Jahn School I
January of 1943 was a very important month for me. I started school. The Chicago Public School System in those days, and perhaps today, had graduations twice a year, in January and again in June. That meant that new students, depending upon their ages, began Kindergarten in those months as well.. At any one time there were in the school, and even in the same classroom, both “A” and “B” classes. The A Class was in the second semester of its grade, and the B class was in the first semester. No doubt this was a space and resource saving procedure.
In the Fall of 1942 I felt a bit lonely and left out because my best friend, David Giandinoto, had begun school and I had not. Jim Innis, whom I probably didn’t know at that time, also began in September of 1942. However, in January, 1943, it was my turn. Our elementary school was Frederick Ludwig Jahn (pronounced as the Germans would---“Yahn”), located at the corner of Wolcott and Belmont, two blocks up Belmont from Hoyne and three blocks from my doorstep to the school yard. Schneider Elementary School was just as close, and at one time Fletcher Street kids were in the Schneider district. But the construction of public housing on Clybourn with the subsequent increase in school age children caused the redistricting where we on Fletcher Street were required to attend Jahn. We always looked down on Schneider School as a bit seedy, and we were glad we didn’t go there. Perhaps this was due to its rather large population of public housing kids---“kids from the projects”, as we referred to them.
Jahn was the basic city elementary school. It was a rectangular brick structure with three stories. Externally, it has changed very little from that time. It backed up to an alley on the east side, and in front of the school, facing west toward Wolcott Avenue was the fenced school yard. At that time, the school yard was gravel. There was no playground equipment.
No transition in my life---and that includes employment, marriage, and parenthood---was as momentous and life-enlarging for me as starting school. My circle of friends and acquaintances increased dramatically, and I came to know different kinds of people, both kids and adults. I could no longer come and go as I pleased, with only the few familiar adults in my family providing the direction and controls. A large part of my days were now structured and determined by the calendar and clock. I had to conform myself to a new and much larger set of rules of behavior, many of which, such as “No running in the halls.”; “No talking”; “Line up in twos.”, made no sense to me. I was expected to fill time in school with various tasks, and to complete those tasks to the satisfaction of adults much different, but no less colorful and exceedingly more formal, than the adults in my family. I was no longer special; I was one of a rather large group, and I had to distinguish myself by what I did rather than who I was. It was a change. But it was one we all went through without much reflection.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed Kindergarten. It was the easy part of the transition. Kindergarten at Jahn was a half day for the full school year. I’m not sure of this, but I think each class was in the morning group for one semester and in the afternoon group for the other. In any case, the Kindergarten teacher taught both sessions, and I believe there was only one Kindergarten teacher. Her name was Evelyn Nordahl, and I remember her as a nice, friendly lady. At first, parents or some other adult walked us to school. My grandfather took me. Because I can’t remember him accompanying me for the entire year, I would imagine that after we became familiar enough with the route and the schedule, we went back and forth to school by ourselves.. It was just two blocks up Belmont, and there were the older Patrol Boys (also called “Police Boys”) with their white cloth belts that went around the waist and then diagonally across the chest, to guide us across the busier intersections.
I remember Kindergarten as being pleasant, both organized and yet giving us the freedom to seek out some of our own activities. The Kindergarten room was spacious with a varnished floor that had painted on it a large green circle. It was on this circle that we sat when Mrs. Nordahl wanted to deal with us as a group. There was a piano at the side of the room. We sat on the floor around the piano as Mrs. Nordahl taught us and led us in songs. In the room also were piles of wooden frames and blocks which we could insert into them to make various patterns. There were multicolored large beads that we could string. As I recall there was also colored paper, paste, and scizzors, as well as the sheets of the large, rough, white paper that was going to be our drawing and painting medium for the rest of our school years at Jahn. In Kindergarten, however, we didn’t paint; we used only large blunt crayons to draw pictures and designs on this paper. We may have been given assignments or, at least, suggestions for projects, but I can’t recall that. I just remember being able to move about and follow my own interests as I utilized the various materials in the room.
We were encouraged to bring a snack with us from home. Mine was always a peanut butter sandwich, and the other kids at one point made fun of me because that was all I ever brought. Everyday a wire case of milk in half-pint bottles was brought into the room and we drank this milk with our snacks. I believe the charge for the milk was one or two cents a bottle. I never liked or drank milk at home, but it tasted OK out of those half-pint bottles in Kindergarten class. On rare occasions we would get the wonderful surprise of having chocolate milk instead of white. Sometime after the snack would be “nap time”. None of us really slept, but Mrs. Nordahl pulled down the shades, and we all lay down on the circle as she said soft and soothing things.
Our school socialization skills started to develop. We learned how to do things as parts of a group. For instance, we learned that when the teacher was leading the class in a song by waving her arms, our response was just to sing and not also wave our arms. (I quickly learned this when the rest of the class laughed at me for doing it.). Some of the kids in my Kindergarten class, like Freddy Witter, Teddie Avesing, and Kathleen Fritz, were Fletcher Street kids that I knew to some extent. However, the circle enlarged in school when I got to know kids like Louie Morrell, Rich Lewis, Carl Pyka, Betty Williams, Morton Berger, and Sheila Dixon, classmates who would be with me for my entire eight years at Jahn. I don’t recall much difficulty relating to most of those new kids.
