Generally speaking, at Peterson Elementary School in the mid to late 1960s, there were few memorable teachers, or few teachers memorable for the right reasons. To be fair, you might also say there were few memorable students, or few students memorable for the right reasons.
Call it how you see it, but I remember two good teachers, both involved in extracurricular programs. In my post on Mr. Kaz, the former Peterson gym teacher, I forgot to mention he oversaw the Safety Patrol and Color Guard. According to a memory book put together by Peterson alum Bill Tong and members of the class of ’73,
The Peterson School Color Guard, sponsored by physical education teacher Eugene Kaczmarek was composed of a number of patrol boys and they performed the presentation of the flags on stage and led the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag during musical assemblies.
The posting of the colors gave the start of every assembly program a momentous feeling. My former classmate Juli Lundell Tarsney notes newer elementary schools don’t have formal auditoriums. Can’t imagine assemblies on makeshift stages in gymnasiums are nearly as exciting as assemblies held on proscenium stages like the one at Peterson.
Patrol boys had prestige and authority. They wore badges clipped to their white “Sam Browne” belts and spread their arms wide as children crossed streets. The idea of kids serving as crossing guards originated in the 1920s as a Chicago Motor Club program.
In the memory book I mentioned someone recalled patrol boys were rewarded with an extra gym period once a week. There weren’t, as far as I can’t remember, girls on the safety patrols during my years at Peterson. Does anyone know when things changed, if they ever did?
Mr. Kaz also was an instructor at Lighted Schoolhouse, or Lighted as we called it, on Friday evenings. The program offered a choice of activities–open gym, table games and floor hockey in the halls. In a second-floor room, girls danced in lines to Motown tunes like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” We brought our own ’45s.
Donald Wahle, a seventh grade teacher, also taught an arts and crafts class at Lighted. This photograph of Mr. Wahle reminds me of the way kids clamored for his attention like a litter of puppies.
I wasn’t in Mr. Wahle’s class for seventh grade, but he taught science to my class. There was a connecting door between my room, that is, Mr. Krane’s room, and Mr. Wahle’s and we often heard Mr. Wahle’s class laughing … as we were ducking our heads to avoid getting hit by Mr. Crane’s high-flying, chalk-dust covered erasers.
For many of us, Mr. Wahle was our first encounter with a teacher who enjoyed teaching. Some thoughtful tributes to him are recorded on a Facebook page.
Chicago public schools still run Lighted Schoolhouses, though according to Lynn Sweet’s (she attended Von Steuben High School) article in the Sun-Times, it’s now an afterschool care and enrichment program to keep children safe from street violence. Back in the early 1900s when the Lighted Schoolhouse program was founded, it served the opposite purpose: keeping the public safe from would-be juvenile delinquents.
Lucky for us, at Peterson in the 1960s, Lighted was just for fun.
Update! I just learned Mr. Wahle taught a Home Mechanics class at Peterson in the early 1960s, before he became a regular classroom teacher. Who knows when they stopped offering Home Mechanics as a subject?
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Peterson class of ’67 alum Mindy White for sending in the link to the photograph of Mr. Kaz, which appeared in an University of Illinois School of Applied Life Studies alumni magazine and was taken at a reunion in 2005. Thanks also to David Epstein for sharing his photograph of Mr. Wahle and the guys.
Photo credit: Photo of the Kaczmareks, Spring 2005 issue of ALS News.
Did you know there is a site for alumni of Chicago Public Schools?