Jason Schumer
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Al Dugdale is a lifelong resident of Mount Greenwood and a USPS mailman in the neighborhood.

I recall when we first moved in, it was all prairie behind us, and one time the prairie caught on fire. It was very low flames just crawling along the ground. All the neighbors came out and turned the garden hoses.There was two old wooden houses on 115th Street where squatters lived, and after the fire they chased them out of there and they bulldozed the houses.

There was a lot of farms. I think they call them truck farms. People have maybe a quarter of an acre of land and they would grow vegetables out here, and they’re just about all disappeared now. It’s fine the way it is now. The way it is now, most striking thing about it is, there’s additions on all the houses. They used to be all one story. Now they are two or three stories and they look like Frankenstein houses.

1994, that was the first summer I worked [as a mailman], was when all those people died of the heatwave. Real bad heat wave. I didn’t feel very good. I thought I was sick and then I realized it was just the heat. I just stumbled into being a mailman. I worked in factories and machine shops like that, and I was in my forties when I started. It’s not a bad job. It’s nice being outside. Yeah, it’s better than working inside in one place. It’s better moving around.

I worked in the stockyards area, then I moved to the North Side: Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square. I would deliver mail to all of the crime sites, like where Dillinger was shot and where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. I was always trying to get closer to home.

I get to know some people very well. Some I just barely know. And what’s happening now is they’re all dying, they’re all seventy and eighty years old. Every week there’s two or three people that are gone. Well, I didn’t think of it when I was younger, but it makes you realize it’s going to happen to us, too.

This is pretty much the same as it was a hundred years ago, actually. Since Mount Greenwood was founded in the 1870s there’s been three murders in 140 years. Let that sink in for a minute: three murders in 140 years. So it’s pretty nice living here. There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing ever happens. We don’t even have fires out here anymore. (As told to Sam Stecklow)

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Best Student Cheer Rivalry

Mother McAuley and Marist High Schools

Kilts are part of the uniform at Mother McAuley, one of the remaining all-girls Catholic high schools in the Chicago area. But at a recent volleyball faceoff with rival co-ed Catholic high school Marist, those kilts became part of a “Braveheart”-themed student section, as bagpipers led fans decked out in face war paint.

The rivalry between Marist and McAuley, of which I am an alum, starts in seventh and eighth grades when younger students can shadow their potential older classmates for a day while deciding which school to choose. The schools sit just under three miles apart from each other down Pulaski Road with the fundamental difference being the gender of their student body, so students from the Catholic and public elementary schools scattered across the southland typically have their pick of a high school. (Male students can enroll at Brother Rice, an all-boys school, whose campus borders the McAuley one. Marist was all-boys until 2002.)

Volleyball programs at both schools are strong, though Marist’s women’s team achieved its first state title in 2017 and McAuley won its fifteenth in 2016. But the student cheering sections take the rivalry up a notch. Marist’s team is represented by the Redhawk, a fierce-looking red bird. On the other end of Pulaski, McAuley’s mascot is literally a giant stuffed red M for “Mighty Macs” that students take turns wearing during the matches. McAuley’s fan base won first place last year by the Illinois High School Association (the governing body of the state’s high school sports leagues) in the fourth annual “Student Section Showdown” competition, judged on sportsmanship, spirit, student body participation, and cheer originality. A student varsity club organizes the themes of each major game’s student cheer section, including “Jazzercise”, “McAuley Dads,” and the bagpiping “Braveheart.” (The seniors of the varsity club recently started a tradition of dramatically “conferring the M” to the juniors at the end of the school year.)

Red and yellow, McAuley’s school colors, swarm the stands in crazy costumes, including banana suits, feather boas, and tutus. “Jesus aerobics,” a multi-part impromptu cardio routine which includes invoking the writers of the Gospel—“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John! Work the fat until it’s gone!”—are a regular performance, thanks to one of McAuley’s theology teachers. One of McAuley’s most loyal fans, Sister of Mercy Maura Lowrey, frequently makes an appearance at home games, akin to Loyola University’s legendary Sister Jean. Marist walks in. McAuley players chest bump with the M as they take the court. And the crowd—goes—wild. (Christine Schmidt)

Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, 3737 W. 99th St. Athletics calendar available at il.8to18.com/mothermcauleyhs. (773) 881-6550

Marist High School, 4200 W. 115th St. Athletics calendar available at il.8to18.com/marist. (773) 881-5367

