Chicago Central YMCA High School “Cardinals”

Chicago Central YMCA High School 1949 Diploma
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Submitted by Anna Novak


                        The History of Chicago Central YMCA High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located along the shores of Lake Michigan and is the third largest city in the United States, settled first as Fort Dearborn in 1803. From there, it grew and was incorporated as a city in 1837. Chicago attracted many immigrants during the second half of the 19th Century, even with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and was considered to have been the fastest growing city in the US during that 50-year period.

Those who wish to reach the “City of Big Shoulders” can do so by travelling on Interstates 55, 57, 90, and 94, along with various state and US highways, or taking train service into Union Station along the Chicago River with many carriers coming into the city daily, or by flying into Midway Airport or one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare International Airport.

The city is known for many things and its numerous celebrities, and was the starting point of the former US Route 66 for those heading West from the eastern part of the US. The Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers also flow in or near the city, and served as a port for barge traffic from those on the East Coast that wished to ship their goods to New Orleans by using the Illinois and Michigan Canal to connect with the Illinois River at LaSalle, then southward to the Mississippi River where it reached its destination.

Central YMCA High School started in 1867 at 19 South LaSalle Street  in the downtown district, having to rebuild twice within a seven-year period. The YMCA itself opened its first location in Chicago in 1853, and catered to many people with various interests. Here’s a link to additional information about the school’s early days:

Over a period of time, Central YMCA’s reputation as a school grew, yet it stayed small in size. The school offered night classes and gave those students who felt they were not getting a quality education at schools closer to their homes a better chance to excel.

It is known that the school was in operation thru the mid-1970’s, but a closing date has not been discovered. We are hoping that a graduate or someone who may have been familiar with the school’s history to contact with us with those details, as well as current information about the location of the school.

Chicago Central YMCA Diploma 1949–Virginia Powles
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Submitted by Anna Novak

Year opened:          1867

Year closed:           believed to be in the 1980’s

School nickname:   Cardinals

School colors:        Red & White

School song:          unknown


Central YMCA offered athletic activities for its students, and was a founding member of the Private School League, according to prep historian Robert Pruter. Central principal O.N. Wing helped create the conference in 1930 along with other smaller schools in Chicago like Luther Institute that were in need of forming a conference, some of which were not playing in the IHSA state tournament at the time.


Central YMCA won the Private School League title in 1931-32, but as an organization, Central YMCA made news as their heavyweight basketball team won the Central YMCA Mens’ Basketball Championships three times from 1902-1908, with Basketball Hall of Famer John Schommer helping them win in 1905 & 1908. Schommer went on to attend the University of Chicago and was a Helms Foundation All-American three consecutive seasons ( We would like to know more about the school’s basketball program, so please contact us at the addresses listed below.


Thru the files of historian Robert Pruter, the school won a conference title in the spring of 1935. Again, more information is needed to tell us more about Central YMCA’s thinclads, so please contact us.


Mike Royko — newspaper columnist, worked for the Chicago Daily News, Sun Times, and Tribune for over 30 years. Also authored the book “Boss” about the late Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955-76.

Mike Bloomfield — Blues guitarist, made a name for himself as an instrumental artist during the late-1960’s. Was a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (which later played at Woodstock in 1969), and was ranked by Rolling Stone as number 22 on the top 100 guitarists of all-time in a poll conducted in 2003 by the publication.

Barry Goldberg — A close friend of Bloomfield, the guitarist was involved in the recording of “Devil With A Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels in 1966, plus was involved in a couple of bands with Bloomfield. Goldberg has also been a record producer and (as of July 2012) was working on a documentary about the rock-blues influence of the 1960s’.

Robert Sengstacke — A photographer by trade, he was also involved with the Chicago Defender, which is one of the last African-American daily newspapers and was founded by his great uncle John Sengstacke Abbott in 1905. His photos of Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others are known and have been featured in various compositions and with a periodical for the Nation of Islam, “Muhammad Speaks.”

Gerald Mittelman — A 30-yr veteran of the United States Air Force, his background in computer science helped the USAF develop warning systems for missles and space command to alert the U.S. government in the event of attack, and spent time with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command).

