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Everything Happens for a Reason

Archive for the category “Childhood”

Lewis and Clark

I believe it was in 6th. Grade that my Teacher assigned me to give a written  report on the Lewis and Clark expedition and I ,being a History Buff and a part-time day dreamer screamed as loud as I could while running down the hallway ” I can’t do this” But as always once I get involve with a project, I can’t put it down till I’ve completed it.

That afternoon when I got home from school I told my Mom of the project that had been given to me and she told me that all the information you needed was in the Library and that I should plan a few days to visit the Library and research the shelves of books pertaining to the Lewis and Clark Expeditions. “OK” I said and started to plan my trips to the Library. It would have to be on Saturdays as I can’t give up my play time with my friends after school. I gathered up my sharpest pencil and a spiral note-book and reviewed my route down to the Library. Borrow a dime off my Mom, take the Western Ave. Street Car to the Elevated at Wilson Ave. Hop the El down to Division St. walk about a block East to Clark and I’m at the Library.

Saturday came early and I apologize for not going shopping with Mom, But I was on an Adventure, An Adventure to learn about History and Explorers trekking across the country. I often think about my youth in Chicago back in the 40’s as do a lot of us who grew-up back then. There was no fear of living back then, no boundaries that couldn’t be crossed oh there were neighborhoods that you shouldn’t be in because of Racial ignorance, but one didn’t fear for their life as they do now. There was a lot to be said about Racial Segregation in keeping the peace. Everyone stayed on their own side of the fence and there was peace, It may have been the wrong way to treat people but having two different societies worked. OK, I got away from my story.

Chicago Library

I entered the Library and stood for a moment and took in the size of the building, the shelves of books the floors of books all these people walking around with grim faces on. I realized that this building contains every bit if information I needed, then it hit me. How do you use a Library? I never have been in one before. How do I go about finding what I came here for? Nobody ever taught me how to use a Library! Not in school, not at home,  My eyes searched frantically for a friendly face to help me, there, It says Information. I shuffled over to this desk and waited to ask a question to  this lady with horrible complexion. I know, I was taught by the Nuns that we’re all Gods children and everyone is beautiful in God’s Eyes, but I mean, If you looked in the Dictionary under Ugly, There would be a picture of this woman. ” I’m looking to gather some information On Lewis and Clark and I’ve never been in a Library before and I don’t know where to look?” I said,  “Son” she replied, “I haven’t the time to teach you how to use a Library, Bring someone with you next time to show you how to research the information in this library”. “Yes Ma’am” I replied.  I thought, ” Here is another case of me progressing thru life without the basic knowledge of gathering and storing information.” So off to home I went. When I got home  Mom ask me how’d it go? I told her about my dilemma and that I need someone to teach me how to use a Library. Ask your Sister to help you she replied, Tomorrows Sunday and after Church the two of you can go back to the Library.

I guess the procedure for obtaining  information was supposed to be inherent in my Genes. I knew how to ride a two-wheel Bicycle, Operate my Dads record Player, Unlock doors all of which I was taught. I don’t ever remember being taught in how to use a Library, not in school, not by my Family, nor by any of my friends.  I guess by the age of 11 years I should have known, but I didn’t.  Back then if you needed some information, no matter what, You wrote it down on a piece of paper stuffed in your pocket and walked, drove, or took Public Transportation down to the Library and proceeded to acquire what you needed using the tools of the Library. Boy, Do we have it made now. Don’t we! I love to Google!

Prehistorical Googling

Well, needless to say, I learned how to use the library and it wasn’t till High School that I was taught the Dewey Decimal system and the systematic way books on shelves were laid out. I don’t remember what grade I received on my report nor what ever happened to it, but knowing the Nuns at St. Benedict’s they probably burned it and added the ashes to the Palm Ashes that were used on Ash Wednesday.



4024 N Campbell Ave.

I always enjoyed Saturdays around my house back when I was 7, living on the North Side of Chicago on Campbell Ave. Life back then was peaceful. The War was over, People had jobs, it seamed everyone was starting out anew in their lives. Service men had returned, They were getting Married, as did my Brother and Sister, buying new homes ,starting new families, Car makers were back making new cars and people were buying them. Fancy ones. Painted in bright colors and offering new and invented accessories  like Radio’s, Clocks, and fancy upholstering.


