for students wishing to enroll in the new school.
The new school’s main building, now called Old Trinity Hall, needed paint and carpentry. Two wooden structures, the parish hall and a gymnasium, which originally had been brought by barge from Cincinnati, sat directly behind Old Trinity Hall.
Flanking that building and facing Shelbyville Road were the former Nuns’ convent and the priests’ rectory. A baseball diamond and large field extended to Westport Road. The entire nine-acre campus was hemmed in by St. Matthews Avenue to the west and Sherrin Avenue on the east.
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, about 200 parents of the boys who had taken the placement test attended the first organizational meeting outside on the baseball field stands. As they sat shivering on an unusually cool summer evening, Fr. Steinhauser referred to them as “pioneers.” He introduced the faculty and outlined his plans for the school. Pastors from the three St. Matthews parishes attended and questions were asked and answered. Later a vote was taken to have a separate meeting on the possibility of athletics. Before they left, Fr. Steinhauser appealed for a cafeteria manager and said that anyone interested should contact him.
Three weeks later on September 8, 1953, the doors were opened and classes began at 9 a.m. One hundred six freshmen made up the student body, with most of them coming from four parishes – Holy Trinity, Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Margaret Mary. The students were placed in three homerooms, based on their performance on the placement test.
The first faculty greeting them that day had all come from Flaget. They were the following:
- The Rev. J. Bernard Glick, who taught Latin, general science, religion and served as both chaplain and athletic director;
- The Rev. Charles Rusterholz would teach algebra, social studies, religion and manage the bookstore;
- Thomas Sheehan taught English, general math, social studies and ran the first school newspaper.
On that first morning, students arrived at an already fully accredited high school which was named Holy Trinity High School, mainly because it was located on the old Holy Trinity Parish property. Fr. Steinhauser greeted them, introduced the faculty and outlined the school policy. Fr. Glick then assigned them to their homerooms and classes began.
Students also learned that their new school had a nickname selected by their new principal. He suggested that the school mascot be the “Shamrocks” because the three leaves of a Shamrock on a single stem would explain the religious symbol of the Holy Trinity – three persons in one God. He took the nickname to the Trini-Dads (see Athletics) for their input and later mentioned it to his secretary, Evelyn Fultz H’93. She immediately exclaimed, “That’s it!” In addition to the name, Fr. Steinhauser also chose the school colors of green and white. The selected colors combined the green of St. Xavier and the white of Flaget – the two other existing Catholic boys’ high schools in Louisville. It is alternatively suggested that Fr. Steinhauser chose the colors to honor the former occupant of the new school.
The first Parent-Teacher meeting was held on November 10. Fr. Steinhauser told the parents that all programs at Holy Trinity would be comparable with the other two Catholic high schools. He asked the parents to be patient with any mistakes and promised their sons would receive a good Catholic education.
That first PTA meeting saw better than 90 percent of the parents in attendance. The next week The Record noted, “If enthusiasm is any measure of the success of the school, there should be little doubt regarding the future of Holy Trinity.”
Dr. Charles “Butch” Kincaid ’57, a member of that first class, noted that “there may have been a certain amount of apprehension among our parents that we would get a poor education in the East End.”
Thomas Sheehan, Trinity’s first lay teacher, would later say “the cooperation the school received from the parents really made a difference in those first few years.”
During the first year, Fr. Steinhauser determined school policy, especially dress. Students were to arrive neatly dressed with no blue jeans or loud colored pants. Belts were to be worn at all times and all shirts were to have a collar. There were no fads or extreme hairstyles allowed.
The importance that Fr. Steinhauser placed on academics was seen when he implemented the Shamrock Award, given for academic excellence. A student who made the Honor Roll for the six marking periods in one year would earn the award and, just like an athletic Shamrock, it came in two colors, green on white or white on green, and could be worn on the school jacket. The Shamrock Award was an early sign that academic accomplishments were held in the same regard as athletic success.
Thus, it was quite accurate when Maurice Woods, one of the early lay teachers, commented: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Steinhauser.”
In 1954, it was obvious that Trinity would double its enrollment with the advent of the second class. Fr. Steinhauser was also aware that not every newly ordained priest was suited to teach and he hoped he could “do a little selecting and preparation in advance.” However, the assigned priests were the purview of the Archbishop while Fr. Steinhauser could select the lay personnel. In that second year, three newly ordained priests were assigned to Trinity – Revs. David Hazelip H’96, John Butler and Thomas Duerr H’92 – each of whom would become a fixture at the new school for many years. Fr. Steinhauser did choose some of the early lay personnel – his secretary, Evelyn Fultz, who remained the Principal’s secretary until her retirement in 1994, Charles “Jeep” Quire as the first coach (see Athletics), and Ms. Catherine Fuchs H’93 as head of the cafeteria, who kept her position until her retirement in 1998.
