Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winters in the City 1940-42

We moved from our home at 3513 Greenview Avenue in Chicago to the 180 Acre farm in Hebron, IL. in 1940. When time came to return to school our parents decided it utmost importance we be enrolled in Parochial School. We would  be spending the winter months in Chicago. Elayne would be a high school freshman. Daddy rented a place in an ethnic Italian Chicago neighborhood on Seminary Avenue. These were Indian Summer days as the school year began. I recall many of the families were sitting out on porches and speaking to each other in Italian. We left that neighborhood. I didn’t know why. Jimmy tells me there were bed bugs in the  quarters we had rented. So next we set up housekeeping in the area of Belmont and Clark, further south from the Greenview Avenue dwelling. Mother and Dad found  a small, cozy   coach house,  end of a short driveway behind the main house. The address was on Cambridge Avenue. I was happy there. I often jumped rope with neighbors on the sidewalk out front. One of my classmates, Moira Barretsmith lived a block away. Her father was an interior decorator. Their home had many mirrored walls.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grammar School

I attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel 720 W. Belmont Avenue with Billy which was 1 1/2 to 2 blocks away. I was in the 8th grade. Jimmy attended public school kindergarten. Catholic Schools had no Kindergarten classrooms in the 1930s and 40s. Girls wore uniforms, white blouse and navy blue skirts which were very comfortable. My sister attended St. Scholastica High School at 810 W. Wellington, basically in the neighborhood. We lived very close to Lincoln Park Arboretum and Zoo, an easy walk. The neighborhood east of our school was rich to ritzy. Going west on Belmont were many businesses. 

I had a lovely nun, a Sister of Mercy, for my eighth  grade teacher.
I don't recall her name.

Dribbling ball in gym at OLOMC
OLOMC had its own gymnasium where we played basketball. At least once we had a visiting team. I recall traveling to St. Mary’s Des Plaines to play an away game. This was fun, interesting, exciting.

Monsignor Casey had a limo. One time he picked me up and I had my first limo ride sitting on the drop down seat in the rear. Could have been on the trip back from Des Plaines.

Of course, 8th Grade, I was noticing boys. What intrigued me was a classmate, Constance, whom the boys seemed to find attractive. She had boobs, I remember that now when I look back. She was cute, too.

The diocesan schools had an art contest with the theme being the war. My poster won some award. The scene I drew I titled-- On Land, In the Sea, and in the Air-- . 

We had Food Rationing

Some of our foods were already rationed in 1940-41. We needed food stamp books and also stamps for the gasoline we used to make the commute back and forth to Hebron. Conservation was very important.

This little home had a pantry. While mixing up a chocolate cake in the pantry  on its countertop, one evening after school, I spilled the measuring cup of sugar onto the floor. Mother was extremely put out.  Now our family had only what was left of our ration of sugar. 

We had taken our bunk beds, dad had built for us, with us for the winter months. They were easy to disassemble and reassemble. I recall for the first time in my life I had difficulty sleeping or would stay awake part of the night partly because all six of us were in a small space I am thinking. I believe there was a pull down, a Murphy bed in the wall of the living room.

After Christmas, on the 27th, the family, w/o dad, drove out to Hebron for the weekend as usual. Before going out to the farm mother stopped at the Hebron Post Office which she routinely did to pick up the week's mail. She found a telegram which had not been delivered as we wouldn’t be found home at our rural address. Mother was very disturbed but even more so when she opened it and read the message of her mother’s sudden death on the 27th, that would be this very day. Christmas holidays would have been advantageous for us in coping with the funeral arrangements. I am projecting. When dad came out on the train Friday evening we would pack up and leave for Milwaukee. The Wake was at Brett Funeral Home on Wisconsin Avenue and the Funeral Mass at Gesu and burial at Calvary Cemetery beside her husband and son John and other members of the Morris family. Afterwards we had ample time to be with our extended family in grandmother's home on Highland Avenue and to share memories with one another before returning to our schools after the holiday vacation. 

 December 1940          

 S  M Tu  W Th  F  S
 1  2  3  4  5  6  7
 8  9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31

We left Chicago for the farm once again that May in 1941 for the summer. We attended the Burgett one room school for  the school year’s end. Arrangements were made for me to return for my graduation with my 8th grade class at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Graduation weekend I stayed over one night with Moira and again with a wealthy classmate who lived in an elevator building near the lake. I do recall her face and light brown frizzy hair. I think her name is Lois. If only I could draw.

The following year, 1941/42 when I am 14 years old we returned once more to Chicago for the winter and spring seasons. Once again we would spend only weekends in Hebron at the farm.
Senn High School

Elayne and I enrolled in Senn High school. We walked the mile or so daily to and from a nice apartment the family was renting at Foster and Ashland. Dad assured the owners his children would be respectful of the property. We proved to be. 
Our Lady of Lourdes School and Convent

Jim was now in 1st grade at Our Lady of Lourdes, our old school, and Bill was in the 7th grade. I found this picture since mentioning the school in another blog. 

