Central Catholic's glory days remembered at the 34th annual Lehigh Valley Athletes Reunion

Past Vikings greats relived the memories at 34th annual Lehigh Valley Athletes and Friends gathering at Fairgrounds.

Since it was built in 1940, Rockne Hall has warmed up many a bitterly cold winter night by being the scene of some of the best basketball games in Lehigh Valley history.

But on a blistering hot June Saturday, talk of Rockne Hall was kind of cool.

That's because Central Catholic was one of the featured schools at the 34th annual Lehigh Valley Athletes and Friends Reunion at the Allentown Fairgrounds Agri-Plex held this weekend.

Bethlehem Catholic was also featured, but the gathering of close to 300 former players, coaches, athletic directors, fans and personalities had much more of a CCHS flavor as the athletic portion of the school's 86-year history was remembered.

Bob Yost secured the championship banners from Rockne's wall of the school's back-to-back 1956-57 PCIAA basketball title teams and there were various memorabilia displayed from the school's glorious sports past, which since 1973 has included seven PIAA titles in girls basketball, two in boys basketball and three in football.

"Central Catholic had students coming from all over … from Slatington to Souderton, and you had a guy like George Kinek coming from Palmerton," said Joe Ludrof, a 1952 graduate who played basketball. "And so we all came together at the school and Rockne Hall became the premier place to be. Muhlenberg College even played their home games there for a while and all of the CYO kids played there.

"The CYO programs became great feeders to Central Catholic, and that's one of the reasons why the school became so successful in basketball. It took much longer for football to have success. Jim Morgans got that weight training program going down there and they've done well ever since. But over the years, it was more of a basketball school."

Yost, a prominent member of the back-to-back PCIAA title teams, said there was a camaraderie at CCHS that didn't dissipate, even after you graduated and moved on.

"Our class of 1957 stuck together through thick and thin," Yost said. "We still have our reunions and picnics and a lot of people show up."

Yost said that the CYO feeder system was always so strong and instrumental in Central's success at the high school level.

"I went to grade school next door at Sacred Heart and the Sacred Heart team won [the] parochial title with the same five who went on to Central Catholic and won the state title there," Yost said.

Ludrof said that today's parents who send their kids to any Catholic school deserve credit because, "When I went to Central Catholic I had to pay $20 a month and now it's in the thousands for tuition each year. There's a reason they do it. You see the billboards and it says 98 percent of their students end up going to college."

Ludrof, who is originally from Northampton, said he's still invited back to Konkrete Kids reunions, but that CCHS will always be special to him.

"My wife Barbara and my five children all went there," Ludrof said.

Likewise, Yost's wife Mary Therese is a 1957 Central grad.

"It's a special place," Yost said.

Special sightings

When you go to the Lehigh Valley Athletes and Friends Reunion, you're always going to see some people you don't see the rest of the year.

Personally, I was very happy to see both legendary football coach George "Fritz" Halfacre and longtime area broadcaster Alan Raber.

There are few people in local sports more beloved than Halfacre, who is now 86 and out of football since 2009 after coaching on area sidelines for 61 years. He spent time at numerous places in his coaching career, and everywhere he went, he made that program better than it was before he arrived.

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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