Hop along

Commuters reconnect with the University years after their Carroll experience

By John Walsh

noun, informal
1. a day’s journey; a distance that can be traveled in one day
2. a day student at a boarding school, college, or university

During the 1950s, dayhops – or commuters as they’re more commonly known – populated campus. It was a time when many students went straight into the workforce after graduating from high school. And those who did go to college remained local because they couldn’t afford to leave home.

Most students worked while attending college to help pay for tuition and other costs. Financial aid wasn’t prevalent and federal student aid was received primarily through the GI Bill, which was enacted in 1944, and the National Defense Education Act of 1958. The Higher Education Act, which was part of large-scale aid for education, wasn’t formed until 1965.

Some dayhops came to Carroll from the West Side of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Other dayhops were East Siders who attended Cathedral Latin High School (1916-1979), which was located right off University Circle. But no matter where a student’s home was, dayhops typically weren’t as connected to the University as those who lived in the residence halls on campus. As a result of a daily commute, many dayhops didn’t become truly involved and committed to the University until later in their lives – mainly through reunions or other alumni events. Nonetheless, the fondness for JCU remains for several dayhops of the class of 1957 after all these years.

The one and only choice
Sal Felice grew up in an Italian neighborhood two blocks from Cathedral Latin near the corner of Cedar and Fairhill in St. Marion’s Parish. Felice worked different jobs through high school, one of which was working as a bus boy at Theresa’s Restaurant in Little Italy on Friday and Saturday evenings. Sometimes Felice would work as late as 3 a.m.

When it was time to decide on which college to attend, JCU was the only school Felice had in mind.

“I never thought about going anywhere else,” says Felice, who was in the premed program.

Another East Sider, Jack Szabo, also attended Cathedral Latin and only looked at Carroll during his college search, mainly because he couldn’t afford to go out of town.

1946 Ford

1946 Ford

“I wasn’t very forward thinking,” Szabo says. “I followed my friends.”

Jim Clark lived a bit farther away in Slavic Village on 48th Street, were he was born and raised. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes High School for two years, but during his sophomore year, he thought his credentials wouldn’t gain him access to John Carroll, so he transferred to Benedictine High School for his junior and senior years. He was attracted to Carroll because of its Catholicism and quality education. The University’s campus and sports were irrelevant to him. And like Felice and Szabo, Clark only applied to JCU.

Clark was a freshman in 1953, when having a car wasn’t that common.

“I had a ’46 Ford sedan that wasn’t reliable,” he says. “Occasionally, I’d have to borrow a car from my sisters [he had five] or bum a ride. I didn’t take public transportation to JCU, but I did use it to get to Benedictine.”

Dave Milroy, born and raised in Cleveland, graduated from Holy Name High School, which, at the time, was located on the corner of Harvard and Broadway Avenues on the city’s South Side. Holy Name moved to Parma Heights in the early 1980s to accommodate its growth. Milroy was interested in JCU because it was local and run by the Jesuits, whom he appreciated.

“I was well aware of the Jesuits’ reputation,” he says.

After attending the seminary at the University of Notre Dame for one year, he returned to Cleveland and transferred to Carroll.

The Carroll experience (then)
During the 1950s, the majority of students lived off campus (either at home or in other housing near JCU) because there were only three residence halls on campus at the time. In 1954, when Felice was a sophomore at Carroll, he worked as a traffic checker for the Cleveland Transit System, now called the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. As a perk of his employment, he received free transportation to JCU. By 1956, his family had moved to the Harvard-Lee neighborhood on the city’s South Side. So, Felice would take the No. 40 bus on Lee Road, get off at Cedar Road, then take the 32A to JCU. He walked three-quarters of a mile to and from home to the first bus stop, which was challenging during the snowy winters when sidewalks were rarely shoveled.

1941 Hudson

1941 Hudson

“I didn’t get to know many of the other students because I commuted,” he says. “I didn’t have the time to participate in activities. There was a lounge in the basement of the Administration Building for dayhops, but I didn’t have time to hang out there. Some guys hung out, played cards, and relaxed. By the time I got home and ate, I wanted to sleep; so I had to force myself to study at night. I only knew the other students studying premed. However, I participated in ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps], which opened a lot of doors for me.”

