Over in St. Francis the Catholic Archdiocese seminary for Milwaukee in the mid-1940’s was flush with so many attendees that no new applications were being accepted. This was a far cry 25 years later when applications had drastically slowed. The Archdiocese invited the religious order, the Marianist brothers and priests from St. Louis to come and establish a school. They first formed Milwaukee Messmer on the north side of Milwaukee and then, seeing a need for a school on the south side established an all-boys high school at 12th and Becher Street in a former public grade school that had been built at the turn of the century. Over on 5th Street and Mitchell St. Stanislaus High School, a co-ed campus, changed its name to Notre Dame.
That new high school became Don Bosco which opened in 1945 with freshmen and sophomores in an elementary school building built at the turn of the century and formerly owned by the Milwaukee Public School system. It may have been a plan for the Archdiocese at that time to begin to close Pio Nono/St. Francis Seminary High School and have the boy’s move to Don Bosco. That didn’t happen well when St. Francis closed in 1946. Many of the 6-2-0 (5-2-0 in conference play) 1946 St. Francis team went to schools closer to their Milwaukee homes. The first graduating class was in 1948 but in 1947 the school played their first year of varsity football going 1-5-1 and played only fellow teams in the Catholic Conference which they had just joined. Phil Schrempf was their coach for the first two years. The 1947 varsity season though started with a whimper and a bang. The whimper was the season opener as they lost their very first game to Cedarburg, 19-7, scoring a touchdown in the waning minutes. The bang came in game two. That’s when they posted a 7-0 upset win over the 1946 Catholic Conference champion Racine St. Catherine’s. Against St. Catherines Don Bosco couldn’t mount any sort of a drive during the game, but their defense kept the Angles out of the end zone. The Don’s recovered three fumbles, intercepted a pass and stopped the Angles twice on fourth down tight pass coverage resulting on the Racine team turning the ball over on downs. In fact, St. Catherine’s as a team outgained Don Bosco 2-1 in overall yardage and picked up 16 first downs to 2. The lone score came when Don Klein, the Bosco center, playing linebacker on defense, returned a St. Kate’s interception for a 40-yard score in the fourth quarter. This would be the team's only win in 1947.
The next year, 1948, the two teams again opened the conference schedule, and the results were greatly reversed as the Angles pounded the Don’s 44-19. While the team was one of the doormats of the conference the team finished slightly above St. John Cathedral, 1-4-0 in conference play and 1-5-1 overall. Not only did Don Bosco beat the 1946 champion team (St. Catherine’s) they tied the 1947 champ, Messmer, to give that school their only blemish. Next season, 1948 they went 2-6-1. For some reason in 1948 the only team in the conference to play all of the other teams was Racine St. Catherine’s. In the seven-team conference the other team only played five of the other six members that season. Don Bosco finished tied with Milwaukee Notre Dame for last place. Both had 1-4 records in the conference. Don Bosco ended the 1949 year with an overall 2-6-0 record under the coaching of Marv Bell.
The school under Schrempf (1947-48), Bell (1949-51) and Robert Regent (1952) were only 15-30-2. In 1953 a new coach, Dan Fleming, brought a new life into the program, giving the school their first conference championship as they tied with Racine St. Catherine’s. The Racine team had led the conference all season but in their final game, against Don Bosco, the Angles fell, and fell hard to the Don’s 37-7.
The next season, 1954, they won the conference outright as there was a three-way tie for second between St. Catherine’s, Pius and Marquette. This truly was a strange season in the conference.
Don Bosco would have an overall 7-1-0 record; St. Catherine’s had a 5-3-0 season, losing a non-conference game to Green Bay Catholic Central then in conference losing to Pius and Marquette but they did give Don Bosco their only loss in game two, 13-14. Meanwhile, Pius lost to Don Bosco and then was upset by Notre Dame. Marquette also lost to Don Bosco and to Pius. The only non-conference game for Don Bosco, a 42-6 win was over a smaller school, Kenosha St. Mary, the precursor to St. Jospeh, the new school that opened a few years later. I cannot find any reference to coach Dan Fleming before or after his two-season stint at Bosco, but I feel confident that wherever he went he was a successful teacher and coach.
Fleming’s replacement was Edgar “Ed” Callahan who spent five seasons as the head coach, 1955-59 going 28-12-1. Don Bosco had a 7-1-1 season in his initial season of 1955 and then a 7-1-0 year in 1957. They finished second in the Catholic those two years and in the middle of the pack the other three going 4-4-0 in 1956 and 5-3-0 in each of the 1958 and 1959 seasons.
For coach Ed Callahan, his story is much more widely known. Born in 1929 in Youngstown, Ohio he attended Ursuline High School where he was a very good tackle. Standing 6’1, weighing 225, Callahan graduated in 1946 and he was offered many scholarships, but he chose Marquette because he wanted to go to a Catholic Jesuit University. Graduating in 1951 with a B.A. in mathematics, Ed stayed on to get a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration in 1952. He then went to Don Bosco as a math teacher and an assistant coach for football and basketball, before replacing Dan Fleming as the top football man. A very principled man with high integrity he was, to say the least, a man that others thought highly of.