Up early on Saturday Mornings. Dad took me to Church at 7:30 in our brand new 1947 Chevrolet as I had to serve Mass at 8:00. I was in 2nd. grade at St. Benedict’s School on Irving Park Road and Levette St. and I was an  Alter Boy there. After Church if the Weather was good, I walked home, about 8 city blocks, If not Mom or Dad were there to pick me up. Back home I changed clothes and had Breakfast which was a new cereal that had come out in the stores, It was called Rice Krispies.  Saturdays meant Shopping day at the Sears Store at Milwaukee Ave. and Cicero Ave. They had a Hillmans Grocery Store in the lower level. Mom and I spent most of the Morning Shopping with a final stop at Lutz’s Bakery on Montrose Ave. for after Dinner Cake or Pies for Sunday Dinner.


My Mom didn’t Bake, She cooked some damn good meals but Baking Sweets was not her thing. That was left to Grandma Girard My Dads Mom,or my Aunt Eleanor my Moms Sister. Sometimes my Sister came along with us but mostly it was my Aunt Eleanor who did her shopping along with us. Back home for Lunch which was a Cold Cut lunch meat Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll, A Pickle, and maybe a cookie for dessert. In the afternoon it was a walk down to the North Center Theater on Irving Park, Lincoln and Damen Aveues for an Afternoon Matinee to see the continuing saga of Tom Mix or Hopalong Cassidy or Superman or Buck Rogers Serials along with 25 Cartoons and a News trailer all for 5 Cents. I always bought a Holloway Bar for 2 Cents. After that show was over I would walk down about a block to the Bugg Theater on Damen Ave. for another Movie and another 25 Cartoons. Usually the feature film was Abbot and Costello. That cost me another 5 Cents and I still had my Holloway Bar. On the walk back home I still had enough to buy a Archie Comic Book for a Dime and I had  some change left over to put in my Piggy Bank. The house always smelled good when I got home as Mom would have the Saturday evening meal cooking and I was hungry by now.

Shopping was different then , There were no Malls to go to. Stores were not grouped together I mean each neighborhood had a building on the corner that was either a small Mom and Pop grocery Store or a maybe a Bakery along side it. Maybe one neighborhood had a Meat market that everyone from several blocks around would go to for cuts of Meat but for Clothes it was a travel to a Sears store or stop at the Montgomery Ward store and order what you needed from their Catalog. My Dad being in Construction throughout-out Chicago found stores that specialized in certain things and we travel on a Saturday to them. Like for shoes, There was this shoe store on Roosevelt road around Halsted St. near downtown Chicago that had as my Mom would say” They have prices that we people can afford.

Thom Mcan

It was a Thom McAn Shoe Store that I always got my shoes from as did my Dad and Brother. There were other shoe stores in and around Chicago but the largest selection was always Downtown. There were Florsheim Shoes, Father and Son Shoes along with those sold thru  the Mayfair  Stores or the Fair. Mom and my Sister use to go to Wiebolds on Belmont and Ashland Avenues for their shoes or go Downtown Chicago to Goldblatt’s  on State Street for their clothing and Shoes. One boring part of a Saturday morning was going with my mom and Sister to Woolworth’s Dime Store and sit and wait while they went thru the Simplicity or Butterick pattern drawers looking for dresses to sew. That always took so long and After I walked thru the Dime Store and looked at everything, they were still there going thru patterns, but I was always rewarded for my patients with a stop at the Candy Store for a treat.

Saturday Evenings were always fun. My Dad had purchased a thing called a Television Set and they had it set up in the Living room and after a good meal prepared by Mom, My Brother and his wife Elvira and my Sister and her new Husband Stan would take some of the Dinning room chairs into the Living Room and we’d settle in to watch what programs were being broadcast that Saturday Evening. I don’t remember what shows were on but It was new and we all sat together and watched. Mom would make Popcorn later and we would have a Pepsi along with the Popcorn. Mom had gone out a few weeks ago and bought about 6 of a new thing called TV Trays. I enjoyed Saturdays when I was young. The big thing was we all were together as a Family. I miss that now and then more than anything.


