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Everything Happens for a Reason

Archive for the month “May, 2013”


Seas were calmer today and the ride into Danang was beautiful. Chief met me at the dock and told me to be polite and respect the rank between Lt. Malera and me.  I reported right away to the Lt. Office and he was eager to get started. We drove out to a remote area North of the Air Base and picked up several marines who would accompany us as we search for water. The area around Danang was mostly secured and only small pockets of resistance were reported and usually taken care of by the small units of Marines assigned for security around Danang. We spent the whole day driving around the foothills surrounding Danang and did come across some good sources of fresh water. One was an old french Dam that had been destroyed and the water allowed to run out. I suggested to the Lt. that with several bags of Quikrete and a length of 12″ pipe we could restore the Dam and use it for a source of water for the East side of Danang. I was to draw it up, submit a material list and a cost estimate to him by weeks end. Which I did. I went on to design four other makeshift Dams and design a water system to feed all of Danang, of course submitting them all to the Admiral for approval. I still have the Maps and drawings of all the water piping around Danang. I was becoming quite well known around the Public Works Division of the Naval Support Activity as the “Water Man” and it got me a new rating as Chief Petty Officer. For the next 2+ years I designed and submitted plans and costs for many  Naval projects as well as being an Logistics person when it came to acquiring building supplies. I would go out to projected sites for updates on time estimates and material arrivals. I would even fly out to Subic Bay in the Philippines to the huge Navy stockpile yards to locate items for shipment back to Vietnam. All in all, it was a good tour of duty I fell into. Everyday more and more Seabees started to arrive and some even assigned to our Division. We grew from only 8 of us to a healthy 24 planners and estimators and even some draftsmen . Lt. Malera was now a Lt. Commander and would still come out to our building and chat with me about plans coming up. We were no longer in the Garage, but had our own Butler Building out by the Airbase. I had my own work area, a Third Class Petty Officer to work with me and I was to teach as my time over here was getting short. We had two South Korean soldiers who we used to draw up plans and let them do some small cost estimating. Indeed my time here was getting short. It’s May again and my tour of duty in Vietnam would end in October but there was one more thing I wanted to do before I left. Go on R&R to Hong Kong!



Talk about the ship is that it’s a light rain topside and rough seas, best to have your poncho on when you topside.  “Surely they’re not going to allow us to travel over to the docks in this weather”  Wrong!  Instead of walking down the side ladder to get on board the Mike Boat, they had a cargo net strung over the side and we are to climb down the net into the boat! I’ve seen this in movies and thought it looked easy, I found out it’s not!  As I looked over the side, I could see our boat bobbing up and down, side to side, I watched as sailor after sailor tried to get into the boat and failed. Some falling into the boat, some getting their feet tangled in the net. People were yelling to let hte boat come up to you on the net, let go  and step back into the boat. Looked simple enough, and I studied the situation  I could see it works  Then they call up our boat, Danang Docks. I climbed over the railing and grabbed the net and started lowering my self down into the boat. I looked down at the boat rising and falling in the water and judged just about where the boat had it’s highest rise on the net and stopped there and waited for the boat to come up. As soon as it got to the highest point, I had my feet on the section of netting that touched the bottom of the boat. I let go and stepped away from the net. I did it. I stood there in the boat away from the net and watched as other guys tried to do the same thing. all in all , only a few misshaps and we were under way. The sea was rough and we bobbed and rolled and rocked for half an hour to we got into the river where the docks were.  The Chief was there waiting for me and said “Rough trip uh kid?” I told him I’m going to figure out some way to make that into an Amusement Park ride, sell tickets and make a fortune  Little did I know that the trip back tonight was going to be even more of a challenge.

Being here now almost a month I’m learning about what the plan is and who’s all here and who’s coming  There’s about 400 Seabees coming on board each week to build roads and remodel and bring up to Military specifications several old French barracks and camps for future Marine Divisions. The scuttlebutt is that the Third Marine Division is scheduled to land  along with other military personnel schedule to begin an offensive here in the I core area of Vietnam. In the meantime along with bringing old French establishments up to specs, There is a lot of new buildings and infrastructures that have to be planned and built. That’s where I come in. A whole slew of Captains and admirals both from the Navy and the Marine Corps. would come into our little office (Garage) and submit a request for everything from a outhouse to a building complete with running water and plumbing. Water! Water being what’s in least supply. One of the things I’m involved in is finding water.

