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I received the following e-mail from my daughter Debbie.  I changed a few of the things to fit my memoriesI added memories from my brother and sisters

Lightning Bugs / Older 'n Dirt!!


"Hey Dad," one of my kids asked the other day, "What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?"

"We didn't have fast food when I was growing up," I informed him. "All the food was slow." 

"C'mon, seriously, Where did you eat?"

"It was a place called 'at home'," I explained. "Grandma cooked every day and when Grandpa got home from work, we sat down together at the kitchen table for "Supper", and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it." I used to hide my spinach under my mashed  potatoes, hoping Mom would not notice until I was gone. (That never worked) Check out my Mom's Cook Book. The first time that I remember going out to dinner was for my parents' 25th anniversary. I was playing college baseball and I showed up in my CTC (Chicago Teachers College) baseball uniform.  We walked over to Luigi's where the sign said "One Hundred Yards of Spaghetti".  Al and Connie bought to old Queen Theater that was on the 2500 W. block of North Avenue and turned it into very popular pizza place.  It soon  became so popular that a few years later, they bought the store on the northeast corner of Rockwell and North Ave that formerly housed the National Tea Super Market.  The New Luigi's was 4 times larger and was always filled.  Al must have missed a protection payment, because he was found in the trunk of his car in the Chicago River and Luigi's soon closed.  

There was no Hooters restaurants and if there was, we never would have been able to get my Mom to go there, even if their wings were tasty.  Dad might have gone, he liked chicken.  I marvel at how easy it is for kids my grandson's age, to talk their parents into a trip to Hooters.  The only time I get to go there is when my grandson has a hockey road trip. There were many hot dog stands and guys with carts selling hot dogs in the old neighborhood.  There was Sammy's Red Hots by Carole's house on Maplewood and Division.  There was Freddy's Hot Dogs and Moishe Pippick's (Yiddish for belly button) Hot Dogs.  You could get a dog, and fries for a quarter and any of these places.  There was the "Humboldt Spot" on California and Division that was later renamed "Ricky's" where you could get a corned beef sandwich with pickle, and coleslaw for fifty cents.  It was owned by Art Melmen, whose son Ricky is now one of the country's biggest restaurateurs.

The closest thing we had to "Fast Food" was Saturday's lunch.  Mom would send me to the corner grocery store where Josie was the lady in charge.  We would get some fresh buns and some sliced ham along with a big dill pickle.  Josie would always put in a bar of Ivory soap since Saturday was "Bath Day".  One memory that I have was on a day when Mom sent me to the store with a note.  I gave it to Josie and she got the "can of corn" grabber and pulled down a box that was wrapped in plain brown paper.  The secrecy got the best of my curiosity, so I ripped a hole in the wrapper on the way home to see what was in there.  You guessed it, I had a box of Kotex sanitary napkins.  Looking back, I wondered how I was picked for that job and I surmised that my sisters were too young and my brother was too smart.   

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This is what I looked like when I played 3rd base in college.

That was our Serval gas refrigerator.  My dad used to say that the little man in the refrigerator who turned the light on was named pieniądze.  (pieniądze is money in Polish  That is one of the few Polish words that my dad knew that were not cuss words) 

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Humboldt Park Amvets 1955.  (Not much protection for your important body parts.)

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My Dad, Herb Lopatka was quite a player, according to accounts from my grandpa and Uncle George.  They watched him play with Cub Great, Phil Cavarretta. 

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This is my Father in law Edmund

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This is my Dad's glove. Mom said that he bought it at the Wilson Sporting Goods  Factory for 2 or 3 dollars in the late 1930s.  The Wilson factory was on Milwaukee Ave, near Rockwell Street.  I bought my Roy Campanella catchers mitt (Pictured below) from a guy who worked there for $20.  I later bought my A2000 fielder's glove for $25 in the late 1950s. They were selling for about $50 in the stores. Most of the professional players were starting to use the A2000.  I was earning $1.10 per hour at Carl-Sons Hardware store at that time.  I worked there part time when I was in High School and College.  I had to take some time off when I was playing college baseball and Carl didn't like that too much, so he told me, " You have to make up my mind, do you want to work or play baseball."  I asked my Dad for advice.  He said, "Tell Carl that you are going to play baseball now, because you will have to work the rest of your life." My Dad knew Carl well from his grade school days.  Carl was a rich kid whose mom used to dress him funny.  Kids picked on him and my Dad used to keep the bullies away from him.  Carl used to give my dad candy to pay for his protection.  Carl liked to schedule deliveries of 80 pound bags of ready mix concrete on days when I was working, since I didn't mind working up a sweat hauling and stacking those bags into the bins.  We didn't have weights to lift back then, so I was building a strong back and arms while getting paid. I was one of the first football players to use weight training on my legs.  I took sections of lead pipe that my Dad removed from our house and hammered them flat. I then sewed a pocket in some old baseball socks and inserted the flattened lead pipes into them.  I would go jogging with the weights and build up my legs.    

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The ball in my Roy Campanella catchers mitt was caught bare handed by my Dad in the Wrigley Field Bleachers.  It was a home run that came off of the bat of Pittsburgh Pirate slugger, Ralph Kiner.  Ralph had 54 home runs in 1949 (The year my Dad caught that ball) . Kiner later played for the Chicago Cubs from 1953-55. He teamed up with Hank Sauer and Frank Baumholtz to give the Cubs the slowest outfield in the history of baseball.  We were sitting on the last bench in the left field bleachers. My Dad stood on the bench and caught Kiner's line drive homerun and handed it to  Herb and me.  My dad would take his 2 week vacation when the Cubs had a home stand.  We went to every game. That was Dad's vacation and we loved it. The next day, there was another homerun that Dad had to run back and jump for.  He caught it with one hand, then scraped his back on the screen.  His back had some sun burn blisters and when he hit the screen, he dropped the ball and 10 fans jumped on the ball and fought for it.  I remember my Dad asking my brother and me why we didn't jump into the pile and get that ball.  I was 9 and Herb was 12 at the time.  We never got out of our seat and could not give him a good answer for our inactivity. We kept the Kiner ball on a shelf and we were not supposed to play with it, but it was so tempting, because we seldom had a ball with a cover on it.  We used to play with a ball until the cover came off, then we taped it with friction tape and played with it for years.  The problem with a taped ball was that it started out as a spheroid then evolved into an ellipsoid as more layers of tape built up at the poles of the ball. One day, Herb and I took the ball off of the shelf to play catch in the alley. By the way, people in Chicago never said "let's have a catch" We said, "let's play catch." We agreed to play very carefully and never let the ball touch the concrete.  So we started throwing the ball back and forth very carefully.  Then it happened, I uncorked a wild pitch that went skipping down the alley picking up numerous scars.  Once the ball was scratched up, we got more reckless with it and we played catch many more times.  It was such a thrill to throw a ball that had seams. Later in the year, we decided to cover the scars with varnish.

I remember going to Wrigley Field when I was 7, in 1947 when Jackie Robinson made his first appearance in Chicago.  I had never seen a person of color at Wrigley Field before that day.  I was amazed to see the park was filled with colored people.  That is what they were called back then.  All other colored players were playing in the Negro Baseball League until Major League Baseball lifted the ban on people of color. That paid attendance of  47,101 set a record that still stands today. Read more details here.

   

When my Dad had a stroke, my sister Mary wrote to Harry Carry and told him how much my Dad enjoyed watching the Cubs.  Harry sent this hand written letter to my Dad.

In the spring of 2016, when our granddaughter Amanda graduated and became a Registered Nurse, I was honored to attend the commencement service at Lewis University.  I went there a little early for the 6:00 event, so that I could tour the campus of the college that I almost attended.  I never got to tour the campus because there were a thousand cars winding to a parking place. As I was driving through the campus, memories flooded back to 1958 when I was a Catholic League All Star basketball player. I was invited to Lewis by their coach Gordie Gillespie* who was coaching Basketball and Baseball at Lewis. (He was also coaching football at Joliet Catholic) I arrived at the college early and brought my baseball glove because I knew that Coach Gillespie was the baseball coach and that maybe I could impress him and give me a better chance of getting a scholarship.  (I knew that they didn’t need another short white guy for their basketball team)

When I arrived I went out to centerfield as coach Gillespie was pitching to his players.  He yelled, “No one is getting a hit off of me!” A few pitches later, the batter hit a line drive to right center that was headed for extra bases.  I sprinted to my left and made a diving catch that made coach very happy.  After practice, he told me that they didn’t have baseball scholarships, but he could offer me a working scholarship.  I thanked him and told him that I would talk to my parents and let him know. I never did talk to my parents because I thought Romeoville was too far to go to college.  I went to Chicago Teachers College North (Sabin Branch) that was located about one mile from my house. I did return to Lewis College a few years later when I was playing 3rd base for Chicago Teachers College main branch. We were so impressed that Lewis had a field with an outfield fence.  Our home field was a south side Chicago park with rocks and broken glass that we cleaned up before games and practice.  I don’t remember anything about the game at Lewis, so we may have lost.  I do remember when they came to our park, they won the game when Ed Spiezio hit a line drive to left field that hit a rock in front of our left fielder.  The ball bounced over his head and rolled a long way.  (No fence) Spiezio circled the bases for a game winning homerun. Ed Spiezo was a Joliet kid who went on to play for the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox.

 

* Gordie Gillespie has 1,893 wins as a baseball coach, more than another other college coach in history. He was coaching Football at Joliet Catholic High and St Francis College.

Over 59 years, he has had only 10 losing seasons as a head coach while combining to go 2,402-1,170-6. In 1998, Gillespie was named the NAIA "Coach of the Century" by Collegiate Baseball Magazine.

 

Try Out for the Chicago Cubs

In 1958, the Chicago Cubs had a tryout at Wrigley Field. I grabbed my spikes and Roy Campanella catchers mitt and jumped on the North Avenue bus. They never let us bat, but I did get to throw 3 or 4 times to second base.  It was a thrill just to be in the Cub dugout.  There were baseballs all around on one of my friends put one in his bag.  I thought about doing that, but I overcame my temptation and decide not to steal from the Cubs. 

Try Out for the White Sox

In 1959, the Chicago White Sox had a tryout at Lake Forest College that had Paul “Dizzy” Trout running the tryout. We were timed in a 50 yard dash before showing off our throwing arm.  We all got to hit against pitchers who were trying out.  I was one of the last guys to hit and they ran out of pitchers, so Dizzy started tossing up easy to hit pitches.  I couldn’t wait to hit a former major leaguer who beat the Cubs in game 4 of the 1945 World Series.  When I was in the on deck circle, a limo pulled up with a hot shot pitching prospect who was throwing pitches faster than I had ever seen.  I had the “Good Luck” to be the first guy to face him.  His first pitch exploded into the catcher’s mitt before I started my swing.  I decided to start my swing when the ball left his hand. When I did that I hit the ball way foul just before it got to the catcher.  I decided to swing when he started his wind up.  He jammed me with an inside fastball that I lifted weekly over the first basemen’s head for a base hit.  I had my Nellie Fox bat that had a thick handle that never broke.  I played several seasons with that bat and never broke it.  The Sox never offered me a contract, but I was happy with my one for one tryout performance. I was the only guy with a hit off of that pitcher.  He fanned the next 4 hitters.  That gave me something in common with Fidel Castro since the Sox cut him when he tried out for the Sox as a pitcher.

 

Slow pitch 16 inch Softball was a game you had to play if you lived in Chicago. There was no fast pitch softball in the city. I did play fast pitch after I graduated College when Jack Geider talked me into playing 12 inch fast pitch softball for Ernie's Bar & Grill in Maywood. Slow pitch 16 inch Softball was popular because you could play it on a small field and you didn't need a glove. I played at Maplewood playground. That field had a right field fence that was only 50 feet beyond first base. If you hit it over the fence, you were called out and someone had to go over the fence into the alley the retrieve the ball. If you hit it real hard, it would be in someone's back yard and you may never see that ball again. 

We could buy a brand new Clincher Softball for $3.00 in the 1950s.  When we played another team, each player chipped in 15 cents.  There were 10 players on a sixteen inch softball team, so we had enough for a new ball.  The winning team got to take the used ball home to use as a practice ball.

