Sunday, November 13, 2011

1952-Michael's First Year

Brother Billy and cousin Tommy shown here the year the 2 were students at Marquette University. This snapshot is taken when they are visiting family at the Morris home on Highland Avenue. Shown in the photo Barbara Morris and Douglas. Back of house looks like it could use some maintenance. This photo taken before Michael’s birth. 

Barbara- Bill- Tom- Douglas
Bill will be teaching his first year I think. Tom, enters the Jesuit Seminary. 

I have a letter saved which I received from cousin Tom following Michael’s birth and it's  from St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant Missouri. Postmarked January 3, 1952.   '--all those magnificent tributes to Michael the Archangel in the Church’s prayers---- will have satisfaction and significance to all of us now. He closes- ‘Thanks for all you have done for me. We must work together- we’re young and the world is our job. In God and Our Lady, Tom

This is how many young people in our generations were raised. Our job would be to change this world-- we were steeped in Catholic Action.  There were those who weren't and this proved a piece of the problem in the next century.                          

Michael Bruce Posing in his Daddy's Big Chair

Michael Bruce is laying on the maple chairs my parents gave us before our wedding. They have bright red and green cushions which I covered in this blue, black and white pattern. He is kicking his feet lie 'riding a bicycle'.


1952- Springtime- Illinois Sweet Sixteen Tournament  the Green Giants squad won the IL Boys Basketball Championship. Little brother, Jimmy, is with the squad. He’s 16.  
Front row, from left: Coach Russ Ahearn, Ken Spooner, Paul Judson, Bill Schulz, Phil Judson, Don Wilbrandt.
Back row: Jim Bergin, Jim Wilbrandt, Joe Schmidt, Bill Thayer, Clayton Ihrke.

50 years later in 2002 a book, Once There Were Giants,  written by Scott Johnson and Julie Kilter was published commemorating this small town high school fete. The story is well told. I selected a few words from the dedication to clue one in. To have the whole scoop you need to order this book from bookstores or on line. I share a couple of reviews to further interest you.
"They'll be writing about Hebron's Green Giants and their 1952 Illinois high school basketball championship as long as basketball is played." -- Rock Island Arg
If I were a coach, a copy of this book would be in my office. Before big games I would draw from some of Russ Ahearn's numerous inspirational "chalk talks" for some words of wisdom. I would also furnish each of my players year in and year out with a copy of the book and insist that they read every word.  In short, the book is an underdog's bible. It says that no matter how small a school is or what the odds say, with dedication, a true spirit of teamwork and, above all, endless hard work over many years, any team can achieve greatness. True athletes are made, not born.
-- Mike Dorsam, sports editor, Streator Times-Press (2/16/02]

  • Hebron had only 98 students, and only 42 boys, at the time it won the state championship. Its opponent in the title game, Quincy, had an enrollment of 1,035 (in only three grades).
  • Hebron High School consolidated with Alden High School in 1948, so the school's official name was Alden-Hebron when it won the championship.  Hardly anyone outside of McHenry County knew or used the school's real name.
  • Bill Schulz, the 6-10½ junior center who lived on a dairy farm near Alden, had never seen a basketball game until he entered Alden-Hebron as an eighth-grader.
  • Hebron was rated No. 1 in the AP or UP poll in 9 of the 13 weeks that polls were taken during the 1951-52 season.
  • The championship game with Quincy was the first ever to go to overtime.  It was also the first overtime varsity game that Russ Ahearn had ever coached and that the Hebron players had ever played.
  • The semifinal games played that afternoon were also televised. The state tournament title game was also televised.
  • All five of Hebron's starters went to major colleges on scholarships.
  • Many of Hebron's players honed their basketball skills in a grade-school coal room and in a hayloft set up with hoops at each end. 

