More stories from Cal Poly crash survivors
In Friday's Los Angeles Times, we offered a story on the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 16 Cal Poly football players. The story offered the memories of some of the 26 survivors, and here are two more voices that add to the richness of history.
Gil Stork had accepted an offer to play college football at University of Pacific, but a few weeks before school began, Stork was told the scholarship situation had changed and he didn't have one. "I had a single mom," Stork said, “we weren't in a position to pay private costs, so the next day I enrolled at Cal Poly."
Because of a missing scholarship, Stork was on the plane that crashed, a center who should have been on another team.
The effects of the accident have caused Stork to have five hip replacements in his life, but he managed to play two years of football at Cal Poly after the crash.
At 70 years old, Stork is still working, as president of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. As he looks
back, Stork said he realizes that no one knew what to do after the crash. "In those days, there were no concerted efforts for crisis counseling. We just kind of had to suck it up and move on, and not everybody was as successful as others."
Stork said he came out of the crash with an unexpectedly new understanding of what a mother means to a child.
"When I came to," he said, "I knew I was cold, I didn’t have shoes on, my back hurt, my legs hurt. But the first thing I did was rub my tongue across my teeth. I felt I had broken teeth, and I thought, 'My mom's going to kill me.' That's the power of a mother. She used to always be on me not to get my teeth knocked out playing football, and now they were knocked out."
For that love, Stork is grateful. And in his life, he said, he tried to give others that same love. "And maybe some extra to honor the guys who didn't come back."
Roy Scialabba was an outside linebacker who is 68 now and still remembers how he had goose bumps during Cal Poly's 50-6 loss to Bowling Green, because he was so cold.
When the team boarded the plane, Scialabba remembered, he sat next to a fellow Italian, Al Marinai, as he always did.
"He was a big guy, so usually he sat on the outside and I sat on the inside. This time I got on the plane a little late and Al was already in the window. I told him I'd sit there and he said, 'No, don't worry about it.' I was the luckiest guy in the world. Al got injured very badly. He spent three years in and out of hospitals. He's never been the same. I just got a punctured lung."
Scialabba said that after the crash he came to and saw lights and thought it was another airplane. But they were the lights of emergency vehicles. "Before I knew it," he said, "I was in a hospital in Toledo, and I didn’t even know why."
When Scialabba had been recruited out of high school in San Bernardino, it was Oregon and Cal Poly who wanted him the most. "My family was close, and my mother said, 'You’re not going to Oregon, you’re staying in California, and it's the best thing I ever did. I wouldn't change anything, even with the crash."
Scialabba says he doesn't know whether there's a special bond among men who survive such a tragedy. "What I do know is that I'm still friends with all my friends from college. My son went to San Jose State, and his friends just disappeared. Every year our group goes to the Russian River, we talk all the time, they are my best friends."
Like so many of the 1960 team, Scialabba went into coaching for a while, spending 14 years as a high school football and wrestling coach. Eventually he left coaching to become a food broker and owned his own company. He will be at the Cal Poly game Saturday, when the 1960 team will be honored. "I was 18 years old when the crash happened," he said. "It was an eerie time for me at first.
"At first I don't think people realized the impact this had on the school for a while. You have to get over things, and that college means an awful lot to me. Eventually you just have to move on, but those guys who didn't make it, they are heroes to me. They gave their lives. That they're being remembered, that excites me because it means people will come to the game and those guys will be honored as they should be."
"In my life, I've always thought that I have 18 angels in my corner. When things didn't go perfect in my coaching or business career, it was a funny little thing. I'd look over my shoulder and say, 'Come on, guys, let's give it to them.' That's when I'd remember them, because I knew I had someone with me on that day."
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Another survivor, Carl Bowser, keeps this picture of Cal Poly's 1960 football team close at hand. Twenty-two people died in the crash, including 16 football players. Credit: Anne Cusack /Los Angeles Times