Fr. Hazelip, who later became Trinity’s second principal, noted “Fr. Steinhauser single-handedly forged an education during those first few years.”
Rev. David Zettel ’58 said that Msgr. Steinhauser knew what to do and was very determined: “Trinity was his brain-child, his baby, so to speak, and he always treated it that way.”
Dr. Joseph Babey ’58 provides this memorable description of the first principal: “Fr. Steinhauser was a man who always wore a cape. As he walked down the hall, he was a husky fellow and probably 20 or 30 pounds heavier than he should be, always holding his head high with his cape billowing in the breeze. There was no question he was in charge and he always made a point to recognize a student or a teacher in the hallway in some way. There was a certain aloofness, but there was a personal touch with everybody.”
One school policy instituted during those early years dealt with discipline. Students knew that for any type of misbehavior, a ticket was delivered each afternoon from the Discipline Office instructing them to spend an hour after school in something called JUG, which stood for “Justice Under God.” In JUG, students could be required to do manual labor like raking leaves around the trees of the priest house or picking up trash on school grounds. However, in the winter the most common assignment was writing. Bill Ballard ’58 recalled having spent many hours in JUG and was the authority on the nature of the punishments. “The punishment varied – sometimes homework, math problems or just plain writing the rule book.”
Fr. Tony Heitzmann H’13, a disciplinarian in that first decade, commented he once “gave them a soup can to fill with gum from the undersides of the desks.”
There are many indications that given the youthful nature of the faculty and the unfiltered exuberance of the students, there were many jokes and good laughs.
E.J. Gary ’59 characterized the early student body in these words: “We were a tough, talented, cantankerous bunch and for the most part the group comprised achievers.” Bill Ballard ’58 noted, “We would come up with throwing spitballs, water balloons, let a mouse loose and roll marbles on the floor.”
Bruce Deckel ’57 recalled that Fr. Duerr, Trinity’s third principal, was a good teacher but “he was not ready to handle a bunch of teenage boys, and so we took advantage of him at every opportunity.”
Six months after the third class entered in 1955, Fr. Steinhauser, who earlier that year had been elevated to the title of “Monsignor,” was faced with the problem of possibly having to rename the school. There was a lot of confusion with the name Holy Trinity because of the parish and elementary school with the same name only a few blocks away. He definitely wanted to have the name decided before the first class became seniors. The students were given the opportunity to vote on three possible names: Bishop David, Bishop Lavialle or simply drop the “Holy” and call it Trinity.
There was some interest in naming it Bishop Lavialle, mainly because Lexington Lafayette had won a recent state basketball tournament, until the realization that opponents could easily cheer, “Go to hell, Lavialle.” The name Trinity easily won and it became the official name. Of course, the students at that time still claim that “Holy” was eliminated because they were not as religious as the priests and teachers wanted them to be.
Those first students knew that they were making history. “Trinity High School was brand new and we had to make our memories,” said Dr. Joseph Babey ’58. His classmate, Jack Guthrie ’58 noted “The spirit of letting you be yourself, of finding your own way, they (the teachers) weren’t trying to push us into a mold because there was no mold; there was no place to go. We were making history while we were living it and thus became the foundation.”
Richard Bizot ’57 commented that “not having older students around to put us in our places” allowed the early classes and teachers to set traditions and what many call the “spirit of Trinity.”
By the time the fourth class entered Trinity in September 1956, Msgr. Steinhauser had earlier indicated in a letter to Archbishop Floersh that space would be available in 1956 but not in 1957. Plans were made with architect Walter C. Wagner to expand Trinity with an additional wing that would bring the school capacity to 1,100. Care was taken to design the new wing so that it would fit well with Old Trinity Hall. The architect needed to demolish the old wooden Parish Hall, which had been primarily used for P.E. classes and as a dressing room for athletics, and construct the new building that appropriately formed the letter “T.”
Work began in 1956, and students had to bring their own lunches from September to December and eat them in the gym because the cafeteria in the old Trinity had been renovated into classrooms and offices for the expanded student enrollment. It was a time of excitement for the students as they were finally getting a “new” building for their “new” school.
