Clairton High School - Class of 1960



Last Updated: 10/28/2020



AL(F) SPANGLER - I'm sorry I was unable to attend the Zoom class reunion, but glad Mr. Landon was able to record it and make it available on YouTube. I especially liked the cameos and, among others, Bill Bennett's reminiscence about the spirit of Clairton and its largely working-class people. A clear memory from childhood is hearing a neighbor lady tell us kids to be quiet "because the men are sleeping," an anecdote you could understand only if you grew in a place where men worked in 8 hour shifts.

My daughter, Viiu, was born the day I graduated from Penn State in mid-March 1964 and it was fortunate that I graduated early because her mother and I had completely run out of money. I worked at one job or another while in college but didn't earn much. We left Penn State virtually penniless, but my father got me a job in the Irvin Works where he worked and I made enough money to get us back on a somewhat sound financial footing. When I complained about the heat in the mill, my father always said, "Beats the hell out of a coal mine." He was fond of Donna Marie Lancianese's father, Roman, and when we went to Roman's bar they had what seemed to me a mandatory routine. --What's new Nick? ---- Oh, New York, New Jersey . . . I cried when I heard that Roman had died.

After months of working those shifts in the mill, I got a job with IBM in Washington DC (long story) and as a dance instructor at Arthur Murray studios in Arlington (longer story). Years later I was on a fishing trip in Chile and as we sat around a fire and swapped stories, I discovered that one of the guys had worked in the same Arthur Murray studio and had lived a block away from our apartment in Arlington, VA. I guess he was also desperate for money.

IBM made for a dull workplace after the rolling mill in Dravosburg, and after a year or so, I realized that corporate life was not my cup of tea. IBM treated me very well, but I did not enjoy sitting at a desk all day. On the other hand, working in D.C. was terrific and our office was across Connecticut Avenue from the Mayflower Hotel where almost every day a black limo dropped off the Speaker of the House, John McCormack, for lunch.

I majored in Philosophy at Penn State and continued reading and writing while I was working. I wanted to study with a philosopher at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln whose work I admired, and I applied for and was awarded an NDEA fellowship. A Penn State friend from Aliquippa, also a philosophy student, got a teaching assistantship there so we rented a UHaul and headed west, families to follow. The teacher with whom I planned to study was forced to retire at 65 (a Nebraska law, it so happened) but there was a recent PhD from Oxford University visiting and he and I hit it off and became friends. His academic specialty was Ancient Greek Philosophy and so I began studying the relevant languages and reading Aristotle's works. I wrote an M.A. thesis with him and met through my research a philosopher from Germany who was just finishing his PhD and was on the faculty at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He had a Classics degree but wanted a degree in Philosophy, so he went back to school after teaching for a number of years. He had an amazing mind for language-learning and in addition to the European languages learned ancient Greek, Medieval Latin, Arabic, and Chinese. He was as daunting as the weather in Alberta. Pennsylvania winters can be cold but in my first year in Edmonton there was a period of 32 days when the high temperature was minus 30.

My mentor was asked in 1970 to visit the University of Pittsburgh to consider taking a position there (it had a top-ranked philosophy program and someone on the faculty was also translating Arabic texts), so I went along to do some research. The American Philosophy Association's conference was in Philadelphia that year and I attended and was hired by California State University Long Beach. I also taught several years before I finished my degree work. I completed my PhD in 1974 and except for a year teaching at the University of Hawaii and a semester at Chico state (almost destroyed in the recent fires), I taught in Long Beach until 2003 when I retired. I continued teaching part-time in a "golden parachute" program. I loved teaching and would probably not have retired when I did had I not been the chair of the department for seven years at the end of my career at a time when the department was going through turbulent changes.

In the early 70s in Long Beach, I helped to settle a Vietnamese family from the marine base at Camp Pendleton in a small house behind mine. Around midnight on their first night in Long Beach, there was a knock at my door. On my porch was a tiny Vietnamese girl holding what looked like a shoe box. She spoke no English but smiled and removed its lid. In it was a half dozen cucumber sandwiches made from white bread with the crusts removed and cut into triangles. I later discovered that her mother, Mrs. Nguyen, thought that's what Americans ate. She sometimes came through my back door at dinner time and would point at my food and say, "No good, no good." Then she would go home and return a few minutes later with some of her food for me.

