Chicago St. Augustine High School “Lancers”

St. Augustine High School (from 1964 yearbook)
A picture containing text, apartment building

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courtesy of Judy Higgins (class of 1965)

                      The History Of Chicago St. Augustine High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located in far northeastern Illinois in the center of Cook County. The town became a vital hub for transportation and industry in the mid-1800s. Its location on the banks of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River gave it access to the early transportation mode of the day, water.

Taking full advantage, Chicago has utilized the lake and its early growth to become one of the most prominent cities in the world. O’Hare Airport is one of the world’s busiest. Several major highways and Illinois Routes lead you to and from Chicago as well. Chicago also became a very ethnically diverse area in the early days and has remained so even today

St. Augustine High School was opened as an all-girls’ parish high school in 1911 with an commercial curriculum, located on the top floor of the parish grade school with the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in charge of the school. The South side school, located between 50th and 51st Streets on Laflin, grew and admitted boys beginning in 1913. St. Augustine became a four-year school in 1941, and felt the effects of the Baby Boom with an enrollment of close to 250 in the 1950’s.

By the fall of 1961, the school decided to admit girls only as room started to become limited in the school building for both grade and high schoolers. Three mobile classrooms were installed at the school during the 1963-64 school year to handle the enrollment that was at 295 and over capacity. That number finally peaked at 320 in 1973 with transfer students from other schools nearby coming to St. Augustine as well as accepting deaf students (per the request of Catholic Charities).

The number came down steadily over the next six years to 204 when it was decided to close the school after the 1979-80 school year. The final junior class was given the option to graduate on an accelerated track in August 1980 or transfer to another school to graduate, and it is this author’s understanding that a number of juniors took the fast track option.

Some of the reasons given to close the school were the drop in enrollment as explained above, increased operational expenses, a operational deficit, and the school could not adequately serve the needs of non-English speaking students because more than 60 percent of the student body was Hispanic. The parish grade school took back the high school classrooms for their use, and that school also closed by the year 2000.


Year opened as commercial girls’ high school: 1911

Boys first admitted:                                            1913

Became four-year school:                                 1941

Went back to all-girls’:                                       1961

Last classes graduated:                                    1980

School colors:                                                    Blue & Gold

School nickname:                                              “Lancers”

School song:                                                     “Three Cheers for St. Augustine High”


For as big of a school that St. Augustine was, one could imagine that the students at St. Augustine had activities to follow in order to receive a well-rounded educational experience. We are certain as to what was available to the girls towards the school’s final years, with music and other extra-curricular activities, even though there is no mention of the school on the IHSA website ( We are hopeful that a St. Augustine graduate has more information that we can post on this page to capture the memories of this fine school.


**From Noretta Lange:

“The Poor Handmaids Of Jesus Christ were the religious order of teachers,.the Parish was St. Augustine church, located between 50th and 51st and Laflin, Chicago. It closed about 11 years ago. The Franciscan Order were the priests. The Church is demolished, however, the school is not called St. Augustine, it is a satellite of Richards Vocational HS.

“The parish was dissolved about 7-10 years ago now. I do have my yearbooks and various school mementos. I could mail copies of some of the yearbooks or whatever you want. I am absolutely amazed that a school/church which had been in existence for over 100 years (I believe it was organized prior to 1900 – some time in the 1890s).  I am also advising some of my class who might have more information to contact you.”

**From Judy Higgins:

“I was reading your article on the internet on St. Augustine’s Parish School in Chicago. I attended school there from 1953 through high school and graduated in 1965. We lived across from the school campus on 51st Street. My mom also attended the school when she was a girl and it was a 2-year high school.

“You asked for any information students might have. Well, we did have a glee club and put on “contadas” (musicals) more than once a year. They were quite nice and so many of the parents were also St. A. graduates. The evening would always end with everyone singing the school song. The church had a large choir area where the students sang for Sunday Mass.

“There was a roller rink that was loved by kids from all over the area. It was quite something in those days to have your own skates instead of the clip on ones. There was a small bowling alley with a couple of lanes. Also we had a social center building for dances, etc. The buildings took up an entire square block with the church, rectory, nuns house, school, social center and Franciscan Herald Building where the fathers published their newspaper.

