Two for two

Former Peterson School gym teacher Eugene Kaczmarek (University of Illinois, BS '48 and MS '49) and his wife, Tordis, at a U of I reunion.

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.

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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.

Mr_Wahle

L-R: Steve Linn, David Epstein, Donnie Shafer, Mr. Wahle, Noel Frumkin, Anders Rich.

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.

Related stories: Grounds for Play, Back to School.

Did you know there is a site for alumni of Chicago Public Schools?

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26 Responses to Two for two

  1. Steve White May 24, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Definitely one of the highlights of my life – the day Max Tuchten walked into my class (5th grade maybe?) and picked me to be a patrol boy. We were expected to not just wash, but scrub those belts every week. A small trade-off for being able to walk out of class at 2:30 every Friday for “patrol gym”!

  2. Mindy White May 24, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    Frances, I’m so glad you posted the picture of Mr. Kaz and his wife; and I love David’s photo. When I first saw it on his Facebook page, I almost cried. I was amazed at how well my memory of Mr. Wahle matched the reality. He was truly a wonderful teacher!

  3. Alan Spector May 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    My sister,Peterson grad 1973,was a patrol girl in seventh and eighth grade. I also remember Mr. Kaz letting the patrol boys miss part of the afternoon to watch the World Series. Thanks for posting the pictures. Great memories!

  4. Mike Fisher May 25, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    As a former patrol boy I can confirm it was a total power trip with those orange belts. Still have the pin somewhere.

    Great article Frances. I had the pleasure of having both Mr. Whale and Mr Crane, who seemed cranky most of the time but had a sense of humor especially when he scored by hitting a head with a dusty eraser.

    I think both teachers enjoyed their job. Great to see the pix of Mr. Kaz. Bombardment will live on as the best game ever.

  5. Frances Archer May 25, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Mike, you’re right about Mr. Krane — is it C or K?– I sounded too harsh on him and he was pretty funny. Seventh grade was a good year.

  6. Frances Archer May 25, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Alan, I’m glad to hear feminist movement of the 1970s had an impact on Peterson. Thanks for visiting.

  7. Ellen Chernoff May 25, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Frances, my Mom, my sister Renee and I were LOCKED inside Peterson school one day after “Lighted Schoolhouse”. We didn’t have a dime to use the pay phone to call for help. Suddenly, we figured out that we could go into the principal’s office and use the “free” phone. We were also yelling out the window for help! The fire department came to let us out. It was a cool memory that made us a little famous at the time…my Mom never forgot it!

  8. Frances Archer May 25, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Ellen, what a great story. I can imagine you wondered whether you’d be stuck inside until Monday morning.

  9. Bonnie McGrath May 25, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    i sure do remember the safety patrol!! that was a big thing back in the day! also, did you notice that oprah honored one of her teachers on her last show today… you aren’t all alone with this concept–you are in good company this week!!

  10. Frances Archer May 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I missed Oprah today but thanks for pointing out that I’m on the same wavelength. I wish I had had the opportunity to get in touch with the two former teachers I wrote about; sad not to have been able to thank them as an adult.

  11. Danny May 31, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    Amazing to see those photos. I remember Mr. Kaz so well. My brother Bruce was a patrol boy and I think the “captain” or whatever for a while. I remember when they finally allowed girls in–I think Alan’s sister Paula was one of the first, I can actually see her at that corner saying “Let’s go!” Do you know how long Mr. Kaz taught at Peterson?

  12. Frances Archer May 31, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Danny, did you see Mike Fisher’s comment? He was in your brother’s class and also was a patrol boy. Yes, Paula was a patrol girl and Mr. Kaz was around in 1955, but don’t know how much earlier.

  13. Keri June 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Frances,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It was interesting to see the photos.

    While I did have a few teachers that I remember profoundly, fondly, I understand your statement about the experience of being taught by a teacher that actually enjoyed teaching.

    Students know.

    ~Keri

  14. Frances Archer June 11, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Keri, the experience can make a profound difference. Thanks so much for visiting. I enjoy reading your social media blog.