Money Game

When we wanted to play for money, we each paid 30 cents and if we won, we got to keep the ball and we we got a thirty cent refund.  That was enough to buy 6 cokes!

Alley Ball

We also played softball in the alley between Rockwell Street and Talman Ave. in the 1600 North block. We learned to hit straight up the middle into centerfield. If you didn't, you would have to go in someone's yard to get the ball. Not all neighbors were good about having kids in their yard stepping on flowers while looking for a ball. Mr. Wagner used to take the ball before you could get it and say, "Over the fence is out!"  You had to get another ball or the game was over.  We were so afraid of him that we wouldn't even try to go in his yard.  It was understood that if you hit the ball in his yard, the game was over. 

The Encyclopedia of Chicago has an interesting description of the game, although the writer never played the game because he wrote, "the softness of the ball allows for the game to be played barehanded." Wrong! A new 16 inch Clincher Softball (pictured above) was as hard as any ball you could find.  It didn't soften up much until the latter inning of a 16-15 slug fest.  Many teams would win the coin toss and elect to be the "Visitors" so that they could bat first when the Clincher was rock hard.  My Dad played for his Company team, Birtman Electric. His team got new uniforms every year, so My Mom would take one of my Dad's Birtman Electric uniforms and reduce it to fit me. (Pictured below)

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We always had a bat or a ball in our hands.  (Above) My Dad, Herb and Mom, Adeline, Brother Herb, me and sister Pat.

 

The Encyclopedia of Chicago claims that 16 inch Softball was invented in Chicago in November 1887. The exact dimensions of the first ball, crafted from boxing-glove laces by creator George Hancock, is unknown. A 14-inch ball was used, however, in 1933 when 70,000 people saw the first major tournament game at the Century of Progress Exposition.

Catholic elementary schools had a league of 7th and 8th graders.  The owner of the Hardware store on Division and Campbell offered to buy us uniforms, so Sister Veronica Ann A.K.A. Sister Superior (My Dad called her General when he was driving the nuns around) had to measure us for out new uniforms. When she had to measure our inseam, she measured from our belt down to our shoe top.  When one of our Italian teammates tried to show her where she should be measuring the inseam from, she slapped him for touching himself there.  She sent in the measurements that had inseams 12 to 14 inches longer than they should have been,  When we got our uniforms, the crotch of the pants almost reached the ground.  It was hard to hit a ground ball through our legs with our sagging pants, but our speed suffered.   There were enough Catholic Schools in the area that we could walk to. There were no "Soccer Moms" with mini vans, because families were lucky if they had one car and no body ever heard of soccer except for our DP (Displaced Persons) friends and they were busy trying learn what the infield fly rule was.

St. Aloysius had German Nuns and Priests, St. Fidelis had Polish Nuns and priests. Father Walter Krempa at St, Fidelis was way ahead of his time, He formed a girls team that my wife played for. When I mentioned a Clincher softball being hard, she  immediately recalled circling under a flyball in center field that lined up perfectly with our nearest star. The "softball hit her right in the forehead.  She was dazed, but she quickly got the ball in and held the runner to a single. She felt dizzy after that, but fortunately there were no concussions in those days and she did not cry, because there is no crying in baseball (or softball).

The picture below is of our Church Teen Club called the Lionites.  We too got money from the Hardware store guy, but this time we measured the inseam from the proper place.  My  St. Mark Page has some of the names there.  I was the captain, so I had to sit next to the priest.

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When we didn't have a team to play against, would choose up teams by having the 2 best players be the captains.  They picked their teammates with alternate picks.  The all important first pick was decided by the "Bat Toss." One of the captains would toss the bat with the knob up to his opposing captain, who would catch in with one hand somewhere in the handle part of the bat. The tosser would then grab the bat just above the hand of the bat catcher. They would continue that until they ran out of bat.  The guy that got the knob got the first pick. Sometimes the guy that didn't get the Knob, got 3 kicks at the bat to try to dislodge it, if he did, He got first pick. 

When there were not enough players for 2 teams, we played "Piggy move up." You needed enough guys to for 8 fielders and 2 or 3 batters.  When you made an out batting, you went to right field then from right field to center after another guy made an out. Then to left, 3rd, short, second, first then pitcher. Once you worked your way through all positions, you got to bat again until you made an out.  That is how I learned to play all positions.  That came in handy when I showed up at try outs for my college team with my Roy Campanella catcher's mitt and the team already had a catcher that started every game last year.  I looked around for a position that had a player that I had a chance to beat out. When Coach ISADORE "SPIN" SALARIO called for a 3rd basemen,  I grabbed my friend's fielder's glove and gave my "Decker" as it was sometimes called by my dad. I didn't get to start the first game, so I was on the bench when I got got the call to pinch hit.  I singled up the middle on the first pitch, then stole second and went to 3rd on the throw that hit my leg as I slid in.  I scored the game winner on a fly ball.  After that, I was the starting 3rd basemen for the rest of the season.  I often thought, "What if I popped up that time," Would I ever get another chance to play? My first game as a starter was at Concordia College in April with light snow falling.  The first pitch of the game was hit right at me and I booted it.  If we had an official scorer, he may have called it a bad hop single, but Leo Priebe had to pitch from the stretch and soon the bases were loaded with 2 outs.  Their number 6 hitter hit a shot right over the third base bag. I made a dive to my right and snagged it with my Wilson A-2000 glove.  I rolled over and got to my feet and tried to find Larry Priebe, my first basemen, (Leo's twin brother). I fired a throw in the general direction of first base, but it was wide right and Larry had to come off of the bag to catch it.  He did manage to grab it and slap the runner in the head before he reached first base. That tag got us out of the inning and we went on to win the game. I was the starting 3rd basemen for the rest of the season.  

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks joined the Cubs when I was a die hard 13 year old Cub Fan. The Cubs were in the World Series when I was in kindergarten, so I had no choice, My family members were all Cub fans. Many years later, I took my son Ken out of Kindergarten to go to the 1969 season Home opener. We bought Ken a Cub uniform with number 14 on the back. After Ernie homered in his first 2 at bats and the place went wild, Ken kept asking, "when is Ernie coming up?" I told him that he will not homer every time he bats. When Ernie came up, he made a liar out of me as he hit his 3rd straight home run. Ernie hit a line drive single to left in his 4th at bat, so I restored my credibility with my 5 year old. The Cubs went on to win that game in extra innings with a game winning home run by Willie Smith. (I think it was Willie) When Ken got too big for that Ernie Banks uniform, his little brother Dan started wearing in in 1975-7. When Dan got too big for it, we put it in the attic for years until Dan found it and put it on his son Luke. They went to a Kane County Cougar game in 2013 and they put him on the cover of the July "Game Days" program. The PR people were all over him when Dan took Luke to Wrigley Field.

When Ernie died in January 2015, I posted the following on Facebook:

The Human Race lost a treasure tonight. Ernie Banks influenced me as a teenager more than any other person. He really was the only black person that I "Knew". (I only knew him through radio and television.) He was so nice that I developed a positive attitude toward all African Americans. A few years ago, I went to Arizona for Cub spring training and I was so disappointed that he was not in there. I asked Billy Williams about him and he said that his Mom had passed away and He would not be there. I wanted to tell him how I spent my life working with Black children because of his influence. I always wanted to meet him and tell him that. I am broken hearted that I will never get to meet him now and tell him how he influenced me and many other people in a positive way. May God bless him.

 

Telephones

Our first phone looked like the one above.  There was no rotary dial. It had a label that read "Brunswick 3098." I had friends that had Humboldt 6782 and Armitage 5826. When you picked it up, the operator would say, "Number pleeze." like that gal on Saturday Night Live with the nasal inflection. My brother remembers when the Campbells were on our party line I would signal my friend Bob and we would be talking for free until the operator got mad and told us to hang up.  We never called a friend on the phone, that would put a nickel charge on your bill.  When I wanted to have Bob come out to play, I didn't ring his door bell because kids were not allowed to do that either.  I would stand outside of his house and call out loud, "Yo Bobbie" several times until he opened a window to tell me if he was able to come out. When I got a little older, we got a Rotary Dial Phone like the one pictured below and talking to an operator was eliminated.  

 

 

 

As long as I can remember, we had a phone in our 2nd floor home. We had one phone in the dining room and no extension phones anywhere and the cord was 3 feet long, so you could not leave the room for privacy. My Grandma would come up stairs and call her sisters every now and then on our phone and Uncle Frank didn't have a phone on the 3rd floor either until much later. I remember having a party line that was less expensive than a private line. A party line was not as much fun as it sounded.  You had to share that line with an anonymous person (party).  When they were on the line, you could not make a call, but you could listen in to their conversation if you chose to do so. Usually you would say you were sorry for interrupting their conversation and hang up and then try again a little later.  If you had an emergency, you would plead with them to hang up and give you the line to make a call.  My Neighbor Bob Campbell had several teen aged sisters who ran up quite a phone bill, (Maybe 6 or 7 dollars) so their Dad had "Ma Bell" install a pay phone in his kitchen.  You needed a nickel to make a call at his house.  When I was dating my wife Carole, her parents did not have a phone and I had to call her aunt Angie who lived next door. She would tap on Carole's window with a curtain rod to let her family know that they had a call. They had a bay window in the gangway that reached almost to her house.  ("Gangway" Any one who lived/lives in Chicago knows what this means - it is the sidewalk between two extremely close houses.) When Carole would open her window, her Aunt would hand the phone to her and listen to the conversation.  When Carole graduated in 1958 and got a job, one of her first paychecks went to get a phone for her family.

 

 

 

When Touchtone phones came out in 1963, My Mom stayed with the dial phone, although she did get a pink phone, but stayed with the dial because the Bell System was charging a fee for having a touch tone phone.  My cousin Rich tells me they never graduated to the touch tone system.  You needed a touch tone phone to call someone with a pager.  Pagers were popular before cell phones came out.  Despite their lack of modern features, rotary phones occasionally find special uses. For instance, the anti-drug Fairlawn Coalition of the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C., persuaded the phone company to reinstall rotary-dial pay phones in the 1980s to discourage loitering by drug purchasers, since the dials could not be used to call dealers' pagers.[6] 

 

When we got married, our teenaged daughters had a Princess Touchtone phone in their bedroom. In the late 1990s, we finally got a cordless phone.  Before that we had cords that would let you extend 20-25 feet from the phone carriage. In the early 1980s, the phone company was sued for charging customers for having multiple phones, so I went crazy and ran phone lines to every room including the bathroom and garages. I had so many phones that some of them had a problem getting enough current to ring.

 

My daughter Debbie replied, "I do remember using the kitchen or downstairs hallway phone & stretching the cord like crazy for privacy!  I also remember having my own phone in my downstairs bedroom & Kathie was good at hitting that privacy button so she could listen in & I couldn't hear her.  It's 'because she cared!"  😉
 


 

In the late 1990s, I got a flip phone  that let me talk to people while I was away from the house!  How was that possible?  I got my Mom a cell phone in 2005 and when she fell and broke her hip, she was able to call my brother and me to get help.  I upgraded my Flip Phone and started sending texts and pictures in 2010.  I have dropped it many times and it still works. 

 

 

We went to a Restaurant!

My sister Pat reminded me of the time we were driving back from Terre Haute* and we stopped at a restaurant.  We ordered chicken, and soon we heard chickens squawking. Then about an hour later they brought us the chicken, but it was not cooked through. They were still bloody, but fresh, really fresh.  Mom tells me she took us to the doctor after that trip to get a cure for the infections that all of us got in our mouths from eating there. He gave her a purple liquid called Mercurochrome to paint on our sores. (Mercurochrome,  is a topical antiseptic used for minor cuts and scrapes. It is readily available in most countries but no longer sold in the United States because of its mercury content.) We played with mercury every time a thermometer broke. We also had lead pipes in our house until my dad replaced them with galvanized pipe when I was in high school.  My uncle Frank had lead pipes for all of his 96 years.  When Dad removed the pipes from our house, I took a couple of 14 inch sections and pounded them flat and sewed a pocket on some baseball socks and went jogging.  We had baseball bats with lead in them for practice swings, so I used the logic that if I jogged with lead weights, I would be able to run faster once I got the lead out. There was no weight training, I pushed a broom and built up my arms.  

