Chicago Tilden High School
I cannot forget entering Dunbar High School in 1976 from the ‘low end’ (i.e. Englewood). I was now attending a school with students who grew up in communities like my uncle and aunt, the nice hoods (i.e., Chatham, Morgan Park, and Kenwood). Yet, I was still dirt poor, one pair of shoes, struggling to keep my slacks up, and wondering what the fuck. I could see a difference in the students; I knew who was poor and who was well off. Growing up in poverty, you possess a keen sense for details, hell your life depended on it. Dunbar Vocational High School was a flagship institution, unlike my community high schools’ Tilden and Englewood for which I refused to enroll in either.
The ‘Bar’ was uppity’. It wassurrounded by condominiums, close to the lake, and minutes from ‘The Loop’. There was plenty of intra-racial discrimination and prejudices going on at the ‘Bar’. If you were a student not from one of the nice neighborhoods, it was tough. Presently, ‘Bar’ alums get together pretending these cultural and sociological differences did not exist. Bullshit. Students from the projects and communities like Englewood were treated different. Some of us were poor and from the other side of the tracks. We felt the class divide as other impoverished Blacks had throughout history in America. Maybe I should have stayed home at Tilden or Englewood.
The High School Riot
My wife Debra is a graduate of Tilden (79) and many ghetto mites from “The Dodge” attended school there. Tilden located 4747 South Union in Bridgeport was the local pub for dropouts, malcontents, and reprobates. It was surrounded by poor Irish trash and dirty cops all too willing to play the contest, “Catch a Nigger Alone Tonight”. From my knowledge, one did not want to hang around Tilden after dark. Not surprisingly, It was the home of the Daly’s (Mayors of Corrupt Chicago), racists cops, and Irish lads doling out Mick justice on Black students and citizens. Whites and Blacks did not get alone and violence was a norm.
Consequently, the violence at Tilden often spilled into the streets. It was not uncommon to hear on our intercom at John Hope that Tilden was participating in their annual fucking school riot. Even today, I can recall the intercom warning us that Tilden students were marching South on Union street, destination John Hope Middle School. It was madness, large numbers of Tilden students, Blue and Whites swirling around 55th & Garfield Boulevard, D.T’s in unmarked cars, putting hands on cats not moving fast enough.
This was the 70’s and police brutality was the norm in Black communities, there was no Twitter or cell phones to capture the mayhem. Somewhat scared and perturbed at the same time, I wondered, what the fuck are the Tilden students mad at our middle school for? What the hell was the problem? More importantly, did our neighbors want to kick our youthful asses? I hated Tilden before then, but now I disliked it even more. Which is why I was all too willing to rib my friends who attended it.
Till this day, I can recall looking out the window of House 4B at John Hope as police cars and bodies pushed the angry mob on its way. Why the fuck did they come up to John Hope? If a former rioter could contact me and explain the reasoning, I’d appreciate it. Conversely, I hated what I witnessed, mean faces, brutal cops, and frozen school officials. The whole fucking Garfield Boulevard was ablaze with tight-ass slacks, fucked up Afros, and worn out platform shoes. In essence, Black folks just stomping their feet, mad as Hell. I just don’t know nor understand their reasons.
Presently, I’m still in the dark about this mass aggression, but this form of violence became the norm, sadly. This was one of my neighborhood schools, where nearly most of my rat pack attended, mostly for recreation. Consequently, I never wanted to attend Tilden. I was a Dodge City Ghetto mite, but I wanted to attend the ‘Bar’ because my older brother did. But, boy athletic wise, I wished often I played football at Tilden. I know, my Mighty Men/Women just booted me out the club, but it’s true. I regret not playing with my neighborhood cats on the gridiron. Plus, they won it all in 1979-80. I love my ‘Bar’; Mighty Man through and through.
I speculate, John Hope Middle School turned out some of the best talent in athletics. The school encapsulated individuals from the surrounding neighborhoods that could flat-out play football, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, swim, and track. Although, the big schools like the “Bar” CVS or Simeon had nice neighborhoods surrounding their landscapes. Tilden on the other hand, had Bridgeport Irish cats waiting to push an unsuspecting nigger’s cap back after dark. It was no secret, if you couldn’t get in the good schools (e.g., Dunbar, Lindblom, Whitney Young) your shit was stuck at Englewood or Tilden. I never wanted either; so, I went to the ‘Bar’, poor as hell and academically fragile.
The “Bar” was a mixture of uppity ass students and low-end Ghettomites from the South side. Even today, I know uppity ‘Bar’ graduates, well not that uppity, but some still believe someone should be grateful to pull their chair out for them. Tilden on the other hand was bare knuckle Negroes who I played sport with growing up, Tilden had tough individuals from tough surrounding neighborhoods. Thus it should be no surprise that they field two of the best athletic programs in Illinois at that time. Male wrestling and football at Tilden was unprecedented, no one could fuck with them on the field or the square. The Blue Devils stood above all Chicago High Schools and the State of Illinois for that matter in the late 70-80’s. Fear was there calling card, pain a ready prescription. Their two teams were made up from the best Englewood and the surrounding Ghettos had to offer…
(Part 2 to be con’t)
On the field or the mat, the “Blue Devils” were fierce and unapologetic competitors. Hmm, let me put it another way, they kicked plenty ass, each team built by two of the best High School coaches CPS produced…In fact, these two teams remain in my opinion one of the best in their era, hands down…from Marcus Bell, Nate “Slick” Cole, and Jamie “Fatdaddy” Barton…to wrestlers Doyle Harris and Tommy Howard. The Blue Devils strangled the life out of all who dare enter the arena…
Tilden Wrestling vs Chicago Public School System (1974-79)
Tilden Football vs South Shore and Julian High School (1979-80)
Hello crack, goodbye innocence