Friday, March 18, 2011

Happened in High School

My brother, Billy, didn’t need to work his way into High School society as he had enrolled with his classmates from Hebron Grade and attended some grades with them. As he entered the adolescent years he began to have some physical problems here and there. He had at least one operation on his right foot/leg. The operation was scheduled to take place at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. 
Univ. of IL Med Center, Chicago

An appointment for hospital surgery was scheduled. Bill was manager of the Green Giants team which gave him lots of press. And his classmates were extremely attentive to him, girls and boys.

I remember afternoons after school like this time of year, when Elayne was at Marquette, Bill was in hospital in Chgo, so we were only ones there to take care of chickens, calves,  and the 3 cows, some sheep in the back of that cold NW corner of barn etc. Doing chores for the onset of night, before Dad got home.  For me I guess, a kind of idyllic/pastoral environ though I would never then have known it for that - just simply was living it as youngsters do without any rational realizations of a unique time perhaps never to return quite as such. Love, Jim
 There was a day of visitation following his operation when I accompanied mother on the commuter train into Chicago for the hospital visit. What I recall most was his roommate who kept flirting with me from the other bed. He was from the town of Salmon, IL and continued his flirtation through the mail when he returned home. I cared about his problem but I wasn’t interested in pursuing any long distance relationship though it was nice he cared and flattering, too. When Bill returned home from the hospital he was met overwhelmingly with a flood of visitors and gifts to wish him well and quick recovery. He was in like Flynn.

Around this time Bill passed his drivers test and so licensed. He was very, very popular. I suspect he could have been out every school night had he not other responsibilities. As it was he went with the team to all the games away and was present for home games as well.
I had one constant classmate who wanted to be a friend., Dorothy Dungan. Irish for sure.  She wasn’t part of the clique. When she turned 16 and had her drivers license she would occasionally call me up and arrange a theater visit. Fact is she called a lot. She was so available without chores or brothers or sisters. She was a Catholic, too. She lived with her mother in a small white house with green shutters on a nice farm at the edge of town, in town.
I loved visiting on her swing

Previously she had lived in Chicago as I. Her father was part of a gang like mafia, a gangster,  who had been shot and killed. The two felt quite safe and untroubled on the farm and had an excellent manager. Her claim to Catholicity puzzled me for she attended Mass at Easter times and rarely any other Sunday. Without doubt from her point of view she was Catholic. 
Words from songs those years-- there were so many- Oh I’m dreaming tonight of my Blue Eyes and I wonder if he thinks of me. While the moon up above-------  OR
There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover tomorrow when the world is free. OR
Moonlight Becomes You. It goes with your hair. You certainly know the right things to wear.  OR  at the close of every dance- Goodnight Sweetheart we will meet tomorrow.Goodnight sweetheart tears will vanish sorrow-
Jean and June Vander Veen were twin classmates. This Hebron community had known them all their lives. They lived on a nice farm just up the road behind the high school, a very short walk,  with their mother and dad. In their senior year their father hung himself. The townspeople couldn’t understand why. They had Vander Veen relatives on the road to Alden.
We had a new classmate in our Junior year. Leon O’Brien moved into town with his mother and dad. His dad had employment with Standard Oil. Before Leon finished high school his father committed suicide. He was not so well known in town. Leon would pal around at times with Bruce. 
Now there was another event we must have before the close of our high school years. This would be our Senior Class Play-  ‘Lexie Grows Up’   I was given the lead of Lexie and Leon the male lead. The plot followed me as I grew from a small child with a child’s voice through to an all grown up teenager. I dressed and spoke lines as a child. For the little girl scenes I wore my pink Shirley Temple dress, which I have even today. Eventually normal speech. The play ended on a high note with Leon kissing me. This was an activity everyone teased about all through the practices. The kiss didn't happen until the night the show went on. Bruce played Matt and in a letter sent to him later I say, "You made such a nice little fellow riding around on your tricycle." Of course, as always, the entire town turned up. The play and its popularity netted me dates with some out-of-high-school guys, Keith Johnson and the other, George Simes. These were nice dates with dinner at nice places and outdoor summer theater.So these were some fun dates to be enjoyed through the summer of '45. Nice guys but they found out I was drooling over Bruce. I finally got George to give up. Gosh he was in such a hurry to marry and settle down. I told him about a very nice girl in my brother Bill’s class, Ruth Judson.  He asked her out, liked her, in the future married her. She was sister of the Green Giants star player, Howie. Only time I ever played cupid.

Then there was brother Bill’s first attack of epilepsy. Seems it was the summer after I graduated from high school. I know I was home and experienced it. It was so scary. This is how Jim described it recently to cousin Tom:
Actually having been brother Bill's bunk mate all those years, his first seizure was on a somewhat hot summer nite, about 1am, when he was about 16.  I, being the younger was in the upper bunk, when I was awakened by the trembling of the bunk.  I had never heard of a seizure (epilepsy) of any sort, and was thrown into total confusion and dismay upon turning on the lites and calling out to Mom and Dad in the next bedroom.  Witnessing his violent shaking and facial contortion - it was simply shocking - I shan't soon forget the experience - I was only 9 or 10.  His diagnosis came several days later, followed by a prescription which worked for several years, until it too had to be strengthened....  There was the always present danger of his swallowing his tongue, which of course we didn't know when he had his first.  After that we were always ready to insert a tongue depressor as  asap.  Needless to say, it's not a pleasant experience to see a human in the throes of such an uncontrollable event! Was a shocking experience for Elayne and me as well.

There is one more highlight I want to share in '45. A tradition this tiny town had was when the High School Seniors graduate they will visit Washington D.C. as a final trip together. The past few graduate years the tradition was cancelled  due to our U.S. being at war with Germany and Japan. Our class and sponsors chose a smaller trip. We'd have a boat cruise to Macinaw Island at the tip of Lake Michigan. This would be an experience no one in our class has  had. 

We pulled out from Navy Pier. We were very excited to have such an experience and we were joined on the cruise by many more boys and girls mainly from the Chicago high schools. Wasn’t long at all before I got sea sick. I wonder why we were not better prepared. This was an awful introduction to what I hoped would be a delightful esperience. I need not describe to you today what a cruise is like. You have had yours. On this trip we had it all. Music, dancing, food, entertainment, service. Kids played boogie-woogie on the piano and other talented performances.
Macinac Island-  pronounced Macinaw

We got off ship on the island destination, scampering about and then returning for the voyage back to Chicago. Always interesting to me  how Bruce is captivated by talent and by artistic skill. This worries me here as well as in the past for there are some talented kids aboard and seems to me he is smitten with one and then another. There was absolutely nothing special about this voyage in the area of romance for me whereas he was making acquaintances now and future ones as well. Though I must admit even so this was an unforgettable experience. 

MaryKay Bergin 1945 High School Graduation- Very special white dress

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