There was one exception---Charlotte Hendler. She was a big-nosed girl with a perennial sour expression on her face. A photo that Jim Innis sent to me with kids from his end of the block on it has Charlotte in it. So she must have lived on or near Fletcher Street at Jim’s end, but I don’t recall ever seeing her there. It was at Jahn that I got to know Charlotte, and for some reason she disliked me. So many of the early memories I have of her is she sneering at me and saying mean things. One I remember to this day. She said my grandfather “smelled like a horse”. I don’t know what I ever did to prompt this sort of behavior from her. She didn’t graduate with me, so she must have left Jahn at some point. I never liked her, and just to show how early experiences can remain with you for the rest of your life, I have never since liked the name “Charlotte”. It still gives me a negative feeling when I hear it. But other than Charlotte, I got along fine with most of the kids, and Kindergarten with Mrs. Nordahl was a pleasant experience and is a nice memory.
Not so for First Grade. Kindergarten was Summer Camp. First Grade was Boot Camp. When we started Grade 1B, we moved out of the large, informal Kindergarten room into Room 202, a room with six rows of eight desks, each bolted to the floor. We were expected---no, required---to sit at those desks and work---without talking to friends. Our taskmaster was not the friendly Mrs. Nordahl. Now it was the stern Miss Campbell.
I remember Miss Campbell as a short, heavy-set woman who wore a black dress and those lace-‘em-up black leather shoes that were part of the older Chicago teacher’s uniform. She seemed old to me, but she was probably only in her 40’s. Miss Campbell was not mean, but she was unsmiling and strict. She meant business. And you’d better too. From Day One we were required to sit at those desks and stay there unless given permission to get up. A new social skill we developed was whispering. But if she heard you doing it, she would glare and say, “Who’s talking?!”, and in those pre-“I’ll-never-narc-on-my-friends” days, we all pointed at the offender. One day I was the offender, and when Miss Campbell barked out the question, I looked up and about eight straight index fingers were pointing at me. In defense, I raised a limp wrist and finger to point at someone---anyone---across the aisle. She didn’t believe me.
If the class got too obstreperous for Miss Campbell (I can’t imagine what that would be. Perhaps two people whispering?), or she wanted our attention, she would order us all to fold our hands on our desks. And so we all assumed with varying degrees of formality an attitude of prayer. Freddie Witter, the high-energy skinny Fletcher Street friend of mine, prided himself on assuming a very catatonic folded-hands position with his back stiff, shoulders rigid, and arms and hands stretched straight out, all the way to the front of the desk. I believe he thought this would especially please Miss Campbell. When things got really bad (I have no idea what in Miss Campbell’s mind that was.), she would tell us to put our heads on our desks and remain that way until she decided the period of punishment was over.
I cannot recall a student ever getting snotty to a teacher at Jahn. It must have happened, but I don’t recall it. So it certainly didn’t happen very often. Chicago Public School teachers were forbidden by law to use any kind of corporal punishment. We knew this. Yet we were afraid of the teachers, and they were able to control and manage up to 48 different kids, often of two different grade levels (Some of the A and B classes were usually in the same classroom at the same time.), and teach them. Our punishments were withering looks, scolding, and if that failed, exclusion from the class for periods of time. In first grade, the punishment of exclusion was being sent to “The Cloak Room”, the small room adjoining the classroom where we hung our coats, put our galoshes, and kept our lunches and other personal possessions. I never could understand why it was called “The Cloak Room”. Nobody I knew wore a cloak. We all wore coats and hats. Nevertheless, the Cloak Room was where you went when, in the judgment of Miss Campbell, you were really bad . Today, if you put the deviant kid in that setting, he’d probably relish the opportunity to rifle, undisturbed, coat pockets and lunches. But not us. We felt so isolated when we were in there alone while the rest of the class went about their business that we longed to get back out with the other kids.
But we did learn in first grade. Miss Campbell taught us how to read and write, and by the end of the year we were doing both. Reading was taught to us through the old “Dick and Jane” readers, where simple words were taught through activities of an imaginary family that was very different from our families. If I can recall them correctly, there were three children in the family, Dick, Jane, and the younger sister, Sally. They had a playful dog named “Spot”. The father and mother were young and well-dressed. In fact, the father wore a suit. They were always smiling. The family lived in what appeared to be an affluent suburban setting, a large house with a big yard and a white picket fence surrounding it. One of the criticisms leveled at the Dick and Jane readers was that the family setting was too different from that of the vast majority of kids who used the books. That never bothered me. In fact, I found it interesting to be reading about people different from myself.
In the readers, simple words were repeated in very short sentences. “Oh, oh, oh, said Dick.” were, I believe, the first words I ever read. I was thrilled when I could take the reader home and read that sentence to my grandmother. “Come, Dick. Come and See. Come, come. Come and see. Come and see Spot.” “Look Spot. Oh look. Look and see. Oh, see.” Perhaps people of succeeding generations cannot understand how people of ours can look back and recall with such fondness those trite repetitions. But they were the magic words that opened up to us the whole new world of the printed page. And at Jahn School in 1944, it was Miss Campbell who taught us those words.