Lt. Malera called me over to his office one day and we sat down with a whole bunch of Photographs of the area around us and said  “We’re going to find some sources of Potable water that we can distribute around this valley to all the different Military bases.”  After about 6 hours we marked out some possible areas of freshwater and making a request for Military support we were ready to check out these areas starting tomorrow Morning. Now it was about time to head back to the U.S. Baxr.

Now the Seas are still rough and once we cleared the river and got out into the harbor we really saw how rough they were. We bobbed like a cork in a Hurricane and forward progress in getting to the ship was hampered by a head-on wind. We did finally get there only to be slammed against the hull constantly as they tried to lower the net over the side and into our boat. Sameo sameo, when the boat comes up from a wave, grab onto the net and as the boat falls with the wave, you start climbing as fast as you can before the boat comes back up, but now I have this huge duffle bag of clean laundry wrapped around my wrist and it’s hitting me in the face as I reached up for to grab another rope in the net.  I made it!  Luckily we only had one more instance of rough weather before we got land base barracks.


It was hot when we landed in Danang Vietnam in July! Very Hot! The Airport there reminded me of a scene from a world war Two movie set, dirty, run down primitive looking. We sat around with our Sea Bags waiting for something to happen.



Not too many Military personnel around, mostly South Vietnam Soldiers. Up pulls this truck and we told to hop on board. We drove for about hour through run down villages and then into Danang itself. The smell was  terrible everyone wore these triangular hats made of straw.

My Billet

We pulled up to this white building on one of the main streets in town that looked like a Southern Mansion.  It was here that we were assigned Departments that we were to be working in. I was assigned to the Planning and Estimating Division. I was given my packet of orders and told to report to the P&E Division around back. It was a Garage converted into and office of three rooms, three windows, and one door. The Chief at the door read my packet, said “OK” and pointed to the room in the back and said, ” That’s your desk back there, Welcome Aboard”. A few minutes later he came back and told me that we wear Greens here, work starts at 0800 every morning and goes to 2000 hours.  I was to report to the docks at Danang Harbor and board the landing craft that was going to APA 227. They would assign me a bunk on board the ship and give me a schedule of boats times returning in the morning and he would pick me up at the pier every morning at 0745.

APA 227 was a WW2 amphibious personnel carrier that was anchored in the Harbor to Billet personnel stationed in Danang. It was about 1/2 mile off shore and the boat ride was about a 1/2 hour ride once fully filled. On the way out to the Ship, I studied up on Ship protocol and what to do and say on board, what life is like on board a ship of the US NAVY.

The reason why I was Billeted on board a Transport Ship was there was no land based Billeting for  arriving personnel.  This was all brand new here and any available houses or buildings were being used for Officers and foreign contractors who were in the process of building roads, bridges and barracks for us. The Air Force had a large amount of personnel and its own contractors rebuilding the Airport and it’s infrastructure. There were contractors dredging the Harbor deeper and building a deep water docks to accommodate large transport ships and huge off-loading facilities. Anyway, back to boarding the APA 227, U.S. Baxr (Bear) After we pulled alongside this huge ship, secured the Mike Boat, I climbed the ladder up to the Quarter Deck, Saluted the Officer on deck, turned to the stern of the ship and saluted the Flag, ask permission to come aboard. I was told to proceed down the passageway to the transient assignment officer who gave me my bunk assignment and directions on how to find it. I kept thinking back to when I was in Davisville R.I. at Quonset Point and was told I’d probably never see any assignment to a Navy Ship.  I found my bunk down in the bowels of this ship after numerous false turns and several trips up and down ladders all while still carrying my Seabag of some 45lbs. There it was, a room full of hanging hammock type beds stung from the ceiling to the deck with heavy chain My bunk was the third from the floor and to get into it I had to climb on the two lower bunks just to get into mine. I had a locker against the bulkhead which I stowed my gear and locked with a padlock I was given when I received my Seabag. I asked around and found the Mess Hall and had myself a good hot meal. I was starved!  Life on board a navy Ship was sure different than what I was expecting and it took me several days to get accustomed to it. Getting use to all the “Now here this” announcements   and taking showers and bathroom (Head) arrangements  I was almost becoming a Sailor. The getting up at 0530 each morning, 7 days a week, having breakfast in the Mess hall, standing on deck waiting for my transportation to Danang public docks, climbing down the ladder into the boat and the 45 minute ride from the ship to the docks was becoming common place in my new Sailors experience.

