Gate to the Union Stockyards, Chicago, Illinois

Canaryville is a neighborhood that is south of Bridgeport and southeast of where the Union Stockyards used to be. I spent a few years there visiting friends who lived there. I was from Back of the Yards, so not many people from Canaryville knew me. I was risking life and limb everytime I went, but I liked the sense of danger I experienced every time I visited. When I left Divine Heart Seminary, I had to attend Tilden Technical High School at 4747 S. Union, right in the heart of Canaryville. As luck would have it, the school had a lot of daily racial fights between blacks and whites. But that was my school and I was stuck attending it. I made the best of a bad situation.

I lived about a mile and a half away from school. After the first snowstorm, I was too cold to stand at the bus stop to wait for the bus, so I started walking to school in order to stay warm. I planned on getting on the bus when it eventually showed up. However, I walked all the way to school without ever seeing the bus. I didn’t mind walking at all since I used to walk seven and a half miles to town every weekend when I attended Divine Heart Seminary. The next day was even colder, so I left the house a little earlier and walked all the way to school without looking back over my shoulder for the bus. I ended up walking to school the rest of the year because I was able to spend the bus fare on magazines and books. A few months ago, I was talking to my cousins about high school and it turns out that they also walked to school so they could keep the bus fare for spending money.

I never had any trouble with anyone until I got near the school. Someone, they would either be white or black (I was an equal opportunity crime victim), would ask me for money, implying that I should comply with their request or they would use physical force if necessary. I never gave anyone any money. I always had a response for them. “If you need money, you should get a job!” Or, “If you want my money, you have to take it from me.” I would then give them my crazed look that implied they might get the money, but they would be sorry they did because I would inflict some pain on them in the process.

Surprisingly, no one ever accepted my invitation to take my money. Although I did get close once. Two Canaryville residents on their way to school saw me and told me to give them my money or they would beat me up, only not in those words. They looked like they were really going to beat me up but good. I collected myself and focused deep within. I clenched my fists and gave them a deranged look that I hoped would scare them off. Suddenly, they looked at each other, and as if by silent agreement, they walked away from me. They continued looking over their shoulders at me as they walked away. Then a police paddy wagon passed me from behind. They had walked away from me because they had seen the police! The police asked me if the boys had threatened me. I said that we were friends. I don’t think the police really believed me, but I stuck to my story. Those boys never bothered me again. In fact, they were so grateful that I didn’t rat them out that they even protected me on a few future occasions when I really needed some help at school.

3 thoughts on “Canaryville

  1. Lol, well my strategy has always been stay away from alleys and short cuts, try not to go out late at night specially around areas known as bad, and only if I have to never by myself. As you can see, no street smartness here! lol. I have a hard time imagining you as a tough guy, and fighting to them (not that you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself). I can imagine you getting them confused by actually questioning their motives to act the way they do (the bullies), and see them leaving you alone because they don’t have a good argument 🙂 Take care

  2. Liliam,
    You may call it crazy or lucky, but cityfolk call this being street smart. If a bully asks you for money and you give it to him, you’ll also have to give him money the next time he sees you. It’s very smart and logical to create this image of yourself as being “crazy” as a defense mechanism. The bully expects you to give him the money without a struggle. If you do something unexpected, he doesn’t know how to react. It’s a matter of keeping him off balance. My strategy always worked. As proof, I lived to tell the story many years later!

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