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Southbridge Recollections:


November 11, 2004
Reprint courtesy of the Southbridge Evening News

At 10:35 a.m., my senior year at the brand new high school, I would wait for Bruce at the top of the hallway above the principal’s office. Bruce and I took study hall together my junior and senior years.  We were close friends, when at a time it was not uncommon to have many close friends.  What stood out to me about Bruce when we walked to study hall together, was that as time went on, he would have more and more books piled under his arms.

One day I asked him: “Bruce, aren’t you overdoing it today with all those books you’re carrying.” There were three regular-size school books, and two very large books I recall. Bruce stated, “I need to study all these books so I can make it to college with good marks.”  So I watched him the whole hour and a half in study hall, and sure enough he learned something from each book.
Bruce Giovanello not only made it to college, he was outstanding in every sense of the word, all through his life.

In high school, Bruce played halfback on our football team. In 1962, he was elected captain of the team. Often injured, he was not able to run up the statistics of the greatest running backs that graced the halls of Mary E. Wells High, and then Southbridge High. How good was he? Well he was the quickest off the mark, and he could run the 100 yards of a football field in 9.8 seconds.
I have several sources who tell me that only Billy Brousseau — who along with Rudy Sabatinelli made up the famous “Gold Dust Twins” of the middle 1960s — could run faster.
Coach Don “Mingo” Marino stated Bruce was better than his brother, Ronnie Giovanello, who is in the school’s Hall of Fame along with Brousseau and Sabatinelli.

The Powers To Be wanted to put Bruce into the Hall of Fame. Bruce’s steadying comment was: “I don’t deserve it; I didn’t play enough. Put somebody in who deserves it.”  To Bruce, being in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame was never a big thing.  Bruce Giovanello was always a man among boys, no matter what stage of his life he was in. Bruce went on to run track in college at Peru State in Nebraska.  He ran the 60-yard dash, and ran against the best, including Bob Green, who held the world record at the time. Bruce Giovanello showed us how to do the right things, the right way, all of the time. He was straight as an arrow in everything he did, a no-nonsense person who always stayed the course.  Bruce had a lot of love in his heart for all of us, and never said a bad word to or about anybody.
Bruce made a lot of friends through grammar school, high school, and  then working for 35 years in the Southbridge Public School system; first as a physical education teacher, and then as a guidance counselor at West Street School.

He had many best friends, including Vasil “Mex” Veshia, David DiGregorio, Fran Allard, Bobby Szczygiel, Bobby Simonelli, Fran Holden, Ronnie “Spider” Cronin, Paul Mani, Donnie Ferron, and Bryant Montigny. Bruce had more best friends than anybody, but his very best friend was the love of his life, Johanna Soldani. Bruce and Johanna were married for 37 years and have two children, Nicholas and Angela. Bruce was very proud of his children.

Bruce passed away just a year ago, Nov. 20, 2003.  He will always be missed.  On this page is a picture of the first Student Council (1961-1962) at Southbridge High School. Johanna Soldani Giovanello was the first vice president of the Student Council at the new school. She is seated in the first row, in the middle. To her immediate left, I sit as the first president of the Student Council at SHS. This is not the first time we sat next to each other; that would be kindergarten. We went all the way up together until we graduated high school.  Thirteen years in class together.  So you could say, our school years ended as they began, sitting together. Johanna always made us laugh, as can be attested by her being voted the Class of 1962 Class Clown, along with Ray Carmel.

Johanna also worked very hard for the Class of 1962 as she co-chaired our Junior Prom Committee along with Normand “Deano” Simonelli to make “Wonderland by Night” a big success.
The Queen of the Prom that year was Alice “Lolly” Volpini.  You know her as Alice Cournoyer, who served on our School Committee for many years. Lolly went to the Prom that year with Vinny Sabatinelli who was killed serving our country on his second tour of duty in Vietnam. Each Thanksgiving, the Vincent Sabatinelli Memorial Award is given to the most valuable player of the Bartlett High-Southbridge High game.


The Class of 1962 was the first class to graduate from Southbridge High.  The Class of 1961 was the last class to graduate from the old Mary E. Wells High. In the Student Council picture on this page are some very familiar faces.  In the third row, fourth from the right, is Bill Ryan. You could say he went from the Student Council to the Town Council.  In the back row are two of Bruce Giovanello’s best friends as mentioned.  Donnie Ferron is the first from the left, and Paul Mani is fifth from the left.  Both are in the school’s Hall of Fame.  Also in the back row, third from the left you will find Judy Polakowski Roscioli, who taught history at Mary E. Wells Middle School.   In the first row, third from the right sits Attorney and Charlton Selectman Francis Fennessey. My friend Francis still sits next to me on occasion after all these years.


In the 1960s after school, SOF’s SPA on Central Street was the place to go.  On this page is a picture of five very popular girls who graduated with Bruce Giovanello in the Class of 1963, having Cokes at SOF’s.  Right to left sitting in the booth are; Connie Thomas L’Ecuyer, who teaches at West Street School; “Libby” Hall, co-captain of the basketball team; Sue Shauweker, co-captain of the cheerleaders; Carolyn “Squeak” Engelhardt, co-captain of the basketball team; and “Dell Fross,” co-captain of the cheerleaders and Class vice-president. They are drinking Cokes, but a lot of guys in those days were drinking orange “Crushes” because of them. A picture of the full 1963 cheerleading team is also featured on this page. The pretty cheerleader second from the right is Darlene LaFortune Kulesza who taught science at Wells Middle School.


The Southbridge High Pioneers are in for a game tomorrow in Webster, against the Bartlett Indians.  Bartlett has played better than Southbridge has against some common opponents.  Because of this, the Thanksgiving game is now rated a toss-up. Bartlett is very well coached by Rene Langevin.  In the 1960s, Rene and I went to the Thanksgiving games together, along with his brother-in-law Stu Dall.  We would sit up in the stands on the 50-yard line, and Rene would tell us in advance every play Southbridge would run on offense.  Sometimes he would tell us the next several plays in advance.


The Indians will scalp the Pioneers early (score first); but the Pioneers will fire their muskets with just enough amo left to chase the Indians off their home field into hiding on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.
Pioneers 26, Indians 20.


Special holiday wishes go out to Betsy Guardiani Julian, Barbara Flanagan, Jeannette Leduc, Shirley Ziu Marcin, and Lucy Hollenberger.
Until the next time, happy trails to you.

Apple Vecchia is a Southbridge Evening News columnist.

I remember the 1960s… by Rich Dugas, SHS class of ‘66 - New 17-Aug-10

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