  15. Wendi Goodman June 29, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Love the pictures of Mr. Kaz and Mr. Wahle. They were two teachers I actually liked at Peterson.

    I loved Lighted Schoolhouse. It was the one place we could go on a Friday night that our parents never objected to. How much trouble could you get into “going to school” on a Friday night? I remember going to the little pizza place on Brywn Mawr for “pizza bread” and pinball after “Lighted” ended. It was located close to Bill Tong’s parents restaurant. Does anyone remember the name?

  16. Frances Archer June 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Hi, Wendi. yes, those are great photos and I agree, those were the two best teachers for me as well. I didn’t go to the pizza place after Lighted. When I was younger my mother picked me up, because we lived pretty far from school and there was no one to walk all the way home with, and when I was older we went to Hollywood Park. Speaking of which, there was a lovely reunion last Sunday. It all looks exactly the same, except for a fence around the perimeter of the park.

  17. linda sowers November 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    My favorite teacher at Peterson was Mrs. Willens (sp?). I think that was 5th grade. Mr. Wahle was a close second. Remember playing “hangman “on the chalkboard? There was also a movie he showed about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse that was poorly done and myself and 3 classmates were laughing so hard we all got kicked out of class . That would be Janice Liebman, Jackie Bitensky and I forgot the third.

  18. Eva Field Schweig January 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Yep. Mr Wahle was the teacher who taught our class the song “June is Bust’in Out All Over.”

  19. Ryan Szekeres April 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I was a patrol member back in the early 90s and we got an extra gym period on Fridays. The year I joined was the last year the patrol members got a trip to a Cubs game. I joined too late in the year and was so jealous when the bus tokens were passed out.

  20. Frances Archer April 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Hi, Ryan. Thanks for visiting. Interesting to know that some traditions from the sixties lasted into the 90s.

  21. Jerry Schecter October 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    As a former Lt. of the Patrol boys in the late 1950′s I can attest to the extra perks. My corner was usually at Catalpa and Bernard. Not only did we get an extra gym period a week but we also went to one cub game a year. However, I do remeber missing out on one extra gym class because I forgot to bring in my gym shoes on my way into class. I was denied the privledge becaus egoing back out into the hall and opening and closing the locker would cause too much noise. I’m still pissed!

  22. Jerry Schecter October 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    PS I do remember fondly Mr. Kaz, Mr. Wahle, Mr Crane and all the wonderful teachers I had at Peterson. Thanks so much for the pictures and posts. I also rember vividly playing oside in the school yard after school and in summers, There was a small shed onthe grounds where we could take out bats, balle etc.

  23. Frances Archer October 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Small shed? You must mean the storage shed at the base of the toboggan. I have a photo of it on the site: Grounds for play, http://francesarcher.com/2011/05/grounds-for-play-2/

  24. renee chernoff October 19, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    well, I didn’t know that my sister Ellen divulged that bit of trivia about our famous incarceration in Peterson School. Although I remember it a bit differently in that I didn’t think it was after Lighted Schoolhouse. My memory of it is that my mom had been volunteered by us to hang curtains in our classroom. Somehow, everyone left the school except for the three of us and we actually got locked in. While my mom frantically ran around trying to figure how to get us out, Ellen and I enjoyed ourselves running through the school playing the piano wherever we could find one. We were eventually rescued by the CFD and it became the topic of many English compositions for years later.
    As far as Mr. Kaz, i remember him as the best gym teacher ever. I loved playing kick ball during the nice weather when we enjoyed gym class outside. He always made it fun!

  25. Ben Rosenthal February 25, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    All I could say with respect to the Dear Mr Wahle — “500 words on chicle!” Frances – thanks for bringing a smile to my face – :)

  26. Frances Archer February 26, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi, Ben. Nice to hear from you here. I didn’t have Mr. Wahle, so don’t remember the 500 words, but I do remember when they left the door open between the two rooms and I would wish I could be in his classroom. Seemed like so much fun.

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