Gather around, boys and girls, and Uncle Jeff will tell you about his high school days.
No, I won’t say I had to walk 20 miles in the snow to get there. I actually got a ride to school each morning, but in the days before catalytic converters, some of the commutes to school stunk of exhaust fumes and that was pretty rough.
Speaking of rough…
I went to a Catholic grade school for eight years and my dad was a steel mill worker and we were middle class while most of the rest of the school had rich kids who were snobby and had parents that were lawyers and bankers.
That said, the kids in the school were pretty well behaved. Sure, there were a few fights on the playground, but the hardest hit I saw was when the nun principal slapped a kid in the chops after he referred to another kid as something that rhymed with trucker. He couldn’t get the next word out as he was struck by the slap heard ‘round the world. Or at least ‘round the playground.
That brings me to high school.
I went to Joliet Central.
Within the first couple of months:
• I was 10 feet away from a big guy beating up a girl in the cafeteria.
• Someone put poison in the science teacher’s coffee and the guy nearly died.
• There were rumors of a riot that was supposed to happen during my lunch hour. It never happened but there were cops in the cafeteria that day. The only time there were cops at my Catholic grade school was when a member of the Joliet Police brass would drop off his kid to school.
• A faculty member was bloodied from the fists of a student – during a pep rally.
• The first teacher I ever had was a drunk but I was too stupid to figure it out until junior year when I saw him in a store shouting and acting goofy.
I have a few other stories about good ol’ Joliet Central but you get the idea.
That said, I survived the mean hallways of Joliet Central and I enjoyed my four years there better than my eight years at the Catholic school.
At the time, the school had a bad reputation.
Years after I graduated, I worked as a freelance writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and covered basketball games in the inner city. Simeon. King. Westinghouse. Crane. Collins. Marshall. These are schools that are not in Wilmette. Yet my boss never said anything to me about going to those schools.
But when I had to cover a game at my dear alma mater, he growled “Get out of there as fast as you can – I don’t want someone hitting you in the back of the head with a wrench.”
I bring you these wholesome memories because Friday night, Joliet Central will host its first night home football game in many years. Joliet West, which used to be the “goody goody” school in the district, will also host a night game later in the season after a long absence.
Both schools have lights at their fields. But in the past, night games were such big headaches, they were eliminated in favor of Saturday morning and afternoon games.
“We just had a few issues not involving our students and we needed to change,” District Director of Activities and Athletics Chris Olson told the Joliet Herald-News. “I hope we embrace it this time.’’
Phew. I’m certainly glad it wasn’t the good kids of JT Central and West who caused trouble during night games. I wouldn’t want their reputations stained.
So on Friday night, the Joliet Central Steelmen will host Thornridge at 6:30 p.m. and if you wanted to just show up…well…good luck.
No tickets will be sold at the game.
Students who bought tickets are not allowed to sell them or give them to other students or non-students.
Parents and other adults needed to come into the school at designated times and locations between Aug. 18 and today, Thursday.
There will be no sophomore game.
The administration and the cops are in close consultation to make sure Friday Night Lights turns into Friday Night Fights.
There are a lot of hoops to jump through.
“It would be awesome if we could make this work,” Olson told the Herald. “I will say this, I have a lot of faith in our student body.’’
We’ll see. At least this new generation of Steelmen hasn’t tried to poison their science teacher yet.