During my tenure at the university there was dramatic change. Refugees from Vietnam who were spread around the country moved to sunny Long Beach and formed what is now called "Little Saigon" in nearby Orange County. Our city has the largest population of Cambodians outside of Phnom Penh and immigration from other places made CSULB one of the most ethnically diverse colleges in the country. These wonderful demographic changes also made Long Beach a much more pleasant and vibrant place to live.

My daughter worked as an actress for ten years after graduate school and then returned for a law degree. She is now an equity partner in her firm and one of its prominent litigators. She has two boys. One is a data analyst working in Manhattan and a musician; the other just started at Bard College in New York and will play baseball there, his passion. My daughter's husband is a vice president at MGA Entertainment in L.A. and I am happy they live close by. Anna Marie recently asked me how far it is to my daughter's home in L.A. and I remarked that we seldom use distance to answer such questions but only time of travel, and the time can vary wildly with traffic.

The pandemic has not been much fun, but I've lost twenty pounds and was able to stop taking medication for diabetes and to cut some other meds in half. In high school I weighed 135 pounds, which may be why no one seems to remember that I was a lifeguard at the city pool. Now I weigh 170 lbs. but probably still don't look like lifeguard material.

One of my greatest regrets is not working harder on academics at CHS. I hated being called an "underachiever" but, regrettably, that's what I was. Luckily for me, Penn State has a satellite campus in McKeesport and I used my freshman year there to learn how to study. I was on the debating team and we beat many "prestigious" colleges. At the main PSU campus, I changed my major from broadcast journalism (I had a radio show on the college FM station) to philosophy. I enjoy Penn State football now (alas!), but did not attend a game while there. By the way, my older brother also graduated from PSU and was on the state championship swimming team at CHS. I was a poor athlete but participating in sports at CHS meant a lot to me. I'm grateful to CHS for giving me those athletic opportunities.

Best wishes, Al(f) Spangler


1942 - delivered by Dr. Rascatti on 6th street in Wilson. If you remember, Dr. Rascati had severe emphysema so the birth was a touch and go 4 hour spectacle. My mother told me I was only dropped that might explain a lot.

1945 - big move to the suburbs, Woodland Terrace. Nice $3,000 unit among the other deplorables.

1948 - 1954 Fifth Street grade school under legendary principal Minnie Brogan.

1954 - 1960 Clairton junior and senior high school. Graduated as unstable genius.

1960 - 1966 Rutgers BA and MEd. Freshman football under HOF coach Chuck Klausing. RU first undefeated team of 1961 that was inducted into RU HOF. As a sophomore, my contribution was near zero. Member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity with most other athletes from Western PA. Still friends with all of them, including Paul Strelick, Charleroi player who caught the pass in the monsoon game, our only loss in 3 years. Paul has since become an honorary member of our class.

1966 - worked in rolling mill until drafted. Accepted into Air Force OTS one week before being inducted into Army as a private specializing in infantry or artillery.

1966 - 1968 Mather AFB (Navigator Training Base) in Sacramento, CA. First exposure to blue skies of Lake Tahoe and northern CA.

1968 - 1970 Buchel AFB (German base in the heart of Europe). 80 Americans stationed there as custodians of the nuclear weapons mounted on 4 Starfighters. Travelled a lot throughout Europe in Karmanghia conv. After discharged in Germany, took tour of Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Czechoslavakia (shortly after Russian tanks had rolled through Prague). Visited Berlin and walked length of wall. Walked alone through Red Square.

1970 - 1974 Home office Group Sales at BusinessMens Assurance Co. in Kansas City. Got CLU and CFP. I have 50 Italian relatives from mother's side in KC. 1974 - 1991 Manulife, Merrill Lynch then self employed as Financial Advisor since 1978. After leaving Merrill Lynch, started "Clairton Fund" in 1982. CF is a private partnership that invests in securities dedicated to following the 10 investment principles ("value" investing) of Ben Graham, the father of security analysis. In the current age of reckless speculation, hardly anyone remembers in 1982 the Dow was 572 and you had to beg people to invest. (Now you have to beg them not to). That proved to be the biggest blessing ever since it enabled CF to purchase stock in 50 smaller companies well under book values and very low price earnings ratios. (I bought one company for 1/3 of the cash on the books). After preparing for but failing to profit from the crash on Oct. 19, 1987 (-22.5% on one day), I decided to get away from the market and took a 9 month motor trip all over the country. Believe I was in every state. CF had 10 very good years while these undervalued stocks became overvalued by 1991. Then the S & L crisis bankrupted every financial institution in Arizona. That presented an ideal time to relocate to Phoenix. I had met my parents there 3 times for spring training thinking they might prefer living in Phoenix rather than in the Terrace next to drug dealers. Logic did not prevail. They stayed in the Terrace for 68 years, but I ended up in Phoenix.