Herb took the above picture at that Indiana Restaurant. (Left -Right) Mom's earring, Dad's back, Me pouring a drink, Mary and Pat.

Our equivalent of fast food was fried shrimp that Dad used to pick up by the river, after bowling on a Friday night. That was good food!  I wonder what they did to it. They probably used butter.

Our grandma used to take us on a Milwaukee Ave. street car, all the way to the end of the line at Devon.  We would bring sprinkling cans to the cemetery in Niles IL.  After hauling water and pulling weeds from my Uncle John's grave all afternoon, we would head back to the street car, but we would stop at Prince Castle and have a burger and ice cream.  We did that several times a year.

*For Vacation, we drove to Terre Haute Indiana to visit the Sisters of Providence that taught us at St. Mark School.  I remember going to see the Terre Haute Phillies play a night game.  I remember seeing "Pudin Head" Jones, who went on to star for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1947-1960.

** Note from my sister Pat

Mary used to eat her canned spinach and make us look bad.  You and I would be sitting there with the clock ticking away and our eyes tearing up and the cold spinach coagulating on our plates.  Then Mom would cave and say, "OK, you don't have to eat your spinach if you do the dishes." Our faces would light up!  Anything was better than the dreaded canned spinach.  

 
Pat

 

 

Olson Rug Park, former Chicago landmark, now parking lot

September 2, 2011

The northwest corner of Diversey and Pulaski is a parking lot today. But at one time it was the site of a lovely Chicago landmark.

In 1935 the Olson Rug Company was expanding its Diversey Avenue plant. Company president Walter E. Olson used the occasion to build a park for his employees on the grounds. Olson had a summer home in Wisconsin, and he wanted to bring a bit of the north woods to the crowded Avondale neighborhood.

The finished park covered 22 acres. There were rock gardens, climbing paths, a duck pond, a waterfall, shrubs, trees, flowers and an 800-foot-long lawn. Olson himself kept tweaking his creation. During the summer he'd drive through the countryside followed by a truck, collecting rocks.

 

As Olson Rug Park became more elaborate, it was opened to the public, free of charge. A trailer was set up to serve hot dogs, lemonade and other staples. The word spread. By 1955 over 200,000 people a year were visiting the park.

Decor changed with the season. At Christmas there was the obligatory Santa, at Easter the obligatory Easter Bunny. Halloween saw a floodlit Harvest Moon hung over the waterfall, complete with a witch on a broomstick. Some years the great lawn featured a re-creation on McCutcheon's famed cartoon "Injun Summer."

Neighborhood kids considered Olson Rug Park their own private playground, much superior to the city's Kocziusko Park. The waterfall was particularly popular. With no guardrail and that slippery flag-stone walkway, at any moment you might be swept over the rapids to your doom!

Marshall Field & Company bought the Olson Rug plant and turned it into a warehouse in 1965, but kept the park operating until 1978. Then it was bulldozed in favor of more parking space.

HINT TO MACY'S--If you really want to become part of Chicago, why not rebuild Olson Rug Park?

When I was telling my son-in-law Dan about Olson Rug, he sent me this picture of the Olson Rug Truck that mimicked the aerodynamic design of the his Mark Twain Zephyr Train.  

Herb's Home Movies

My brother Herb had an 8mm movie camera that kept us busy and out of trouble.  If you see some of the movies we made, you might say it led to trouble.  There is one scene that shows me jumping off of the 3rd floor porch into a milk carton of water. Actually, I just jumped off of the first floor twice. Herb started filming me from the second floor looking up as I climbed over the 3rd floor railing. After I faked a jump, Herb went to the ground on his back with the camera facing the sky.  He had to hope that I missed landing on his face when I jumped from the 1st floor. When I landed, Herb stopped filming, then went up to the 2nd floor and filmed me jumping off of the 1st floor again. This time I landed on the milk carton and exploded it.  That made it look like He filmed me jumping from the 3rd.

Herb created many other gems. I was filmed with my pants on fire while roasting a hot dog. He had my sister Pat tying to poison my sister Mary.  He had a time lapse movie that showed the Sun setting in seconds and many more.   

Hockey

I didn't play hockey until I was in college and worked at a playground that had many kids playing hockey. 

I did skate at the Humboldt park lagoon once in a while, but Maplewood playground was much closer and they had a field house to warm up in. They had a "Coach", Heinie Schmidt, that made the best ice in the city. He would be out there sprinkling late at night and well into the morning when it was the coldest. We would help when he got cold. Parents brought warm drinks and the ice was the best. We shoveled the shavings at closing time so that he could sprinkle. We were not allowed to play hockey. I did go to the Humboldt Park Lagoon when they had the Silver Skate races. I had hockey skates and the serious racers from Northbrook had long racing skates and sweat suit uniforms. When the starter's gun went off, I sprinted to a big lead until the first curve, then I heard their long strides catching and passing me. I have several Silver Skate participation medals just for losing. When I started College, Coach Schmidt told me that the Chicago Park District took over the playgrounds and were going to hire part time Weekend Recreation Leaders. He told me to go to the Alderman and get a letter of recommendation. Ward Committeeman, Sidney Olson, asked me how many Democratic voters we had in my household, I said 4 and I got the letter and the job at Augusta Playground at Augusta and Kostner. That is where I got into hockey, because when I went to open the gates of the playground at 9:00 A.M, there was a hockey game going on and it was my job to kick them off because hockey was not allowed there. Kenny Wharrem of the Blackhawks rented a bungalow right across the street during hockey season. His 10 year old son, Ken, was out there with other Blackhawk kids. Including Glenn Hall's son. Soon they gave me an official Blackhawk Bill Hay stick and I was playing with them. We played until other skaters started to show up around noon. I would "Forget" to turn the lights off and lock the bathroom on Saturday nights, so they played all evening after the playground closed at 6:00.

When I got married and Ken was born, I started making an ice rink in my long front yard when we lived at 1009 N. Parkside Ave.  Ken started skating when he was 4.  When we moved to Downers Grove, I continued making Ice rinks in our back yard and the boys started playing for the Downers Grove Royals at the Downers Grove Icearena when it opened in 1970.  The Ken was having so much fun so I joined the Duffers in 1971.  We shared an adjustable helmet for several years until I could afford to buy him a good one.  I've been Skating with the Duffers for over 40 years now.  Our grandsons now play with us.  Our sons, Dan and Ken went on to play college hockey/

 

This picture of Jeff, Dan Mike and me was taken after a game on January 3rd, 2014.

This is a picture of 5 year old Dan helping me make ice in 1975.  He looks just like his son Luke.

 

 

 

Dan is now teaching Luke how to play.

This is our Downers Grove Ice Rink in 1986.

Our Grandson Mike is now teaching his children how to play hockey.

I got to skate with them on Thanksgiving 2014.

Christmas Memories

I started thinking about how we celebrated Christmas.  Santa came on Christmas Eve and we stayed up late.  All of the kids took their last drink of water before midnight, so that we could receive Holy  Communion the next day. (When we got older we went to midnight Mass)

I think the grown ups took something stronger than water. I remember my little sister Pat bringing me cold water in her little miniature cups.  The cup was so small that I sent her back for several more until I heard my Mom scream when she saw that Pat was getting the cold water from the only place she could reach.  (The toilet) Herb e-mailed to tell me that that was my sister Mary who was serving me cold water.)  My sister Mary later admitted being the waitress. Mary said, "Yes, I did give you toilet water & still remember it because of all the drama. Barbara's fiancé came once. I remember how impressed I was that he could talk like Donald Duck. I had one of those barrel banks too. Mom gave me $1.00 a week for allowance, my friend Nancy was so jealous. After 50 weeks, Mom used it for my Christmas presents."

Santa usually came to Uncle Frank's 3rd floor firstwhile their kids were down in our flat.  When heard the news,  we ran up to see what they got, Santa would then come to our house on the 2nd floor.  The next day we had the biggest party of the year, because our grandparents lived on the first floor.  We never saw Santa except when we went to Aunt Anna's house a few days before Christmas.  They had an evil Santa that scared the hell out of us, because he would take his belt off and give her teen age boys and their friends a good whipping for being bad.  We were sacred speechless.  We were afraid to ask for anything.

Once we were old enough to find out that Santa needed money to by our gifts, my Mom bought Herb and me beautiful oak barrel banks so that we could save up money and buy our Christmas gifts for the next year.

We would wait for the Sears and Wards Christmas catalogs to come out in early November.  We would then count up our savings and pick out our Christmas gifts then Mom would call in our orders. Mom ordered items from Montgomery Wards and Sears, Rowbuck many times during the year. I remember my Dad getting a pair of shoes that had scuffs on the leather soles. He looked at them and told my Mom to send them back because they looked like a farmer bought them to wear at a wedding, then sent them back. Sears and Wards were very good at accepting returned items and returning your money.  


 

Here is where I need some help, I started counting how many people came over.  Aunt Irene and Uncle Joe brought 4 then 5, Uncle George did the same.  That is 14 added to our 6 and uncle Frank's 5 plus our grandparents. 

Can you remember any others that were there?  It was quite a scene with kids running up and down stairs playing with all of the new toys.  I remember my Dad would spend most of his Christmas bonus buying gifts for our cousins some years. 

My cousin Debbie (Uncle George's daughter) e-mailed me to remind me that My Dad's Sister Aunt Bella and her husband John always joined us for Christmas. That would put the count at 29. She also told me she got in trouble for feeding our dog some M&Ms. 

I remember my Dad and Uncle John had a fist fight one time to settle a disagreement. I guess it was like a hockey fight, because no one got hurt.  I didn't see it, but I heard whispers about it.

I had my first taste of Blackberry Brandy when I was an 8th grader singing Christmas Carols. I was an Altar Boy and we made a stop at Alderman Tom Keane's house.  It was a cold night, so he gave each one of us a shot of Blackberry Brandy to warm us up.  He later did a little time in the "Big House" for dipping in the City till. Tom Keene's wife, Adeline, took over his City Council seat and tried to woo the Latino Vote by announcing her support for teaching Latin in schools.

Herb sent me the following:

You got the number of kids that came for Christmas right.  The kids usually drifted away from Grandma and Grandpa's and came upstairs to play with our winnings.

 
That toilet water thing was Mary's invention.  Pat is innocent on this one.

I can remember drinking water before midnight.  We'd normally have a glass but our cousin Frank would drink multiple glasses of water while holding his breath.  I can remember Uncle Frank shouting, "Bunny, you're going to burst!!"

 

I remember being up there when Aunt Bella was visiting, I was about 5 years old.  Frank had this little table and chairs and decided we were going to have our own party, so he got two juice glasses and a pint bottle of cod liver oil.  He poured one for himself and one for me.  He drank his and wondered why I hadn't imbibed.  I told him I didn't want it, so he drank mine too.  He must have had some diaper the next day.  One to boast about.

 

He had strange tastes.  In kindergarten a bunch of us were bad and the nun pulled out about 6 bars of soap and told us all to eat it.  We all sat and licked it and made faces and after about 10 minutes she said we didn't need to finish, She held out a bag for everyone to deposit his soap.  When she got to Bunny he didn't have the soap.  She asked what he did with it and he very obediently said, "I ate it."          (Herb went to Kindergarten at St. Aloysius, a German School)

 
Don't forget the handkerchief with 'mustard' on it story.  (You will have to e-mail me for that story)

My sister Pat sent me the following:

I gave you toilet water? I thought I did that to Dad.  See what you guys get for asking a little kid to do impossible jobs?  How was I going to reach an actual faucet?
 

How about the time you and Herb tried out my new little oven and burnt the corn bread.  It always smelled like that whenever I turned it on.  You did this before Christmas Eve.  I think trying it out was unnecessary.  Admit it.  You guys just wanted to play with it.

 

You got the numbers right.  Who else would be there?  I think we had enough with Uncle George and Aunt Irene's kids.  Our flat was the most popular because we had the most toys.  Some of our cousins got shoes for Christmas.