She also taught us to write. We printed with pencils. Cursive and ink would come in later grades. The first things we learned how to write after learning the alphabet were our names.
As I mentioned near the beginning of this account, my name when I attended Jahn was Claude Rudolph Barutzke. I disliked my first name (and I wasn’t too crazy about the other two either). I believed it sounded effete, and its “Frenchy-ness” did not go with the German-Polish sound of Barutzke. No one else I knew was named Claude. How I always wished that my grandmother did not feel compelled to honor my birth mother’s desire that I be named after my biological father. But now, looking back on it, perhaps I was fortunate. She named my last two uncles, “Gerhardt” and “Rudolph”. Left to her inclinations, I might have ended up as Wolfgang Rudolph Barutzke. Maybe “Claude” wasn’t so bad.
One of the things that teachers insisted upon from Kindergarten onward was that our proper first names be used while in school. We were not asked the question that kids today are asked by most of their teachers: “What do you want to be called?” From our teachers’ perspective, part of our socialization and entry into the civilized world was to assume our proper names. So I was stuck with Claude. Jimmy became James. Eddie became Edward. Dickie became Richard. Bobby became Robert. And almost as big a transition as I had---Teddy became Theodore. We were corrected when speaking to a teacher about a classmate we used that classmate’s nickname. In fact, Dave Giandinoto was once scolded by Miss Quinn for referring to me as “Butch”.
After learning how to print those names we went on to other words and simple sentences. We printed on school paper that had wide lines, and our productions were graded with glossy stars that the teacher pasted onto the top of the paper. Gold stars were the best. Next best were silver stars. Finally, just acceptable work was a red or blue star. I can’t remember what was put on papers that were not acceptable.
We learned simple math. I know we learned addition in the first grade; I can’t remember whether we also learned subtraction that early. Multiplication and division weren’t taught until 3rd or 4th Grades, and part of that whole process was learning the multiplication tables. I wonder how many kids today can recite those tables like most of us could.
It wasn’t just academic work. Art work was a part of the class. Lots of cutting colored paper and pasting it. Lots of drawings with crayons. To help us in those tasks, as well as the more academic ones, many of us had “pencil boxes”. Since we began first grade in January, some of us may have received them as Christmas gifts, along with “school bags”, mini briefcases that were either carried by a handle or slung across the shoulder. The pencil boxes contained, of course, pencils and a little sharpener. There was a small ruler, a small scizzors, a bottle of paste, a compass, and a box of at least six crayons. We couldn’t figure out what the compass was used for, but we had some ideas what it might be good for. So they were quickly confiscated, and we were asked to take them home and leave them there. The more elaborate pencil boxes had, among other things, bigger boxes of crayons with more colors. Getting a new box of crayons, with their neat points, was always a treat. Most of the time, we were coloring with dull crayons, or pieces of crayons that didn’t even have paper around them. Even in those early years it was obvious that not only were girls quieter and better behaved, but their artwork generally was much neater. They never seemed to color with little nubs of bare crayon.
The scissors and paste were necessary for much of our artwork. With the bottles of paste came a little stick that we were to use to apply it to the paper. Fingers worked much better. The paste had a pleasant peppermint flavor, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one who used to snack on it a little bit. At least it wasn’t hard to determine the easiest and most efficient way of cleaning the paste off your fingers. The scizzors were small and blunt. One day, when I was contemplating the scizzors, I wondered if they would cut hair like the barber’s scizzors. So I tried them on the front of my hair. They did cut hair. My grandmother was not pleased when I got home.
At the top of this page is a photo of this first grade class. One of my family members circled and labeled me. If you look closely, you can see the results of my in-class haircut.
On either side of me are two Fletcher Street friends. Teddy Avesing is on my right and Freddy Witter on the left. Freddy is mugging as usual. The boys on the far left of my row, in order, were Milton, whose last name I have forgotten, Carl Pyka, and Morton Berger. Milton and Morton were the two Jewish boys in our class. This was not an issue for us; I don’t know whether it was for the teachers. Morton came from a family that spoke Yiddish at home. In talking to him about it, I was surprised to find out how similar it was to German. Milton left Jahn fairly early. Both Morton and Carl went all the way through Eighth Grade at Jahn. The second boy from the end on the far right was Louie Morrell who lived above Richter’s Tavern on Belmont Avenue. A few years later he dazzled us once with a tale of going to Wisconsin and being with his father at a bar where one of the barmaids bared her breasts and put them on the bar. Or at least that’s how I remember the story.
I don’t think I realized it then, but the picture makes obvious that the girls far outnumbered the boys. Betty Williams is the girl in the second row, far left. To her left were Joyce Kufahl, Jackie Clucas (whose parents owned the cleaning shop on Belmont), and Marion Olson. Betty, Jackie, and Marion also finished eighth grade at Jahn. Kathleen Fritz is to the left of Marion. She was the serious Fletcher Street girl whom my grandmother described as being like a mother to the smaller kids. On the far right of that second row is Sheila Dixon. She became one of the class lovelies and was socially precocious. Her mother was English, and that made her family a bit different. The girl, second from the right in the first row was Nancy Chandler, a quiet little girl that I never got to know, despite the fact that she was in each of my classes through sixth grade. The blond beauty on her right was Beverly Anderson. She was my first crush. I couldn’t imagine anyone more beautiful. But what chance did a fat kid with a funny haircut have? At that time, other than Beverly, I didn’t think the girls were very important.
