World War for the Wolves: Life through the WWII Era

Part II of a five part series.

The World War II era was far better economically for St. Paul’s College than the preceding era, but there were still some setbacks to overcome. Once again, the school had enough willpower to pull through under the administration of two Christian Brothers who were up to the challenge, Bro. James Ricaud (1941-44) and Bro. Henry Herrera (1944-47).

After the lull in enrollment caused by the Great Depression, a boom of enrollment followed.

Bro. James Ricaud, FSC, the leader of St. Paul’s College from 1941-1944. (Source: The Saint Paul’s Story)

According to The St. Paul’s Story by Bro.s Ephrem Hebert, “(Brother James’) three year tenure was marked by a rapid increase in the number of boarding students due mainly to the involvement of the United States in World War II after Dec. 7, 1941. A number of very young students were taken in as boarders when their fathers were drafted into the armed forces.”

Bro. James ruled SPC with an iron fist, which was essential to the school’s success in such a time.

According to The Saint Paul’s Story, being a strict disciplinarian was Bro. James’ primary focus in running the school. With a stature over six-feet, and weight of 200 pounds, no student wanted to visit him for disciplinary reasons. Every hour, Bro. James would search the halls for students sent outside the classroom. After he rounded them up and sent them to the office, they would either be warned for a first offense, or paddled for the second offense, and, according to The St. Paul’s Story, “there was no third offense.”

Grades were the center of attention at the school, and many were able to achieve greatness through unique methods of motivation.

According to The Saint Paul’s Story, students reported every six weeks to an assembly in the gym, now known as the Alumni Memorial Theatre, for a public reading of report cards. With the accompaniment of the band, Bro. James would remind the students of success and its rewards as he stood at a podium with the report cards. “The setting was such as to remind one of last judgement.” Students were called up by grade, last rank in class to first. Those who failed stood on the left of Bro. James, and those who succeeded stood on his right. “The goats were thus separated from the sheep at every level,” the St. Paul’s Story said.

With new federal changes, compliance was a difficult but necessary choice for the school.

According to The Saint Paul’s Story, daylight savings made it difficult to wake, and those who rode to school had to ride in the dark. Rations for tires and gasoline provided a challenge for boarders who wished to return home when allowed. Chocolate was a delicacy to the students, as sugar and chocolate were two of the most rationed items. Food was scarce at times, even with students having their ration coupons at hand. St. Joseph’s Abbey aided the school by distributing some of their beef which was raised and slaughtered on their farm. Collecting scrap metal and paper for the war effort became a fun and distracting pastime for the boarders.

As per custom of SPC, students and Brothers alike united to defend their country in a time that called for such patriotism.

According to The Saint Paul’s Story, faculty and students of high school age registered for civil defense. Some of the school’s Christian Brothers served on rationing boards and gave blood whenever they were able to, a practice allowed once every 90 days.

A group of students pose in their Civilian Air Patrol uniforms. (Source: The Saint Paul’s Story)

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