1991 - Present. When The S&Ls failed, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates from 10% to "0" and turned "investing" upside down. With interest rates near zero since then, it forced everyone to invest in anything other than cash. Value investing was no more. Money management became the purview of those willing to ignore risk. With the onset of derivatives in 1993 and zero interest rates, 3 of the biggest stock market bubbles followed in 2000, 2008 and the currently. Since "value" stocks were no longer, the Clarton Fund had to resort to "shorting" (profiting from market declines) the bubbles. We doubled our money when the 2000 bubble burst, made 50% on the 2008 decline, but we were no match for the current bubble, the biggest ever. After giving back some of our gains shorting it, I decided I was too old to continue to endure the strain and closed down Clairton Fund in 2018, but I still put in as much time following the markets just to be informed and keep an eye on my personal investments.

2006 - 2009 I dedicated these years trying to diffuse the certain bursting of the real estate bubble and its subsequent "bailout" by taxpayers. I became involved in the HFSC (House Financial Services Committee) via my congressman. This led to a "toilet bowl" protest (Google it and you should be taken to photos on Facebook account) as well as protest in front of AIG tower in Phoenix. My efforts led to an invitation from Rep. Scott Garrett, senior Republican on the HFSC, to their hearing on July 10, 2008. He saved me a seat about 15 feet from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The day before I had a private meeting with senior Republican and Democratic counsel to the committee regarding derivatives. I also had a private meeting with tax counsel to the committee chairman Bachus. My naive efforts went to no avail. Bernanke and Paulson testified that confidence was being restored in capital markets and there was no problem in housing. Two months later it all collapsed and Bernanke is perceived to have "saved the world" by using taxpayers to bail out those who caused the problem. I helped write questions for Rep. Garrett and during the hearing we projected a giant photo of the Fed's balance sheet (I believe it was the first time anyone on the committee had ever seen it) on the hearing room wall. Bernanke answered our questions by reaffirming that the financial system was sound and that he had the authority to print whatever money was necessary, unless instructed otherwise by Congress, to do bailouts....albeit as unlikely as they were. Bernanke now works for a hedge fund and received $250,000 per speech prior to that. Had this bubble been diffused in advance and had the bailout money not gone to the perpetrators of the bubble, I think the country would have been in a much better place today and not so badly divided. The bailout however jump started the "tea party" and the subsequent anger still evident throughout the land, although few of the "victims" understand how it all came about.

Regarding activities, I have always been engaged in sports and physical condition. Golf, skiing, tennis daily then gave it all up in 2006 for membership in Lifetime Fitness where I get a lot of exposure to athletes, both professional and high school. I go out of my way to try to engage young athletes. I have stayed active with both Clairton Bears, Rutgers Scarlet Knights and local high schools. I did read some before 9/11 (forgot I was in the air and ended up grounded in Indianapolis for 5 days. The ride back to Phoenix in an empty plane was "eerie") but after that it really picked up...trying to understand why it happened. That led to a lot of reading about U.S. and world history.

Regarding family, in addition to the 50 relatives in KC I have 5 nieces and nephews with 12 children under 13 years old. They are located from Maine to Austin, TX. I try my best to visit and keep in touch with all of them, but it will not be easy in the future. Like everyone else with grandchildren, I'm sure everyone worries what kind of world we have left them. My last wishes will be to do whatever I can to help them while I am healthy enough and "solvent". If genes will be a factor, it is of some comfort with my mother still kicking at 100 next July. When you ask how she is doing, I always answer "well, she was planning to attend the Bears PA championship game in Hershey last year" and some of you will remember her at 96 in 12 degree weather at Hershey