Second and Third Grades
I don’t remember much of second grade. While I can remember almost all of my teachers, I can’t recall which one was my second grade teacher or anything particularly noteworthy about the grade. Perhaps it was because I only spent a half year there. After first grade I was double promoted into 2A. I had missed a day of school in early January, and when I returned, a friend of mine told me in the school yard before school began that I had “skipped” 2B and would be going into 2A instead. I was very proud of myself, thinking I was the only one, until I found out that about eight or nine of us were double-promoted. No doubt there was a space problem in the second grade classrooms, and we were selected as the ones best able to function without that half year. This did not mean that I would be leaving my other classmates, because all through my Jahn years there were two grades in one classroom, and in many of the succeeding years, we were still together in the same room, though studying different materials. I can’t recall all the other “skippers”, but since they graduated with me I know they included Freddy Witter, Teddy Avesing, Marion Olson, and Jackie Clucas.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but skipping that half-grade was fortuitous because it meant I would be graduating in June instead of January. Therefore, years later I wouldn’t have to tread water from high school graduation until starting college in September. Had I stayed in my grade and graduated in January, I might have gotten a job I liked or gone to a local college, and my subsequent career and life could have been very different. So much of our lives seem to revolve around small unrelated things.
Third Grade was more memorable. Our teacher was a tall, skinny, pale lady by the name of Miss Fleming. At first I was wary of her, but I subsequently found her to be an understanding and warm person. She was the first teacher I can recall praising my academic achievements, and I wanted to please her.
It was in her class that we first wrote with ink. From first grade on, our desks had inkwells in the top right hand corner. But they were dry. We never used them until that big day in third grade. On that day we were all given “stick pens”, not too far advanced from the ancient quill models. A metal writing tip was attached to the end of a tapered piece of wood about the length and width of a pencil. You dipped the pens into ink as you wrote. Miss Fleming got out a big bottle of ink and filled each of our wells, and then instructed us in the proper technique for writing with those instruments. Stained fingers and spots on our clothes now became a part of our personal appearance. In later years we would graduate to fountain pens, but if someone couldn’t afford a fountain pen of his or her own, they could still use the stick pens. Ball point pens were unknown then, at least to us. The first ball point pen I ever saw was owned by Bob Cook in my sixth grade class. It was called a “Reynolds Rocket”. It was metal, long, red, and expensive. Bob let me write a few words with it. I thought it was wonderful, and I envied him for owning it.
I think that we who grew up in urban neighborhood schools had a different attitude toward our teacher than kids who lived in small towns. My wife lived in a small town, and she says the teachers were, by and large, part of the community. She saw them at church, in stores, on the street, and most people knew where they lived. For us, the teachers were a foreign group. They were more educated than most of our parents. They were more formal. We didn’t know where or how they lived. It was as if a band of aliens was beamed into Jahn School at 8:00 a.m. to dominate us for the day, and then beamed back to their planets at 4:00 p.m. to carry on whatever life functions they carried on there. It was hard for me to visualize them doing the normal things that other adults of my experience did. I couldn’t picture them shopping or cooking or eating dinner or going to movies, or even wearing casual clothes. Later on, when I learned about sex, they would, of course, by nature be excluded from any interest in that.
One day we spied Mr. Boyd, the woodshop teacher and school disciplinarian, walking down Belmont Avenue smoking. Despite the fact that in most of our homes the adult males smoked, it was exciting to see Mr. Boyd do it. Our excitement, however, was mitigated by our perception of him. He wasn’t a real teacher---he was a man. How different from the disbelieving shock we felt that morning when Miss Campbell left her purse open on the desk as we were filing in. There inside her purse, in plain sight, was a pack of “Lucky Strikes”. I don’t know how we explained that to ourselves. Some things are just too incredible to believe.
The Handicapped Children
Lawrence Boyd was a faculty member because Jahn was a regional school to which physically handicapped children were bussed. Despite the fact that he was the school disciplinarian and the one to whom we were sent when we were discipline problems, his main function was that of woodshop teacher to handicapped children. Back in those days, kids that we now refer to as “physically challenged” were not mainstreamed into classes with “normal” kids. They were bussed to schools like Jahn, and there had their own teachers, supportive staff, classes, and programs. And in those days when people were not concerned with negative labeling, these kids were referred to by all of us, students and teachers alike, as “the handicapped children”. Jahn’s first floor and part of the second was dedicated to those kids. They ended up graduating with us, but we never got to know them.