Boat Ride

I had this canvas bag with a pull tie that I would put my laundry in the needed to be washed and folded and took it to work with me a couple of times a week and this Vietnamese man would pick it up at work and delivered it the next day washed, pressed and folded for about $2.00 American money. Everyone used him and were quite pleased with his work. Life living aboard ship was becoming a breeze.

Holly Shit!!!!  One morning I awoke to find myself swinging in my bunk.


Bob Saki and I took off from Little Creek Virginia about 4:00 PM that afternoon and drove non stop to Coronado Ca. arriving there about noon 4 days later. Are trip was uneventful  except for being pulled over for speeding in Arizona at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. It was a barren stretch of road in the Desert, two lane and nobody else was on the road. So pushed the Corvette up to 100 mph and was just cruising along as smooth as could be when I notice a flashing Red light in the distance behind me. I slowly brought the car down to about 65 mph and waited for the flashing lights to catch up to me. I pulled over and shut the engine off and waited for the Officer to approach me. He strutted over to me, shone his flashlight into the car and saw Bob and I, two duffed bags in the back and saw that we were two sailors. “Where you headed he ask”? I told him we left Virginia two days ago and had to be in Coronado Ca. by Wednesday. He said,” Son, I had you down for doing 105 mph  The speed limit is 70″. He began to tell me of the consequences of going so fast in the Desert and what would have happened if I hit a Jack Rabbit doing 100 mph and the result to us and the car that they wouldn’t have found us for days as the debris would have been scattered way off the Highway in the Sagebrush. I was really getting an Ass Chewing and was waiting to get a Ticket or worse, Hauled off to Jail. He looked me right in the eyes and said,”Slow down, and be careful” , and walked away from the car and drove off. As we continued on our way I thought about what he said, and It scared me! I didn’t speed again on our way to California.

In Coronado we were stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base just South of Coronado on the Silver Strand Beach area. A Beautiful area, Sun, Surf, and the beautiful pacific ocean.  I would be here for 6 Months learning how the Navy does things and going to school to become a Project Officer in the Naval Construction Division of the U.S.Navy.

On my first weekend Pass I headed up to Los Angles to find Douglas Marini. I knew he lived in Anaheim Ca. I had his Address so I drove into Anaheim  found a Telephone and started thru the book looking for Joseph Marini (His Dad). There he was! I called and Doug’s Mom answer and I told them who I was and she was elated.  She gave me directions from were I was to their House.  After 10 years were back together again. From then on, every time I was able to secure a weekend pass, I was up at Douglas’s. After that, I never saw or heard from Doug again. My attempts to find him have been futile, until now, with the help of my Daughter Alisa, we located Douglas and I’m busy now catching up on the last 47 years.

School was interesting! I learned Construction policies, how to do Logistics, Planning and Estimating but more important was how to get around all the Red Tape that either slowed or stopped projects in the field. I n knew that I would possibly be sent to Vietnam as that’s all one heard about on the news and scuttlebutt that was ever present in day to day conversations.  I also learned why myself and other construction workers were being drafted into the Navy. After WW 2, the construction Division of the Navy was left to dwindle down to just one Battalion. Even during the Korean War, not much was done on the Building of Bases as every thing came from and was shipped from Japan.  Vietnam posed a problem as first, it was a country with no infrastructural  no roads no large buildings to house a Military base and most of what they had was destroyed by the French when they pulled out of Vietnam in the 50’s. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

After completing my schooling in California I was given orders to report to Kadina Naval Station in Okinawa, Japan to meet up with a Admiral Mc Clearan who was in charge of developing a Naval Support Base in the city of Danang Vietnam.  After flying for God knows how long, I landed in Guam, and was allowed to get off the plane and stretch my legs for about 4 Hours. It felt good. It was here I met a few other guys who also received orders to report to the same Admiral. Then we off to Okinawa.

The Admiral was an older gentleman and had a staff of about 20 Officers who broke into groups and started to call out our names and were assigned to different divisions. The Division I was assigned to was the Planning and Estimating Division headed up by a Lieutenant Jack Malera and we got along very well as I’ll explain in a later Blog.  There were 8 of us  in our Division, one from each Rating in the Seabee group. ex. Piping, Carpentry, electrical, and we were going to build a Naval Support Group in Vietnam.


Charles Thomas Bailey was what you would call a good old Country Boy  He prefered to be called Tom which I did. He came from a town down in South Central Illinois call Pawnee, just south of Springfield. Tom was a Carpenter by trade and this was all new to him also. On our flight to Boston they feed us a meal which consisted of Chicken Breast and Leg. I mentioned that this was an awful small Chicken they served us and Tom replied, ” well what do you expect for a Chicken grown on a Airplane”! After landing in Boston we had to report to the Navy desk there in the Airport and they gave us tickets for the bus ride up to Quonset point ( Davisville) Naval Base in Rhode Island. Arriving there about 10:00PM. that night we checked in at the gate and were told to bunk down in the Transit Barracks and someone would come and get us in the Morning.

Morning? it’s dark outside when this person came walking thru the Barracks banging on the beds telling us to get up, dressed and be at the Base Reporting Office in 30 Min. Well we reported in and after about 4 hours of getting our Hair Cut, receiving Navy Clothing and talked to like we were stupid. We were walked over to the Mess Hall for some lunch. We were starved!  We were assigned a Billet to stay in and sleep and given a locker to put are new clothes in and told to wait, that someone would come and get us. All in all, there were about 12 of us from all over the country, and enjoyed talking to the others and where they were from and what they did. I knew from talking to my Brother that the Military was very fussy about how you kept your locker and bed looking so I tried my best to make my things look organized and neat.

Around 4:PM. a Lieutenant introduce himself to us and explained what was going to happen over the course of the next 6 weeks.  We were taught to handle Firearms, March, and to wash and fold our clothes just the right way and place them in a special way in our locker.  We filled out more forms, questionnaires and applications that had to do with how much of our base pay would be sent home and how much you would keep. While we were in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, we had a chance to visit a few places nearby in the New England area on Weekend Passes. Before we finished our basic training , we were taken down to Newport R.I. for Fire Training on board ship, although we were told that probably none of us would ever be on board a ship.

I was given two weeks leave after Training and I returned home to my Mom before I was to Travel to Little Creek Virginia for more training. It was during this time that the Airlines went on strike and nothing was flying, so I had to take my Corvette and drive to Virginia by my self. After I arrived there and checked in I was told I’d have to leave my car in the Post Parking Facility and could use it till I was finished with my training. The Training consisted of how to survive and Military Code in Combat. This lasted about 4 weeks. During our training 4 of us Sailors were sent down to Gulf port Miss. to observe some equipment and how it worked as we would be assembling like items later on. We were also tought how to use the “Critical Path Method”  of Construction during Less then Favorable conditions. After our return to Little Creek, we were given orders to report to Coronado Calif. in six days.  But there’s a Airline Strike on!  “Well you better leave now” I was told. California here I come!

I picked up my car and was headed out the gate where about 20 guys I was in training with were all standing outside the gate with there Hitchhiking thumbs a waving. “Where you going ” they asked I said” Coronado California” I said. Only one Sailor was going to the same place so I said :get in” and another adventure began. It took us 4 days to get from Little Creek Virginia to Coronado California with a sack of McDonald’s Hamburgers in the back window (to keep them warm). I have a few stories to tell about driving across America, but I’ll save those for a later Blog.


I was Twenty Two now and had a good paying job. I had enough money saved and I wanted a new car. Why I bought a new Corvette I’ll never know. It was fast and cool. Gas was getting expensive lately (23 Cents a Gallon) and there were a lot of places I couldn’t take it. Like Apprentice School, (31St. and Kedzie), Jobs in places you wouldn’t want to park it all day on a busy street.  I would use my moms car and she would drive mine. What a sight to see an old Grey Haired woman driving a sports car. I dated a lot of girls that I would meet in Bars and clubs from as far away as Aurora Il.  and as close as Westmont Il. I never got serious with any of them as I couldn’t afford to change my lifestyle. I did have one that I liked a lot and she wasn’t in any hurry to make any changes either.   Her name was Jeanne Schuster and she was a transplant from Hanover Il. Out by the Mississippi River.  She worked Downtown at Borders Books in the loop as a Secretary there.   We would double date with a few of her friends as well as a few of mine and it was left at that.

