Rec Hall

A 1910 Pullman car which served as the Denver ...

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One nice thing about Mendel was the campus layout and the buildings.  The school was formerly the Pullman Technical School.  The area of Roseland where it is located is very near the Pullman neighborhood and the Pullman factory.  Pullman, the man, believed in providing his employees with everything they needed.  The result was an entire community built around the factory.  Block after block of row houses were rented by people working for the Pullman Car Company.  He also built the school for his employee’s children.  The school specialized in the trades that were required to build the railroad sleeper cars that Pullman sold.

The Augustinian Fathers bought the old Pullman Tech and turned it into Mendel Catholic High School for boys.

The main building was flanked by a wing on each side; one east, the other west.  Behind the main building was smaller brick structure that formerly housed the auto shop.  Mendel didn’t need or want an auto shop so it was used as the recreation center.

All the students went to the rec center at lunch time.  It was set up with tables and chairs for eating.  A vendor set up a kitchen to sell hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries.  I was surprised to see how many boys bought their lunch.  I was also surprised to see so many boys smoking.  The rec hall was the only building on campus where smoking was allowed.

At lunch time the center provided music from the juke box and ping-pong tables for those who wanted to play.

After school hours the building was home to many clubs.  One of the most popular clubs was the radio club.  Kids who joined the radio club learned how a radio worked by building one from simple parts.  They also learned about ham radio.  This club was probably the most popular at the school.  Many of the boys who were in the club graduated, and then started careers in radio or communications.  One of my classmates ran WTTW, Channel 11 in it’s early days.  Recently, I met a man on a Folks on Spokes bike ride who graduated after me who is a ham radio operator.  He helps the bike club with communications on the Easter Ride.  He got his start in radio in the Mendel Radio Club.

I remember a single song from the juke box paying in the rec room.  It was very popular and was played over, and over, and over every day.  The singer is Patti Page, the title of the song is “How Much is That Doggie in the Window”.

The rec room was a popular spot but was replaced within the next year by a new cafeteria.  Two projects began during that first year, 1952-53.  One was the gymnasium/cafeteria; the other was the chapel/monastery.  The monastery was to become a major part of my life in the following year.

The gym was really necessary.  After seeing the gyms at the other schools, ours was really fourth class.  The new one would allow teams to come to play on our campus.

The Monastery was needed to free up class room space in the east wing.  The priests and brothers all lived in the upper floors of the east wing above the wood shop.

The new building went up fast and the following year when the gym, monastery and chapel opened, the school improved tremendously.  However, another 400 kids arrived also.  The old rec hall lost its flavor once the new cafeteria opened.