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!



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.



A new age was beginning while I was growing up, an age of new Inventions.Some of them were Diesel Engines were now pulling Trains, Steam was being phased out. Cars were getting more rounded and streamlined. Colors were being offered in cars now. Even the Streetcars and Busses were taking on a new look, also the Elevated Cars. The Mom and Pop grocery stores that were part of the neighborhood were disappearing in favor the large Grocery stores that were popping up. Hellmann’s,  National Tea, Krogers and Jewel Tea.


They offered larger selections, Refrigeration, better cuts of meats and Deli cuts. Bread Butter and Milk. Soon to be gone were the Saturday deliveries of Milk and Butter from Dairies to your House. The Vegetable Wagon that came down the Ally’s selling Fruits and Vegetables from a Horse Drawn Wagon. The Man who walked down the streets with a push cart offering to Sharpen your Knives, Life as we knew it was changing right before our eyes. You still had your Family bakeries  were one would go for fresh Bread, Rolls (sweet and baked) and that  Frosted Cake  Mom would serve after Dinner. (Mine was Chocolate Rum.) Then the whole Family would sit around the Radio and Listen to Radio Shows such as “The Jack Benny Show and the Fibber mcGee and Molly Show. “The Bickering Bickersons, and the Burns and Allen Show”. The whole Family together for a Meal and Entertainment via the Radio.

But wait, a new entertainment venue was on the doorstep. and my Dad had to have one. Television!. It was 1948 and who could have foreseen that this Box with a moving picture in it would soon close down so many places of Business. Bowling Alleys , Movie Theaters, Bingo parlors. I remember going down to the Appliance Store on Lincoln Ave, known as Polk Brothers with my Dad to buy a Television Set. The price Tag said $180.00. My god I thought, that’s more money than I could ever imagine. Well my Dad bought it along with the Rabbit Ears , wires. It was a Hallicrafter  with a 7 inch screen and I remember my Mom saying when we brought it home, “Well where will we put that thing.”  She moved furniture every which way trying to make room for the TV. It was a Table model and the only table we had big enough to hold it was Grandma’s Mahogany Drum table and my Mom was very animated about not putting the  TV on that table, for it was the perfect place to show off  Moms big Table Lamp she bought from Marshall Fields. So for a long time it sat on our Metal Kitchen serving cart now in a place of  Honor in the living Room with a sheet draped over it and the TV on it.

Halicrafter T V

This thing had so many knobs on it ,both front and back that controlled how the picture would look. The owners manual had words in it that I never heard before and trying to read it to my Dad who was postured behind the TV turning knobs every which way trying to get a perfect Circle On a the screen. Vertical Hold, Horizontal Hold, Contrast, Picture Stabilizer. Geez  It’s been an Hour and we still haven’t seen a picture. Finally my Dad called the Appliance store and they sent out a guy who would in a matter of Minutes had a picture on the screen. Everyone in our household took a solemn oath never to touch any of the knobs behind the set.

So it was that every Sunday Night, after Dinner we would form the Dining Room chairs in a semicircle in front of the TV and watch Television. A new tradition was started. By the 50’s, Television sets got bigger and became user friendly and the more shows that begane to be Televised  during the day and evening.  Mom would always set her self down in afternoon and watch “As the World Turns”.  No longer did she have to listen to it on the radio. The ironing Board moved from the Kitchen to the living Room.TV Trays were purchased, We could now see the the people that unto now were only heard on the raidio.  My God, The Electronic Age has begun!



My adventures with Douglas probably started when I was 7 years old. (Guess) Our times together prior to 1948 were of getting together and riding our bikes around the neighborhood  sort of exploring parks and just goofing off.  Douglas lived on Western ave. in a third floor Apartment a few blocks South of Belle Plaine Ave. and were only a Block away from each other. His Father was a Tool and Die maker and his Mom was a Housewife. Joe and Alice Marini. Doug had a pull out train set that slide under his bed that was available all year round where mine was strictly a Christmas time set -up. When the days were rainy or too cold to be out, we would get together at one or others house and play games or draw trains or make small crafts. I think our Moms were happy that we had each other to play with as they didn’t have to amuse us. I had my Sisters old two wheel Bicycle and Doug had a old two wheel Bike his dad had and we became proficient in riding around and pretending we were trains. On nice days we would pack a lunch, take our savings from the past week and go ride the Elevated Trains around Chicago.( 10 cts.)

