July 25, 2011

The Southern School, aka The School for Hillbillies, and "The Whorehouse of Chicago," Uptown Chicago, 1970

Excerpt from the Sun-Times, 1970.  No truant officer chases the pupils of The Southern School, although somewhere in the files of the public school system each has a record of truancy, delinquency, retardation or incorrigibility.

They come willingly—even to summer school—in response to Patrick Zimmermann, who teaches them without pay. Zimmerman is a former public school teacher who has taken 15 poor white boys from Uptown and made them learn to read and behave and many have advanced beyond their grade level.

Zimmerman is a national merit scholar who holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago. He started his school for "hillbillies" in January. He started it because as a white teacher without much seniority in the public school system, he was assigned to all-black schools. Zimmerman thinks black kids need black teachers and hillbilly kids need hillbilly teachers, of which there are "about three" in Chicago.

Believing that public schools have failed Uptown's 9000 poor Southern whites, he founded, administers, and currently serves as sole teacher in a special school for "his" people.

The Southern School started out as one class of 15 boys, but this fall another class will be added for boys, and possibly a third girls' class. A campaign is underway to raise $9600 ($3000 per teacher, $1000 for lunches, $1000 for equipment and books, etc.) to support the frugal school for the next year.

Zimmerman's is a school where he puts his arm around an emaciated little boy who is reading aloud. It's a school where records play during class. It's a school where a child would be free to bring a poster advertising a movie about prostitution because he would like to talk about it.

The subject, prostitution, is not irrevelant in an Uptown elementary school, says Zimmerman. This neighborhood is the city's whorehouse. A lot of kids hustle customers for girls--little kids. They can make $5.

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Patricia Simpson (Trish the Dish) said...

Patrick Zimmerman (Zip) was my teacher back in 1976 - 1977. Best school ever. Couldn't have graduated and gone on to college without Zip, Jerry & Fran Rothman. I think of it fondly. Thank you Souther School.

Patricia Simpson Turner

Robo-nurse said...

I was there at the same time. Helped make me an adult.

Patricia Simpson (Trish the Dish) said...

Robo-nurse, private message me and let me know who you are. It would be fun to compare notes. sturnerpatricia1959@gmail.com.

My experience at The Southern School was a very good one. The only ones who can put it down, were jealous of what we had there. I had to grow up fast, and they helped me do so. Yeah, Zip was cool. I'm still in contact with Fran. Gerry is dead. I don't know what happened to Moses. I'm in touch with mini chick. My best memories are with playing pool, BINGO, and most of all the horseback riding trips. Did you get to do the camping out at the horse stables with us? oh by the way...I married Jimmy Boudalis (boathouse) lol. That was quite a learning experience. But now I married David Turner, the pool hustler I learned to play pool from.

Anonymous said...

I did Child Care/Tutoring there beginning in 1970 & 71. Mostly we kept watch over kids so their folks could do shopping and other chores, or have some time to themselves knowing their kids were safe and would be fed & looked after. Lots of rough and tumble play and detangling a week's worth of grudges and get-backs, lots of older kids looking after the younger. The YPO kind of looked out for us, too. The other option for 'organized' activities was Daly's Uptown Urban Progress Center, which people had mixed thoughts about. I started volunteering there in 1968-69. Was there for the rent strikes and picketing the local grocery stores for having poor-quality foods at jacked-up prices. Was in the back of the room when Bobby Lee would come to meet with folks, and the alliance with the YLO and BPP started to channel energy and offer some actual help for people in need. Zip was honest and direct and I learned a great deal about how to listen and ask questions and keep my own ideas to myself; learning how to meet people where they were and not bullshit them or make promises you couldn't keep. First day, he told me that when the time came I would leave and go my way, but these kids would still be here...so keep your head on the swivel and stay humble. Changed my life and shaped my life.


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