 
Pat

I remember going downtown to Marshal Fields, I don't remember buying anything because I had the feeling it was for rich people, but it was a great time just walking around and riding the escalators to all of the many levels.  They also had enervators with real people taking you to the floor of your choice.  Here is a link to a terrific Youtube video about the Marshal Field Store.

My son Dan sent this picture in 2010

Luke was freaked out by this Santa when he was a 2 year old, but a year later he got over his fear of Santa. When his Mom told him that he better be good or Santa would not bring him any toys. He told her, "I'm gona punch Santa in the face and take all of his toys!"

WWWB  (When We Were Bad) 

This cartoon reminds me of the time my big brother passed one of his ideas on to me.  When Mom used to try to smack us, sometimes she would hurt her hand when we blocked her swing with our forearms.  So when we had a spanking coming, she would use one of Dad's belts that were hanging in the closet.  One day just after a spanking, while my but was still smarting, Herb told me, "You know, if We hid Dad's belts, Mom wouldn't be able to spank us."  I said, "That is a great idea!" So in the next few days, I proceeded to hide the belts under the mattress.  I even hid his money belt, the one that had a zipper pocket.  That plan worked well for a while until Mom changed the sheets and all of the belts fell out.  Herb was just like the big brother in the cartoon.  He said, "Greg did it!" (he didn't admit that he made the suggestion, but Mom knew Herb was the master mind.) We got a couple of spankings to catch up.  My Mom was the enforcer in our house, her biggest threat was, "wait till your father gets home, I'm going to tell him."  We hated that worse than the belt.  He never hit us, he just talked and talked until we were ashamed and promised never to do it again.  The biggest punishment was when She made me sleep with Dad and he talked and talked and when I was dozing off, he would wake me and say, "Are you listening to me?"

This is what Dad's Money Belt looked like


We did not know that Dad used to call Mom from work and get a report on our behavior.  We were always puzzled when he came home and started asking us about our antics.  We would ask, "How did you know about that?" He would say, "A little Birdie told me." the next day, my brother went out in the yard and started swinging a broom at all of the little birdies.

Children were not allowed to ring door bells

When I wanted to call my friend to see if he wanted to go play ball, I was not allowed to call him on the phone, I had to go to his house and Yell "Yo Bobby" 3 or 4 times until he came to the window. Windows were open on nice days since there were no air conditioners. On cold days when windows were closed, we had to yell a lot louder. His house had a door bell, but it was placed high enough to discourage little kids from pressing the button. 

There were adults who didn't ring door bells too. Frequently you would here a car horn sounding to get the attention of a resident who was in need of a ride.  Not everybody had a car, so carpooling was a common way to get to work. You learned to sleep through a beep at 6:00 in the morning.  You would also hear beeps in the evening when a guy was picking up his date.  If he had to beep 3 or more times, my Dad would yell out the window, "Go ring the door bell you lazy bum!"

When I was younger, my Mom would take one of my Dad's Birtman Electric uniforms and reduce it to fit me.  My neighbor Bob Campbell (pictured below) got a generic uniform from his parents, but he wanted a Birtman uniform.  His parents offered to pay my Mom to make him one.  She did, but never took any money.  Mom could get evil when you tried to pay her, and she even got uglier when you tried to refuse money from her.

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My Dad worked here.  Birtman Electric still has the name on the building, even though they have been gone for years.  They made Vacuum cleaners, mixers and blenders for Sears.  They also made airplane parts during World War II.

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That is my Dad on the far left, he was a supervisor at the Fullerton Ave. Plant during the War years when they shifted from making vacuum cleaners to  airplane parts.  When I was 16, Dad got me job at the Spaulding Ave. plant where we made Kenmore mixers and blenders.  10 weeks in a factory was the best education I ever received, because I went from a C student, who spent all of my spare time at Humboldt Park or Maplewood Playground playing any sport that was in season, to a B student that started reading required books and doing my assignments.  (My improvement was helped a great deal when I started going out with Joyce, she studied every night, so I started going to her house with my my books)  I couldn't see myself working in a factory for 52 weeks, so when I graduated high school, I started thinking of a way I could play ball for 4 more years.  The Chicago Teachers College had a basketball team and a baseball team, so I applied and took the test.  The Guidance Counselor looked at my test results and suggested that I look for a job, because she gave me a 100 to 1 chance of graduating college with my English skills.  My Math scores were good, but English would do me in.  I thought about getting a job, but I had flash backs to my summer at Birtman Electric and said, "I'll take those odds, sign me up."  I had one thing going for me, I was dating Carole, the women I married 3 years later, and She was an English wizard. Remember, there was no spell check in those days, and I was always the first guy out in the spelling bee.  I misspelled the word even if I knew it, so I could go to my seat with the other goof balls and make funny sounds with my arm pit.  When I was in College, I tried hard to get passing grades, so that I could play on the Basketball and Baseball teams.  Carole was my savior, because I could hand her a sheet of scribbled misspelled notes and she would type a beautiful double spaced masterpiece.  

My English education got off to a bad start in my first week of High School.  I came back from the playground on a nice fall evening and remembered that I had a composition due for Brother John in the morning.  My brother, who was a senior, asked me what I had to write about.  When I told him my composition title was, "My First Impression of  Holy Trinity", He said, "Give me a pen."  He wrote the funniest story I ever heard, so I went with it.  I copied it over of course in my own handwriting, because those Brothers of Holy Cross were sharp and always on the look out for cheats.  I turned it in and forgot all about it until the following day when Brother John Kuhn stepped to the front of the class, with my paper in his hand and a disgusted look on his face and said, "This gentlemen, is an example of what not to do.  It is written with a leaky speedball pen with barely litigable handwriting." (My penmanship was extra messy to cover my poor spelling) Brother John went on to read my paper, while everybody in the class, except for me and Brother John, was laughing hysterically at every sentence that my witty brother composed.  Herb started the composition with, "When I went to my locker on the first day, I had to remove a moldy old jock strap with a pencil that I later washed." (We didn't throw anything away that was still usable) The composition went on to make fun of the teachers and principal.  He talked about the disgusting food in the lunch room.  I was finished in the first week of school, everything I did was unsatisfactory, so I flunked my first year of English and had to get up every morning at 5:30, catch a bus, then transfer to another bus, so that I could be in English Summer School at St Mel High School for a 7:00 AM class.  40 years later, I went to a golf outing and a guy that was called cream puff when he was a little underdeveloped, freshman.  Spotted me in the parking lot, He came in from Colorado and I hadn't seen him since graduation in 1958.  He was yelling, "Moldy old Jock strap"  My brother's literary gem made a life time impression on him.  In High school, average sized guys picked on him, because they could.  I was one of the bigger freshmen, so I felt sorry for him and I was able to get those guy to leave him alone.  That turned out to be a good thing in more than one way, because I stopped growing and Cream Puff graduated at 6 feet 3 inches and He was always nice to me, but he paid back some lumps to the guys that picked on him in his freshman year. 

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This is my Brother Herb, when he worked at the U.S. Postal Service in the 1960s, He also did some time with "Dark Green" Marshal Fields, before getting his degree. 

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This is the way we got around town. El trains (elevated trains) like this shook our house every 20 minutes, because the Humboldt Park line was only a few houses away.  It was noisy, but we got used to it.  Sort of like that apartment in the movie The Blues Brothers, but not as bad.  We could get to the "Loop" or Wrigley Field in 25 minutes.

 



My parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. In their later years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good only at Sears Roebuck, or maybe it was Sears AND Roebuck. Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died. Dad never golfed until Birdman Electric had a golf outing, (My Dad bought a used set of golf clubs for $5.00  I still use those clubs once a year when Holy Trinity has a golf outing) Here is a picture of the McGregor 5 iron, Mashie, with 2 German symbols hammered into the club.

Here is my Dad's baseball swing with that club.

 

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My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was mostly because we never heard of soccer. Mom wouldn't let us have a bicycle, because it was too dangerous. My next door neighbor let me ride a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow).


Television

We didn't have a television in our house until I was 7.  It was, of course, black and white, but we bought a piece of colored plastic to cover the screen. The top third was blue, like the sky, and the bottom third was green, like grass. The middle third was red. It was perfect for programs that had scenes of fire trucks riding across someone's lawn on a sunny day. We also bought an enlarger (Big magnifying glass that made the 7 inch picture look like a 9 inch TV. The problem with that was everybody had to sit squarely in front of the TV.  When Grandma and Grandpa came up to see Bishop Sheen, Wrestling and Milton Berle, we had 4 rows of chairs (2 chairs in each row)

The 7 inch Motorola pictured below was our first TV, I remember Dad saying he paid $200 for this beauty. In the Fall of 1951, The Baseball playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants was televised from the Polo Groungs.  I never dreamed that a game in New York could be seen on my TV in Chicago, so I was listening to it on the radio. When Bobby Thompson hit the shot that was heard round the world, my Dad called home to ask me if I saw the historic blast.  I was puzzled by his question and answered, "I heard it on the radio, how could that picture get to our TV?" Many years later, when I heard the Lionel Cartwright sing, "I saw it all on the radio" , I thought about that moment.  I have since seen replays of that homerun many times and that is pretty much the way I "saw" it on the radio.

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My brother Herb sent his memory of the year we got a TV.

It was1947. Dad bought it at the Fair Store downtown/ It was $200 plus something like $20 for the antenna. They installed it so I don't know if that was extra or not. $200 then was big money. New cars were around $1500 and wages were around a dollar an hour. I think Dad was getting around $300 a month.

A 7 inch Motorola.

Ever wonder where those names come from? In this case, a small company was formed to produce car radios. At the time, the "ola" stuck on the end of a brand name was really cool. There was Victrola and Radiola, so a radio on a motor car should be called Motorola.

                       

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This TV was still in my Uncle Frank's parlor when he died. (That is what we called the living room.  Sometimes we called it the frontroom)   This is a Stromberg Carlson TV, it quit working in the 60s, but Uncle Frank thought it was too pretty to trash. (Or maybe it was too heavy to carry down from the 3rd floor) After Uncle Frank passed away, the person who rented his apartment told me I could leave it there. 

 

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This was our new 12.5 inch Sonora TV in 1954 it replaced our 7 inch Motorola.

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We got a Zenith a few years later it was an inch or 2 bigger and we got rid of that indoor antenna when Dad put the antenna on the roof. My sisters Mary (Left) and Pat is in the chair.  Dad is on the couch and my legs are showing on the right.  This picture was featured in Reminisce Magazine in 2008.

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Reminisce Magazine sent me this 57 Chevy for the article.

Sometimes this test pattern was the only thing on TV.

We watched Kukla, (Russian word for puppet) Fran and Ollie (Oliver J. Dragon) , every day.  My Mom made us Kukla and Ollie puppets so that we could be Burr Tillstrom the puppeteer and the creator of Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Other puppets on the show were  Beulah Witch, and Fletcher Rabbit.

My brother Herb added these details to our TV history. 

Dad bought the 7" Motorola in 1947 from the Fair store downtown.  WGN-TV started in 1948 which gave us 2 channels.  Originally all we had was WBKB on Ch 4 which later moved to Ch 7 then was taken over by WENR-TV which also was ABC.  Our second TV was a 12.5" Sonora.  Dad bought it because it was made by RCA  That's what Uncle Al told him.

When we got the Motorola the store set up an antenna on the roof.  I made an antenna to get WGN-TV then Dad and Uncle Al went on the roof to attach another antenna to the mast that was there.

There was a Channel 1 on the Motorola dial but there was a lot of interference on it so they just dropped Ch1 on later TVs.  I remember Zenith using Channel 2 to experiment with a scrambled signal for Pay per View.  That lasted about a year.

The B/W photo below was taken by my brother Herb.  He turned a closet into a photographic dark room and started developing pictures there until my Mom found developer fluid on my Dad's dress shirts.  Herb was not deterred, by the eviction from the closet, He just turned our whole bedroom into a Darkroom.  I went to sleep on the top bunk many nights with a red light glowing.  Herb's photography hobby came in handy when we wanted to hide our fire crackers from Mom.  We hid them in empty Kodak photo paper boxes.  My mom once opened a box of photo paper and she ruined the light sensitive paper and it cost her $3 or $4, so from that day on, our stash was safe from Mom.  We started hiding fire crackers after Mom flushed all fire works down the toilet.  Mom did that after my 4 year old sister Pat was hit by a roman candle that backfired into her face at Uncle Joe Wijas' 4th of July party. 

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That is me in Herb's Dark room, taking a break on my Brothers bed, I had the top one at night. The only time I went to sleep in Herb's bed was on December 31st, 1956.  My Brother was out on a date with the brand new 1956 Buick Century.  I was 2 blocks away at Chuck and Dolly Wolf's House, So I had special permission to be out to midnight to celebrate the New Year.  Herb was given an hour or so more since he had the car. (Yes, we only had one car) At 12:30 A.M., I tipped toed up the side of the stairs, where they did not squeak, so that I would not wake my Grandma, who slept in the bedroom on the first floor, beneath the stairs.  When I got in our house, I quickly got into Herb's bed, knowing Mom would be checking to see who came in.  I few minutes later, Mom peaked in, I was facing the wall in Herb's bed, she assumed Herb was home and the car was safely in the garage.  I heard her go back to bed and tell my Dad, "You can go to sleep now, the car is home."  Herb came in undetected much later and climbed into my bed. Mom was a little confused in the morning when I got up and Herb was still in my bed.

The following summer, I finally got to take the 56 Buick out on a date.  The car was so big, I asked 2 of my friends to make it a triple date!  We had my date and me in the front and 2 couples in the back.  We went dancing at the Melody Mill, where Resurrection Annie was seen many times.  She was a ghost that would dance the night away with some poor sap, then jump out of his car on the way home and disappear into Resurrection Cemetery.  We went to a Drive In restaurant after the dance and we had the Radio playing some WLS Top 40 hits with the head lights on and the engine off, to save gas and protect the environment from that giant V-8.  We ate and sang until it was time to get home and avoid my Mom's wrath. You guessed it, I ran the battery down and the car would not start.  It had a Dino Flow automatic transmission, so we would have had to push it (in our suits and ties) to about 30 MPH, that was not an option, so I made the dreaded call to my home. (one thin dime in the pay phone) Mom picked it up on the first ring, She would have answered sooner, but her hands were wrapped in the Rosary Beads.  She was probably expecting a call from the police with some tragic news, so when she heard my voice, she was relieved and reassured that the Rosary still works, but she was still mad at Dad for letting me take the car out of the garage that night, so She let him have it, She yelled to wake up my Dad, "Go get your car!" My dad figured that I must have wrapped it around a pole, so he was relieved when I told him it was only a dead battery.  He got the keys to Uncle Frank's Nash Rambler (That is the one that was banned from Dive in Movies, because the seats folded down to make a bed) When My Dad arrived at the Drive in Restaurant with jumper cables, He was not in the bad mood that I expected, He was joking around with my friends, telling the girls how nice they looked and giving me a lecture about car battery care.  I knew that day, what I always suspected that he was a saint!

This Family Circus cartoon reminds me of the time I was on the roof of out 2 flat in Chicago around 1965. Our 3 year old son Ken was playing in the yard and I had a ladder in the alley. I heard Carole screaming to me, so I came over to the ladder and to my shock and awe, Ken was at the top of the ladder, 2 stories above the alley. I grabbed him and pulled him onto the roof and wondered what I would do next. A neighbor climbed up and put ken on his shoulder and carried him down to the safety of Carole's arms. Ken got out of the yard by crawling under the gate and then climbed up to be with his Dad. I don't know how he got up that high without falling, because he had mittens on and his little hands could not even reach half way around the rungs of that old wooden ladder. Boys can sure find trouble.

Some of my memories as a teacher

I sent the following letter to Rick Talendar when he wrote an article about the movie Caddyshack:

Dear Rick,

When I was a young teacher at 47th and State in the 1960s.  They were drafting everybody except Dads and teachers. We just had our first child then, so I didn't need to be teaching for a draft deferment, but I spent 4 years at Chicago Teachers College learning how to teach, so I stayed another 39 years.  We had a few men working there before the war broke out, but after the war started, we had Lawyers and other professional men suddenly wanting to become teachers and since there was a huge Teacher shortage at that time, we gained 7 men on our faculty.  One of them was Harold Ramis.  He had lunch with some of us male teachers every day.  We were soon called the filthy 5 by some of our female friends, who loved to sit near us and laugh at our stories.  Many of the stories shared at that table showed up in Harold's movies.  Especially Stripes and Animal House. 

When you mentioned "varmint poontang", I had a flash back to when my 10 year old son was using that term when we had a house full of grand parents and relatives.  I grabbed him and said, "Do you know what poontang is?" He said, "no I just heard it in Caddyshack" I said, "Don't ever use that word again."  At the time that Harold Ramis was teaching at Beethoven school, the kids there were using poontang as a synonym for a female body part. 

Harold stayed with us for a while and he lucked out when our librarian took and extended sick leave and he became our librarian.  I used to get him a Bell and Howell 16mm projector and some movies whenever I could.  Our principal was not too happy with Harold, because He had long hair and played war protest songs on his guitar and had the kids singing along.  At that time, the principals were just happy to have a person in the room that could keep the kids from tearing up the place, so Harold got a satisfactory rating. 

 

In the late 70s, I worked at a Chicago Public Schools camp for inner city kids.  I was sitting near the dinning hall waiting for the high school counselors to bring their campers to dinner.  There were a lot of ground squirrels that the kids liked to chase.  On this occasion, there were a dozen 11 year old boys in hot pursuit of one of the little rodents.  They had him surrounded and as they closed in on him he disappeared into a hole.  One of the boys was so angry, that he got on his knees and yelled into the hole, "Yo Mama!" I called the boy over and had a little heart to heart talk with him.  I always preached the "Golden Rule" so I told him, That little squirrel is probably down there crying his eyes out and telling his friend, "That boy was talking about my Mama." the boy told me he was sorry as I stifled a laugh.  

 

 

Radios

My Dad won this Zenith TransOceanic radio at the St. Mark Carnival.  It was introduced in 1951, establishing a basic dial design that would last 11 years, until Zenith quit making tube-powered TransOceanics in 1962.  It had a plastic Wavemagnet with suction cups that you could stick onto a window and pick up Short Wave signals from around the world.  This "portable radio" with its 5 pound battery weighed over 10 pounds.  Before my Dad bought our first TV, I "watched" all of the Cub games  on the radio. In 1959, I "Watched" Harvey Haddix pitch 12 perfect innings on this radio in a game against the Milwaukee Braves; the Pirates lost the game in the 13th. I picked up the signal from Milwaukee. Read more... There is a great song  by Lionel B. Cartwright - I Watched It All (On My Radio) - You can listen to it on YouTube.   

Recently, Andy Pafko passed away and my brother sent me a you tube link to Bobby Thompson's pennant winning home run.  Andy was playing left field that day and watched that ball fly out of the Polo Grounds.   I "watched" that famous home run on my radio. Dad just bought our family a TV in that year and that game was televised, but I never thought that a game could come to our TV all the way from New York, so I never put on the TV and I listened to it on the radio. My Dad called from work and asked if I saw the home run and I said that I listened to it, but never dreaming that it could be on TV.

Andy Pafko lived in the Cragin area after he retired and my Dad ran into him a few times when he was making Special Deliveries for the Post Office.

Saturday Morning Cartoons were on the  radio so that you could read along with the announcer if you were lucky enough to have the Sunday Paper.  

Wally Phillips came to Chicago when I was in high school and he had a big influence on me and many Chicagoans.  When Wally passed away on March 28, 2008, I recorded  some of the memories that I had of him below.

My memories of Wally Phillips

Wally Phillips and Bob Bell were recruited by Ward L. Quaal to bring "Quality, Integrity and Responsibility to the WGN audience."  WGN TV could use the services of Ward Quaal again to get rid some of their scum bag shows like the Maury Povich  Show and Pusycat Dolls. 

I was in high school when Wally Phillips first came to town.  I first heard him on WGN when he had a late night (9:00 PM was late back then) radio show.  He was very funny and his show was a favorite with teenagers.  I got to meet him several times when he was the Host of Bandstand Matinee on WGN TV.  This show was a Chicago Version of Philadelphia's American Bandstand.  I was a member of the St. Mark Church teen club and our adult sponsor, Hank Janicki, got us a spot on the show one afternoon. We all showed up in our finest clothes.  Suits and ties for the boys and Easter parade type outfits for the girls.  We rode a charter bus to the WGN TV studio, where we danced and had a great time.  The powers at WGN were impressed with our group, since we fit in with their push toward bringing "Quality, Integrity and Responsibility to the WGN audience."  We even had boys that danced with the girls, thanks to our Friday night meetings, where we drank 6 ounce nickel Cokes and danced to the latest hit records. Hank used to drag reluctant boys out onto the dance floors to get them started. Our club, "The Lionites" must have been put on the WGN "A" list, because we were called several times when they needed a last minute group for the show. 

            I got to do a live commercial with Wally one time. 

He had me sit in front of a big bowl of chocolate ice cream with a spoon.  I was told to sit there and look hungry until he read the commercial.  Then I could take a spoonful and act delighted.  I didn't have to act, I was a teenager who loved ice cream, so I started to dive into the Ice cream before Wally was through with his message, so he grabbed my arm and prevented the ice cream from reaching my lips.  He gave me a friendly humorous reprimand, and continued on with his message.  The temptation was way too much for me, so I tried again and Wally was right on top of my attempt and delivered another humorous rant.  The kids were laughing hilariously, as was the cameraman.  I tried one more time, producing more laughter.  Wally finally finished his paid message and he let go of my arm and I devoured that ice cream like the hungry teenager that I was.  During the next song, I was still eating the ice cream when Wally came over and told me what a great job that I did.  He mentioned something about putting me in his future commercials, because it was much better than the lame banter that some ad man wrote up for him to read.  

A St. Mark Grad sent me the following memory after reading the above.

I have a memory of being on his show and I danced with someone and received 2nd prize.  I am trying to think of his name but it's not coming to me. (MANY things don't come to me these days)  I too,  was speaking in a commercial. When Wally gave me a signal I was supposed to say  "BUY IT AT WALGREENS"  but what came out was BLY ( rhymes with buy) IT AT WALGREENS.  That was the end of my commercial career.

 Joyce Pecka

            Wally Phillips helped me help my students

I started teaching at 47th and State in 1962 and many of my students from the Robert Taylor Homes, had a hard time finding clothes that were suitable for the Chicago winters.  I called Wally up one time to share a funny story with him.  (It was the dog ate my homework story)  I was a rookie teacher, so I had never heard it and Wally loved it.  We started talking about the physical needs of my students and one of his listeners set up a "Drop Off Box" at a Jewel store in one of the northern suburbs and a week later, I had enough warm clothing for all of my students and many more.  Coach John McClendon, who was working with Converse at that time, gave me hundreds of Converse Gym shoes shortly after that. 

       Wally Phillips got Ernie Banks off of the Bench

When Leo Durocher  took over the Cubs in 1966, Leo was not happy with Ernie Banks' friendly demeanor.  He tried to make him mean, by benching him for a while.  I loved Ernie, so I called Wally on a Saturday morning and vented my feelings about Leo's actions.  Wally got a flood of calls that lasted until he cut it off at 11:00, saying, "We got the message, Ernie Banks should not be on the bench."  Ernie was back in the starting line up on Sunday afternoon!


Cars

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My Dad had a car that he used to drive the Nuns around town. He traded this one in for a brand new 1952 Chevy with a Power Glide automatic transmission that quit going in reverse in a year, so Dad traded it in for a new 1953 Pontiac with a stick shift. I took my test for my driver's license in that car in 1956, because my Dad wanted me to get a license with no restrictions. Back then when you took your Driving test with an automatic transmission, you got a restricted drivers License. I did knock some chrome off of the Pontiac when I was taking a lesson with my brother. My saintly Dad was good about it and Herb talked the guy, who's car I scraped, out of pressing charges. As soon as I got my license, Dad bought a 1956 Buick Century that I couldn't drive for a long time.  I bought a 1950 Desoto from my brother for $100 when I was a senior in college. My Brother got that car from my Father in law a year earlier for $100.