In 1960 he was recruited by a new school in Rockford Illinois to start the football and basketball program at Boylan Catholic High School which opened that year. In 1966 Don Bosco played Rockford Boylan and the Don’s beat the Titan’s 26-25. Ed stayed as the football and basketball coach plus the head of the math department until 1970 when he became the school’s principal. In 1971 he took the job as superintendent of the Rockford Area Catholic Schools and stayed until 1975. Because Ed had a reputation as a very trustful and knowledgeable man, he was asked by the State of Illinois to become the Assistant Secretary of State and then soon became director of Financial Institutions for the state of Illinois. Ed and several of his assistants righted a corrupt department and set the ship right to serving the state’s financial institutions. A life-long Democrat, Ed caught the attention of Republican President Ronald Reagan who, in 1981, asked him to serve as Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), another government organization that had suffered through poor direction during the Carter administration. Ed left in 1985 and started his own company, Callahan and Associates which became the leading provider of financial data to credit unions in the United States. He served in several other positions before retiring in 2002 and then passing in 2009. His successor at Don Bosco stayed 22-years (12 at Don Bosco and then 10 at Thomas More after Bosco merged with Pio Nono).
As mentioned in my September 21, 2021 blog: THE GREAT 1949 ST. CATHERINE’S TEAM (THE GREAT 1949 RACINE ST. CATHERINE’S TEAM (wihifootball.com)). Jim Haluska was a much talented quarterback for his high school team as well as setting records at the University of Wisconsin. He played briefly as a pro for the Chicago Bears and then spent time with the Racine Raiders, a semi-pro football team. In 1960 he replaced Ed Callahan at Don Bosco and this started a Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame career. Besides playing for the Raiders after leaving the Bears, I’m not sure what Haluska did before taking over at Don Bosco as his WFCA H-O-F profile says he started there in 1960 teaching physical education and coaching (James Haluska - Don Bosco / St. Thomas More / Pius XI / Catholic Memorial (wifca.org)) other profiles mention that he also taught world history. It is known that in 1959 the fledgling Los Angeles Chargers (Before they relocated to San Diego in 1961) of the newly formed American Football League (AFL) approached Haluska to play for them. He turned down the offer and took the Don Bosco job in 1960 Also, that year, Haluska split time with coaching the Racine Raiders. He quit that position at the start of the 1961 season to devote his work to Don Bosco.
Jim Haluska at Wisconsin (From his Badger HOF profile)
A few notes about Haluska’s first year at Don Bosco. They won the season opener against Whitefish Bay Dominican. In week two they faced a very tough Milwaukee Country Day (Now closed and later it merged with Milwaukee University School) under the direction of WFCA Hall of Fame coach Kenneth Laird. Country Day had an 18-game winning streak at the time the two schools battled, and it was a barn burner. A 34-33 win for Country Day won by them very late in the contest. That win gave the school their 19th consecutive win and that would continue until they lost after two more victories to end with a 21-game streak. In game four Haluska faced his former high school coach, Eddie Race as St. Catherine’s edged Don Bosco out, on the last play of the game to win 28-26. The final game of note for 1960 was the 4-6 loss to Pius. The Pope’s scored on their first drive and the Don’s defense held them scoreless for the rest of the game. The Don Bosco defense was all over Pius holding their opponent to less than 100-yards, yet they couldn’t do much better, only scoring the two safeties.
After going 5-3-0 in his first season, things paid off for his Don’s as they went 7-1-0 and tied for the Catholic Conference title with Milwaukee Pius XI., a team that Don Bosco lost to 7-0. 1960 and 1961 were strange years for the Catholic Conference. They had 10 schools in the conference but were split into two divisions…the White was made up of the six bigger schools and the Gold held the four smaller schools. These two years were the only time in the overall 46-year history of the conference that there were two divisions. The Catholic would start in 1930 with five schools and later grow to as many as 11 members for football before contracting through mergers and closers and then the creation of the Metro Conference in 1974
Conference standings for 1961
It’s interesting that the White Division teams only counted the games that they played against other members of the White group in their overall conference records. But take a look at the Gold Division. Catholic Memorial and St. John Cathedral also played three teams in the White Division for six total conference games while Notre Dame and Dominican only played three games within the Gold Division and their other games were against non-Catholic Conference teams.
