Remembering Bob St. Clair

Remembering Bob St. Clair
The Southern Cove and Northern Bedford communities suffered a huge loss recently with the passing of Mr. Robert St. Clair, former principal in the Northern Bedford School District.

Mr. St. Clair was known for his hard-line, iron-fist approach to disciplining students. When a student was sent to the office during his tenure, the student knew he or she was in trouble. There would be no discussion regarding the teacher’s allegations and any excuse made by the student was sure to fall on deaf ears. The students knew that and so did the faculty. His methods of discipline may not have kept up with the political correctness of society today, but there was no doubt that they worked.

His office was properly equipped with a huge, antique fly swatter. No, it was not used on the students; it was used on flies.

He kept a box of his favorite cookies, Fig Newtons, in his desk drawer and always offered one to visitors. Maybe that’s why his office was plagued with the flying pests?

The rear wall supported a huge calendar about 4’x3’ (per sheet or month) in size. Mr. St. Clair scheduled events the old fashioned way – without a computer. He could run an entire high school, including the scheduling of all events from that calendar – a remarkable task.

When closed, the inside of the office door revealed a one-word sign. “TRUTH” is all it said.

An avid tennis player in his day – I can still recall the 50% of our games in which he gave me a whipping on the courts next to the school. At the time he was more than twice my age but I couldn’t let my guard down for one second. He was deceivingly quick and used the whole court well.

A few days before every Christmas vacation mysterious gifts appeared in the male teachers’ mailboxes in the office area. We never knew who was responsible for them.

They were old ties that someone purchased at flea markets or used clothing shops. The annual gifts were someone’s idea of a joke, but I always wore mine at least once after receiving it.

I sported one red and green tie in particular for many years. I’d complement the tie with a green shirt and red suspenders and my students looked forward to seeing that spectacle every year before Christmas vacation.

Somehow, I always felt that Bob St. Clair might have been behind that little gag. If he was, it only exemplified the way he associated with his faculty. He had the ability to mix in a little fun with the work that he felt was so important.

Mr. St. Clair was also a veteran of WWII and one may think he ran his school with only hard-nosed techniques as many people with a military background might do. Nothing could be further from the “TRUTH”as his heart and mind were firmly planted in doing what he felt was right for the good of the school. He reminded me more than once that the “students were someone’s kids.” May teachers everywhere remember that.

Perhaps the best tribute that we teachers contemplated doing in honor of Mr. St. Clair, followed Dr. B.F. Van Horn’s and Bob St. Clair’s retirement. Dr. Van Horn was our superintendent and he retired a few years before Mr. St. Clair. When we realized how much we missed both of them, we came up with the idea of making tee shirts with the words “Bring Back Ben” and “Bring Back Bob” silk-screened on the front.

After some deliberation, we nixed the idea though. We didn’t know how the new administration might take the slogans on the shirts. But it’s the thought that counts and we truly did desire their return.

Years after Mr. St. Clair’s retirement ceremony, I can still recollect some of his closing words to the guests at that dinner. He said, regardless of where he was raised, he will “always be Panther Proud.” His actions and deeds forever supported that philosophy.

My sympathy and condolences go out to Mrs. St. Clair and the rest of the St. Clair family. The passing of Mr. St. Clair was not only a loss to them but to the larger Northern Bedford family too.

As distraught as I was to hear the news, I must admit that it was also one of life’s pleasures just to know Bob St.Clair.


For the Bedford Gazette and The Morrison's Cove Herald

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA