I first went to the public school in the neighborhood where I lived, and my mother had a talk with the principal and said that Jack, here, is professional actor and there will be times when he would not be in school. "He'll make up the work, but he won't be here for maybe a day or two, or an hour or two; whatever. Will that be acceptable?" And they said, "Oh, absolutely not! Are you crazy? When you go to school here, you go to school!" So we told this to Miss Foley, and she said, "Don't worry about it. All the professional kids come downtown and go to high school at Mundelein Cathedral High School" which was then called that after the late Cardinal Mundelein. It was a Catholic high school. And she said, "The nuns over there understand that stuff and they'll let you be out of school when you want to and you can make it up when you can, just as long as you do make it up." So it was not unusual, for example, for me to get a call over the loud speaker at the high school - "Jack Bivans, report to the office." And the kids at school would roll their eyeballs in the classroom and they'd know, "Well, we won't see him for a while." In other words, "The lucky pup was getting out of school." So I'd go downstairs to the office, to Sister Mary Adeline, who was the Mother Superior. She'd say, "Your mother just called. You're supposed to be over at NBC at two o'clock. Do you have any money?" And I'd say, "No." And she'd say, "Well, here's a couple of bucks." She'd reach in her cassock and come up with a couple of dollars and give it to me and then I would take a cab over to NBC. Sometimes I'd be back later that day, but most the time not until the next day, or maybe a couple of days later. She wouldn't care. I'd give her the two bucks back then and thank her very much, and that's the way it worked.
It was hard to make up the schoolwork. I was a terrible high school student.
I liked drama and English classes, but I hated things to do with mathematics. That's why it was so funny when we got our diplomas in high school. They had a Mass and all the teachers were there. The parents were there and the kids were there; and we were supposed to go up on the alter and get our diplomas from the Cardinal, who then, was Cardinal Stritch.
And we knelt down in front of the Cardinal and kissed his ring! Then his assistant handed the student a blue box that had the diploma in it. And he handed me mine and I went back to my pew where I was sitting and I naturally opened the box right away - well you want to see your diploma. I looked in there and there was no diploma! Nothing; the box is empty! I quickly closed it for fear that somebody sitting alongside with me would see that mine was empty!
So later I went to the teacher in my room and said, "I don't have a diploma!" And she said, "I know; you didn't graduate." I said, "Why didn't I graduate?" She said, "You flunked second year Latin. You don't have enough credits." I said, " Well, what do I do?"
She said, "You go to night school this summer, get a credit, we don't care what the credit is; just get a credit, and then come back here with that credit and we'll give you your diploma." So I went to school that summer, at night school, 'cause I was working all day, most of the days. I took trigonometry, which I didn't understand then and I don't understand today. But anyway, I got the credit and brought it back to her and she gave me the diploma. And that's how I graduated from Mundelein Cathedral High School, later called Holy Name Cathedral. Now, it's no longer a school. It was at Chicago Avenue and Wabash.