School’s first graduating class will host reunion at Roncalli homecoming
Chartrand High School’s football team of 1965 will be honored when the Class of 1966 gathers for a reunion at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, at Roncalli. The stories and memories of those years will undoubtedly be recalled when alumni members gather on the football field at halftime of the homecoming game between the Rebels and Brebeuf Jesuit.
The evening promises to be special for the graduates, who were the first students to attend Chartrand (now Roncalli) when it opened in 1962.
For those first four years there were no alumni to come back for a homecoming football game or dance.
“We always thought we were missing out on a tradition that all the other high schools celebrated,” Donna Guy-Woodman said. “We hope to change that for our classmates and offer them the festivity that we missed out on 50 years ago. Gee, I just might crown myself homecoming queen,” she mischievously said.
When Chartrand opened in 1962, the Rev. Robert Kitchin, the school’s first principal, had a vision of a large, first-class football stadium. During construction of the school the excavated dirt was supposed to be hauled away by the contractor, but Kitchin finagled the builder to “dump that dirt over there” to build a base for the field.
All the physical education classes were expected to pick out rocks from the huge pile of dirt. Kitchin could be seen for hours from the few classroom windows on his donated tractor, going back and forth trying to smooth out the field. Bleachers were added from a tornado-damaged school in northern Indiana; a scoreboard was purchased through the sales of toothbrushes; lights were donated and hung by volunteers; and equipment was made by the Dads Club. All of this was coordinated under the direction of Kitchin. The field was ready for play in one year, thanks to volunteer workers, donated building supplies and fundraisers.
The building plan did not include a football field. Without Kitchin’s vision, the Roncalli Stadium of today would not be there if it not had been for him and the school spirit of those first students. In fact at the inaugural graduation in 1966, the first thing Archbishop Paul Schulte said as he got out of his car on the Chartrand Circle was, “Father Kitchin, is that a football field I see over there?”
The school’s nickname was the Rams, and Kitchin was able to secure a live, large-horned ram – Rambunctious, a named that suited his well – that lived in a pen behind the school and was tended to by several students.
Kitchin told the following story many times: “We had to teach him to butt. When he got real good at that, we took him to the football game against Beech Grove. On the short drive over to Beech Grove, Rambunctious was in the front seat of the car with me. When I spotted a police car I got a little worried. Rambunctious raised its head and looked in the direction of the police car. The officer returned the ram’s look, did a double take and drove away, apparently deciding not to ask.”
There may not be a live ram at the homecoming game, but the Chartrand Rams’ spirit lives on through the 1966 classmates.
As a matter of fact, Roncalli’s fight song was written in 1962 by former Chartrand band director Bernie Weimer and former teacher Dr. David Beckmann. The words have been changed somewhat, but when the band plays the song, the Chartrand alumni will proudly sing along, perhaps whispering the original words.