“I don’t remember any sports. We did go to Cornell Park (further west on 51st Street) for gym classes.

“The beautiful old church was torn down some time in the 1990s. Hard to believe that the gothic style church would be torn down. The stained glass windows and bell towers are at a catholic church in Aurora, Ill. I went to see them when I visited Chicago a couple of years ago. I live in Arizona now. I took photos of the stained glass windows if you are interested.

“I do have some photos of the old school and church. I also have my yearbooks. If there’s any particular photos you might like, let me know and I’ll scan them for you.”

**From Juanita Cerda:

“I attended St. Augustine from first grade to high school. I loved this school and the nuns who ran the school: Sister Vera, Sister Melanie (music teacher), Sister Jerome (principal)…roughly 1977 to 1980. I would be interested in obtaining a yearbook or pictures. We did have a marching band, as we competed in events.”

**From Patricia (McNamara) Kirrane:

“I attended St. A’s as it was known from 1968 until 1972.I am surprised that no one has mention the St. Augustine Lancers, they were the color drill team of the high school. Also every year around Christmas, we used to have a variety concert, called the Kalidescope. Also, from time to time the nuns would get movies and show them in the gym. There were also frequent volleyball games in the gym with one year against another. I don’t know if anyone remembers the dances that were held in the gym from time to time. “The Father/Daughter Dance” was one of the big ones.”

**From Janet Hajec Duet:

“When I looked up St. Augustine School on the internet it brought back so many memories. I went to this school from 1st grade to graduation from High School.  I was the Lancers captain and I truly loved going to all of our compatitions and I truly loved the teen club in the basement of the school. Roller skating was another enjoyment and I also loved to bowl the bowling alley was very small but a great place to hang out with my friends.

“It was a great school and I would never take back those days I spent there. I am sad it is no longer there. I truly learned alot from the Poor handmaids they taught me discipline and how to make my faith much stronger.

Go Lancers!!!!!!!

Jan Hajec twin sister Joyce Hajec”

**From Linda Ehrlicher (Molenhouse):

“I attended St. A’s for my whole educational life, and didn’t realize until now what a great experience it was. I would not trade my time there for any other school in the world. Love, a caring neighborhood, great friends – as a child I had it all. Thank you for giving me a forum to say this.God bless you all.”

**From Rich Kassanits:

“I attended the grammar school until 1967 and most of the girls went to St. A’s high school. Teen club was a big thing through high school and it was very connected with the Lancers color guard. I went to a few of the competitions. An interesting bit of history, my great uncle attended there and through his daughter I have received a book of St. A’s history from the 50’th aniversary in the 30’s. I saw the name Mr. Tushaus (sp?) listed and he was still there into the 70’s!” 

From Dolores Geinosky Ohner:

“Went to St. A’s from 1946 until Freshmen year in 1955. Tuition was $1.00 for grade, and I think, $3.00 for high school.”

From Jane Bomberger (curator of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ order):

I am writing to find out where I might obtain additional information and/or contacts pertaining to Chicago’s former St. Augustine Catholic School. In my role as PHJC curator, it is my privilege to interview those who may have had Poor Handmaids as teachers at St. Augustine Grade School or High School years ago. The information I am gathering is entered into individual Sister files to preserve the history and legacy of the ministries where they have served.

I would appreciate any assistance you might have.

Jane Bomberger

PHJC Curator


From “Rickafalk”

“I went to St. A’s from 70 to 76. Sr. Jerome was the principal of the school. There was a Sr. Rosemary who taught 4th grade, Sr. Diane 1st grade. I remember Sr. Vera. and a Sr. Marcia.

“Mr. Tushaus (sp) was the music teacher. Fr. Conwad was the pastor. We had no gym class, but would to the park as a group. I lived on Bishop across the street.

“There were the Dragoons, who was the male marching band group. I remember mostly how stern the nuns were but in the end I’m sure we were lucky, as today is a different world. I’m very grateful to have gone there.”