Each morning at Senn High School  pupils met in designated Freshman homerooms for announcements, etc. I recall there being an enrollment of 5000 boys and girls. The school was huge. My Freshman section had a tall, handsome, dark haired, young Jewish fellow for our class president. I fell for this guy for sure. We were back once again in the neighborhood where Elayne and I lived as newborns and toddlers. 
Savings Stamp Book

Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, my Freshman year. In homeroom we had the opportunity to purchase stamps for our savings books. They held $18.75 when filled. When the savings matured the amount would be $25.00. I could purchase 1 stamp, a page of stamps, a book of.

I had one class, General Science, never in our grade school curriculum, which I found stimulating. We had a project where we studied all about our resource, water, it’s importance, where it comes from, how its is made available to populations, etc. Finally, we had this activity where we were to present a project of our making having something to do with what was being studied. My daddy had time after work these winter months to enthusiastically help me with my project. His engineering skills were fired up. We made a pump from a broad glass tube, black rubber corks with wholes through the center and inserted glass tubing. It was just the greatest little pump in the whole wide world and to top it all off it actually pumped water. This was a show-off success. I proudly kept it for years. 

I took Freshman Home Economics, also, very basic and a lifelong usable project. I learned to make a proper white sauce, thin, medium and thick, to cook veggies in a minimum of water so not to dissolve out their valuable minerals, etc. And I also learned a lot about constructing clothes, making my first skirt.

I want to make stronger note of the free time we had for 8 school months. Time to relax, minimum chores, explore the neighborhood, the city. We would usually drive out to the farm on weekends weather obliging. Even then there wouldn’t be pressing, obligatory, responsible chores.  Us kids would be crowded in the back seat for the hour or so. I never did figure out what and where we got the game 'Here comes the clutch'. We'd say the line and giggle as we pounced on another's lap.

Our parish, too,  once again was Our Lady of Lourdes. We would have these teen dance parties on Fridays. I believe I mentioned earlier I met in small group with Fr. Runkle [he had a sister, Pat, in Elayne's class] at the Rectory. We would read together a piece from the New Testament, talk about it, and decide on some action we might take at school. I don't know if this were part of Fr. Daniel Lord's scheme [he was big among teens these years] or YCS. I do know that one day a few years later I came in on the train with my dad to attend a day at an annual youth rally at the Morrison Hotel. This would be Fr.Daniel Lord's doings. Charged up my faith for sure. I have a hunch it was precursor to the strong apostolic agendas which emerged out of Chicago's youth from this era.  
Was this the pre-Christmas period when  mother worked at Marshal Fields? I can come back to the blog entries and make changes. If I have other input I will surely do so. Help. Help.

Jim wrote- I have no way of knowing where we were during the Xmas of '41 that led me to the conclusion that Grandmother died then, [she died December 27, 1940 so that would be on Cambridge Ave.] other than I just remember coming into the apt. at Foster and Ashland (Mr. and Mrs. Hummel - "Tell me little one, Does you like the Kunntrry?") a day or so maybe after Christmas had passed, and opening gifts, one of which was a kind of Army truck with a mounted cannon that fired wooden red slugs. [What a nice memory, I hadn’t this] So, actually Auntie Maime [July 12, 1940] she died within several months of each other.  I don't see how it could have been determined but it was said that she died in her rocking chair presumably with a copy of Adeste Fidelis in her lap or some such, hence she must have been singing that most precious carol when she expired. [oh my gosh, Jim this memory is priceless]

By agreement with Sr. Eugenis, I was to come into the city on the 1st Sunday in June, 1942, to receive my 1st Holy Communion, by myself, with a chair and kneeler for me on the altar. Mother took me with Dad's train ticket in on the Sat. before, wherein we stayed overnite at my Dad's sister's apartment. [Our Aunt Veronica Bergin] who lived near Wrigley Field. As you guessed by now I could go on and on with what seems so necessary to tell-"


Dance Floor

Aragon Ballroom 1100 W. Lawrence Ave.
I remembered how at least 2 times we went to the Aragon Ballroom, more or less in our neighborhood. I suppose it is not that much more elegant than the theaters of this era. I recall lights above which I thought must have been  that large rotating  ball. From the picture I can see stars or lights in the ceiling. The description below explains how 2 young girls could have visited here alone. Trianon Ballroom was on the south side of Chicago. Aragon in our neighborhood.
 Much of this success lay, as it had at the Trianon, in management's ability to maintain high standards of conduct among patrons. Men were obligated to wear jackets and ties, women semi-formal evening wear. Smoking was prohibited on the second level. And tuxedoed floorwalkers prevented close dancing or jitterbugging. The Aragon's elegance and orderliness contrasted sharply with the more youthful and trendy atmosphere at the neighborhood's other major dance hall, the Arcadia Ballroom

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