Larry Kelley ’36, one of John Carroll’s oldest, most loyal alumni, shares some of his life experiences, beginning with his college days. Many readers have come to know Kelley during the 30 years he has served as class columnist for graduates from the 1930s. The jovial Irishman, 95, fondly recalls his younger days.
I wanted to go to East Tech because I wanted to fly airplanes, but my family decided I should follow my brother, Norman ’32, and go to St. Ignatius. As a freshman in high school, I already knew kids from Carroll because we were all together at the other campus at W. 30th and Lorain in Cleveland. We didn’t arrive at the new campus in University Heights until Oct. 5, 1935. We got a late start that year because the buildings were still being built.
I parked on the drive in front of the Administration Building. All five of us – Don Birmingham ’36, Jack Lavelle ’38, Albert Weiler ’38, Rocco Marotta ’36, and me – would ride together in my Ford convertible. Whoever got there first sat in the front; the last two sat in the rumble seat.
I never drank, so I was the designated driver before it had a name. When I grew up, we had home-brew at our house. My father said, “I’m not saying you can’t drink, but nobody who drinks drives my car.” Well, driving was more important to me.
Back in those days, there was college night at the Bamboo Gardens at Euclid Ave. at 100th St., where Kay Kyser and his band got their start. And we went to the Lotus Gardens on Fridays where you could buy a chicken sandwich for 50 cents. That was when a buck used to buy what you wanted.
When I started at Carroll in ’32, there were 125 freshmen. Only about 70 graduated because so many had to drop out because of the depression. I majored in history because I liked it. All the seniors were required to take ethics from Fr. Leonard Otting, who was an excellent teacher. As a side note, Youngstown State University was having trouble accrediting its philosophy class, so they asked Fr. Otting to come down and teach it. He was just as strict there as he was with us. If you weren’t at class on time, he marked you absent.
After graduation and before the war, I worked in quality control for 3M in Copley, Ohio, because my friend Sam Bauman ’35 suggested I join him. When I applied, they asked me if I could use a slide rule. I said, ‘Well, yes,’ even though I had never had a slide rule in my hands. So I quickly learned how to use it that night from Sam.
In ’40, I applied to the Army Air Corps Flying Cadets but was denied because I was too short. So I went to the YMCA and did
all kinds of stretching exercises. Don’t tell me you can’t get taller because I did. I almost hit the two inches I needed, but I still measured a quarter of an inch shy of 5 foot 4 inches. The Army Cadet Board was meeting in Cleveland, so I spoke to the sergeant. He called for the captain, who came out to see me. Ha! He was a little short guy – not much taller than me. He saw my sad story, took me over to the scale, measured me, and hollered, “He’s 5 foot 4!”
I was the armament man for the 60th Interceptor Squadron at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C. We were on interceptor patrol to protect the D.C. area. We could get four pilots in four planes and armed and up in formation in 15 minutes from the time we received the alert. On 9/11, it took more than 60 minutes before the first guy got off the airstrip.
I was stationed at Cluntoe Airfield in Ireland when I met Frances. A few buddies and I were going to Belfast – that was the only place to go, besides church. I didn’t know her, but Frances was director of the American Red Cross Club for the enlisted men. She came up to me and asked, “Is this the bus going to Belfast?” So I always say I picked her up at a bus stop.
She was transferred to England, and I stayed to close the base at Cluntoe. It took me five weeks of travel to finally get to England because of grounded aircraft. I arrived May 7. We married on V-Day, May 8, 1945, at St. Mary’s By the Sea in Southport, near Liverpool. We met in Ireland, married in England, and honeymooned in Scotland.
Frances died June 5, 2010. We were married for 65 years, 28 days, and one hour. I sure loved her. JCU
After the war, Kelley received his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He worked for NASA Lewis Research Center for 33 years as a lawyer and contract negotiator, eventually serving as assistant deputy of procurement. In 1994, he was awarded the John Carroll Alumni Medal, the highest honor given to alumni for his service to the University. Kelley lives in the same house on the West Side of Cleveland where he and Frances raised their seven children.
– Susan Curphey