On summer days my Mom and I would drive down to Aunt Eleanor’s place and my Cousin Wayne from Woodstock and his Mom, my Aunt Mary, who were all Sisters, would pack up a lunch and take off for Chicago via the Elevated. Aunt Mary and Wayne would take the train in from Woodstock and we’d meet them at the Chicago and Northwestern Station in Chicago. We do some shopping and go to some Museums or take in a show at one of the Air Conditioned Theaters. We’d stop and have our lunches in Grant Park at a bench. My Aunt Eleanor was a Generous Lady, buying Wayne and I all kinds of Gifts or Toys to take home with us. Sometimes on a trip down into Chicago there would only be Wayne and I and she would take us two to fancy stores in the Loop and to one of our favorite places to eat. It was the H&H Automate were you take a tray when you entered and would slide it down these amazing racks attached to the display cases That ran for miles in the restaurant winding from here to there full of all the imaginable food items that you reach in and place on your tray, then along this wall of clear glass compartment that held some of the most desirable Desserts one could imagine and all you had to do is open the little door and reaching in, take what you wanted and place it on your tray. Then of course there was the beverage dispensers and cups to fill your favorite drink of choice. Decisions, Decisions, Wayne and I spent so much time trying to decide what we wanted in food and beverages. Of course, all under the supervision of Aunt Eleanor. who tried to keep us moving and not holding up the line behind us. Our trays were overflowing with food that we knew could not be eaten in one sitting, but it was fun and I still remember the excitement when Aunt Eleanor would say we’re going to the Automate for Lunch today.
Every Summer I would go up to Woodstock Il. to spend a week with Wayne on their Farm. Mom And Dad would drive me up there and usually Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Ed would bring me back. The Summer of 1949 my Parents said I could take the train up there all by myself. Whoopee I get to ride the train. Mom and Dad drove me downtown Chicago to the Chicago and Northwestern Station and put me on a Train that was going to Fargo North Dakota and my Dad said to the Conductor to make sure I got off in Woodstock Il, about a two hour run.
When I told Douglas of what I was doing, I could tell he was jealous, but he said he would ride his bike up to the C&NW tracks by California and Belmont Aves. and wave to me as I went by. Which he did!
Life on a Farm was way different then I was use to. People got up way too early and the smell was overpowering at first. Being near Cows and Pigs and other assorted farm animals took a lot to get use to. Everywhere you walked one had to be conscious of where one stepped. It took a long time for me to become accustomed to going out to a smelly Outhouse to do one’s business. Taking a bath in a elongated metal tub in the kitchen was different, and having Aunt Mary pouring hot water into it while you bathed didn’t help the embarrassment I suffered as Family members traveled thru the kitchen while I was bathing. I got thru it, I adapted and I survived. Living on and Learning how a Farm works is something I think every Boy and girl should experience in their life time.
But too soon the week was over and I returned back to my comfortable house and my own bed and a bathroom with a lock on the door. I even felt at home when my Dad walked by the bathroom as he would every time I was in there and banged on the door saying “For Christ sake kid, shit or get off the pot” I was home again. Ah, Civilization. I have always enjoyed an adventure, some more than others and I’m always ready to try something new.
Speaking of something new, On my trips back and forth to St. Benedict’s each day I passed a Dinner on Western Ave, four times a day, (I came home for lunch a lot of times which consisted of a sandwich, pickle and some chips. Well at Lunchtime this Dinner had such a wonderful smell as you walked by and it always set me up for a luncheon Meal when I got home, although what my Mom would have for lunch never compared to the smell that came from that Dinner. Being an Adventurer, I asked my Mom if I could stop there for Lunch one day telling her how good it smelled. She said sure, and one day she gave me 50 Cents and told me what to expect when I went inside. I was game! Well that day came and all I could think of was having Lunch in that Dinner. Well as I walked in, everyone turned to see this Kid walk up to a stool and set myself down. It smell great in there. I looked at the Menu and tried to match that wonderful smell to an item on the menu board. I did not fit in there, not with all these older men and the talking loud and swearing going on, but I was determined to have me a hot lunch. After studying the menu I figured out the item that smelled so good, It was a Bacon, Tomato and Lettuce Sandwich with a glass of Milk. It was good, but I was disappointed that it did not emulate the smell that I was looking for. When I got home that afternoon, my Mom asked if the lunch was good, and I told her Yes, but I was disappointed. She explained that the smell I smelled was an accumulation of all the smells from all the food they cooked and served and that I could not attribute it one particular meal on the menu. Well I did it and that experience cured me of going into that dinner again, but I still loved walking by that establishment every day and smelling the smell of food cooking. The meal cost me 40 cents. I had a slice of Apple Pie too.