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Best Cemeteries to Ride Your Bike Through

Mt. Olivet and Mt. Hope Cemeteries

Jason Schumer
Jason Schumer

While the Far Southwest Side is one of the least bike-friendly parts of the city—as recently as 2012, 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea declared his opposition to bike lanes anywhere in his ward—the small but vocal population of cyclists in the area can (and do) utilize something the ward has an abundance of: cemeteries. Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery, directly off of bike-unfriendly 111th Street, and Mt. Hope Cemetery immediately to the south, lead riders on serene, winding paths, even offering cyclists accustomed to traversing flat prairie land some texture: hills! (Sam Stecklow)

Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery. 2755 W. 111th St. 8am–7pm. (773) 239-4422.

Mt. Hope Cemetery. 11500 S. Fairfield Ave. 8:30am–4:30pm. (708) 371-2818. mthope-cemetery.com

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Best High School for a Future Farmer

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences

There’s hands-on learning, and then there’s sticking your hand inside a cannula connected to a cow’s stomach to learn how it digests food. That’s the kind of experience students at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences get regularly. The only school of its kind in the Midwest, CHSAS offers education in six pathways—food science and technology, animal science, horticulture, biotechnology in agriculture, agricultural mechanics and technology, and agricultural finance and economics—alongside standard college prep classes in English, math, social studies, and the like.

The campus is spread over seventy-eight acres, thirty-nine of which are given over to fields where three different kinds of corn grow high, among a variety of other crops. There’s a large barn where Talulah the cannulated cow lives, along with hogs, alpacas, goats, chickens, and turkeys destined to be the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast for elderly people in the neighborhood. There are beehives, an aquaponics room where tilapia grow and fertilize young plants, and a food science lab where I am given a small, warm loaf of zucchini bread so good, I change my mind about greens not having any place in desserts.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you can sample the fruits of the students’ labor at the campus farmstand. In addition to produce from the fields, each of the pathways contributes something of their own. You can get a loaf of the food science students’ zucchini bread, or buy one of the sturdy Adirondack chairs made by the agricultural mechanics and technology students. When you hand over your money, it’ll be to an agricultural finance student.

At CHSAS, learning doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. Around every corner is evidence of the students’ projects, from the thick white suits they wear to work with bees to stacks of firewood. It spills into the hours after school and during the summer, too. The students are all members of the Future Farmers of America, which meets after school and organizes agri-centric activities. In the summer, many participate in internship and job shadow programs at food companies or get paid to work in the school’s fields.

About thirty-five percent of graduates go on to declare an agriculture-related major in college, Assistant Principal Sheila Fowler told me, though not all arrive with a strong affinity for agriculture. Paola Beltran, a senior, said that “at first I didn’t want to come here. I thought it was ridiculous going to a farm school.” But once she plunged into the school’s programs, she discovered that “agriculture is in everything you do. And it’s everywhere.” After an internship in agricultural communications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign last summer, she hopes to study it in college.

“There’s so much talk today about making education meaningful,” Fowler tells me, ”Helping kids see the connection between what they do in school and their real lives. I think you can see that happening here.” (Rebecca Stoner)

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. 3857 W. 111th St. Campus farm stand open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30pm–5pm, and Saturdays from 9am–noon. (773) 535-2500. chicagoagr.org

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Best Deal for Good Students

Alternate Reality

Jason Schumer
Jason Schumer

If you are, unlike I was, a very good elementary school student and live anywhere in the Chicagoland region, 111th Street comic book emporium Alternate Reality has a deal for you: a discount for your good grades on your report card, up to twenty-five percent off your purchase. (The store, the South Side’s largest, offers a plethora of other deals for those of us who have advanced past the fifth grade, including bargains on new comics and “Ladies Day.”) Owner Tim Davis has operated the store since 1994, and has a history of comic-hawking going back to the now-closed Comicbook Emporium. Chances are, you’ll happily leave Alternate Reality clutching handfuls of comics that you would’ve paid more for elsewhere, pledging to soon return. (Sam Stecklow)

Alternate Reality. 3149 W. 111th St. Monday, Thursday; noon–7pm; Wednesday, 7am–7:30pm; Friday, noon–8pm; Saturday, 10am–6pm; Sunday, 10am–5pm. (773) 881-4376. myalternatereality.com

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