138 rue de bonheur

Everything Happens for a Reason

Archive for the category “Trains”


There it was, an empty room in the Basement. A perfect place to build a model railroad. I basically knew what I wanted and what railroad I would model this layout to represent. After researching different catalogs for items needed to start, I came to the conclusion that this is going to be expensive. Holy Shit Batman, I mean really expensive! I thought putting the addition and up grading Utilities in the house was costly I was in for a huge expenditure just to build the table yet alone the cost of track, switches, and the Engine and cars, But this I wanted and Kay said to do it, but it was to be a Winter Time Project.

So after the Holidays and all the traveling was over, I started. It took me one whole Winter just to build the table after going over drawings I made and laying out how all the tracks where to be positioned and countless hours going over Model railroads on YouTube and how a table structure should be built. Spring brought closure to the Project, but on Rainy days I would read books on Wiring, landscaping and tweak out just how the Model railroad was going to look. I couldn’t wait till Winter set in on us again. Well, after 5 years I think it’s almost done (Always making small adjustments and modifications). Watch me build my Model railroad at—–Right Click.




Berkshire 2 8 4 , Built 1944 operates on the Ft. Wayne Historical Railroad. #765

Berkshire 2 8 4 , Built 1944
operates on the Ft. Wayne Historical Railroad. #765

It’s hard to determine where one gets their love for a Hobby! My Dad never had it, nor my Brother, but as far back as I can remember I had this love of Trains. Where did it come from?  Was it in my Gene’s, I guess I could’ve  had a worse affliction for something less than chasing Trains. My first Memory was when I was about 5 or 6 playing with my Brothers Electric Train, an “O” Gage American Flyer, A 1938  vintage Electric Engine with passenger Cars. It was my brothers Train, but I think I was more captive by it than he was. I recieved my own Electric train set possibly  when I was 7  for Christmas one year  and I can remember  it to this date 66 years later. My Dad had it mounted on a 4X8 sheet of Plywood, and it sat under the Christmas Tree. I was so happy that I received from Santa Claus, I think.  After Christmas my dad and brother set it up down in the Basement where we proceeded to paint Streets and Sidewalks on the board, and mounted a few of the Plastic Houses I received as Christmas Gifts, but alas, It went up into the Attic for the remainder of the year only to be brought down at Christmas Time each year. It grew each year as I received Gifts related to the train Set, Switches, More Cars, Buildings. It was becoming quite a Model railroad in itself.

        Then when I was 10, I came back from serving at Church one Christmas Eve (Alter Boy) I walked into the House to see a Much Larger Train layout, 2- 4X8 panels of plywood, more track and switches and a brand new Train running around the tracks. I screamed and gave my Dad a great big hug (Mom Too)  I couldn’t wait to call my Boy friend Douglas the next Morning to tell him about what I got for Christmas. A Santa Fe Streamliner with 4 Passenger Cars. It was beautiful, Shinny  and it looked so good going around the track.

        It also went down into the Basement after Christmas to have more streets and sidewalks painted on the new board and more buildings added to it., then back up into the attic till next Christmas. So it went year after year. It wasn’t till I was about  9 or 10 that my interest in Trains changed from a  Christmas thing to actually going to see Trains. In the Summer Months my Friend Douglas and I would venture out on our Bicycles to different locations around Chicago to view  actual trains. The Chicago and Northwestern, The Milwaukee  Road, we’d read about and get Time schedules  and ride down to where we could view them. Riding the Chicago Elevated  System took us downtown to where the Stations were and gather up all the Brochures we could on the many Railroads that came into Chicago and the times they would be coming thru our neighborhood. Douglas’s Dad built model railroad cars and every once and awhile I’d see him sitting at the Kitchen Table working on them, they were beautiful.

    During my Teenage years Trains sort of took a backseat to other interesting Phenomenons that were occurring in my life, Like Girls, work, and becoming a Sailor. trains sort of took a backseat during these years although I would still be memorized by a passing train at a railroad crossing, but for now Trains were not going to be a part of my life for the next 40 some years. Buying a house, raising Daughters and working both at a job and remodeling a house took up all of my time. It wasn’t till I retired that my ambitions to getting back into trains started to grow again.


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.



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.


Post Navigation