They had a variety of problems, many of them obvious, and some of them not obvious at all. Some were on crutches. Some were in wheelchairs. There was for a period of time a one-armed boy. Several of them had cerebral palsy. One of them had a horrible facial disfigurement that one of our teachers told us was “something like jungle rot”. It probably sounds shocking now, but some of our teachers spoke freely to us about the conditions of various handicapped kids. We know one of them had hemophilia because one of our teachers explained to our class what it was and the restrictions put on the boy. Other students were in the handicapped program, but we had no idea why. They looked and acted perfectly normal.
Upon re-reading the Jahn Journal from my last year there, I was struck by how much of the issue was devoted to the handicapped kids and how many school programs were for them only. Though we could join the Jahn Boy Scout troop, of which Mr. Boyd was the scoutmaster, its program and emphasis was directed toward the handicapped boys. I joined the troop for a short period of time, but soon quit because I felt its physical activities were far too limited. If I recall correctly, the school chapter of Campfire Girls was solely for the handicapped girls. The department had its own PTA called “Friends of the Handicapped”, and it sponsored many different activities just for the kids in that program.
We were really two schools within one building. I would therefore imagine that the student body of us non-disabled kids was smaller than those of neighboring schools like Schneider, Audubon, and Burley. Also, I wonder if this situation resulted in us having fewer programs and activities, due to space restrictions and fewer staff members. For instance, our one school woodshop was solely for the handicapped kids. If this was a problem, it was corrected after my class graduated. In September of 1951 the entire department of the handicapped, students, teachers, and support staff, was moved to a remodeled Burbank Elementary School.
After Third Grade, I have a harder time sorting out what went on in each particular grade. The teachers of my middle years blur together. I can remember them as individuals, but I can’t recall the years in which I had each one. With the exception of Mr. Boyd and the later gym teachers, the faculty was entirely female, including the principal, Miss Anna Lanz. Mr. Boyd, whom I suspect was a bit of a rake, loved this ratio, I’m sure
There were the older teachers like Miss Campbell, Miss Fleming, Miss Gasfield, Miss Critchfield, and their replacements Miss Deiss and Miss Quinn (More to be said about her later.). They were generally formal and strict and wore “The Uniform”---one piece plain woolen dresses and black lace-‘em-up shoes. One of the older teachers who was an exception to this dress code was Miss Loose. I never had “Loosey”, but she had a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense teacher. But, unlike the other older single women, she wore gaudy clothes, heavy make-up, perfume, and lots of costume jewelry. She had a mixed review from the students. Ed Innis disliked her intensely, as did a number of my friends, but his brother Jim, has a sense of gratitude toward her. Jim suffered from eyelid infections so bad that he missed a lot of school and was held back a half grade because of it. It was Miss Loose who suggested an eye doctor who eventually cured Jim of this long-time problem. I have been in contact with another Jahn graduate who was two years behind me, Pat Weber-Jones. Miss Loose was her favorite teacher
Miss Gasfield and Miss Critchfield were, of course, referred to as “Gassy” and “Critchie”. I never had either of them. They taught in the upper grades and retired before I got there. They were hall marauders. Even though you didn’t have them in class, you saw them a lot in the hallways and witnessed some rather exciting interactions between them and offending students. Gassie had a scary reputation, but my information about her was all second-hand. I actually saw Critchie in action several times. She was a skinny bird-like lady with curly white hair. Her nickname described her voice. With fearsome chirps she would pounce upon some offending boy (it was always boys) in the hallway and castigate him for some sin he had just committed. If this unfortunate lad didn’t give her proper attention or show sufficient obeisance, she would grab his chin with her index finger and thumb and continue her screeching tirade. I saw her actually pull some boy along by his chin. I wouldn’t be surprised if today, in various parts of Chicagoland, there are seventy-year old males who still have Critchie’s thumb imprint in their chins. I was glad that both she and Gassie were gone when I reached Seventh Grade.
Their replacements were Miss Deiss and Miss Quinn, two single ladies who lived together and transferred together from another school to Jahn. Now, I know what the reader may be thinking. But in those days it was fairly common for single women, referred to as “old maids”, to live together just for companionship and to share expenses. No one thought anything more of it. Both Miss Deiss and Miss Quinn wore “The Uniform”. I never had Miss Deiss, but Miss Quinn was my Seventh Grade teacher. I believe both these ladies wore wigs. I think I could spot a string coming out from beneath Miss Quinn’s hairline, and one of my friends claims to have seen Miss Deiss’s wig fall off when she bent over. She was quite obese, so I couldn’t quite picture her bending over. But we were happy to accept that story. In those days it was rather funny for us to think of a woman wearing a wig, because you assumed she was totally bald underneath.
Miss Quinn was my teacher for all of Seventh Grade. She had, I believe, two school dresses. One was maroon and the other dark green. The maroon one was worn in cold weather, and the green in springtime and fall. She had a ruddy Irish face and her nose was quite red. She was homely but I always thought she smelled nice. She used some sort of powder that I liked. Miss Quinn was a good teacher for me, but I was definitely one of her pets. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I worked very hard. She was strong on writing and current events, both of which I did well at.