Then one day in January I got this letter from my Uncle Sam wanting me to join him in some required Service to our Country.   You could hear the brakes Squealing as my life came to a stop  I had 90 days to get my shit in order before turning myself into the Army.  I didn’t want to go into the Army, I always consider myself as a Navy person.   So I made a trip down to Navy Recruiter and had a nice,  comforting talk with him.  I explained to him my situation with going to Apprenticeship school to become a Pipefitter, Supporting my Mom that I would rather be a Sailor.  I told him I had two more years to go before I was a Journeyman Pipefitter and took a chance  that I wouldn’t be called up till that time. I didn’t want to take a deferment as that one  with time.eligible for the draft till 25.  I wasn’t shirking my obligation to serve in the Armed forces but I was gambling on the time element. He sent me home and wanted to see a letter from my employer as to my status and work ethics, what we had in expenses (Mom and I) and debt.

I return the next week and gave him the papers he wanted, The letter from my Employer was sealed so I never got a chance to read it. He had his Superior( Lt. Commander) sit in with us and after reading and looking at the papers I brought in, they offered me a package I couldn’t refuse.  If I went down to the induction center in Chicago and took the exam they gave and my evaluation was good, I could defer active duty for two years, commit to the U.S.Navy as a Construction Warrant Officer and sign up for 6 years active duty and 4 years reserve.  I agreed! You know me now don’t you. I love an adventure.  Well right after I graduated from Pipefitter Apprentice School, Mom and I sold our house and made arrangements for her to move in with my Sister and I got ready to join the Navy. I had to report down to the Induction center on Monday the 15TH. of May and it was Snowing. 4 Inches we got, and the Navy wanted me to take the Exam again which I did, and about 50 of  us  guys  stood up and pledged our allegiance to the Armed Forces of America. There were two of us going into the Navy that day, Charles  Thomas  Bailey and myself.  We sat around for better part of the day there, they served us a lunch, and about 2:00 PM, they shuffled us of to the Airport to get on Plane to Boston, then by Bus to a place called Quonset Point Rhode Island to start our Enlistment. neither one of us had ever been on a Plane before and for that matter, never been out of Illinois. WOW, another Adventure!


Verlee Fritz was her name, and I had such a crush on her. She had dark hair, good build and was as tall as I was. I had her in several of my classes and I could not take my eyes off of her. I so wanted to date her or take her to a School Dance but I was scared. You see, Verlee was  a popular girl and belonged to several after School Clubs and was very sociable with a lot of other Guys and Girls, I had a hard time being Sociable with Girls after attending a Catholic School that frown at conversations between Boys and Girls. I found it hard being that way and at times, I sometimes thought I would be beneath her in a Social setting. I would go to the Youth Center every Saturday Night in hopes of seeing her and would work myself up “If I see Verlee there  I’m going to ask her to Dance” but I never did. I never did go on a date with her, but she was always, always in the back of my mind.  I had the opportunity to see Verlee again at our 50 year Class reunion and I gave her such a big hug and told her that I had such Crush on her and now, some fifty years later, I’ve had my wish come true. She is  just as  Beautiful now as she was when she was 16.

Reunion 007-M


It was while I was working as a stagehand and artist for an upcoming production of Brigadoon that the Music Dept was going to put on ( I belonged to the Choir in school) That I met Carol Dow. She was in the Play and I watched her perform, sing and act. I offered to be an extra during the play just so I could be around her. We talked and it seemed we both enjoyed each others company. After the the Play was over I asked her out to dance and we had a good time and went out for something to eat afterward and from then on, we became “Steadies”.

Now I found I had to save more of my money as it was customary for the guy to pay the way for his date. I had to fix up my Dads old car and make it presentable each time I picked her up. there is not much you can do to make a 1949 Chevrolet look good as it was my Dads old work car. Occasionally  Dad would allow me to use their new car to take Carol out on a special date. It was a 1956 Chevrolet and use to spend hours cleaning and waxing that car. I was going thru the money I made as a Stock Boy at the IGA and found that I had to ask for more hours so I could afford to have a girlfriend. We dated all the way up till I Graduated 1959. We broke up Mutually as I was going to go to College and she had another year to go in High School. We both were ready to move on. I never saw or talked to her again after that.

