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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:06:20 14:03:56

Members of the Avoca Boys Breakfast Club at their party at Frances Slocum on June 20, first row, from left, are Robin Dommermuth, Gene Philbin and Jim Brogan. Second row, seated: Butch McAndrew, Ken Battista, Chris VanLuvender and Nick Moranski. Third row: Bill Kennedy, Ernie Cavalari, Jerry Coffee, Howard Doran, Dave Goul, Ned Jones, Mike Carroll, Jim Jumper, Tom Paddock, Ace Doran, Fred Gedrich, Ed Kearney, Beau Hannon and John Litzy. Walter Kmiec also attended the party.

In the real world, Avoca High School hasn’t existed for 58 years, but in the hearts and minds of the Avoca Boys Breakfast Club, it is alive and well.

The men of the ABBC are in their 70s, but they get to be boys again every Thursday when they meet for breakfast at Luca’s in Moosic and once a year on the third Thursday of June at Frances Slocum State Park, where they talk and laugh about their days at Avoca High School before it was eaten up by the Northeast monster in 1962.

At the annual Frances Slocum get-together, they give thanks and honor their deceased brothers.

“Once a year we pay tribute to those brothers no longer with us,” said Jim Jumper, a retried teacher. “We lost some of our best but we are dedicated to continue with what we have.”

Lots of us have warm, nostalgic feelings about our high school days, but the men of the ABBC believe they have stayed close for over half a century because Avoca High School was so small and intimate. The town is only one square mile. All the students walked to school. Graduating classes in the years leading up to the merger were in the low 40s and the underclasses were smaller. There were only eight teachers and two principals for grades nine to 12.

“Seniors and juniors welcomed and took underclassmen under their wings,” Jumper said. “There was a chemistry that existed there that was very, very special. It was the opposite of bullying. It was a brotherhood. We played sports together, we hung out together, we grew up together.”

John Litzy, class of 1961, brought a nearly pristine Avoca basketball jersey to the Frances Slocum reunion. Avoca dropped basketball after the 1954-55 season and Mike Carroll, 79, is the only one of the group old enough to have worn one.

Litzy said he and a classmate were sent out of class and told to clean out a locker. He found the jersey and kept it all these decades.

Seeing the jersey, Carroll cracked everyone up with an Avoca basketball story. There was no gymnasium or basketball court in the school so the school board rented the American Legion for Avoca games. One night, as Carroll told it, a game was about to tip off when the Legion commander walked on to the court and said they couldn’t play because the Avoca board hadn’t paid the rent. A couple of boosters went to some local bars, told what happened, passed the hat and went back to the Legion with the rent money and the game was on.

The ABBC is comprised mainly of folks who spent their entire life in Avoca or surrounding communities, though some do travel.

Fred Gedrich came from Virginia for last month’s Frances Slocum party.

Gedrich played football four years from 1957 to 1960 and baseball as a senior in 1960.

“We traveled to our away football games on the old Laurel Line buses which ran from Scranton to Pittston during the ’50s. The buses were Avoca green and gold. We traveled to away baseball games in Coach Joe Kennedy’s car and the cars of students who had them or access to them. Our Avoca football field was adjacent to the infamous creosote plant,” Gedrich said. “I recall going to a school board meeting with some other students, Butch Clark and Duke Berkoski among them come to mind, in a futile effort to restore the basketball program in ’57-58.”

Gedrich, who retired from the State Department said, “My small town education and upbringing not only laid a foundation for me to eventually get undergraduate and graduate degrees but also a fabulous professional career with travels to many interesting places and situations in the world. But most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to have acquired lifelong hometown friends.”

jsmiles@pittstonprogress.com