Even if students had a car to drive to and from school, they weren’t always reliable. Szabo drove a ’41 Hudson his freshman year. Purchased for $150, his car was falling apart. Sections of it were rusted out, the heater didn’t work, and the radio station couldn’t be changed. He also had to rig a dangling headlight to secure it, but the car only lasted two years. Then Szabo bought a ’47 Pontiac from his neighbor. Unfortunately, the clutch on that car gave out 30 days later. Next was a ’53 Ford, which he was able to buy with money from ROTC.

“I drove a couple friends but wasn’t exactly a taxi service,” he says. “I drove others when needed.”

Szabo had several part-time jobs while attending Carroll. Through JCU’s job placement office, he landed a job as a driver for a jewelry wholesaler. Szabo’s next job, which he had for two years, was doing janitorial work for an accounting firm. These jobs made Szabo feel somewhat detached from campus life.

“There was a separation between dayhops and on-campus students,” he says. “Dayhops spent a lot of time in the commuter lounge waiting for classes, many of which were in the late afternoon because dorm students had first crack at scheduling classes and teachers. The on-campus students ran the school and knew all the ins and outs.”

1953 Ford

1953 Ford

In addition to the money Szabo earned from his part-time jobs, he took out a loan to help pay for his college tuition. He recalls having some student debt when he graduated, but it wasn’t significant. When Szabo was a freshman, tuition cost $600 a year. By his senior year, it had risen to $1,200.

Like most dayhops, if not all, living on campus wasn’t an option for Clark.

“I was lucky to even go to college,” he says, adding that his brother went to college on the G.I. Bill but didn’t finish. “I had a great life and never realized my inconveniences.”

The youngest of seven, Clark was unlike many of his lifelong friends, who began working right after high school.

“They had an income and a social life, while I was going to school and studying,” he says.

1947 Pontiac

1947 Pontiac

Clark worked summers in a factory, but didn’t work during the week while in school during his freshman and sophomore years. During Christmas break, he had a job delivering mail. During his junior and senior years, Clark worked at Merrill Lynch after school from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., transmitting the orders of the day to New York.

“That was in the early days of computers,” he says.

As a result of his schedule, Clark never attended a basketball or football game at Carroll until well after he graduated. However, he played intramurals during the day; was a founding member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the national business fraternity; and spent time in the commuter lounge playing cards for money he didn’t have.

“We ran up tabs that never got paid,” he recalls.

Milroy, who majored in sociology, didn’t have a car his first two years at Carroll, so he shared a ride or took a bus. He drove his junior and senior years, during which he had a job with an insurance company downtown. Milroy tried to participate in as many programs and events as he could. His participation gradually increased as he got older. He played basketball and was in ROTC and the French Club. Living in East Cleveland, Milroy was able to walk to Shaw High School to see the Blue Streaks play football.

“I did have to spend time away from campus, but it didn’t seem to burden me,” he says. “It worked out. I didn’t feel less connected to the school because I was a dayhop. I met kids in class and developed a lot of friendships.”

Felice recalls what a different time it was for college students then.

“Nobody watched over you to see if you weren’t going to make it,” he says. “You were pretty much on your own. You paid your own way. So if you didn’t make it, it was your own money.”

Felice became more involved with his alma mater much later in life through the Parents Association when his daughter Anita (Felice) Kazmierczak ’87 attended. It was only then that Felice experienced college life.

“When I went to Carroll, it was more like an extension of high school,” he says. “I didn’t get to know anyone in the residence halls until I went to Fort Eustis in Virginia with the transportation corps. Then, at our 25th class reunion, I really got involved and took over writing the class column. Many other classmates weren’t committed to JCU until later in life.”

After traveling through the country working for Firestone, Clark returned to Northeast Ohio in 1974. He attended his 20th class reunion in 1977 where he reunited with his close friend Milroy.

“Once I went to that, I went to almost every reunion thereafter,” he says. “I got to know a lot of guys. I became more involved with my classmates – more then than when I was there. Those who lived on campus back then tended to develop closer relationships with the Jesuits, professors, and classmates. I redeveloped those relationships 20 years later. If I hadn’t come back to reunions, I wouldn’t have a relationship with JCU.” JCU

1 Comment

  1. Felice, et al., capture the dayhop experience at JCU in the ’50s to a “T”. Thanks for the memories.

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