Three Cheers for Mussolini

The oddness of a high school chant to a fascist dictator

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By David Hammond

When I was attending York High School in Elmhurst, there was a school cheer that became more disturbing to me as years passed. It went like this:

Benito, Benito, Benito Mussolini, hey…nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, hey!

That final part of this chant was sung to the approximate tune of "Volga Boatmen."

Over the years, Carolyn and I often reflected on the oddness of this high school chant to a fascist leader …especially odd to me in that my dad fought his way up through Italy with the Fifth Army, battling my mom's countrymen, who had the misfortune to align with Hitler's Germany (apologists will say Mussolini had no choice, and he probably didn't).

Anyway, we heard this cheer at York High basketball games, which would frequently involve whole bleachers of students. The cheer was frequently lead, enthusiastically and with much bravado, by a young man named Mario Stefani.

We ran into Stefani (pictured with Carolyn) a few weeks ago at a high school reunion held at Mack's Golden Pheasant in Elmhurst.*

I asked Stefani about the genesis of this cheer, which I had always imagined sprang forth spontaneously and full blown from his fevered imagination.

But no.

Stefani, who was a transfer student to York in the late 60s, said he first heard the cheer when he was a student at Fenwick, in Oak Park!  Then, just as surprisingly, and stranger and stranger, he actually heard this very cheer just six years ago at a Lyons Township game.

This odd chant to Mussolini, which apparently has been making the rounds in the Western Suburbs for at least 40 years, is not dead -- and it wasn't, as we'd long suspected, just a one-off event dreamed up by Stefani.

If you've heard this chant coming from the bleachers at any local games, I'd love to hear about it.


*Obligatory food reference

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David Hammond  

Posted: August 23rd, 2018 1:56 PM

More about the Mussolini chant at Fenwick, received in email today: Sorry, I quit Facebook so I am unable to reply to your original post about the Benito Mussolini cheer. Interestingly, I found your post because I was searching Google to see if anyone else remembered the cheer. I attended Fenwick in the late sixties and the Benito cheer was quite common. Just for clarification, the cheer was used to show disagreement with a bad call by a referee in football or basketball games. Basically, the crowd was calling the referee a fascist for calling a foul or penalty on the Fighting Friars. This is similar cheer I remember from Fenwick but never heard again: Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, Eating pizza with a spoon, With a spoon or with a straw, EAT IT, REF! rah rah rah.

Tom Wargin  

Posted: January 20th, 2018 10:07 PM

We used that chant in Chicago's Mount Carmel as we walked class to class in the mid 1950s.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: July 16th, 2017 7:33 AM

You went to York! LOL, so did I, but I don't remember that cheer at all. (I was c/o '72) - I do remember another similar song from my earlier childhood though, I wonder if this one's familiar to anyone: "Whistle while you work, Hitler was a jerk. Mussolini bit his wienie, now it doesn't work!" At any rate, Mac's Golden Pheasant is now closed, isn't it? Another food memory, though not one's that's local to OP-RF.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 16th, 2017 1:22 AM

Franco made the choice to sit the war. So did Mussolini and he didn't. Mussolini started World War II by invading Ethopia.

Zac Denver  

Posted: July 15th, 2017 10:57 PM

This is SO weird. One of my old high school friends and I were discussing this a few weeks ago, and I said, "Gee, I wonder if there's anything about this on the Internet?" That's how I got to your page. I went to school in Cleveland Heights (Ohio) back in the late 1960s, and this was a popular cheer at our home high school football games. I have NO IDEA why -- it was just "out there," and no one certainly seemed to equate it to the actual fascist leader. It simply had a good beat and you could dance to it! In retrospect it's even more ironic because, at the time, our school was something like 65% Jewish, and many of us had close relatives (or even parents) who were Holocaust survivors. No one ever complained, so far as I know.

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