That Summer after graduation I saw my Mom and Dad get a divorce basically over his Drinking and not being able to hold a job. Mom had gotten a job as a Bookkeeper for the Village of Western Springs  and soon was promoted to head bookkeeper for the Village. She was making good money and got me a summer job there working for the tree trimming dept, and I managed to save a good bundle of money toward College. I was ready to tackle College at Northern Illinois University going for a Major as a   Commercial Artist. I could Draw and I was good at it as my Counselor told me in High School and that might be the field I should put my endeavors toward. My grades were average to good and I did very good on my SAT tests.  Mom and I figured we could make it money wise and with the new job I had at a Hamburger place new in town called McDonald’s and letting me have all the Hours I could handle, it was going to be alright.

Well we were wrong! Later that  Summer my Dad died and left my Mom with a bundle of bills, no life insurance, a small funeral, a grave site purchase, we were broke. College was over for me for the time being. I needed a good paying job to help my Mom and to keep the house we had. My Brother Quin suggested I become a Pipe fitter and with my Mechanical skills he could get me into the Pipe fitter Union Quickly. So started my new career as a Pipe fitter

So as quickly as it started as a Freshman in a new school, it ended 4 years later Graduating, foregoing College and becoming an Apprentice in the Pipe fitters Union. Those 4 years went by so fast and saw so many things in my life change as it change in the world around me. I grew up fast, as most kids did to a  changing world around them. I adapted!



In this town of about 11,000 people back in 1950 it was called a bedroom Community as people would take the train into Chicago to work and then return home to Downers grove to sleep, But that was about to change. More and more people were moving out of Chicago to the country to escape crowding in the city, new-found wealth in jobs. Companies were also moving out of the City bringing their workers with them. Today we call it Urban Sprawl. Downers found it self growing faster than it could handle. New roads needed building, Soon gravel roads were being paved, increased from two lanes to four. New traffic lights, new utilities being taxed and expanded new housing developments were popping up everywhere. But before that all happened, there was the Downers grove I knew. After the War my Parents looked into buying some land in Downers Grove My Sister had gotten married and they bought a House South of Fairview on 61st. St. One of the Principal Land Owners back then was a Family known as the Freidenhagens who lived on the corner of Fairview Ave. and Second St. in a Huge Farm House. They had a Barn and a few Horses which I use to feed Apples and brush when ever my Dad would visit Walter Freidenhagenand my Mom would sit with his wife on the porch and talk.

The Community of Fairview was mostly a stop on the CB&Q line, only a few Business where there. Leo’s Restaurant and Donut Shop, a Freezer Locker store where you could rent freezer space, Barber Shop and a Drug store. a Auto Parts place. A Sinclair Gas Station on the corner of Maple and Fairview, and down a ways on Maple was Cliff Billinglys Shell Gas station and auto repairs. Sometime in the Mid-50’s the Freezer place closed up and a Man by the name of Walter Krammer remodeled the building and open up an IGA Grocery Store and from then on the Community of Fairview became busy, growing place.

Us Guys, Bob Grenendal, Don Klipera  Bill Stock, and myself all lived within 6 Blocks of each other and we walked to school together every day and even work at a part-time job as Stock Boys at the local IGA food market on  Fairview Ave. On Saturdays we were Baggers at the Market, and would break for lunch and go next store to Leo’s Donut Shop for a Hamburger and coke and play the Jukebox while we ate. On our days off, we’d go Hunting after school. Bob and Don would walk to my house and the three of us would walk down Fairview ave to 63Rd. St. and then down a ways to the East to a Farmers Field who we knew and would give him a Half Dog (Pint) of Whiskey that Bob and Don picked up at Leo’s Donut Shop, who also had a shelf full of small bottles of Whiskey that he sold. Leo knew us and the reason for us purchasing the Whiskey.  One of the first Convenience stores for that time. Bill didn’t come along as his parents didn’t allow him to have a gun. Can you see that today, Three boys carrying Shotguns down the street and it  didn’t raise an eyebrow.