Jim Bergin

My hunch is what’s described here is my brother Jimmy being intensely coached by our brother Billy on the barn floor since he was 7 years old that he might possess this skill. How to shoot, dribble, pass, run, jump, block, guard, the entire 9 yards of instruction-- not always appreciated. [Reminds me, too, this was another family project as together we laid a new barn floor for the original had rotted through and was dangerous to tread.] 
Becoming Giants, a one-hour documentary from Rail//Rowe Productions, traces the Hebron story from its initial success in the early 1940s, through the 1952 state title, right up to the celebration at the 2002 IHSA state tournaments.  Included is archival film from the championship battle against Quincy, rare home movie footage of the 1952 Hebron team, and interviews with the players.

This extraordinary accomplishment put Hebron, IL ‘on the map’. If one said one was from this small town, 65o people, northwest of Chicago, anywhere in the state, folks knew the town one referred to. It was extraordinary how the popularity of this incident remained impressed on the psyches of Northern IL folk for decades. The mayor, Lynn Ellison, a cousin by marriage, erected a basketball water tower to mark the unforgettable accomplishment. 

Northern Illinois Landmark
In ’52 I became what would later be termed ‘a stay at home mom’. There was a lot to do in addition to taking care of our new baby, Michael.  We were immersed in a family business. Most of  which took place out side our back door. Tractors, machinery, salesmen, daily milk truck pickup, all, I’d spy from the kitchen window as the parade would pass through the yard. Grandpa Stewart would drive the Chevy truck to the back door on his way to or from the barn to visit Michael and me.  
Michael Ready for Walk to the Barn

Oft times Michael and I would walk out to the barn to visit and while away our time, sometimes visiting before our evening meal. Chores before supper, for Bruce, consisted of getting the barn prepared for milking time. Time would be spent throwing out portions ground meal to each animal. Additionally, he would climb to the top of the silo throwing down large scoops of corn silage and wheeling the feed into the barn where he would pitch a forkful in the front of the stanchion for each cow. The cattle would be munching on their silage and licking up their grain meal, sucking up water from the automatic watering cups. One could hear the pleasant sounds of the stanchion, too, as they consumed their evening meal. Bruce describes it like a crowd noise with sounds of breathing, grunts, movement, moos, licking, slurping water. And later on, during milking process, we would watch the new calves sucking up milk from a pail as they bucked their heads as if being nursed by their mother. Usually music would be playing on the radio. Music adds to a cow’s contentment. 

Radio programs I associate with our fledgling marriage and our budding relationship- 
The Greatest Story Ever Told originated as a U.S. radio series in 1947, half-hour episodes inspired by the gospel stories. The series was adapted into a 1949 novel by Fulton Oursler, a senior editor at Reader’s Digest. I recall this program coming on about milking hour on Sunday evenings.

Mike Nichols, comedian and Elaine May, comedienne.             
Born in Berlin in 1931, Nichols attended a segregated school for Jewish children. His father, a doctor, fled the Nazis by moving the family to New York City when Nichols was still a child. [Elaine]May was born in 1932 in Philadelphia, the daughter of the director, writer, and principal actor of a traveling Jewish theatrical company. She caught the thespian bug early, appearing on stage in the roles of little boys. The two met while attending the University of Chicago, and they first worked together honing their improvisational skills at the Compass Theatre, a Chicago nightclub. Later, Nichols and May decided to take their show on the road.  [We knew them from their radio broadcasts.]
One Man's Family
One Man’s Family, the ongoing evening soap of the Barber Family One Man's Family,  was heard for almost three decades (1932 to 1959). Created by Carlton E. Morse, it was the longest-running uninterrupted serial in the history of American radio.   [Examples of these programs may be heard and enjoyed simply by entering the title into Google on your computer].
I read in our Diocesan Paper the National Catholic Welfare Conference, NCWC, is seeking families to house exchange students from Germany. The students would live with a family for a year’s time and return home. The idea was to enrich students, both American youth and German, with the year’s experience in an American home and school, aimed at bringing an element of peace and understanding between nations. Bruce and I agreed to fill out an application and mailed it in. NCWC was handling the placement of Catholic German students. We were accepted as a host family. The Franelchar farmhouse had a large, bright, very private upstairs bedroom which had been Bruce’s through high school, still furnished, bed, dresser, desk. Our student was to live with us as a son/daughter, participating in the daily structure of the family. We asked for a boy. Bruce would appreciate this teenage assistance on the family farm. We were rather young for his parents. Our student would be able to move about this small community becoming well acquainted with the populace. We had both the Stewart and Bergin families to participate in broadening the exchange. Soon we were clued in on all the details concerning our student, Josef Albrecht, from Bergzabern, Germany, a small town where he lived all his life, his father the town butcher. He experienced the Nazi era, and the struggle of his people through World War II, the bombing, the hunger, lost lives.
Josef Albrecht, Bergzabern, Germany

Joe was a brunette, brown eyes, rather short and sprightly. One of Bruce’s double cousins, Jim Stewart, was operating the adjacent Stewart Homestead following his return from extended service in the US Army. Cousin, Jim, having served in Germany was not the least bit happy about what his young cousin was doing. I suspect there were sentiments akin to his with other townsfolk. In fact, this was the project’s purpose, building, healing relationships. Josef, being from a Catholic family was able  to attend church with us at St. Joe’s and came to know this community as well and vise versa.
Big Brother Josef Holds Michael
Joe pitched right in as a  son would in doing the daily chores, perhaps better. He was used to working with his father. He seemed happy most of the time, made friends at the high school, loved to read, made good marks, received these weekly air mail letters from home.  He had a problem in sweet corn season for the corn repulsed him as at home corn on the cob was food for the hogs. Family would occasionally send a package. I had a similar problem   sampling some of his mother’s culinary gifts for they could be strange to me-- I not the first by whom a new is tried kind of person.  Today most anywhere in this world people eat and dress similarly. His clothing was definitely of foreign cut, shirts, trousers. He carried his books in a pack on his back. Unheard of. Quaint. We carried our books loosely on our hips. [Many years later all the schoolchildren carried backpacks in the USA.] The war brought nations closer and changed many customs. Josef was an amiable young man and we got along well through the entire time he was with us. 

Michael Holds Bucky Cowboy

Christmas Joe’s family sent Michael a gift from Germany, a toy dog, Dalmatian,  pull toy, which made a sort of quacky sound as it moved along. Up to this time mostly toys were just toys without requiring skill of any sort, not made to educate. Germany was famous for motion toy production. I was kind of disappointed because educational toys, Playschool, had just come on the market here in America. These were toys that would challenge a child’s physical abilities, not simply entertain.  Michael was into pushing things along but not yet interested in pull. One would need to try hard looking  for things which might make this family group, Joe, Michael, Bruce and I, incompatible. Josef was very loving towards his little brother. Josef mixed well with the extended family of all ages.

Michael had a favorite toy as an infant. We  called the toy  Bucky Cowboy. Kind of wore cowboy out. 

Cousin Priscilla 5 days younger than Michael

He had a little cousin, Priscilla Eggert, born just a few days after him on December 31. We enjoyed visiting Priscilla and her mother and Uncle Art in their home in town, St. Albans’ Street, Hebron, near the high school, and comparing notes, watching the two grow. Her big sister, Susie, was the little flower girl at our wedding. She also has two other sisters, Polly and Judy, Bruce’s eldest niece, and a brother, Gene. These were  some of Bruce’s nieces and nephews who were born when we were in high school and I in college. This is why I always assumed my husband knew so much about little children, was so experienced. 

MaryKay, Michael, Bill Fellows
Aunt Sally, Michael, Chuck, Irma, Bill, RW

Bruce had a cousin, Chuck Fellows, a bit older, who lived with his wife, Irma, near Gran’s home Lyons, WI. They were famous for traveling on their honeymoon on a motorcycle. They would religiously drive over once a month on tour to pay a visit to the IL relatives, in their homes. They’d proudly refer to Auntie Beth and Uncle Bob. They had a son, Bill, who was just a step older than Michael. The babes kind of drew us together. We enjoyed their visits and share time, occasionally with a meal. We would return the visits in their neck of the woods. Chuck had built this tiny, tiny home, smaller than a cabin, where they lived in Lyons. Eventually, as his family grew he built a large basement beneath the ground. They lived  in the basement for several years as Chuck, with the help of his family, finished the house above ground. He did all the construction in his spare time as he went about operating his father’s dairy farm. 

2 Dads- RW Stewart    WT Bergin    +  Susie

We had many Sunday afternoon visits at the house on the hill, too, particularly in the yard as the extended family gathered together. The best visits were when the Whitney’s from Springfield were visiting. Between Bruce and Francese there was a great deal of cigarette smoke to endure. Michael was such a favorite with aunts and uncles and all his cousins, mostly old enough to coddle him. Both families repeatedly said how spoiled he was going to be. Until this generation folks seemed to me to truly concern themselves with the danger of ‘spoiling’ babies. It was in this century much more studying was done concerning children and their families. Society discovered what one generation called spoiling was actually meeting the needs of growing children. And if needs were met the child would grow up a normal and productive member of society. 
Bruce and I, on rare occasions, went to a movie at the newly constructed theater in Genoa City. We couldn’t seem to locate a ‘baby sitter’. My mother never volunteered to drive over to our place at night. The times Gran came down the hill she was always so worn-out-looking I didn’t want to ask her again. One time there was this conversation with sister-in-law, Charlotte, in which she concurred, “Yes asking Mom to baby-sit wasn’t OK”. Odd thing, really, as they always had a ready sitter with young brother, Bruce, when they were our age. Seemed rather unfair to me. 
I very gradually came to realize I no longer had my high school, college, ability to memorize pages at a time. [In the 1980’s my eldest daughter Joan was dabbling in New Age stuff, when a friend told her something happened to your mother many years ago when she lost some mental ability.] I haven’t a clue the how or why of this just my realization my memory was certainly not what I started out with. Looking back to my loss of blood at Michael’s birth and the slow medical response my hunch is some ability was impaired at that time. I could truly relate to this future diagnosis. 
Seems Bruce would get seriously ill every month or so. When ‘under the weather’ there was no one to pitch in to do his chores, could take no time off. All the responsibility to the animals and farm were his. When ill, he kept himself going by taking  a trip to visit Dr. Leschuck who lived at the edge of Hebron town, 5 miles away. With or without appointments Hebron folk who were ill could drive to his home and wait on his large screened in porch for the doctor to call them in. Often I accompanied him to town.  Leschuck would shoot him up with vitamins and other stuff. With his help Bruce could go back to his demanding work without missing a beat. This man was not our family doctor. I believe the Eggert family used him.
Our Out-of-doors Baby

March 17, 1952 we received a nice letter from my sister, Elayne, having entered the novitiate at Mt. Carmel, Dubuque, IA in which she congratulates us on the birth of our son, Michael Bruce.  I was able to write a letter to her occasionally. And she could write to me occasionally.  Elayne's letters are hard copy proving we continue to call our father 'Daddy' and our brothers 'Jimmy and Billy'.

Michael loved being out of doors in any kind of weather. As he grew older Bruce erected a fence from the house to the garage which provided a safe play space. There was a gate at the opposite side of the yard which opened into the large apple orchard, with many varieties of apple trees, ripening at differing times throughout the summer months. One must be certain that gate was closed for Michael would just take off through that orchard, tiny as he was. Hopefully, he would head up towards the little white house on the hill, his grandparents’ home. One never knew. For sure he wouldn’t just stand there, he’d travel a distance. A prelude to his later  life. 

Daddy built a sturdy wood swing support in the backyard. Traveling there in the 1990‘s , the house gone, that swing remained. Michael was  the pride and joy of the extended families. For a full 17 months he was the Prince. As my pregnancy advanced I often insisted on Michael walking beside me even though he would prefer to be carried.  I was preparing him to become the ‘big brother’ in our family, this being an initial step, or so I thought at the time.
Out of Doors on the Screened in Front Porch

Learning About Machinery

Observing Daddy's Business
Excercising Ins and Outs of Kiddie Kar
Judy- Marcia- Roger- Aunt Charlotte- Jay- Josef- Gene

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your comments on my blog. Comments are moderated and I reserve the right to delete or edit comments as necessary.