However, I don’t know how good a teacher she was for the slower students. She had some real failings. She could be very intimidating and impatient. She had a glare that could burn holes through an offending student. In and of itself, that’s not bad and can be a real discipline asset for a teacher. But Miss Quinn would sometimes also say some rather wounding things to students she didn’t like. And it became clear to all of us who those kids were. We had for a year or two a Jewish boy by the name of Gerald Eichner. He didn’t work very hard, and Miss Quinn didn’t like him. When Gerald was absent from school because of the Jewish holidays, she made disparaging remarks about him to the class, implying that he was just taking those days off because he was lazy. Not only was this very unfair to Gerald, but in those comments there was, I believe, an undertone of anti-Semitism. Religion was very important to her. She let it be known very early on that she was a devout Catholic. One day she had each of us tell the class what our religion was. This was probably to satisfy her curiosity, not ours. Despite that, she did not seem to hold against me that I was Protestant.
One of Miss Quinn’s impacts on the upper grades of Jahn was introducing “My Chief Duty”. Up until her arrival a common punishment for us was to write a hundred or two hundred sentences such as “I will not talk out of turn.”, “I will not punch other students.” “I will not shout in the hallway.” Miss Quinn, however, in her last school, working, no doubt, with some of her pets, came up with a paragraph describing how students should act. It was entitled “My Chief Duty”. Now, instead of writing 100 sentences for punishment, the offender would have to write 25 “My Chief Duty”s. Some of the other upper grade teachers liked the idea and also adopted it. I never had to write it for Miss Quinn, but I didn’t behave so well for Miss Carroll in 8th Grade. Therefore I became familiar with “My Chief Duty”. I can still remember the first line. “My chief duty at this time is to be a good school citizen.” But I guess I’ve forgotten what that included. So much for rote learning.
Then there were the younger and pretty teachers. There was Mrs. McCooey, whom I had in Fourth or Fifth Grade. She was the oldest and most established of the pretty teachers, probably in her early thirties. Not only was she pretty, she was a stylish dresser, used a little bit of slang, and talked about ordinary things. She smiled at us when she talked. Everyone coveted her as a teacher. She obviously was not beamed from the same planet as the others.
New to the school were two good-looking young teachers, Miss Parr and Miss McKenna, who were probably right out of teachers’ college. By the mid-grades we were having different teachers teaching us different subjects. Miss Parr’s specialty was music. She had reddish brown hair, and she was tall and shapely. She was a good dresser and wore tastefully tight skirts. I recall one time when she was bending over a desk helping a girl across the aisle from Freddy Witter. Freddy, for the benefit of all of us behind him, leaned over and mimicked taking a big bite out of her tightly clad bottom. Miss Parr couldn’t figure out what the giggles were about. My memory of Miss McKenna is much sketchier. I know she was tall, thin, and pretty with dark brown hair. She was a friend of Miss Parr’s. Despite their youth and slightly greater informality, they had good control of their classes. We liked Miss Parr and Miss McKenna. So did Mr. Boyd.
Then we had other teachers who were neither old, young, pretty, or homely. In one of my grades---I can’t remember which---I had Miss Ley (If she taught in a public school today, she would definitely have to change the pronunciation of that last name.) From my present adult perspective I would have considered Miss Ley attractive. She was probably no older than Mrs. McCooey, and she could have been pretty. However, she dressed plainly, was serious, and she didn’t smile much. I recall her as a good, no-nonsense teacher.
Fifth Grade was when we started having different teachers for different subjects. Someone from the Eighth Grade room would step out into the hall at various times during the day and ring a loud hand bell that resonated down the entire hallway telling us it was time for our next class. I think there was a span of time where we actually left the room to go to other teachers’ rooms. Mrs. Albert was my main Fifth Grade teacher. She was a large auburn-haired lady who was plain spoken and down-to-earth with a nice expressive face. My memories of Fifth Grade are quite fragmented because my grandmother died during that year, and my home life was a bit chaotic. Also, I missed a lot of school because of illness.
Subjects for which we always had special teachers in the upper grades were music and art. Music was taught by Miss Parr. Our art teacher was Edith Smolak, known to most of the boys, even to those who were of Polish extraction, as “Smolak the Polack”. We just thought that nickname was clever; it didn’t indicate any particular dislike for her. She was another down-to-earth teacher who wore more-or-less normal clothing. She was probably in her 40’s then. She tended to be a bit blunt and outspoken, but not unfriendly.
We had two fairly regular substitutes. One was Mrs. Mueller. She was a nice lady with, as I recall, dark hair and a slightly up-turned nose. She was soft-spoken, and despite the fact that she was a substitute, the kids liked her so well that they behaved for her. The other regular substitute, Mrs. Gibbons, was more exciting. She yelled a lot, banged on desks with books and rulers, and had a unique way of getting long-range attention---she threw things. She had quite an arm. Her favorite missiles were “Spellers”, the soft-cover booklets that we used in each grade to learn proper spelling. One day she nailed Dave Giandinoto with one as he got out of his seat in the back of the room, and another time she winged Donnie Larson at the side board with a piece of chalk. I sat in a front seat, and she intimidated me. On one occasion she was standing in front of my desk, yelling at the rest of the class, and to make her point, she slammed a book right down onto my folded hands. She was very remorseful and apologetic to me. But I never fooled around when she subbed.
