More Important Than Boxing Gloves

“Without a good school system, you’re not going to get families.”


This story is part of our Flight Paths initiative. Produced by Rebecca Werner with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

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Transcript for More Important Than Boxing Gloves

I remember being in the schools and always feeling safe until eighth grade.  I was at Kennedy King Middle School, and I don’t know what was happening in the world, but there started to be some racial tension that carried over into the schools, and I remember one particular day that there was a massive fight in the school, and it was clearly color divided.  And I remember the school immediately sending everyone home, and then the following night, having all the parents come to the school for a meeting, but I clearly remember that was a defining point for me.  But then I recall the conversation when it was time for Jeff, our oldest brother, to go to high school, you and Mom were debating what to do because the closest public high school, Wirt, was starting to see some changes.

Well, that made our decision for us to send you guys to Catholic high school.  We felt the education was more important than you putting on boxing gloves.  It was a good choice.  Going to Andrean was a good choice for us.  The school was in Merrillville, so it was a long ride.  There were a lot of kids going to that school in this area, so we chartered a bus.

I know the Gary school systems were models for other schools back in the ’50s and ’60s, and then it seemed to have taken—

A dive.

—a change, and I think it was over a course of maybe fifteen years, and a lot of people say that it was when we changed mayors.  

People who backed Mayor Hatcher were one of the first to leave.  They decided to move to Munster-area.  Better schools, supposedly.  I don’t know.  A lot of kids now are going to Portage schools, or charter schools.  We didn’t have the choice back in those days.  Now, there were some private schools if you went to Chicago, but you’re talking big dollars.  Again, getting on the South Shore and traveling, you know, so you have other obstacles.  There’s only so much growth can be if we don’t have jobs to bring people in, but we also don’t have a good school system right now, unfortunately.  And without a good school system, you’re not going to get families.  We had good neighbors, but they had children, and they packed up and left because they wanted to go where there are better schools.