The new building was a three-story building with the bottom floor being a new 400-seat cafeteria and faculty dining room. Also, new administrative offices and a chapel were constructed in the area connecting Old Trinity to the new building, thus giving Trinity a first-class entry point for students and visitors. Steinhauser and his secretary, Evelyn Fultz, now had an office with a conference room for meetings. Offices were constructed across from the principal for the assistant principal, college counselor and the Business Office for the benefit of students and parents. The new cafeteria, which the first graduating class got to use for their last semester, would become the home for dances and other events needing space, thus freeing up the old wooden gym for athletics.
Located on the second and third floors were modern classrooms, science labs and space for an expanded library.
In the 1956-57 academic year, Trinity became a complete high school with freshman through senior years for the first time. There were now four classes enrolled and Steinhauser turned his attention to designing the first senior ring and planning for Trinity’s first graduation.
High school graduates traditionally wore a cap and gown at commencement ceremonies, but Steinhauser wanted Trinity’s to be different. He decided that the graduates would wear a white tuxedo coat with a green carnation as a boutonniere, black tuxedo trousers with black patent leather shoes. The tradition was an immediate success with both graduates and parents and it still exists today.
During these first four years many academic subjects, clubs and organizations, some still in operation today, were initiated. Trinity offered its students three world languages in addition to Latin – French, Spanish and German.
Fr. Hazelip was hired primarily to teach French and during the summer took additional classes to increase his proficiency. Jack Guthrie said Fr. Hazelip “was a great motivator in the classroom and considered himself a freshman teacher along with us first-year students.” Creighton Mershon ’59 noted that “Fr. Hazelip was probably one of the most popular and beloved priests at Trinity.”
The first Spanish teacher was Fr. John Grenough H’11, who recalled that when Msgr. Steinhauser assigned him to teach the language, “I told him I didn’t know a word of Spanish and he told me that I had Latin in my background, so you ought to be able to teach Spanish.”
French and Spanish were both popular courses for those early students. However, the hiring of a German native, Klaus Mittelsten-Scheidt H’92 (later shortened to just Mittelsten), affected Trinity in more ways than just teaching German in the classroom. He formed a German Club with his first students by telling them he would teach them Europe’s favorite sport – soccer. Both he and Msgr. Steinhauser, who also taught and spoke German fluently, met with the students in Seneca Park to teach them the game and how to use the correct German words while playing. Klaus later became involved in many activities and once taught Trinity’s cheerleaders how to cheer in German at pep rallies.
The Speech and Debate Club was begun by Fr. Joseph Miller in 1956. His colleague, Thomas Sheehan, called him “the most brilliant man I ever met.” Fr. Miller, who developed Trinity into a real power in speech and debate, said that “speech was the most important skill a person can have for success. Educationally, I consider it more important only to reading.” Ben Talbott ’58, who later became a lawyer, said “Fr. Miller taught me to speak on my feet.”
The school paper began in 1954 with a four-page publication called Holy Trinity High School News, which Richard Bizot would later describe as a “dismally bad first effort.”
The first true paper began on April 6, 1955 as the The Triad Echoes, later changed to The Echo that same year. Todd Hollenbach ’57 was responsible for the new name, winning a contest with his suggestion of The Echo. His family farm on Bardstown Road was Glen Echo and he thought the word “echo” reflected what is “heard and seen.” Hollenbach later became Trinity’s first known politician when he was elected Jefferson County Judge Executive.
In 1956, a journalism class was created with eight juniors and eight seniors who were taught by Fr. John Grenough. This class was responsible for publishing The Echo six times a year and for preparing the Yearbook for publication. Norman Pilcher ’58 recalled that the journalism class was close-knit and worked all hours of the day and night. He commented, “I can still see Fr. Grenough pushing us to achieve the five W’s – Who, What, Where, When and Why.” Ben Talbott ’58 remembered that as a reporter he got to review the movie “Raintree County” at its Kentucky premier in Louisville. “I got to meet Elizabeth Taylor and I recall when I met her how tiny and pleasant she was.”
Jack Guthrie, also a member of this journalism class, became the first graduate to become editor of a major college newspaper – The Kentucky Kernel – while a student at the University of Kentucky, and later started Trinity’s Alumni Newsletter. Guthrie noted that the entire class became very close to Fr. Grenough and was proud that The Echo in 1958 was the winner of an All-American rating from the National Scholastic Press Association.
In 1957, Gus Coin was hired to further develop the pep band that originally had been associated with Klaus Mittelsten-Scheidt. Coin was a professional musician who was primarily hired to develop a marching band. Coin visited elementary feeder schools looking for musicians and even gave free lessons to anyone who would be in his band. E.J. Gary said Coin worked hard but “we couldn’t march and we stayed in the stands during football games as a pep band.” Coin left for Bellarmine College where he chaired the music department for three decades.