The gym teachers were a special breed. They wore dark slacks and black gym shoes. They acted a bit street-wise and actually used slang. Mrs. Tisch was my first gym teacher. She was good looking and probably in her mid-thirties. She really won me over when she heard one of the kids call me “Butch”, and she started calling me by that preferred nickname. I couldn’t believe it. An actual teacher was calling me “Butch”. She taught us basketball. Years later, whenever I shot a basketball from underneath the basket, I visualized the little circled “x’s” that she put on the backboard on either side of the basket rim to show us where to hit the backboard with the ball if we wanted it to go in. We would frequently play dodge ball and a type of free-for-all soccer with everyone kicking the ball. Simple calisthenics would begin the gym class. Sometime she would lower the equipment that was suspended above the gym floor, and we would be expected to climb the metal poles and rope ladders or do pull ups on the monkey bars. Most of us, of course, preferred the games.
As far as I was concerned, the golden age of Jahn physical education was the all-too-brief tenure of Rudolph Rinka. He replaced Mrs. Tisch, and he was our gym teacher for my Seventh Grade year. He was young, handsome, and someone kids today would call “cool”. The girls had crushes on him; the boys worshipped him. When we came into the gym for our gym classes, he would be shooting baskets, either by himself or with a male student teacher who was at Jahn that year. During the warm weather, when our gym classes sometimes went outside, he would dazzle us by pounding those old mushy Clinchers incredible distances. The brief Golden Age of Mr. Rinka was followed by the advent of Mr. Marino. Mr. Marino was a sullen, sour faced guy who acted as if he disliked not only his job, but us as well. He was our gym teacher for all of Eighth Grade. I gather his tenure was fairly short. Neither Ed Innis, who was five years behind us or Pat Weber-Jones, who was two years behind us, mention him.
Classmates at the Midway Point
This is probably a good time to step back and take a look at some of the kids who went through a lot of these experiences with me. Some of them started Jahn with me. Most of them would remain my classmates through Eighth Grade. At the bottom of this page is a photograph of the combined 5A and 5B class. At this time I was in the 5A class. I will name everyone in the class, and make a few comments about those who were either notables in the class or are an important part of my memories.
First row on the far left is Dickie Becker. Dick was a class leader, and he was our class president in 8A. He was bright, a good athlete, attractive to the girls. His only handicap was that he was short. He and I were friendly enough, but not real buddies. He had a sharp edge to him that defined him as “tough”, someone you would not want to cross. Next is Darlene Sandell, a pleasant girl. Years ago, my parents got a letter from her. She was trying to organize a reunion of our class. On Darlene’s left is an interesting girl, Dolores McGuire. Dolores, as one can see from the photo, was quite homely in Fifth Grade. By Seventh and Eighth Grade she was no longer wearing glasses and had made quite a transformation. She was never pretty, but there was something about her that interested boys. She and Dick Becker were interested in each other in Eighth Grade. Patsy Binkley is next. Hers was a sad situation---a nice girl with a severe cleft palate. Then there’s Patsy Parsons. I didn’t know her very well, but Jim Innis ran into her at some gathering a couple of years ago. Madonna Walshon is to the right of her. I sat in front of Madonna and got scolded periodically for talking with her. I found her funny and entertaining. Then Patsy Vincent, and next to her Donna Sue Wells. She was the academic star of the class. A very quiet girl who always turned in near perfect work. I think she was the standard against whom the teachers measured everyone else in the class. I never got to know the next two girls, Carolyn Mendyk and Nancy Chandler. I remember both of them as nice and quiet. Louie Morrel completes the row. He was the friend of mine from the Fletcher Street area who wowed us with his tale of the bare-breasted barmaid.
Second row starts off with Mary Krenz, Carol Goellner, and Joan Heider. I didn’t know Mary, but Carol, Joan, and I had been together most years and we were friendly. Joan was one of the few girls who, when she heard the boys calling me “Butch”, started to call me that too. I liked her even more then. Barbara Statler is next. I had a bit of a crush on her. She was in an earlier grade as Barbara Sams, and then returned a couple of years later with a new last name. The girl to Barbara’s left was my nemesis from Kindergarten, Charlotte Hendler. I’ve said enough about her. In the middle of the row, next to the boys is Sheila Dixon, whom I mentioned relative to the First Grade Picture. Sheila and I were together, Kindergarten through Eighth, and were always friendly. She liked the boys, and they liked her. I would imagine she was very popular in high school and beyond.