Several hours later with our pockets full of Pheasants and darkness setting in the Three of us would head back into town. There  every Wednesday at 55Th. St. would be Officer Frank, One of Three police officers in Downers Grove, waiting for us. “Throw the guns in the trunk boys, I’ll take you home”. Life was good in Downers Grove back then, and we were a bunch of good kids. Then something happened, “Girls”, Hanging around with the guys was about to change.

When School Started again the Fall of our Junior Year we had all become a little  less interested in hanging around with each other. I really don’t know why, maybe we were getting older and the things we would do together were not as important anymore. We still went to Football games and walk down to school on Friday nights to the basketball Games and return to Leo’s Donut Shop for a Coke. Mostly the conversation was about Girls we liked, and the excitement of maybe seeing them at one of the Games.  Bob and I had our favorites pick out and Bill had his even though he was a year behind us two. Don was also a year behind but his enthusiasm  for Girls wasn’t as strong as the rest of us. Don was not as you say an attractive looking Kid, He wore thick glasses and smoked like a freight train and his clothes always looked like he slept in them. and his grades were terrible  We offered to help, but his direction in life was different than ours. He lived with his Brother and Mother both who were very strict  Don just wanted to get High School over with and go to work with his brother in a Factory in Melrose Park. He lived in terrible conditions in his House and would rather we meet  at one of our houses  then meet him at his house. Bob’s Dad worked at Western Electric in Cicero an had a stay at home Mom. Bills Parents were always receptive to the rest of us, and we enjoyed listening to them talk in there Canadian Accent. Bills Dad worked for Swift Meats in  Downtown Chicago. His Mom was also a stay at home Mom. Then Douglas called me and said that they were moving to California. His Dad was transferred out there by the Tool and Die Company he worked for and were moving their factory from Chicago to Anaheim  Cal. and they were paying his way to move his Family out there. He promised to send me his new address when they got settled and he did. We continued to write each other for many years to come.



After Graduating from Volta School the Spring of 1955 our house in Downers Grove was almost ready but not quite.  For the Summer of that year I moved in with my Sister and Stan First to get acclimated to life in the Country, as that was what Downers Grove felt like and for all reasoning it was. I had my Bicycle and I toured Downers every day, mostly down by the Railroad Station, and to where our house was being built. It was about a mile from where my Sister lived to a small community of Fairview. Downtown Downers was another mile West. I was getting accustomed to rural life and I like it. There were trains and plenty to do around My Sisters house, They had a huge garden and Margie and I would till soil, plant and cultivate the Garden every day in the Morning. The smell of freshly tilled soil was new to me and I like it. One of the things I had to learn was to ride my bicycle in gravel. The road into Fairview was gravel for about a half a mile till you got to 55TH. St. there on into Fairview it was paved. In fact once you left the City Limits of Downers Grove, the streets were gravel or Tared gravel. All too soon my childhood days were coming to an end.  I was a Teenager now and in a few weeks I will be going to High School. Riding a School Bus was a new thing as was going to a Huge building with three floors in it. Going from class to class was adventure as they only gave you 5 Min  to travel between classes. Having a Locker to store your books and jackets in required me to have to remember my combination on the lock and to be able to call it up in my memory almost at will. I adapted. The one thing I had trouble adapting to was going to class I never had before. GYM. I really thought this was fun till I was told that I would have to undress in a room full of other Boys and take a shower after class(Gym). Now you got to understand, I’m a Catholic Boy who has been sheltered from this kind of embarrassment, brought up to understand that the cleansing of ones body was a private matter, done in the privacy of ones own bathroom. My God, what have I gotten myself into. This growing up into adulthood, is this something I should be leery of in the coming future?

I also met a lot of friends both thru riding the School Bus and in classes and Locker neighbors, although I still miss being with Douglas, and we did keep in touch thru letters and an occasional telephone call. Being in High School proved to be more of a Social thing than I had been use to. I mean there were conversations between me and Teachers, smiling at Girls, Going to dances with Girls, Girls talking to me, My having conversations with girls that only a few years earlier would have me trying to explain my reasonings to a Nun on why I was even talking to a Girl. Listen, the Music they’re playing now on the Radio, My parents thought it was terrible and with ungodly lyrics. I thought it was cool. Everyone was singing the songs, Kids were dancing to the Music, I had to sneak views of American bandstand when Mom wasn’t looking just so I could learn how to dance. Things were happening at a terribly fast pace. Multiple color cars, fast cars, clothing styles, music, Movies, and the World in general was going to Hell as my Dad said. And I was growing up in it. Also in my Freshman Year, I got a job, well my Sister got it for me. it was being a Soda jerk in a Candy store on main St. in Downers Grove.  I learned how to make Ice Cream Sundays, Soda’s, Malts and a whole variety of rich and delicious treats. The owner also made Candy in the back and sold there in the store.  It was fun and fattening.