**From Lynn Hamilton:

“My grandparents lived across the street from St. Augustine parish. My grandmother, Marge Betz, worked part time at the cafeteria. My grandfather, Adolph Betz, managed the bowling alley.  My dad and uncles occasionally helped out. This was at a time when people, not machines, were pin spotters.  The church would host a carnival during the summer–I assume as a fund raiser. This took place in the 1950s.  I briefly went to the grade school during 1957, but many of my cousins attended that school.”

**From Yvonne Rapier Larson:

“I attended St. Augustine’s from 1951 until 1955. I was taught by Sister Elfreda (typing and office practices), Sister Joel (shorthand), Sister Hortolana (history), Sister Erwin (I can’t remember what she taught), Sister Vincentine (Latin), and Sister Dennis (Algebra). I carried my yearbooks to California and Alaska and Nevada and back to Chicago where I then gave them to Sister Elfredo and I were friends for many years. She was in the convent in St. Louis when I was going to California and I had my baby girl with me and, of course, my husband – I didn’t see the baby from the time I stepped through the door until I left. The nuns held her captive – she didn’t mind a bit. Sister Augustine was principal of the high school and Father Adrian was the head of the Brothers. On my senior trip to Starved Rock State Park he showed me how to neatly open cigarette packages. Father Fergus married me in St. Augustine Church and carried my brother Scott home on his back numerous times (he had rheumatic fever) and my brother Clifford had Sister Vera in grade school and my mother had to take off work to set her straight.

I wish the kids today could have the education we were lucky to have at St. Augustine’s. I lived on 50th and Ashland above the bridal shop and when I graduated I tutored a girl going to Normal Teacher’s College. The education we got from St. Augustine’s was THAT good! Sister Hortolana was call “The Scourge of the 3rd Floor.” My love of history came from her…..I was always acting up in her class and she made me PRINT 500 words from the history book! I knew my history!  I was sort of quiet and Sister Vicentine wanted me to join the Debate Team and time and time again I refused…she made me go to the skating rink where the stage was and taught me how to give speeches. There was no shutting me up after that. I spent my junior and senior years on the Debate Team. She couldn’t see the kids acting up in the front rows but boy could she see the back rows….she would say, with a thick German accent – “Ach, you act like little babies.” I never figured out how she came to teach Latin.

I was in Alaska working for NASA when Sister Elfredo died and my letter to her came back to me. I assumed she was off teaching somewhere and it took me leaving Alaska to find out she had passed. I got swatted by Sister Dennis and she hit more that one boy for smarting off to her but I didn’t complain because I would get more than that at home. I went to my reunions when I could but I missed many of them – I have pictures of them now.

I was a legal secretary for one of the biggest law firms until I retired and worked for Sante Fe Railroad for 5 years – and all without a college degree!

I hope you find this information useful. Please keep on writing about St. Augustine’s, the kids of today should be so lucky now.”

**From Janice Marie Rose Colts:

I attended Grade School from 1961-1969. Was in blue birds and camp fire girls. Join the Color guard Lancers drill team. Was part of the teen club. I remember the old gym. That was a place of many activities. Volleyball tournaments, concerts, roller skating, practice place for the Lancers and Jr. Lancers. So much more. St. Augustine was a big part of my up bringing and I’m so proud of it. From the priest, nuns, teachers and Knights of Columbus, my childhood was my greatest experience. Thank you St.”A”.”

From Wendy Baxter (granddaughter of an alum, dated 7/3/2019):

“My sister just found my grandmother’s English journal from her freshmen year at St. Augustine. Her name is Alice Verrington, and I believe that she would have attended the school in 1932, as she was born in 1918.

“It’s incredible because I have been teaching freshmen English for 22 years in Chicago, eight years at Tilden High School! My grandmother’s journal shows a glimpse into what students studied in 1932, when my grandmother attended.

“The current curriculum is almost the same! Do you know if there are any yearbooks from the early years of the school? If so, I would love to take a peek at them.

“Thank you so much for keeping the history of the church, school, and our ancestors alive.”


If you have anything about St. Augustine that you would like to share, whether it be information about activities, photos of the school, or even memories, please contact us. Our email address is or click here to complete the Guest Commentary form. For those who would like to send their information thru the USPS, we’ll accept it that way, too. Here’s our address:


6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

  1. I went to st Augustine and I had a great job right after graduation. I live in Florida now. Betty Dec

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