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Our 1952 Chevrolet with a  Power Glide Automatic Transmission and fender skirts.

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This is My Dad's 1956 Buick, Century.  It was big, heavy (4001 pounds) and Fast, (Zero-to-sixty took less than ten seconds, with the quarter-mile times of around 17 seconds and a top speed exceeding 110 mph.) even with the "Dyna Flow" Automatic Transmission! 

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My 2004 Toyota Prius weighs 1111 pounds less.

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This was my first car, a 1950 Desoto that I bought from my Brother for $100.  It was his first car too, He bought it from my Father in Law. 

 

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This is my 1976 red Cutlass with a white vinyl top. It had a 6 cylinder L engine with a stick shift.  It cost around $5,000.00 (No Air Conditioning) It had a CB (Citizen's Band) radio that let me keep track of the convoy of school busses that carried students from the West Side Chicago Schools to Camp Ravenswood in Lake Villa Illinois.  The building behind my car was the Camp Office, where I slept when Camp was in session.  (usually 30 weeks of the 40 week school year.    I was the camp Naturalists in 1975 until I was promoted to the Camp Coordinator from 1976-1980 when the program ended.)  We traded in our Yellow 1965 Mustang for this car.  *Correction: My son Dan sent me the following e-mail when he read this: 

Dear Dad,

In your car section you state that you traded in your 65 Mustang for the Red 76 Old's.  Are you sure you traded in the 65 Mustang for your 76 Olds?  I don't think I was around when you had the Mustang and I remember you had a F-85 Gold Oldsmobile that I cried when it got towed away from our house.  That was the car that you had to hold the button in while closing the door for it to lock, and I remember trying to do that at Doerhoffer Park and slamming four of my fingers in the door.  I was about four years old then.  When I was born you probably had to get rid of the Mustang for your Gold Olds for more room.  Darn kids always costing you money.


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In the year 2000, I bought this 2001 Toyota Prius pictured above in front of my Mom's house in Chicago. (Our grandchildren Jeff and Michelle are on the porch sweeping up some leaves) I sold that car to my son Ken in 2004 when I bought a 2004 Prius.  Ken has 250,000 miles on it in 2012 and it is still going.  That car was one of the first Prius cars in this country. The VIN number shows that it was number 32.

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My Grandfather had a Ford. He called it a "Machine."

That was before my time, this is my Uncle George getting a ride on the running board with My Grandpa at the wheel.

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Grandpa Z on his porch

Grandpa's Basement  Treasures

When you walk into the basement, the first thing that you see is my Grandmother's stove (above) and Grandpa's counter from his store.(below)

This old laundry tub finally sprung a leak when it was 90 years old.

The coal shed still has some coal that grandpa used to shovel into the furnace that heated the water that traveled to the radiators on the first floor. My Dad put in a hopper with a stoker with a worm drive that carried the coal to the furnace. When Grandpa got a gas permit, my Dad installed a gas furnace that is still in use today.  The system uses gravity to pull the cool water from the radiators to the furnace.  It has no pumps or fans!

This is my Brother Herb pedaling my grandfather's tool sharpening wheel. Grandpa made this!

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This is Grandpa Z'z hand made wooden shovel.  I laughed at it at first, then I tried it and it was so light weight, that I started using it to scoop up yard waste. 

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This is my son Ken's Car, it can do a quarter mile in less than 11 seconds!

 

"FENDER SKIRTS"

A term I haven't heard in a long time and thinking about "fender skirts" started me thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language with hardly a notice like "curb feelers"

And "steering knobs." (AKA) suicide knob

Since I'd been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first.

Any kids will probably have to find some elderly person over 50 to explain some of these terms to them.

Remember "Continental kits?"

They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as a Lincoln Continental.

When did we quit calling them "emergency brakes?"

At some point "parking brake" became the proper term. But I miss the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake."

Didn't you ever wait at the street for your daddy to come home, so you could ride the "running board" up to the house?

 


I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was in the dining room and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.  My wife didn't have a phone until she was 19.  When I wanted to call her, I had to call her aunt Angie next door and she would tap on the window with a curtain rod and pass the phone over.

Pizzas were not delivered to homes, But milk was. We went to the dairy for fresh milk in a gallon glass jug.  When I was about 10, I remember hauling one of those jugs 4 blocks and then up 2 flights of the back porch stairs.  When I got to the top stair, I banged it and a gallon of milk started a white "Water Fall" that formed a puddle on the landing.  Mom gave me some more money and sent me back to get another gallon, as soon as I mopped up the mess. 

 

That story reminds me of another stair climbing night mare that took place about midnight as we were quietly returning from Aunt Anna's house. Her kids were older than us, so they always gave us neat toys that they had outgrown. This night I had a huge steel cookie tin that was filled with hundreds of beautiful glass marbles (Called Knicks by my Dad) we were tip toeing up the front stairs that went right over my Grandmother's bedroom. I got to the top stair where the railing ends and the stairs take a left turn.  I shifted my load and dropped the tin. That started a flow of marbles that made a loud noise on each stair as each one slowly made it's way to the bottom. The noise lasted about 60 seconds and finally ended when the last marble hit the bottom. We did wake up grandma, but she was such a saint, she never complained about it.

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In June of 2010, the young lady who rented my Mom's apartment, dug up part of the yard for a garden and she found these 2 marbles.  Katie put them in an envelope with the July rent. 

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In July of 2012, Katie dug up another treasure from the past.  She found this 1937 penny.  That was the year that my brother Herb was born, so I sent it to his grandson Chris who collects coins.  I sent him the following letter of explaination:

Dear Chris,

The lady who rents the 2nd floor on Rockwell Street was digging in the yard where your Grandpa and I used to play.  She found a penny that is as old as your grandpa. It is pretty beat up, because back in those days, boys played a game of skill and chance called “Penny Pitching”.  It was a game that you could make some money if you were a good pitcher.  2-6 Guys used to stand on a concrete side walk and pitch a penny at the line that separated the  2 concrete slabs.  The guy that pitched the penny closest to the line would get to keep all of the pennies that he beat out.  The copper pennies got pretty beat up as you can see.  

Uncle Greg

All newspapers were delivered by boys and most boys delivered newspapers. I never delivered newspapers, That job stunk!  You had to get up at 4 AM six days a week. On Saturday, You had to collect the 42 cents from the customers. Some customers gave you 50 cents and told you to keep the change. Some customers were never home on collection day.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. Touching someone else's tongue with yours was called French kissing and they didn't do that in movies. I don't know what they did in French movies. French movies were dirty and we weren't allowed to see them. The Catholic Church had a news paper called "The New World" they rated the movies.  I remember the Movie called "The Moon is Blue" got the "Condemned" rating.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?

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Here is our St. Mark Church that was in the basement of our K-8 School. 

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Boys on one side, girls on the other side.

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Thanks to my Brother Herb, he had special permission to take pictures in church.

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Pastor Father Dunne at Sunday Mass.  The priests gave sermons back then, not homilies.

 

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Father Faucher taught me how to play basketball.  He coached our 8th grade team to a championship.

For more St. Mark pictures go to: St. Mark 

I love Family Circus cartoons because they bring back so many fond memories. This gave me a flash back to 1953 when my 8th grade teacher, a sister of Providence, talked me into going Christmas caroling to raise some money for St Mark Church and school. The one house I remember singing at was the beautiful home of Chicago Alderman Thomas E. Keane, who was once considered the second-most powerful politician in the city, exceeded only by his close personal ally Mayor Richard J. Daley. (My teacher knew where the money was) After we sang a few Christmas songs out in the cold, he invited us in to warm up. He gave the nun a generous donation after he gave each of us a shot of Blackberry brandy. Each sip was warm going down. You could go to jail now days for serving minors brandy. (20 years later, Keane did go to jail on a federal conviction on mail-fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from some questionable real estate deals.)

I went to Holy Trinity High School from 1954-58 at 1444 West Division Street in Chicago, about a mile and a half from my house.  My brother and I usually walked to and from each day.  My uncles went there in the 1920s.  I also had 7 cousins  and my wife's brother Ted attend there in the 1950s. I posted some of my Year book pictures on my web site.  

Click here to read more Holy Trinity Stories

 

 

Grade School Fights

Someone asked me if I got into a lot of fights, I was one of the bigger guys in my class, so I seldom had someone challenge me. When they did, I just laughed and walked away. I don't like to fight, although I may have a fighting gene in me somewhere, because my Dad had some brawls when he was a street kid.  I did have a few tussles while growing up.  I remember popping a relative at a Communion party when I was about 7, I don't remember any of the details except I was forced to apologize and I had to act like I was sorry.  One thing we learned to do in Catholic School was apologize and look sincere.

In 4th grade, Jim Schmidt and I got into a "Fight"  over something that I can't remember.  We wrestled each other to the ground, (no punches were thrown) then he noticed his school pants had a tear on the knee, so he started to cry and so did I.  I sat next to him and put my arm around him as we both cried.  (7 years later we were tough football team mates at Holy Trinity and we tried never to cry)  

See Jim's nickel memory of me below.

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It was a fight at recess I don't know what he did to provoke me, but I don't remember throwing any punches, but I did feel I won the tussle.  I was worried that Sister St Helen would come down hard on us for fighting, but she told me later that She was glad that I taught him a lesson, because he needed it.

The following summer, I was working at the St Mark Carnival in a booth with Mr. Janaki when Joe K., a bully from the class of 1953, was giving me a hard time. I was afraid of him, but he reached into the booth and grabbed  my white shirt and ripped a few buttons off, so I lost it!  I jumped out of the booth, grabbed him and dropped him with one punch, Mr. Janaki loved it and called me Joe Louis from that day on.  Joe is on that Lionites Softball picture on my St. Mark webpage  He never gave me a hard time after that punch. When I told Ray this story, he laughed and said Joe was never a bully with his class.

 

We don't fight when we play hockey, we just laugh.  Once in a while some of the younger guys get heated, but we remind them why we are here and why we let them play with us. 

 

Jim Schmidt told me the following story at our 50th reunion:

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Jim and I were good friends since grade school, so He needed a loan one day when he brought a date to my neighborhood theater.  The Queen Theater was only a half a block from my house and the admission was 14 cents on week days.  The Crystal Theater was  just 2 blocks west of the Queen but it was very fancy and they charged 25 cents.  You wouldn't impress a date by taking her the the Queen, so Jim took his date to the upscale theater, only to find he was a nickel short when he got there.  He walked over to my house and asked me if he could borrow a nickel.  He tells me I gave him a quarter.  I don't remember that, but Jim swears it is a true story and he never forgot that.

 

 


 

We listened to music that was on 78 RPM records that broke when you dropped them. 

 

In 1952, my brother Herb bought a new RCA Victor 45 RPM record player that had no speakers, and had to be plugged into a radio or TV that had RCA jacks that tapped into the speakers. We had to call on our Tech expert Uncle Al to wire up our radio.  Herb paid $10 and got 8 free records.  My Dad told him he got robbed and those big hole records will never catch on.  A few years later, you couldn't buy a new 78 RPM record.

This is what our CDs looked like, they rotated 45 times every minute.

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You could put your name on it when you went to a party

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They came separately or in Boxed sets like this that had two records with 2 songs on each side where you got 8 songs!  

 

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A few years later, they came out with LPs (Long Playing) records that rotated 33 times per minute.

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When I was in college, I got a Reel to Reel tape recorder that would play hours and hours of music.  I used to tape my speeches and listen to myself before class.

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Then the 8 track tapes came out in the 70s. You could listen to 12 -15 songs.

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There were 4 stereo tracks that would play over and over.  You could jump tracks by pushing a button.  Our 1971 station wagon had an 8 track player built in, and  my 1976 Cutlass gave me a choice of the new Compact Cassette player, but I chose to stay with the 8 track player because all of my music was on 8 track tapes. Our children spent many hours recording music on CC Tapes. Our 1988 an 1989 Chevrolet Berettas had a Cassette tape players.  My 2001 Prius came with a CD (Compact Disc) player.

