Remembering Mendel CHS

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I’ve recently heard from a number of Mendel Catholic High School graduates. I was reminded of their motto — “Mendel Men are Gentlemen” — and asked when I was going to write about Mendel. Many Roseland residents have offered comments throughout the years on the good times they have had at Mendel, either by attending as students or going to their events.

I’ve put the word out and I am going to do my best with this month’s column to give everyone that’s been affected by Mendel the spark to bring up those great memories.

Let me begin with something that came about because Mendel was an all-boys school. I’m sure the Augustinian priests who ran the school wanted their boys to be well-rounded socially upon graduation and so the Sunday night dances came into being.

When I left Sacred Heart Seminary High School, I made the choice to attend the coed St. Willibrord’s because I’d spent the first year and a half of my high school life at a boys-only school. To expand my social horizons, I too attended the Mendel Sunday night dances.

Those dances run through everyone’s memory now and then. I recall the Augustinians patrolling the dances to make sure there wasn’t any hanky-panky. That ended up being a challenge to see what we could get away with.

I did my part for sure. Every Sunday night, my friend Bunny’s younger sister Honey would show up. The minute we spotted each other we’d yell out the other’s name and she would run and jump into my arms and we would start to dance. We were often too close because an Augustinian chaperone would show up in short order and tell us he wanted to see light between us. Fun times!

Many long-term relationships began at the dances. Among them is Roseland’s famous off-spring Dennis DeYoung. On his website he has an entire description of the night he and his wife, Suzanne, met at a Mendel dance. They’re still happily wedded and living in the south suburbs. (On a personal note, while researching this part of my column, I had to stop myself from falling down a STYX rabbit hole for hours on YOUTUBE. Their songs were so meaningful to my memories of my youth.)

There were a number of Roseland bands that took part in the numerous many battles of the bands held at Mendel. Among them were TW$, the Chicago Transit Authority, STYX, and the Royals. These were all well-known Roseland bands and many of us attended high school with the band members.

A big part of Mendel lore are the series of tunnels leading out of Mendel that were used extensively in the days it was known as Pullman Technical School of Manual Training. Some of them were later walled off and blocked, and I haven’t been able to verify all of them.

Here are the one’s I’ve been made aware of: one leading to the Pullman Bank where students attended finance classes; another leading to Palmer Park for electrical classes; another leading to the Augustinian rectory so they could go back and forth without having to deal with the weather outside. During the cold war years in the 1960s, some of these tunnels were filled with food supplies to be used in the event of nuclear war. If anyone has any further recollection of the tunnels, that information would be appreciated.

Mendel sports teams won a great many contests throughout the years. In the early years, Catholics high schools weren’t allowed in the public high school leagues, and so began the Catholic League. After the league grew in strength, its teams were accepted into the Illinois High School Conference.

Talk about a winning streak, from 1964 to 1968 the Mendel wrestling team had 99 wins and no losses and was a dominant force across the city.

Mendel also had a football team and the Roseland girls loved to attend them and show their support. There was no football field on Mendel grounds but that didn’t matter. Gately’s Stadium was available and the Monarchs made good use of that field. The Monarchs could always count on being cheered on by the Mendel pom-pom girls.

One of the most memorable events of Mendel’s football season was the annual bonfire that brought the season to a close. By most accounts, the bonfire was huge and was a big part of the great mendel along with the Sunday night dances.

Good memories are always more memorable and brought to life once again, when shared with others.

Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; res: 773-701-6756. My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights, at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago and at Miles Books, 2819 Jewett Ave., Highland, Indiana.

 

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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15 comments

  1. Interesting article. My husband John S. Bruno graduated in ’59 and from there went to Loyola Chicago for PreMed and Medical school.From there he went to University of Miami for his General Surgery training before fulfilling his 2-year Berry Plan commitment during Vietnam. Then on to St. Louis University for his two year Plastic Surgery training afterwards setting up practice in Ft. Myers, Fl. In 1975.It’s been a memorable journey for us.
    Ernestine and John Bruno

    • Leonard Grabowski

      Well I to graduated in 1959 but can’t remember the name unfortunately my year books went up in flames in the Thomas fire Santa Barbara Ca 2018. Upon graduation went to U of I pharmacy school then to medical school at Uof I two years in the military just as you served and finally a residency at UC Davis in internal medicine. Settled in Santa Barbara 1973 and stayed. I suspect would recognize your photo. Mendel was a haul I lived in south Chicago so it took a few transfers on the CTA to get to school.

  2. George Arthur '57

    In the mid 50’s soon after the school was opened the Mendel Monarchs were a force in the Catholic football league. Remember one year our bonfire was set a blaze a couple of nights early supposedly by some from St Rita. Maybe ’56. I believe we were to play them for Homecoming and that was the reason for the bonfire. Just to show all, the thing was rebuilt in time for the festivities. One heck of a task! And didn’t we defeat them in the Catholic league final at Soldier Field in ’58?
    That’s how I remember the event. Might just get better every time recollected. (I had rels who attended St. Rita).