Riding the elevated train

(Riding the elevated train)

Sneaking under Turnstiles we could spend the whole day riding the Elevated and Riding the Subways of Chicago. Our Parents knew of our plans and had no objection to our wanderings, as there was no issue of two boys of 7 or 8 years of age riding Public Transportation. We would ride our bikes up Western Ave. to Wilson Blvd. (about 12 blocks  to the Elevated Station), lean our bikes against the steel pillars of the elevated and along side the entrance into the Station.

Western and Wilson Aves.1946

(Western and Wilson Aves. 1946)

Pay our Dime and go thru the turnstile and then up the stairs to the platform and catch the first Southbound train into the city. We would transfer between trains going South to Englewood  then back and catching a train out to Oak Park, then back to the city and catch a train up to Evanston. Back to Belmont Station, transfer over to the Subway and tour the Subway System of Chicago. Back to Belmont Station, Transfer over to  Ravenswood Train and back to Western Ave. Total time was about 4-5 Hours and our Bikes would still be there leaning up against the pillars were we left them. All in all, a good days worth of Train Riding and it cost us a Dime apiece. One day our parents surprised us with new Bicycles. Doug got a real fancy Bike from Montgomery Wards, It was a Hawthorn, top of the line Bike.( Everything they had was from Montgomery Wards.) It even had a button on the side that was a horn, and it had White Wall Tires. Me, My dad took me to a Schwinn Bicycle Shop and let me pick out the Bike I liked the most, ( cost was a contributing factor) It was Dark Red and was a 26″ Model. I Loved it. It was from this point on that Doug and I were out to discover the world. One adventure that we had amongst the Hundreds was riding our bikes up to Wilmette, Il. for there the North Shore trains traveled down the main St. in town and we wanted to see that. Wilmette was about 10 Miles from our homes and not a easy place to get to on bikes for we didn’t ride in the streets, mostly sidewalks. We left home about 9:00 AM. and returned about 5:00 PM.  A very long day. But it was an adventure for us. One day after having a long talk with our Moms, we convinced them to take us to Milwaukee via the new North Shore Electric Streamliner, call the Electroliner.  

North Shore Electroliner

(Northshore Electroliner)

It was Fantastic and we got to sit in the First Car and in the Front seat so we had an unobstructed view of the tracks as we raced at close to 80 Miles an Hour up to Milwaukee Wis. We had lunch at Mader’s Restaurant, toured the city and headed home on the same train back to Chicago.

In 1948 the City of Chicago had a railroad fair down on the Lakefront of Chicago.

Chicago Railroad Fair 1948

(Chicago Railroad Fair, 1948)

Both my Dad and Mom along with Doug’s Dad and Mom made a day of  enjoying all kinds of Railroad exhibits  and touring all the new Streamliners of the time and taking small rides on some old Steam locomotives.  It was a good time had by all, and our Parents seemed to get along just great. What a good time and full of Memories.

My Dad’s Sister Arlis Married a Frenchman named Milton Gibbs and the reason I bring this up is that his Parents had a Cabin up in the north Woods of Upper Michigan outside of a town called Ishpeming. Well one week all of us drove up there, it was a journey, we all met in a place called Escanaba Mi. My Mom and Dad, Arlice and Milton Gibbs, My Dad’s Brother Ray and his wife Betty and myself and had a caravan up to and  into the woods of Michigan. I remember how primitive this Cabin was, No Heat, no Electricity and no Bathrooms.  I remember my Mom and Dad and I all slept in this huge bed made out of Tree limbs with a very soft but saggy mattress and a Blanket that was so thick, and heavy , but warm. There was a Cooking stove that one put wood into it to burn for cooking, A fireplace that provided much heat as long as you were in front of  it. The women all sat around and talked, the men sat around and drank and smoked and I was bored out of my mind. I like adventure, but this was something I had not adjusted too. I had no idea people lived like this and call it a vacation. I was cold, I was bored, I was disappointed that there was nothing a 8 year old kid could do there. I adapted, but so glad we never went back there.



