Out of my 54 years of life, I’ve lived here for 48 years. I went to College in Michigan. And then I skied in Colorado for a year, and I was in between Colorado and Wisconsin for that sixth year. So yeah, I was going to live in Colorado or California and I'm a block and a half away from where I grew up. How does this happen? I don't know.
I went to North Park Church preschool. They started in 1964, and I started in 1972. I remember Ms. Barb: she was 4 foot one and she was larger than life. If she said “jump,” I would. The classroom I teach in right now [at Peterson School], room 127, that used to be room 117, and that's where I went to 3rd grade, in that classroom.
Every classroom had a piano, and they would play the Star Spangled banner and say the pledge and then we had assemblies. One of my favorite assemblies was when I was in 6th grade. That's when they started bussing in students from the South Side – integration. I remember a whole slew of students from the South side came, and I'll never forget the first day they stood there and they were scared to death and we were like, “You don't need to be scared, we want to be your friends!” I remember my 6th grade teacher, she said, “You know these guys can teach you something. You guys don't know how to dance and they do.” Now that I think about it, I'm like, “Oh boy, that can be very racist,” but that's what got us together every Friday. We would have disco lessons, and she would bring her little 45s and we would play it on the record player and we all would dance for a half hour on Friday afternoons.
For one assembly, we sang “We are Family” and we danced on the stage. I wonder how they are: Solomon, Berniece, Sabina. I remember them all.
Then I went to Von Steuben. It was a whole other world there. I had known everybody through 8th grade and when I went just a few blocks over, it was a whole different world and I didn't know everybody. So I remember feeling like a fish out of water. I didn't see the color line until I went to Von.
I remember having a good friend who is Black and she was adopted by white parents and, you know, she was going through some identity problems. I remember telling her, “I don't see you as black. I see you as so and so.” And I said her name and she's like, “Sandy, that's a problem. I am Black and I need to be seen as Black.” And that's when it hit me hard. You know, I just thought of people as my friends and we’re all in this together.
[When we were kids], we would go down to the Boland’s [at Bernard and Berwyn]. And we start with playing basketball, hanging out, and then when it started getting dark, we pick three people and they were the zombies and they would sit in the backyard and the rest of us would go and hide throughout the neighborhood.
While they were sitting there they would figure out where the jail would be. Then their goal was to come and collect all of us and put us into the jail. And once they collected everybody and put them in the jail, they won. However, if we found out what the jail was, then we could go and untap the people. This game would last like for two hours and it would go on. During the weekends we could stay out a little bit later, but during the weekdays, as soon as the street lights went on, we did have to go home and my mom had a very strong voice. If we were not home when the street lights came on, “Robbie! Sandy!” That's our mom – we gotta go!
It was great. It was so fun. To this day, when we meet with a lot of friends – and now, you know, some of our parents are dying – they come back for the funeral. What do we talk about? Those nights, playing “Zombie,” hanging out at the Boland house.
Sandy DeVarenne was interviewed by a former student and neighbor in May of 2022.