  3. George Luce (Class of ‘60) here. I enjoyed your article but need to offer one correction: The campus very definitely had a football field — just didn’t have any seats or bleachers. I tried out for the Monarch team as a freshman and wallowed in the mud of that field until Joe Farrell or some other freshman knocked me into next week. I mention Joe because he went on to play four years at Notre Dame, while I remained a bruised spectator. Sadly, Joe passed away recently.
    In my four years at Mendel, I don’t recall hearing or knowing about the tunnels. The Sunday night dances I remember, though I attended only a few. Several of my Mendel pals and I lived in the Beverly/Brainard neighborhood, two CTA transfers and a half hour from Roseland. Only one or two of our gang had a car and most of our parents were reluctant to offer up the family wagon, knowing there’d be beer drinking going on. St. Sabina’s Hi-Club was easier to get to for their sock hops. And they were a bit more loosely monitored than the Augustinian version at 111th and South Park. Ah, memories. . .

  4. Mendels bon fire was held on the Friday nite of homecoming weekend every year I attended from 65-69.

    • BILL C FROM BURNSIDE.

      I ATTENDED MENDEL FROM 1965 TO 1969. WRESTLING TEAM. ZOO RULES. PALMER PARK. HEY I AM LOOKING FOR PATRICIA NUGENT, SISTER TO TERRY NUGENT, ANYONE SEE HER?
      BILL C FROM BURNSIDE.

  5. Ernest (Skip) Dalle Molle

    Thanks CJ for the memory shot! I graduated in 1967 and remember a good part of what you shared. Agree with George Luce that we did have a football field as I was team manager throughout my time at Mendel. Only tunnel I recall was down in the basement area where the maintenance team hung out. Not sure where it led to but I could recall all their equipment was lined up there. Thanks also for taking on Fra Noi and our Petals from Roseland. I was always so grateful when I would get a paper sent from Mario wherever I was stationed, especially in Vietnam. It was always nice to read about the people I knew growing up around!

  6. Phil Carter, 1968

    I attended Mendel from 64-68. About this time every year (late winter/early spring) I recall how the track team would begin practicing by running inside. We’d start in the basement of the main building and run to the west wing, run to the top of the west wing then back down, back to the main building, up to the top then down again then to the east wing, up and down and then back to the main building. Quite a workout, all in low cut sneakers. We would also run sprints on the top floor of the main building. As the weather moderated we’d move outside and run laps of Palmer park and time trials on Palmer’s 300 yard cinder track. Our season would start with an indoor meet at U of C’s Stagg Fieldhouse where they had a clay 200 yard track. The clay was supposedly imported from Europe???? Good times, good memories. I was never a standout but continued running as an adult and didn’t quit until I was in my early 70’s. Now I cycle.

  7. Spent time in the tunnels trying to loose weight for wrestling. My recollection is they were steam tunnels that just went to the two wings on the sides of the main building. Four years wrestling four Catholic league championships, class of 68

  8. I never paid much attention to the tunnel saga. The only thing I remember is that the tunnels could be accessed through the door at the back of The Pit.

  9. About those homecoming Friday night bonfires: don’t forget the old cars in the back parking lot painted with teacher’s names. For a quarter(?) you could take a sledgehammer to them. I think “the Skull” always got special treatment.

  10. I am proud to say that I graduated from Mendel in 1956, second graduating class. I never heard of the tunnels until your article. Most likely, if they do exist, they were built by Pullman Tech the original owner of the property.
    After graduation I went to St Joe’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Because of a bout with Asian flu which kept me out of classes for three weeks I had to drop out of physics. Since St Joe was a small school, I could not pick up the class in the following semester, as a result my whole plan to become an engineer was side tracked, and I transferred to the University of Illinois. I graduated U of I in 1961, and began my career as a Mechanical Engineer. I retired in 2003 from Panduit Corp as Chief Engineer of Product Engineering. I like to tell people that by the time I retired I had a PhD in cable tie engineering.

  11. I was also a member of the Wrestling team in my Freshman and Sophomore years (1966-1968). (I remember Dave LaRoche).
    In addition, I recall the tunnels very well. I remember wrestlers using the steam room to get down to “weight” prior to matches … often wearing rubber suits for additional sweating. (How dangerous was that!).
    As Dave stated, the entrance to the tunnels was in “the Pit” where many of us served our “jugs” (AKA detention).
    In my Freshman years, I joined multiple sports and clubs. One of them was the “Civil Defense Club”. We would spend a lot of time deep in the tunnels, where rows of five gallon Buckets full of water, cases of protein crackers, and even REAL Geiger counters could be found. A makeshift “office” had been set up within the bowels of the tunnels, with makeshift lighting, work tables and stacks of Playboy magazines could often be found. (Pinups on the wall including several photos of Marilyn Monroe).
    Interesting times of change as the students evolved from slicked back Vitalis packed hairstyles to Beatles shaggy cuts and eventually to shoulder length hippie “cuts”.

  12. Pete Panozzo. 3/27/2023
    I was one of many Panozzo’s’ that walked the halls of Mendel. My brother Joe (class of 65) preceded me. Jug classes were sometimes part of my curriculum as I was a joker. I traveled daily to school on the CTA from the South Shore neighborhood to Mendel. Quite the ride. Winter travels were miserable. In my senior year of 69 I finally had the opportunity to join the track team where I threw shot put. Mendel was a great school on so many levels. I struggled with my studies and upon graduation I opted to join the Air Force rather than go to college. When I finally did attend college in later years, I accredited Mendel to knowledge and skills I obtained years before.

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