June 6, 2011

Pheasant Hunting in St. Boniface Cemetery During WW2

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

There were times during the war years we ate pretty good. Perch from Lake Michigan and Pheasant from St Boniface Cemetery. St. Boniface ran along Lawrence from Magnolia west to Clark Street.

We would sneak into the cemetery from Magnolia, mainly because there wasn't any traffic and we did this towards dark so we wouldn't attract attention. You had to be careful climbing over the wall, which was high and concrete, because some mean person put broken glass on the top to keep people from doing exactly what we were doing.

One day, a few friends and I decided to sneak into the cemetery and play war and hide and seek. While walking around through the tombstones, we would kick up a pheasant or two. We also noticed that they weren't afraid of us; they were tame, and fat, maybe to fat to fly.
Me and my buddy John went back sometime later and brought a gunny sack with us and a half of an old broom stick, with tape around the handle, that we would also use for fast pitch. I would chase the pheasants close to John and he would whack them over the head and then wring their necks. We would put a couple in the bag and take off. We always left before it got totally dark. That place was scary enough in the daylight.

My mom knew how to dress them out, and pluck all the feathers. Pheasant and Lake Michigan perch are some of the best meals I ever had.

I still have my WWII ration books, Mom says to keep them, just in case.

Between John and I, over a two- year period, we must have taken 8 birds. We never wanted to thin out the flock, so we practiced some sense of conservation. I wonder if there are any left?

When I told them this story, one of my grandkids didn't understand what plucking feathers was, and another wanted to know what a gunny sack was.

Bill Matteson

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