Economics teacher Michael McDonald, who later became a lawyer and judge, began the Trinity Investment Association in 1957. As a class learning experience, students invested their money in the stock market and would use their profits to make loans to other students. “We were paying their speeding tickets,” McDonald recalled, allowing students to get around asking their parents for money.
Rev. C.J. Wagner began the St. John Vianney chapter of the National Honor Society in 1958. Membership included juniors and seniors selected by faculty for academic performance, leadership, service and good character. Students were required to complete 20 hours of community service three times a year. Fr. Wagner also encouraged members to attend one of his Sunday masses. As an incentive he also provided a breakfast at the local parish at which he served. Fr. Wagner also became the first formal college counselor, taking over that duty after Steinhauser had handled the college plans of the first senior class.
October 4, 1957 was an important day in America when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to enter space. At a time when science and math were becoming more important for Americans to compete in the space race, Rev. John Gephart came to Trinity in 1955 to teach mathematics and begin a physics program. He recalled that his students challenged him to stay one class ahead, but “that was not easy in the late 1950s when physics books were written yearly and couldn’t keep up with the advances in the space program.” Thus, Fr. Gephart had to do what most early Trinity teachers did – try new things so that he could give his students “the best college preparation we could.” He was extremely proud that the 1959 class valedictorian, Dr. Denis Morrow, went on to get a Ph.D. in Physics.
A tough teacher who demanded discipline, Fr. Gephart also started the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS). He took its members to General Electric Appliance Park to see UNIVAC, the electronic brain, in action. Many of his students later became engineers.
In 1957, Fr. Gephart started the Trinity Amateur Rocket Club where 15 members met on Tuesday afternoons in the physics lab. Fr. Gephart wanted his students to build a six-foot rocket that would fly, telling them it could be done “if we can get a large launching site and the fire department present at the launching.”
Of the first 20 rockets, only two successfully left the ground. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1958, the state fire marshal banned amateur rocketry.
In addition to teaching physics, Fr. Gephart also taught the top mathematics classes. Wayne “Moose” Kraus ’59 remembers Fr. Gephart, saying on the first day of class that “God gets the 100, I get the 99 and the highest grade you can get is a 98.” He taught geometry and pre-calculus, and in the days when calculators were still an invention of the future, all he had was his precious slide rule. One new math teacher, Richard “Pee Wee” Carey, once said: “I observed all the math teachers and the best was Fr. Gephart. I wanted to be like him.”
When the new addition to the school was dedicated in 1957, librarian Josephine Peake reported that the school only had 1,000 books and the new shelves were like Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard – empty. Therefore, a student-led drive was established with a goal of collecting 1,500 books. Bill Ballard led the drive and told each student that “the minimum quota is two books, so plan to bring in three and come in with four.” With each class and homeroom competing, the 700-plus students turned in more than 2,300 new books to Trinity’s library. The freshmen led the competition with 1,046 books and November 23 was declared a school holiday to celebrate the drive’s success.
In 1958, Maurice Thatcher Paris, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, became the new librarian. A boisterous and very colorful Southern gentleman, in his first year, he appeared at the senior prom dressed in top hat and tails.
Jack Guthrie remembered the night before the prom a group raided magnolia trees and flower beds near his home on Old LaGrange Road in Peewee Valley. “We had great table decorations and one can only wonder if Mr. Paris knew that those decorations were compliments of his neighbors.” Thatcher Paris was also the first faculty advisor for the newly created Trinity Alumni Association.
In 1957, as the student body became larger, Msgr. Steinhauser appointed the Rev. Clarence Schwartz as his assistant principal. Bill Ballard noted that “Fr. Schwartz was never anybody’s favorite because he was known as a tough disciplinarian and a stickler for the rules.” Norman Pilcher recalled that “even his smile indicated that ‘I’m going to fail you.’” Rev. Jack Hanrahan, a Latin and religion teacher, said that Fr. Schwartz “would come down hard on a boy for going the wrong way in the hall, believing the whole educational system was going to pot.” In addition to his administrative duties, Fr. Schwartz taught math. He proved to be a very successful administrator and, in 1960, he left Trinity to become the first principal of Bishop David, the fifth Catholic boys’ high school in the Archdiocese.
As the 1950s were drawing to a close, Steinhauser looked back with pride on the first three graduating classes. Tuition, which was $60 in 1953, had reached $90 by the end of the decade.
When the 1959 graduating class had a record number of 11 students enter the University of Notre Dame, Msgr. Steinhauser knew that Trinity had arrived academically.