Compact Cassette tapes became popular because you could record music from your radio and play it back on a small player that allowed you to take it with you almost anywhere. Sony came out with the Walkman player in the late 1970s.

In 1982, the Compact Disc (CD) came out and made it possible to take your music with you in a smaller player. CD players became the music player of choice for the next 2 decades until memory sticks came out and made music players even smaller.

 

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The Wrigley Field Scoreboard had all 16 teams displayed. The Cubs just beat the Brooklyn "Bums" Dodgers. The St. Louis Browns and Philadelphia Athletics had the day off. Picture thanks to my Brother Herb.

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The June 2007 issue of Reminisce Extra featured the above picture.

(Left to Right) my sister Pat, cousins Marcy, Josie, sister Mary and cousin Frank.  Bill Link was resting on the Turf.

Debbie and Dan appeared in the January 2017 issue of Reminisce Extra.

Some other Blizzards that I remember well.


Fishing

One summer, we got into fishing.  We went fishing at the Humboldt Park Lagoon almost every day, my brother Herb did not like the feel of worms, so he used pliers to put them on the hook. We caught all kinds of fish that we used to carry home in a bucket.  We tried our best to keep them alive in an aquarium, but they never made it through the summer. (We didn't have a pump or a filter) One summer I raised 2 tadpoles and when they sprouted legs and crawled up out of the water, I became an expert fly catcher.  When I was 8 or 9, I saw my 90 year old Great Grandpa Klemm catch a fly that was on his mirror with one quick swipe of his hand. He squeezed his hand until the fly was crushed, then washed his hands.  From that day on, I tried to catch every fly that I saw.  When I was successful, I didn't like crushing them, because I didn't like washing my hands, so I just threw the fly to the sidewalk and stepped on it. When I became a frog parent, that skill came in handy.  I started feeding the flies to my frogs. I later learned that I could catch more flies by sneaking up on them with a wide mouth mustard jar.  (I learned that they would fly away if your shadow went over them) Once I captured some flies, I would cover the jar and drop it in to my frog terrarium then quickly cover the top with the screen. I then watched the frogs stalk their prey. Sometimes a frog would jump out if I didn't cover it quickly, so that would keep me out of trouble for a while.  Those frogs got fat on my flies and lived a long life.

We also went to lake Michigan to catch lake perch with our long Bamboo fishing poles.  We used to see many fishermen at Montrose Harbor in the early spring when the  Smelt Fishing season began.  That looked like fun, so several of my friends, Jim Cowley, Chuck Wolf and Herman the German)  pitched in and bought a smelt net, line, pulley and anchor. Herman dropped out of school when he was 16* and got a job and a car, so he was able to drive us to the Lake.  We went to the Lake right after school and got a great parking space.  (There was free parking in those days) I started tying the anchor on the the line and got distracted, Chuck Wolf came by and swung the anchor around and sailed it out to the lake, it was a great toss, but the line was still in his hand.  We made a quick collection then Jim and I jogged a mile and a half to a bait shop to buy another anchor. (We didn't want to give up that parking spot) By the time I got back, the line was tangled and we spent an hour getting it untangled.  When we finally lowered the net into the water on the pulley,  it was time to go home.  We never caught one Smelt.  They are only about 3 inches long, so you need a bucket full to have a meal.  I never had a meal from the fish that I caught until I took my son Ken to Canada when he was 12.  That event has a lot of stories that I should record when I get time.  

*There was another kid that emigrated from Germany, Karl Marx dropped out of school also and got a job.  He had a  nice orange Mercury Convertible. I can't blame them for dropping out of school, because when they came to this country they were 15 and knew very little English except the words that they learned on the playground, so they were placed in 1st grade until they could read the "Dick and Jane" books, then they moved up to second grade. I remember asking them what they did at recess with all of those 6 year olds.  Herman said, "I just light up a Lucky Strike and puff on it until the bell rings.  

Illinois Outdoors

The Smelt that got away

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Herman the German and Chuck Wolf with me in Mom's Kitchen. Notice the Servel Gas refrigerator that our Dad bought, so that he could replace the oil burning stoves in our apartment with clean natural gas burning stoves. (lower left corner) Back in those days you needed a permit from Peoples Gas to have gas heat, but if you had a gas refrigerator, you got a waver.  Herb and I were happy when Dad got gas heat because we didn't have to carry a 5 gallon oil can up from the basement every few days.

 

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(Above) My Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Klemm (The Fly Catcher) He was a Master Barber who made enough money cutting gamblers' hair on Mississippi River Boats to open his own Barber Shop on North Ave and Damen.  He had 10 barbers working for him. They would give you a shave with a straight razor and even pull a bad tooth for you.  A shot of whiskey was the only pain killer that they used for a tooth removal. 


Barbers
The red, white and blue stripes in the barber shop pole are meant to represent blood, bandages and veins. For thousands of years, barbers didn't just cut hair and shave beards -- they performed surgery, dentistry, and more.
These barber-surgeons, as they were known, practiced everything from tooth-extractions to bloodletting. After sopping up any blood with white cloths, the barbers would wash the cloths and hang them out to dry. 

This is what the pole's red and white colors signify. It is commonly accepted that the blue color represents veins.

My Dad could speak more Polish than German, even though his Mom was German and He said his Dad was Bohemian with roots in Austria.  

One of my old football team mates, Fred Grygiel sent me an e-mail from New Jersey when he heard that some of the Holy Trinity High school Grads were going out for lunch.  He wrote, "Na zdrowie pan Lopatka", so I replied the following:

Dear Fred,

I assume that is a toast in Polish.

My dad who was German and Bohemian used to say Osham Nossha (Misspelled number 18 in Polish)  He played ball and partied with a lot of Poles, so he knew just enough Polish to tick my Mom off.  He could swear real good in Polish.  

Thanks to the Internet, I just learned how to spell 18, it is OSIEMNAŚCIE.  I can't believe he picked up 18 as a saying for a toast.  Those guys must have really pounded them down. After CZTERY(4) or PIĘĆ (5), I'm ready for bed.

The Polish -English Dictionary had no translation for "Na zdrowie pan" Help me out. He later replied that "Na zdrowie pan Lopatka" was Cheers Mr. Lopatka!

My Dad always got a laugh when he said "a Bohawk was a Polak with 2 pair of pants." 

Did you ever hear the one about the Polish lady who was looking for size 7-8 undies at Goldblatts?  She held up a pair and said "SIEDEM and OSIEM" the sales girl said, "sure, you can sh** in them and wash them."

 

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This is me fishing for perch with Bill Link and his Dad.  I just got the new rod from my Mom's cousin Mike Wigas.  Our Wigas cousins gave us lots of cool things.  Like lead soldiers that they made by pouring hot molten lead into the molds that they had.  A small box of those soldiers weighed 80 pounds.


How I Met My Spouse

 

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1946 photo of Carole in front of her house at 1220 N. Maplewood in Chicago, IL

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1946 photo of Greg Lopatka in front of 1622 N. Rockwell in Chicago, IL 

     Carole and I lived only a half mile away from each other, but our paths never crossed, even though she went to St Fidalas School that was 2 blocks from my house and I went to St. Mark School that was 2 blocks from her house. We went to a Church Teen Club Picnic at Cedar Lake in Northern Illinois in the summer before our senior year of high school.  We entered an egg throwing contest at the picnic with the hope of winning the one dollar prize.  The guys were lined up on one side facing the ladies.  Some guys moved down the line so that they could team up with their girl friends.  I was just looking to team up with someone who could catch my tosses. I looked at the gals and gave up trying to maneuver, so I just let fate take over.  

      I was paired up with Carole by chance.  I did not know her and she did not know me.  Each guy was given a raw egg and was instructed to toss it to his partner, who was about 10 feet away.  After the first toss, several girls broke the egg by snatching at it or missing it completely.  We moved 2 steps back and then the girls tossed the eggs to the guys.  Several more partners were eliminated after that toss.  We backed up 2 more steps and tossed the eggs back to our partners and I was very impressed at the way Carole caught that egg.  She pulled her hands back just as the egg touched her hands and gave the egg a very soft landing.  2 more teams were out.  One contestant had egg on her face.  We backed up again and she tossed me a very catchable egg and we were in the final 4.  We backed up some more and now we were about 20 feet apart.  I tossed that egg to her and held my breath. She caught it with out any problems.  2 of the remaining 4 ladies failed to make the catch, so we were in the finals.  We backed up again and the eggs were tossed.  Again Carole made a good throw that I was able to catch, but our opponent was not as lucky.  He had scrambled egg on his pants and shoes.  

    We were the winners, so I tossed one more just for good luck and she grabbed it like a pro.  We each were given a dollar and at the award presentation, I felt that I should ask her what her name was, since she helped me win the big prize!*   That was it, I went off and played in the softball game where I slipped rounding first (I was wearing my converse All Stars that were good for basketball, but not softball) My Dad told me, "Why didn't you have your spike shoes on?" I laughed and said, "Dad, you can't wear spike shoes to a picnic." I never saw Carole again until the next Friday night when our teen club had a dance.  We danced and soon we were dating.  We played tennis and she was good at that too.  We went bowling many times and she was real good at that.  I had a 180 average, but she beat me many times.  A few years later when we were 20, she wanted to go bowling and I didn't feel like going bowling, so I asked her to marry me.  She said yes and when we were 21 we tied the knot.  We had a boy, 2 girls and a boy in the next 10 years.  48 years later, we had four granddaughters, four grandsons, one great granddaughter and one great grandson.    

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(Left to Right) Chester and Arlene, Rich and Jackie, Brother Vincent, Bob and his date, Greg and Carole, Joe and his date.

*you could buy 20 bottles of Coke or 4 packs of cigarettes with a dollar.  (I never smoked because it was too expensive, but I did down a lot of Cokes) When I started teaching, I used to have a word problem for my students, where they would try to calculate how much money I saved by not starting to smoke when I was 13.  One pack a day for 10 years was almost $1000. Now when I go to lunch with my classmates, all of the guys my age who smoked have passed away. Please don't start, it will kill you!


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The above is a picture of a lead pipe that was removed from my Uncle Frank's flat in 2009.  My grandson thought I was Superman when he saw me bend this pipe with just a slight grunt.

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Uncle Frank was drinking leaded water for 95 years, he passed away when he started drinking unleaded water in a nursing home. When I pick this up, I know what a lead pipe cinch is.

When I saw this Family Circus cartoon. I immediately thought of the day in grade school when my teacher, Sister Veronica Ann, asked us if anyone had a washing machine.  My hand shot up, because we had an electric washer with a power  wringer that my Mom slaved over.

   

 

Less than a week later, my Mom was washing curtains and other things for the good nuns. * After Mom washed the curtains, she had to stretch them out to dry on a curtain stretcher. (Pictured below)  Mom had it located in the narrow hallway that connected the kitchen and dining room.  The stretcher had hundreds of sharp needles that held the curtain in place.  When you walked or ran too close to the stretcher, you went away with a bloody leg that Mom would treat with Mercurochrome or a tincture of Iodine.  (either one caused more pain than the cut)

My brother told me that Dad was able to get a washing machine for the nuns at St. Mark. Here is is account:

Dad went to Birtman Electric and asked about a washing machine and was told no.  Some how word got to the president, Mr. Butz, who was religious and had a priest and nun in the family.  When he heard it was for the Church he ordered it done.  I think Dad paid for it with a loan on his profit sharing plan.  From then on he had an in with the convent.  He could get plenary indulgences at a discount or for just driving the nuns around.  Even Father McCauley knew Dad then.  We could never get kicked outa school forever.  Mom was the happiest after that move, since she just had to wash close for her family of 6.

 

(Above) Needle filled Curtain Stretchers could be adjusted to the size of the curtain.  Mom also had steel Pants Stretchers (Pictured Below) that would put a crease in your pants after they dried

* My wife told me that she volunteered her Mom to do some washing for the Nuns at St Fidalis, only her Mom did not have a washing machine, she had to use a wash board and tub. When you washed clothes like that, you soon developed "Washboard Abs"

 

When I did an image search for a washboard, several pictures came up with guys showing off their "Washboard Abs", but they had to go to work out at the gym to develop them.