After the success of 1961 the Don’s finished in third place in 1962 and then tied for fifth place in 1963. 1964 rolled around and many of the underclassmen from the year before had gained much needed experience and Haluska’s players were ready to roll. The team opened with a 14-13 win over Oconomowoc before starting conference play as sophomore Mark Mulqueen led the way on the ground and Chip Grelach directed the offense. If you look at the “Coach Jim Haluska Wall of Champions” web site…Wall of Champions - St. Thomas More (tmore.org) a number of things mentioned there stand out to me. First, the name of Chet Gerlach…Chip was used by the newspapers so maybe Chip was a nickname. Second, the listing for the team’s record is 9-0-0 but a newspaper search shows it to be 8-0-0. I’m listing their 1964 schedule below. Tackle Ted Derynda earned first team All-Catholic Conference as well as first team All-State on the U.P.I. All-Private team as well as High School All-America. The Milwaukee Journal newspaper did mention in several stories and in the article on the All-Catholic Conference team that guards, not tackles, Tom Walczak and Tim Marola were in the first team. Marola also made All-State on the U.P.I. All-Private team. Several times the opposing coaches talked highly of these two guards in post- game interviews. Gerlach’s passing stats for the conference were 48-80-2-580-5 as he earned All-Catholic first team and fullback Jerry Jenders earned second team. Jenders picked up the slack when Mulqueen, who had scored three touchdowns against Pius in game two, was lost for the season late in that game with a broken leg. Jenders had a great game against Dominican, rushing for 111 yards on 20 carries while scoring three touchdowns. Against St. Joseph he showed his defensive prowess recovering two fumbles and making 12 tackles from his linebacker spot.
When asked about his coaching style Jim Haluska told the Milwaukee Journal that while with the Chicago Bear’s he came into contact with a coach from another team. He said he learned a lot from the Bears coach George Halas but even more in talking to Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown. For those who are don’t know Browns coaching history here’s a rundown. He coached high school ball at Massillon Washington, Ohio going 80-8-2, five state titles and also earned four mythical National Championship titles over nine seasons. He then moved on to become the head coach of Ohio State University from 1941-43 and then after World War II where he coached military team’s he helped found the Cleveland Browns in 1946 where he stayed until he was let go in 1963. He then founded the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968 and coached them until 1975 and remained as the team’s president until his death in 1991. While not universally liked he was an innovator for creating the modern face mask, using game film of opponents, created the draw-play, had a large staff of paid full-time assistants and he played a major role in breaking professional football’s color barrier. In the 1930’s his high school team was asked almost every season to play an additional game against a southern opponent, say Miami (FL) High or Knoxville (TN) High. He turned them down, losing much needed money for his school because the host school requested that he not bring his “negro” players. Check out his Wiki page: Paul Brown - Wikipedia
Like Brown, Haluska was a strict disciplinarian and used much of Browns terminology and methods. One was he ran ahead of his team out onto the playing field where most coaches just sauntered behind their squads. He ws their leader not a follower. Another coach who influenced him was Army’s Earl Blaik and Haluska utilized a version of Blaik’s Armey offense in what was called “the lonely end” offensive formation. I’m not sure how long he kept it in his playbook but in the 1964 variation his flanker, not end, Don Petchel was split 15-20 yards out from the rest of the team. He was one of the first coaches to utilize the “quick kick” on second down, not just once but often each season as the need appeared.
As you could see by looking at the 1964 schedule the Don’s didn’t score a lot as they beat their opponents with an adequate offense and a tough defense. 1964 was the first of four consecutive Catholic Conference titles, 1964-67. 1964 and 1966 (7-0-0 in conference) were shared titles and 1965 Don Bosco tied with Pius (With 6-1-0 records each). In 1967 they tied with Catholic Memoria (6-0-0)l but each team in the 11-team conference only played six opponents that season.
His six conference titles in the 1960’s was the most by any other team. (Pius had five solo or shared titles) Don Bosco copped a solo title in 1970. The school merged with Pio Nono in 1973 to become Thomas More and they tied with Marquette for the final Catholic Conference title, each with 7-1-0 records. Hulaska’s 1974 team went 9-0-0 but was not chosen to play in the WISAA playoffs. That was the schools last undefeated season but in 1976, 1977 and 1981 WISAA state championships as the squads went 10-1-0 each season.
Jim Haluska retired from Thomas More after the 1987 season but he didn’t retire from coaching. He moved to teach at Pius and assist a great coach, Bill Young, at Catholic Memorial. If you look at the first chart of the blog on the 1954 conference season or the chart of their 1964 season you will see that, as already stated, the team wasn’t a high-powered scoring machine.
In fact, I can only find a few Catholic Conference teams over the 47-year conference records that scored more than 200 points in conference play. Like other schools, Haluska’s Don Bosco rarely scored more than 160 points in conference play. Defense was the name of the game for the Catholic schools. A 7-0 or 14-12 score was often common. As examples, the 1962 champion Pius team went 6-0-1 and scored only 116 points and allowed 56 while fourth place Kenosha St. Joseph was 4-2-1 and scored only 71 and allowed 78. Fifth place Waukesha Memorial played an even season…3-3-1, scoring only 50 points and allowing 50 points in conference play. Not all seasons were like this, teams playing this type of ball but for some seasons this type of low scoring wasn’t uncommon.
In 2001 Haluska was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame. In addition to his three state titles his squads won 12 conference titles…6 each at Don Bosco and Thomas More…he compiled a 206-60-4 record at the two schools and helped influence others like Marquette’s Dick Basham and, as stated before, Catholic Memorial’s Bill Young plus other coaches from all around the state. His influence is still felt today after his passing on September 20, 2012.