The first boy in that second row next to Sheila is Gilbert Norstrom. He was one of the Fletcher Street group and the younger brother of “Marvin the Enforcer” who beat up Jim Innis and me. I’ve made contact with Gil via email. He now lives in Wisconsin, worked most of his life at Chrysler, and has scads of grandchildren. His family moved to Wisconsin during Gil’s Eighth Grade, and he commuted 120 miles every day with his father so that he could finish at Jahn. I didn’t make much of an impression on Gil. He doesn’t remember me at all. After Gil is my good friend Freddy Witter, whom I’ve already mentioned several times. Next to Fred is Bobby Coles. Bobby was a bit effeminate and a terrible athlete. He threw “like a girl”. However, he was generally well-liked. He seemed to be socially advanced and got along with the girls better than most of the rest of us. He and Sheila were good friends. The last two boys in that row were Richard Gustafson and Richard Fischer. I think we called the first Richard “Gus”. A nice kid, with a very noticeable overbite. I was closer to Richard Fischer. He lived with his father, who was either divorced or widowed. For a while they had Bob Cook (of the “Reynolds Rocket” fame) and his family living with them. Rich was a gregarious, good-natured, friendly guy, quick to give a compliment. In one of our sandlot football games he was playing across the line from me. Since he was short and skinny, it didn’t take much to put him down with a block. Once, when I had done just that, he got up laughing, and in his loud friendly way exclaimed, “What a block! You put me right on my ass! You put me right on my ass!” How could you not warm up to a guy like that? I liked him and hung out with him a bit in the upper grades.
The chubby guy starting off the third row is me. Next to me are two Donalds, Don Larson and Donnie Gatewood. Don Larson was just a nice kid, friendly and confident, but not particularly notable in class. Donnie Gatewood, however, was a class leader. He was from Tennesee, as a fairly large contingent of Jahn students were. His face was covered with freckles. He was a good student, on the quiet side, a decent athlete, and looked up to by the other kids. Next to him is Rich Louis. Rich played tackle football with us. We wanted him on our side when we played a pick-up game with some kids out of our group, because he was a tough runner who couldn’t easily be brought down. He was nice and friendly, but, as I recall, not a particularly good student. Franklin Hermann ends the boys in that row. He was a skinny, high strung kid who talked very fast.
Starting off the girls in the third row was Betty Newcomb. I didn’t know her at all and I have no memories of her. Valoise (pronounced “Valoyce”) Solt was another girl who was with me from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. She was always overweight, a good student, friendly, confident, and open. On her left was Joanne Uchiyama, the Japanese-American girl whom I’ve already described as part of our Fletcher Street community. Next is Virginia Gray, and like her name, quiet and easily overlooked. I remember her, but I don’t remember anything about her. Patsy Becker is to her left (Patricia was a very common girls’ name then.). Patsy was vivacious, friendly, and she talked a lot. Finally, on the end of the row was Judy McDaniel. Judy, from our perspective, was the class beauty queen. She was tall, pretty, and by Seventh Grade had very well-developed breasts. She knew how to act sexy. She even flirted with me. She was unusual also in that she came from a family where the father was a professional---a dentist. When she told me that, I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine having a dentist living in the same house, much less being your father. Tragically, when Judy went to Lake View High School, she went around with older boys and was killed in a car accident. Jim Innis went to her funeral.
The top row---the tall kids. Jacqueline Clucas starts off the row. Jackie was friendly to everyone. She was the one who got word to me at Schurz High School through a mutual friend that Judy McDaniel had been killed in an accident. I vaguely remember the next girl, Patsy Fijack, but I don’t remember anything about her. The last three girls are Marion Olson, Marilyn Prince, and Kathleen Fritz. Marion and Kathleen were with me from Kindgarten on and Marion graduated with me. They were nice girls---Marion, gregarious and a bit mischievous; Kathleen very quiet and serious. Both good students. Marilyn Prince is in between them. Marilyn seemed more mature than the rest of us, and there was also an aura of adult sexiness about her.
The “tall boys” begin with Robert Schaefer, of whom I have no memories. Next to him is Lloyd Alm---very loud, low-voiced, and a fast, aggressive talker. He seemed older than the rest of us. John Young, to the left of Lloyd, was a strange boy. He was quiet but not shy. He just didn’t seem interested in what the rest of the boys were interested in and he didn’t care. Very much of an individual. He read a lot, but was not a particularly good student. When he spoke he spoke very slowly, deliberately, and with a high voice that didn’t seem to go with the rest of him. When he read, he was oblivious to everything about him and twirled curls in his hair with his fingers. Next to him, partially blocked by Virginia, is my Fletcher Street friend, Teddy Avesing. To Teddy’s left is Pat Briggs. Pat was another big mature kid, but his real distinction was bright orange hair. The last one in the row is Salvatore LaBono. Salvatore was a unique kid in class. He had been held back, and he was older than the rest of us. He was the only boy in our age group who smoked. He carried cigarettes with him. I think he was an academic problem for the teachers. Either he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do the work. I know his mother had to come to school several times concerning his academic progress. The rest of us considered him a “tough kid” with whom you would never want to have a fight. But despite all this, he had an infectious slow grin and he was friendly to all of us younger twerpy boys. Salvie just seemed above it all.
There were other kids, some of whom I have mentioned or will mention, who were in other grades or classrooms. Perhaps this has been a waste of space to go into such detail about them, and perhaps the reader’s eyes have glazed over. However, I think it was important to do so. The building, the teachers, and they, the kids, were Jahn School for me. I don’t recall student behavior ever being a real problem in class. We had good students and poor students. We had quiet kids and noisy kids. We had friendly kids and surly kids. But I don’t remember any student ever becoming openly defiant to a teacher. Teachers ruled. Students acquiesced. That was life. That was the way it was meant to be.