X-Ray Over Exposure

 

We had a shoe store that was located just around the corner from our house.  It was on North Ave, just west of Rockwell Street, next to the "Dime Store", That's what we called the Woolworth Store.   Whenever we walked past the shoe store, we would go in and ask the guy if we could x-ray our feet, he was a friendly guy and always said, "sure, go ahead." We would take turns putting our feet in and we would look at the bones in our feet!

Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope (ca. 1930-1940)

Basic Description

The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. A typical unit, like the Adrian machine shown here, consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child's parent, and the third for the shoe salesman or saleswoman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes.

Donated by Purdue University, courtesy of Paul Ziemer.

According to Williams (1949), the machines generally employed a 50 kv x-ray tube operating at 3 to 8 milliamps. When you put your feet in a shoe fitting fluoroscope, you were effectively standing on top of the x-ray tube. The only “shielding” between your feet and the tube was a one millimeter thick aluminum filter. Some units allowed the operator to select one of three different intensities: the highest intensity for men, the middle one for women and the lowest for children.  

Most units also had a push button timer that could be set to a desired exposure time, e.g., 5 to 45 seconds.  The most common setting was 20 seconds.

Thanks to  Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge Tennessee for the above information

ex-ray-shoecard.jpg (433551 bytes)

 

The whole neighborhood smelled like burning leaves. (I liked that smell) My Mom's Uncle Joe used to pay Herb and me to come over to help him rake and burn leaves in the Fall. He also paid me to help him paint his cyclone fence with a brush. He was on one side painting as I was on my knees painting the other side. My face was speckled with silver dots when we finished. I got a turpentine facewash when we were done.  Herb remembers Uncle Joe's brown leather jacket. He said, "You made it look like the fuselage of a jet fighter. I guess you guys should have spaced yourselves or something. I miss that smell too, darn environmentalists."*:(( crying

I mentioned Mom's painful treatment for cuts. (Mercurochrome or a tincture of Iodine) Pictured above is her treatment for most ailments that did not include blood. The rubber bottle was filled with hot water then wrapped in a towel to make it feel better and insolate it and keep it warm longer.  It was used for ear aches, stiff necks and many more injuries.  She never used ice to treat any injuries.

 

Black and White TV

 

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These are Duffer Friends of mine.

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Life was better in black and white!

You could hardly see for all the snow, 

Spread the rabbit ears as far as they go. 

Pull a chair up to the TV set, 

"Good Night, David. Good Night, Chet."

Dependin'g on the channel you tuned, 

You got Rob and Laura - or Ward and June. 

It felt so good. It felt so right. 

Life looked better in black and white. 

I Love Lucy, The Real McCoys, 

Dennis the Menace, the Cleaver boys, 

Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, 

Superman, Jimmy and Lois Lane. 

Father Knows Best, Patty Duke, 

Rin Tin Tin and Lassie too, 

Donna Reed on Thursday night! -- 

Life looked better in black and white. 

I wanna go back to black and white. 

Everything always turned out right. 

Simple people, simple lives... 

Good guys always won the fights. 

Now nothing is the way it seems, 

In living color on the TV screen. 

Too many murders, too many fights, 

I wanna go back to black and white. 

In God they trusted, alone in bed, they slept, 

A promise made was a promise kept. 

They never cussed or broke their vows. 

They'd never make the network now. 

But if I could, I'd rather be 

In a TV town in '53. 

It felt so good. It felt so right. 

Life looked better in black and white.
I'd trade all the channels on the satellite,
 

If I could just turn back the clock tonight
To when everybody knew wrong from right.
 

Life was better in black and white!

 

 

MEMORIES from a friend:
My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother's house (she died in December) and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to "sprinkle" clothes with because we didn't have steam irons. Man, I am old.

How many do you remember?
Head lights dimmer switches on the floor.

Ignition switches on the dashboard.

Heaters mounted on the inside of the fire wall.

Real ice boxes!

Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.

Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner.
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals.

My dimmer switch went bad on my 1950 Desoto, so I installed a new one that worked until I drove the old tank to the junk yard.  I had a 53 Chrysler, so I removed the dimmer switch, Radio and a few other parts that would serve as replacements for my Chrysler.  I was removing the Radio around midnight when a Chicago Police car pulled up next to me and and looked in.  He pulled up a few car lengths and I waited and started sweating, even though it was a cold winter night.  I kept removing the Radio, what else could I do, I was a block from home.  Then He drove off into the night.  I took my parts and went home.  

 

 

 

The Land of Sandra Dee

Long ago and far away,

In a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan
Or the dawn of Camelot.
 
There lived a race of innocents,
And they were you and me,
Long ago and far away
In the Land of Sandra Dee.
 
Oh, there was truth and goodness
In that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges,
And Peyton Place was porn.
 
For Ike was in the White House,
And Hoss was on TV,
And God was in his heaven
In the Land of Sandra Dee.
 
We learned to gut a muffler,
We washed our hair at dawn,
We spread our crinolines to dry
In circles on the lawn.
 
And they could hear us coming
All the way to Tennessee,
All starched and sprayed and rumbling
in the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We longed for love and romance,
And waited for the prince,
And Eddie Fisher married Liz,
And no one's seen him since.
 
We danced to "Little Darlin'",
And Sang to "Stagger Lee"
And cried for Buddy Holly
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
Only girls wore earrings then,
And three was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts,
Except for Jean McKinney.
 
And only in our wildest dreams
Did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We fell for Frankie Avalon,
Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie,
They never made it twice.
 
We didn't have a Star Trek Five,
Or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
Miss Kitty had a heart of gold,
And Chester had a limp,
And Reagan was a Democrat
Whose co-star was a chimp.
 
We had a Mr. Wizard,
But not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We had our share of heroes,
We never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin,
Or Marilyn Monroe.
 
For youth was still eternal,
And life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever,
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We'd never seen the rock band
That was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson ,
And Zeppelins were not lead.
 
And Beatles lived in gardens then,
And Monkees in a tree,
Madonna was a virgin
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We'd never heard of Microwaves,
Or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed,
But they weren't grown in jars.
 
And pumping iron got wrinkles out,
And "gay" meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never coed
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We hadn't seen enough of jets
To talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at
The bottom of the bag.
 
And Hardware was a box of nails,
And bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
Buicks came with portholes,
And side show came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough
To cover both your cheeks.
 
And Coke came just in bottles,
And skirts came to the knee,
And Castro came to power
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
We had no Crest with Fluoride,
We had no Hill Street Blues,
We all wore superstructure bras
Designed by Howard Hughes.
 
We had no patterned pantyhose
Or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for condoms
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
There were no golden arches,
No Perriers to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda,
And cats were not called Bill.
 
And middle-aged was thirty-five
And old was forty-three,
And ancient were our parents
In the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
But all things have a season,
Or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline
We swear by Retin-A.
 
And they send us invitations
To join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby,
From the Land of Sandra Dee .
 
So now we face a brave new world
In slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using
Smaller print in magazines.
 
And we tell our children's children
of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away
In the Land of Sandra Dee.
 
I remember it well. What happened to that world?

Older Than Dirt Quiz:  

Count all the ones that you remember not the ones you were told about! Ratings at the bottom.

1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles
5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxe
s
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Party lines
8. Newsreels before the movie

9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax

11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Olive-6933)

12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S&H Green Stamps
16 Hi-fi's
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18.. Mimeograph paper
19 Blue flashbulb
20. Packards
21. Roller skate keys
2! 2. Cork popguns
23. Drive-ins
24. Studebakers
25. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt!

I might be older than dirt but those memories are the best part of my life.

"Senility Prayer"

"...God grant me...
The senility to forget the people I never liked
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do
And the eyesight to tell the difference."
Have a great week!!!!!!

 


Go to some Olden Days Family Pictures

Some High School Stories

Grade School Stories

 

Put your birth date in the pop up  window after you click on the link below. What happens is pretty interesting.  Click on the link below:
Age Gauge   

Thanks to you, Greg, for being  not only the great historian but the recorder of life for all of us.  My mother thanks you; my father thanks you; and my brothers thank you; and Father Faucher and Father Rochford and Father Byrne and all the people of St, Mark, living and gone to heaven.      Jerry and my Mom and Dad (who has gone to heaven) and my brothers, Bob and Rick. 

Jerry P

Your memories are interesting and funny. I enjoyed reading them.
 
Reminded me that my first car was a '50 Chrysler. That's what every teen in Chicago wanted--a '50 Chrysler ;) I think we paid $300 for it.
 
Joe W

Hey Greg
 
As I recall watching you play end for Holy Trinity's football team, using weights on your legs was a good idea. However, you did have pretty "good" hands.
 
Your Cuz
 
Rich Zimny
1950's version of an E-Mail

I have no idea who put this together, but it is wonderful!!

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan , or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.



We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince,
Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one's seen him since.

(My Mom upgraded to this modern pink phone)
We danced to 'Little Darlin,' and sang to 'Stagger Lee'
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney
.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me
, Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice..

We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,
And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet, in the Land That Made Me,
Me.
We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis ;was forever in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-Ed in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

Buicks came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.
56Buick.JPG (1155559 bytes)
And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me,
Me.

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea

Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,
And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me,
Me.

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

If you didn't grow up in the fifties,
You missed the greatest time in history,

The Complete Poem follows:

The Land That Made Me Me

Long ago and far away,
In a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan,
Or the dawn of Camelot.

There lived a race of innocents,
And they were you and me,
Long ago and far away
In the Land That Made Me Me.

Oh, there was truth and goodness
In that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges,
And Peyton Place was xxxx.

For Ike was in the White House,
And Hoss was on TV,
And God was in His heaven
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We learned to gut a muffler,
We washed our hair at dawn,
We spread our crinolines to dry
In circles on the lawn.

And they could hear us coming
All the way to Tennessee,
All starched and sprayed and rumbling
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We longed for love and romance,
And waited for the prince,
And Eddie Fisher married Liz,
And no one's seen him since.

We danced to "Little Darlin",
And Sang to "Stagger Lee"
And cried for Buddy Holly
In the Land That Made Me Me.

Only girls wore earrings then,
And three was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts,
Except for Jean McKinney.

And only in our wildest dreams
Did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick,
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon,
Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie,
They never made it twice.

We didn't have a Star Trek Five,
Or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rockey-Rambo Twenty
In the Land That Made Me Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold,
And Chester had a limp,
And Reagan was a Democrat
Whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr Wizard,
But not a Mr T,
And Oprah couldn't talk, yet
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We had our share of heroes,
We never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin,
Or Marilyn Monroe.

For youth was still eternal,
And life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever,
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We'd never seen the rock band
That was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson ,
And Zeppelins weren't Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then,
And Monkees in a tree,
Madonna was a virgin
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We'd never heard of Microwaves,
Or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed,
But they weren't grown in jars.
And pumping iron got wrinkles out,
And "gay" meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never coed
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We hadn't seen enough of jets
To talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at
The bottom of the bag.

And Hardware was a box of nails,
And bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction
In the Land That Made Me Me.

Buicks came with portholes,
And side show came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough
To cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles,
And skirts came to the knee,
And Castro came to power
In the Land That Made Me Me.

We had no Crest with Fluoride,
We had no Hill Street Blues,
We all wore superstructure bras
Designed by Howard Hughes.

We had no patterned pantyhose
Or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for condoms
In the Land That Made Me Me.

There were no golden arches,
No Perriers to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda,
And cats were not called Bill.

And middle-aged was thirty-five
And old was forty-three,
And ancient was our parents
In the Land That Made Me Me.

But all things have a season,
Or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline
We swear by Retin-A.
And they send us invitations
To join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby,
From the Land That Made Me Me.

So now we face a brave new world
In slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using
Smaller print in magazines.

And we tell our children's children
Of the way it used to be,
Long ago, and far away
In the Land That Made Me Me.

Author: Unknown

  2010-03-28 003.jpg (196493 bytes)

I saw this old picture of Jimmy Buffett looking cool with his Pink Phone, so I got my Mom's old pink phone and snapped this picture.  Mom was cooler than I thought. 2010-03-28 007.jpg (1814890 bytes)

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