Lisle Pride – Growing up a Lion
by: Michael J. Grecco Lisle Senior High Class of 1977 ( composed in 2018)
Now I am going to fast forward and focus this story on late summer of 1972. At this point my parents had now had all of their children (I was 13, my brother Tony was 10, my brother Dan was 5 and my sister Sandi was 1). One day in late August, just before I was scheduled to start 8th grade at the old Lisle Junior High (located next to Scheisher School) I came home from playing baseball with my friends. My parents were sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to arrive. They called all of us kids into the kitchen and announced that we were going to move to California. Surely they must be joking??!! They said they were serious. We had been approved by a very young McDonald’s Corporation to open a restaurant in San Diego. The plan was to take the combined equity of my parents’ and grandparents’ homes so we could go into the restaurant business. Our house in Lisle was going to be put up for sale first and we were going to immediately move in with our Grandma Angeline and Grampa John Grecco at 7011 West 63rd street in Chicago. Their house would be sold AFTER our Lisle house was sold. So, with a minimal chance to say goodbye to the only town we had ever lived in, suddenly and inexplicably we were now city dwellers.
The for-sale sign went up in Lisle and we moved into the basement of my grandparents’ home in Chicago. I was immediately registered at Nathan Hale School (a K- 8 school) located at 6140 S Melvina Ave, Chicago, IL 60638. If we stayed longer than a year I would be attending Kennedy High School in Chicago. I learned to take a CTA bus (needed to have my student pass with me) each day to and from school. I learned to make my student bus fare and lunch money go further by eating sauce sandwiches and walking home when the weather was nice. I was now the NEW KID in 8th grade in school for the first time in my young life. Many nights I had this recurring dream where I was back in Lisle with my Lisle friends/classmates but they didn’t recognize me and I didn’t have my books and I couldn’t stay. As far as Nathan Hale goes after a few days I became somewhat familiar with the daily routines and slowly acclimated to the school.
After a few weeks I came to the realization that much of the material they were covering at Nathan Hale in 8th grade we in Lisle had covered in 5th and 6th grade. It was sad and actually drove me to boredom. I also started noticing a bit of resentment by the teachers when I began answering questions during class and taking tests without even studying for them. I specifically recall a Mrs. Brown trying to disrespect suburban schools and trying to embarrass me several times in class. I decided I wouldn’t offer up too many answers as it would only create more issues for me.
Sadly, I also recall one day, pretty sure it was a Friday, being on the playground and walking up to a group of kids making plans for the evening. Apparently, a family of color had moved into a house that was over some sort of border and as a result these youths were talking about egging the house or maybe even throwing a brick through a window. My heart sunk. This was my first true exposure to racism amongst my peers. It was a horrific time for me, for I so I desperately missed Lisle, my friends, and our teachers/schools. I made my mind up to gut it out since my parents said we would be moving to California at some point.
Later that fall we in Chicago took the equivalent of the modern day 8th grade ISAT tests. I took the tests and thought nothing of them. About 2 weeks later I can recall being out on the Nathan Hale playground at lunchtime when the Principal and my homeroom teacher came out and summoned me to the office. I didn’t know what I had done and was quite fearful as they escorted me inside. I recall a group of several teachers and the Principal seated at a large table. They sat me down and began to question me. They asked me several times if I had had access to the ISAT test prior to taking it. I told them no. They asked me if I had cheated on the tests. I once again told them no. I then asked them why they were asking me these questions. The principal told me that I had scored nearly twice as high on ALL parts of the exams as the next closest 8th grader at Nathan Hale. They showed me a graph where my score was way above the average score of the 8th grade class and were trying to fathom how that could happen. I knew why – LISLE!!!! The teachers at Hale didn’t want to believe it to be possible and the Principal almost seemed embarrassed to admit this to me. They called my mom in and offered to give me more challenging work…but it was woefully inadequate, nowhere near the class work and teaching we received in Lisle. My Lisle Pride was validated that day and for the rest of my time there. As a reference point I graduated in the top 10% of the Lisle High School class of 1977. I was a very good student but surely not our valedictorian. Thus, I have an extremely unique perspective and quite frankly believe we in Lisle have had the best of educations made available to us. It was just up to each of us to avail ourselves of that education and of the Lisle experience. I am living proof.
In late December 1972 my parents and grandparents had another of those “disagreements”. As a result, we immediately left Chicago and moved back to our little house in Lisle (which by the grace of God had not sold !!) over Christmas break. I recall my dad ramming our 1965 Cadillac into an unplowed driveway. All 5 of us ended up sleeping on the floor up in mine and Tony’s bedroom on our first night back, I will never forget that. I was so very excited to be home but couldn’t wait for break to be over and to get back to MY SCHOOL. I can still recall walking into Lisle Junior High in early January in a triumphant return to my favorite town and schools. I had a lot of stories to share and many of my classmates couldn’t believe I was back….that almost never happened when someone moved away!! I also can recall the ENORMOUS amount of scholastic work I had to do to catchup up in my accelerated Math, Science and English classes. I hadn’t learned much of anything during my 4 ½ months at Nathan Hale but I was determined not to fall permanently behind my classmates. I now had to pay a severe price to catchup with my peers in Lisle, but I gladly did so after the awful experience of Nathan Hale middle school in Chicago.
It is because of this experience that I have great pride and am forever thankful for the childhood experiences and education I and my classmates received from the teachers and parents in my hometown of Lisle. After moving back I appreciated my schools, teachers and friends even more and became a better student and more involved in the community. This is why to this day I am so very proud to be a Lisle Lion and proud of the town I grew up in. and it is also why I am excited to be able to donate to the Carlin Nalley Foundation as I feel that there is nothing better than recognizing one’s roots and promoting those experiences for generations to come.
Michael J. Grecco Lisle Senior High Class of 1977 ( composed in 2018)