|Jean Shaw surrounded by a few of the 8,000-plus beanies she'd hand stitched for the past 43 years.|
MOTHER OF ALL BEANIES--Making freshmen wear beanies is one of the more endearing traditions at St. Augustine, the all boys high school in San Diego, located at Nutmeg and 32nd streets in historic North Park. For “Welcome Week” at the beginning of the school year, the incoming ninth graders must don their gold and purple beanies. And, heaven help the frosh that leaves his beanie at home.
For decades those beanies have been handed out without much fanfare. But, no more. The person who has been stitching together each and every beanie since 1973 retired in June. If you do the math that’s 43 years and 8,600 beanies.
What’s a 93-year-old Catholic school going to do in the face of a beanie dilemma? Who will replace Jean Shaw, the venerable beanie boss of Nutmeg Street?
Fortunately, she hasn’t left the school in the lurch. “True to her ongoing loyalty to the school, she made her usual batch of 200 beanies for the Class of 2019 before taking her well earned retirement,” said Edwin Hearn, Saints president.
What about next year?
Mrs. Shaw has worked out an agreement with Cheryl Shaw, her daughter-in-law to assume the role as the school’s new beanie maker. Cheryl is married to Michael Shaw one of three Saintsmen sons born to Leo and Jean Shaw. James and Terry Shaw are the others. Mr. Shaw graduated in 1949, which makes three generation of Shaw men graduating from the school. There are also two daughters and two grandsons (also Saintsmen). Currently, she has three granddaughters at OLP and another grandson at Saints. “Obviously, our family is proud to be a part of the school for so many years.
“I plan on helping Cheryl with the pattern cutting,” says Mrs. Shaw, “It will be fun.”
If you do the math, that is more than 8,600 beanies to date. “I'd have never dreamt it would be that many when I started,” says Mrs. Shaw, wife, mother, and grandmother to a long line of sons and grandsons who have graduated from Saints,“[but] I enjoy sewing and it helps me feel connected to Saints.”
Each purple and gold beanie encompasses the brotherhood, tradition, and sense of community that St. Augustine High School proudly represents. “No other school I know of does anything like this, not "Uni", not anyone,” insists Mrs. Shaw, who can complete seven beanies in one hour when she is on a roll. However, that doesn’t mean the process is easy, sometimes just one beanie alone can take up to a half hour to make! Multiply that by 200, and we’ve got a truly dedicated volunteer who believes in the loyal sons of Saint Augustine.
Said Principal Jim Horne, “The beanies are special and very unique. It creates a bond for all Saintsmen, through all generations. They all wore a beanie and are part of the special brotherhood and camaraderie.”
The beanies are a part of the Freshman Welcome Week Tradition that has been going on for over 90 years (even before Jean Shaw began making them “The beanies are only worn during Frosh welcome week .... However, many Saintsmen, cherish the beanie and wear it again on Graduation day under their graduation cap” says principal Horne. “These beanies come full circle by the end of their senior year, standing as a “symbol of the brotherhood of Saintsmen, and the sense of community that is so strong at Saints.”
A native of Southport, Indiana, Jean moved with her family to San Diego when she was 10 years old. She graduated from San Diego High and San Diego State University.
In 1965, Mrs. Shaw began to work at St. Augustine High as alumni secretary. Since then she has worked with five Augustinian and one lay principal. Since then she has held many administrative positions with the school.
But, a few years ago, something extraordinary recently happened to Mrs. Shaw. In a ceremony held at the Saints Chapel, she received from Provincial Steve Ochoa the document of affiliation to the Augustinian Order at a vesper service at Saints Chapel. The document was also signed by the Pope.
Of her time at Saints, she holds five things as nearest and dearest to her heart. First, there’s the connection with the school as an employee and administrator. “And, without Saints I wouldn’t have met my husband.
Second, she is very proud of being associated with the Augustinians, including Fr. Anthony Wasco, Fr. Bob Gavotto, Fr. John Keller and the others in the Augustinian team that founded the Seminary Guild in the 1970s. Third, she fondly recalls being there at the founding of the Alumni Association. In 1965, Leo Shaw was the school’s first Alumni Association president. Fourth, she is grateful for having met and working alongside Deacon Richard Hardick, O.S.A. on so many projects, including the founding and continuation of the Intermural program. “Deacon Dick is a very good family friend. He still works with Shaw son and Saintsman Jim Shaw, who is coach of the school’s surf team.
And, fifth, she loved every minute of being “the beanie lady” to all those Saints Frosh. “All those boys and all those beanies,” she said with a tear in her eye, “they’re a symbol of what is great about this beloved school and the community that supports it.”