Lords Of Lane Tech Class Rings Speak Up On Indian Issue
The Indian-loving Lane Tech tribe is on the warpath.
Potential removal of an iconic Native American statue—as the focal point of Lane Tech College Prep High School’s Memorial Garden—has developed in recent weeks into a generational donnybrook between war veterans and older alumni and students, verses faculty and a conservative school council.
Now the focus is shifting to the tens of thousands of Lane Tech graduation rings coveted by alumni, who view the bands—which showcase both the head of an Indian in a full-feathered warrior bonnet and an image of the school’s iconic clock tower—as a proud representation of their high school years.
“What will they want us to do next? Melt down our class rings?” asked Richard Bailey, a January of 1962 Lane graduate. “Should we change the name of the state of Illinois, which is an Indian word referring to Native American people.”
Perhaps we should rename the city of Chicago, dubbed after a wild, smelly field of onions? And, let’s not forget the dozens of streets on the city’s Northwest Side with monikers like: Blackhawk, Dowagiac, Lathrobe, Lightfoot, Milwaukee, Mohawk, Nakomis, Natoma, Oconto, Oswego, Potawatomie, Sauganash, Seminole, Sioux, Tahoma and Tonty, to name a few.
In early August, the Lane Tech School Council unanimously agreed to start a process to remove the warrior statue from the Memorial Garden after Principal Brian Tennison directed the organization to address the “Indian” issue with a vote.
The restored bronze statue titled “Shooting the Stars,” depicts a Native American warrior in a feathered headdress gazing to the heavens. The warrior statue stands on a pedestal in the central, open-air, private garden at Lane Tech, 2501 W. Addison St. in Chicago’s West Lakeview neighborhood.
Some students and alumni say the statue and other Indian symbols on the Lane Tech campus reinforce harmful racial stereotypes of Native Americans.
However, a plaque attached to the base of the war monument simply states: “In reverent tribute to those Laneites who gave the last full measure of devotion for justice, and the American way of life, this memorial is solemnly dedicated.”
The Memorial Garden and “Shooting the Stars” statue by sculptor John Szaton was dedicated on October 30, 1947, to honor Lane Tech’s 314 Gold Star Heroes who died in World War II. At least 6,539 Laneites served in World War II. Some 8,174 Lane Tech students served in the Armed Forces in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and in the Global War on Terrorism, according to a 2002 survey.
“Prior to this year, has anyone ever complained about the statue?” Bailey asked. “This monument to Lane veterans—and to all who were educated there—must be allowed to stand for future generations.”
Bailey urged legal action should be implemented to prevent removal of the statue. “Are there any Lane Tech alumni attorneys who would be willing to take this on? If not, we need to seek one out, preferably who would act pro bono,” Bailey said.
If a lawsuit fails, Bailey believes a poll of Lakeview residents should be conducted to see if this proposed waste of money is condoned, or if statue-removal funds would be better spent on a monument to neighborhood residents’ lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lane ring serendipity
Over the decades, it is likely that hundreds of Lane class rings were given away, stolen, or lost, never to be found again.
Don Garbarino, 83, forgot he gave his Class of 1955 Lane ring to Barbara, an attractive blonde girl he dated at the Hub Skating Rink while a senior in high school in the mid-1950s.
In 2012, Barbara, a recent widow, who Garbarino hadn’t seen in 57 years, reached out to him. “On a lark she dialed 411. She confessed she was going over her life’s episodes and remembered me as one of her first loves.” After a brief conversation, she extended a dinner invitation at her home in a northern suburb, and Garbarino readily accepted.
“We had a lovely fish dinner and wine, and the ensuing conversation centered on our days at the skating rink and our times together. It was then that she placed a small container in front of me. ‘Here, I want you to have this,’ she said.”
“The instant I laid eyes on it, I knew that was my 1955 class ring. I didn’t remember giving it to her. From time to time over the decades I thought it either slipped off my finger or I had somehow misplaced it,” Garbarino recalled.
“I've held it all these years and promised myself to give it back to you if I ever ran into you again,” Barbara said.
The ring was made by a company that was later bought out by Jostens, who told Garbarino he could have the ring re-sized and cleaned for free by contacting a company rep who would soon be at Lane Tech taking school ring orders.
“I met the rep in the school cafeteria. Before leaving I told him I had paid about $25 for the ring in 1955, then asked the cost to duplicate that ring today,” Garbarino said. ‘You’re looking at about $750,’ he said.”
Garbarino has received countless compliments on his restored Lane ring over the years. “Much intricate workmanship went into making it. One highlight is the Native Indian image cast below the Lane Tech clock tower. And there it will remain.”
Incidentally, this writer’s Lane Tech ring, initialed “DD” with a green stone and plated with 14-carat gold was lost or stolen during a move in 2001. If anyone knows its whereabouts, a reward awaits.
If you lost your Lane ring and want to list it missing, visit: https://www.alumniclass.com/lanetech-highschool-indians-chicago-il/lostrings
For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com. DeBat is a 1961 Lane Tech graduate.