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.


My Parents and Siblings grew up during the Depression and by the time I came along things were starting to improve. In 1940 my parents bought  house at 4024 N. Campbell Ave.  It was in the North center Neighborhood of Chicago and it was a nice house. About a block away to the South and across Irving Park Blvd. was a Park, Paul Revere Park. It had a paved path around it and a big Field House that posed many programs for kids to join and a huge Wading pool with a fountain in the middle. Douglas my friend and I would spend a lot of time there during the Summer. Prior to my parents buying their first house on Campbell Ave. they lived with My Dads parents on Merrimack Ave. a little ways North and several Blocks West. It was the depression and no one could afford a house. My Mom and Dad lived up in the Attic with my brother and Sister, My one Uncle and Aunt lived in the basement with their two kids, Ray and betty, and my other Aunt and Uncle, Milton and Arliss, shared the first floor with my grand-parents. It was common at that time to have multiple Families living together. My Uncle Milton worked for Ball Canning Company and would later in the 60’s be transferred out to California. My Uncle Ray was a Meat Cutter and would later become the head of the Meat Cutters Union in Chicago.  My Dad was an Apprentice in the Steamfitters/Pipefitters Union in Chicago and would become the Superintendent for Bechtel  Construction Co.

From conversations with my Brother everyone got along just fine. The men had fun running a Whisky producing mill in  the  Basement and sold Whiskey to the taverns during Prohibition. My brothers job every morning before going to school was to rotate the barrels in the rack. During my Childhood I remember us all getting together for picnics and birthdays and the Holidays. My favorite Uncle and Aunt was from my Moms side, her Sister Eleanor and Ed. They would always pick me up for a weeks stay at their house and take me along when they would drive out to Woodstock Il. to visit my moms other Sister Mary and her husband Elmer. They had a farm there and a Son Wayne. Uncle Ed would joke with us two and take us Fishing and into the Town of Woodstock for a Chocolate malt. I remember one day he said to Wayne and I, ” Just call me Ed”  no need to call me Uncle.  Well it was several weeks later he and my Aunt Eleanor were over at our house and My Uncle said he’d give me a Quarter if I would play a song on the Piano. (I took Piano lessons)  after playing them a song, he gave me a Quarter and I said, “Thanks Ed”  My father jump up and gave me a slap that I still can feel today and said ” That’s your Uncle Ed, and you will call him Uncle Ed till the day you die” My Dad was strict, Old German ways and respect was paramount. My Uncle Ed explain to my Dad what he told us and Apologized for doing it, But I could see in my Dad he was not happy with my Uncle Ed.

Speaking of Uncle Ed, He and my Aunt lived down on Western Ave. just south of Grand Ave. in Apartment above another one of my Relations Aunt Margaret, my Moms Mothers Sister who also live there with the  The McElroys. On an invite from Aunt Eleanor  my Mom allowed me to take the Streetcar down to their Apartment. As you’ll learn, I  was an adventurer and I had no hesitation in taking this trip. I got to ride the Streetcar all the way down Western Ave. It cost my Mom a Dime to send me there.(1948). Of course  Aunt Eleanor  was there waiting for me and to make sure I got off at the right street. as I think back, my Mom must have known I had a good head on my shoulders and was responsible enough to make the trip at eight years of age.

My Dad was good to me. He built me my first pedal car out of sheet metal he had made for me at work, He’d take me to see Trains, he taught me Baseball and bought me my first Bicycle. He taught me to drive a car, He was generous at Christmas time and even though he was NOT a Religious Man He did applaud me for doing what I did for Church Services. Than one day he snapped! He became an Alcoholic  I don’t know what caused it or why he started to drink, but life in our house changed from that time on. I have all kinds of Memories, good memories of my Dad when I was growing up, but very few of when he started drinking.

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