Linda Leilani Brown — Broadway actress, appeared in the show “Dreamgirls.” More information about the show can be found here:


from “Duane:”

“I attended Central YMCA High School only in the summer of 1978. I had a class with Linda Leilani Brown (of Dreamgirls fame). Central YMCA was located on the southeast corner of Dearbon and Randolph, with the entrance next to the United Artists Theatre.”

from Gary Michaels:

“Hey – I had friends who were enrolled at the time in 1971 (early term). I had attended Lake Forest Academy (junior SATs of 696 verbal, 720 math), Roycemore School (National Merit Letter of Commendation). Thrown out of both schools through my own devices, I enrolled in Central Y….recalling my endeavors and successes at the fine private institutions I had been removed from, Central Y was 180 degrees different. Very cool artistic people spread out on the floors.”

from an anonymous student:

“Hi, I would have gone to Central in 1972-74. I don’t remember much, but the elevators stuck a lot. White kids were a minority at least in my classes, and a lot of people asked if I was an albino. I was a towhead and had blue eyes. The teachers were pretty cool and you could smoke in their offices. A bunch of us ditched there to smoke and drink coffee. I liked the classes were not year-long like public school. I wound up enrolling in college just shy of 16.”

From Glenda Donald (dated 10/25/2018):

“I attended Central YMCA HS, it was located at 29 Randolph, I loved that school. I remember a few of the teachers’ names: Mr. Figueroa, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Norman, Ms. Inwang. It was really was a nice school….we were like a family; it was all love there.”

From Curt Daniels (class of 1973, dated 1/3/2019):

“I (was a) graduate of the class of June 1973 from the Prudential Building. Would like to share memories of going to classes at 19 S. LaSalle in the Loop. Thanks to all the teachers who helped all of us become mature men and women.”

From Cts McCry (dated 1/19/2019):

“I attended Central in 1970. I remember many faces, but few names. Central afforded many of a chance to overcome foolish mistakes we had made.

“The teachers were excellent. I remember Ms. Hastings: English Composition and Rhetoric. Five classmates by name: Hank, Johnny, Kay, Fred, and Mike, from the northwest of the city; Hank from the south side.

“Those were the days of Woodstock and Hair, blues jams in the stairwells. When teenagers given up as lost, gathered their senses at 19 South LaSalle.”

From Jacques Carr (dated 5/4/2019):

“Hello, my name is Jacques Carr, and I attended Central YMCA High School at 29 W. Randoph right out of elementrary school for two years. I had Miss Hastings for English Drama, Dennis Malek for Science, and the others I don’t remember.

“I entered Central YMCA High School in 1975. I had a ball there. For a while, I was the youngest student there. Central YMCA High School was an experience for me. I learned to be at home in downtown (Chicago). I was very comfortable in the “The Loop.”

“I remember John Rizzo and Johnny Norman (teachers), Mr. Muskwe was the principal. I remember Mr. Warner. I think he was my Algebra teacher.

“When I see a YMCA gym today, I feel as if I am a member of a family that I love.”

From Elaine Mayo (former student, dated February 12, 2020):

“I attended Central (YMCA) in the late ’60s. I loved it: the location, the teachers were awesome. We attended all the protest matches of the ’60s…the (Black) Panthers were around, Jerry Rubin. Chicago was the coolest in those days and so was Central. We were just high school kids, young activists with peace, love and positive vibes.”

From Jim Bransfield (student from 1964-1967, dated 9/17/2021):

“Hi, I was a bit of the juvenile delinquent and Central was a refuge of last resort.

“Doc Walters taught a math class. Great guy! I don’t know if he did this from everyone…(but) he gave me his home phone number…he lived somewhere around Alsip? If you were ever in trouble and needed his help, you were to call him and say “Blackberries are Red, when they are Green.

“I would have been there for a few terms sometime during 1964-67, uncertain as to just when.”


about Central YMCA High School? Then we need your assistance! Photos, stories, information, and memories are welcome about this school of the not-distant past. Please contact us at or in writing at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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