It was the start of my Sophomore year that the friendship between several of us guys,( I’ll use the term Guys now as none of us were boys anymore) began to grow stronger and nothing ever was done without the others being involved. We all went out for Football together and even though our team won the conference title, neither of us played much. We were goof offs and warmed the bench most of the time but we did have fun! It was during this time that I met my future wife, Well, in about 12 years into the future. Carol was I think about 12 or 13 and the Sister of one of our new friends. Bill, was recently transferred here from Canada and was starting out as a Freshman and soon fell into hanging out with the three of us. Us being Bob Grenendal, Don Klipera and my self.



The dates that these next few items  has me lost as to where they fit into the time line of events in my Childhood. My Daughter can fill you in as she did a Family Genealogy History of our Family dating back to the 19 TH. Century. After the War things began to move quickly in my life, My Brother Quin  got Married to Elvira Klepitch I believe in 1945/46 and He moved out of the House on Campbell Ave. Soon after my Sister Married Stanley Cletcher 1946/47. I had the upstairs in the House to myself. I don’t remember much of the Weddings other than I remember my Mom all dressed out in a red dress and hat. I was a Ring bearer for my Brothers wedding and a cute little Girl was the Flower Bearer  I remember being all dressed out in a Tuxedo and after the wedding my brother and his new wife drove away from the Church in my Uncle Ed’s brand new red Oldsmobile convertible. My Sister wedding I remember being at the reception hall with all my Uncles and Aunts and relatives I had no idea who they were and I was the receiver of Kisses and Hugs from everyone.Ugh!  Margie (Sister) and Stan moved into an apartment off of Sheridan Rd. near Belmont Ave. and I remember staying there with them one night probably Months after they were married sleeping on the couch at night and hearing the Fog Horn from Belmont Harbor. Neat! never heard that before. And of course I had to stay a night at my Brothers Apartment on Sunnyside Ave. near Devon Ave. Which I remember yet as I got my self locked in the Bathroom one night and freak-out.

Several years later, 1954 or so My parents as did a lot of Chicago Families moved out to the new Suburbs of Chicago. My parents loved the  town of Downers Grove and became familiar with it as my Sister and Husband bought a house out there on  60. St. Well I guess they put the house on Campbell Ave. on the market and were surprised that within a week it was sold. So we moved to a Basement Apt. on Keystone Ave. In the Albany Park neighborhood till a location, Lot, and a House could be built in Downers Grove. I was pulled out of St. Benedict’s School and was enrolled at a school that I didn’t like. Gone were my friends at St. Benedict’s  gone was the house that I loved and the surroundings that were familiar to me. I did stay in touch with Douglas but now it was only on weekends. We were about 8 Miles apart. The school I went to for the remaining 7 Th. and 8 Th. Grades was called “Volta. That all I can remember, but I do remember that it was in a Jewish neighborhood and most of the kids there were Jewish. They got off from school for every God Blessed Holiday, and they had a lot, and I had to go to school on those days because I was not Jewish. I was not happy living there but I made the best of it by going on adventures on my Bicycle in a new area of Chicago and seeking out new areas to observe Trains. Douglas would ride out to see me and I would alternate by going back to my old neighborhood and visiting he and his parents.

As I look back on these events especially in  leaving St. Benedicts.  I was never to attend or serve in a Mass again till I was married and had children of my own who attended a Catholic School some twenty years later.  I did go into a Catholic Church once later when one of my Best friends asked me to be his best man at his Wedding  and I had to confirm that I was Catholic and attended Church regularly which I fibbed to. I can’t say it was a void in my life for I can’t remember, but I’m sure it had been.

In the ensuing years to come I did do a lot of praying  and always believed that I was in the protection of someone else.


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