For Niagara Catholic High School alumni across the area, it is a sad day after hearing the news that the Niagara Falls school will be closing.
I am one of them.
In June 1976, I was a member of the first graduating class from Niagara Catholic High School. It was a bicentennial year and the school colors were red, white and blue. The year book for the Class of ’76 listed 160 graduates, a very large number compared to the number of students who are enrolled there today.
Niagara Catholic was the continuation of a Catholic high school tradition in Niagara Falls that dated back to the 1920’s with St. Mary’s High School.
St. Mary’s High School eventually became an elementary school with new Catholic high schools opened on 66th Street. Madonna High School was for girls and Bishop Duffy was for boys. They were two separate buildings situated next to each other.
In my first three years at Bishop Duffy, the boys and girls would walk between the two buildings to take certain classes like foreign languages. You can imagine how for teenagers it was the highlight of the day to see members of the opposite-sex coming into your building.
In 1975, the two schools merged and became Niagara Catholic High School. Now the classes were fully co-ed and we were thrilled.
There were many more religious teaching in the school than there are today. Numerous priests and nuns taught classes and even acted as coaches for some sport's teams.
Boys were required to wear a sport jacket and tie while girls wore a uniform dress. And even though it was the 70’s with long hairstyles, I still remember my friends being told by priests to “get it cut!” Failure to do so meant detention.
One of the highlights of our high school days were the dances in the “Duffy” gym that actually featured live bands - no CD’s in those days.
I have fond memories of friends, sports, assemblies and school masses but my favorite memory is one that helped shaped my future career.
Bishop Duffy/Niagara Catholic use to have a black & white television studio (WDUF-TV) where we produced a morning newscast for the home rooms. It was quite a novelty for any school in those days and the equipment was purchased thanks to donations from a family that was connected to Tops Markets.
We tried to copy Eyewitness News with the home room show - even aiming our black & white Sony cameras out the window for our version of the “Weather Outside.” I got to be cameraman, technician, sports reporter and even an outside weatherman on occasion. Lots of fun for a five minute show.
Little did I know that my experience as part of the Niagara Catholic television club would start me on a career in broadcasting. I am now working for the same television station (WKBW) that I tried to mimic as a teenager. It is funny how life works. In November, it will by my 38th anniversary at CH7.
Times change and things come and go.
It is never easy to see anything long-lasting and familiar come to an end.
However, 42-years after being part of that first graduating class at Niagara Catholic, it is fun to look back and reminisce about a school that was a big part of so many people’s lives - including my own.