Sunday, January 22, 2012

1957-8 Family of Six

My Parents worked out a plan where they came into Chicago to spend each winter. Mother and dad rented this downtown studio apartment on Wabash and Chicago Avenues. Jim stayed with them as he attended De Paul University. We’d take an elevator to a floor high above the street whenever visiting.
I have this newspaper clipping, Nov. 1958, One of Seven Cited at De Paul Univ.‘Recently cited as one of De Paul University distinguished military students, James K. Bergin [left], Hebron, is congratulated by Lt. Col. John G. Lucas, Professor of military science and tactics for the university's army ROTC. Bergin and the others were honored for their excellent grades, leadership abilities, and participation in extracurricular activities’. 

3 Brothers at the Beach

Times parents would be in Chicago in the summertime. One instance my father let me use his Ford to take the children to the beech. I had known how to drive a car since I was 16, hadn’t I? I put the children in the car ready for a swim at the very nearby beach on Lake Michigan. We weren’t required to use seat belts or kid car seats in 1957. Joan Mary would have been safe in the Boodle Buggy. Michael remembers this as we reminisced recently [2011] though he was 5 then. I drove away from home just fine BUT as I approached a first stop sign my foot reached to brake and the kids went flying forward, bumpety bump, hitting the windshield, hitting the front seat. Surprise! We were all shocked. Dad/Grandad hadn’t realized I drove only with stick shift. I had absolutely no experience driving an automatic. I practiced to and from our outing, often nearly repeating this hazard. 
Baby Sister JoanMary Enjoying the Beach, Too
We had this yellow, one ring wading pool which we could put outside the front door in the grassy piece beyond the sidewalk. We’d fill it with water early morning to warm in the sunshine. The boys often drew onlookers from the neighborhood as the three played pretend alligators and such. 
"If only there could be room for all"
3 alligators stir things up
They enjoyed their trikes, too. The sidewalks were safe to use, the street traffic fairly quiet.
Kevin Has Learned to Ride the Blue Trike
JoanMary is Right in There With All
Have I mentioned the crew cuts? The boys and dad had crew cuts using the clipper set we bought to master the job. Just a continuation of Air Force regulations far as Bruce was concerned. 

We often pushed the carriage through the U of C campus, especially enjoying the park-like quadrangles with its bustling students. We were alone so much while our daddy was studying in his big books. 

On another walk we’d frequent the park grounds, the flower gardens near the lakefront. Many, many  times we’d walk to the Museum of Science and Industry. This building was set up for kids hands-on. They loved it. Dinosaurs, even. There was a visit into a coal mine exhibit. Take an elevator which seemed to go miles down into the earth. Then we’d see the miners, the coal cars, picks and shovels. Way before Disneyland. Another display was real fetus in jars of formaldehyde  which showed the stages of a fetus  maturing in the womb. Oh! And the library. How we enjoyed the library together. My close friend in college, a literature major, Phyllis,   had gifted me with the book, Miss Hickory, because she knew I loved Children’s Lit. All the encouragement I needed. We found  these great books in the library, brought home the best, with pictures and story, and read these over and over. Other families were reading Little Golden Books from the Supermarket. Our trips together were so exciting. Many of our selections had won Newberry [Johnny Truman, Rabbit Hill, Strawberry Girl, The Door in the Wall],and Caldecott [Many Moons, Make Way For Ducklings, Song of the Swallows, Time to Wonder, Madeline’s Rescue] awards. Remember A Hole is to Dig and Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel, ‘Jumjills’? There were many books which didn’t win awards but wonderful books to read aloud over and over and over again. What treasure we were exposing ourselves to culturally. Satisfying now that there wasn’t a huge smorgasbord of children’s TV to have shrunk our reading time. I struggled learning about nurturing babies but I surely thrived on nurturing the minds of toddlers.

Above Michael and Patrick, JoanMary in Carriage, Kevin on Teeter-totter

Once as we were returning from an adventure down on 63rd street we came onto this man walking towards us.  He inquired if the 4 were mine and when I said yes he spat at us. Michael and Patrick were beside me and Kevin sitting in the boodle buggy with baby Joan Mary. How could he know how much I loved my job. I never did describe this buggy. The boodle would lift off the carriage wheels which  could be stored in the automobile’s trunk and the boodle set into  a forward space in the rear seat, holding the baby. Once on a similar walk on Kenwood I met a mother with a child in her stroller whose body was whole but totally without a mind or physical control, vegetative. How sad. How unfair it seemed to me. She showed so much love for this child. I loved having our family and we loved our many excursions 


I enjoyed fixing the meals and baking the cookies and cakes and the little helpers beside me. There was generally a second wind for me in the late afternoon after nap time. I made most of their clothing, even the snow suits. 
Our Unique University Transport
Another CFM Symbol
Without the Chevy Bruce found it expedient to resurrect his old scooter, from Air Force Cadet days, to get around the neighborhood. He riveted a metal basket  on each of the 2 sides. These baskets had multiple usage. They carried the milk and groceries. The boys could stand up inside these side baskets when taking our trips. 

Mary and Dick Davis took this picture of all six of us one Sunday as we arrived at their 3-story home in the old Hyde Park neighborhood for a visit. 

We enjoyed our once a week get-together with CFM couples. 

We enjoyed our once a week get-together with CFM couples. 

Wonder of wonders, Mary had a dishwasher! Yes, a machine in her kitchen to wash dishes. Bruce took Michael to school everyday on this scooter when he was 5 soon to be six coming Christmas.  All six of us attended Sunday Mass each week at St. Thomas More Parish adjacent to the University. Sometimes I attended Newman Club and certainly enjoyed their intelligent conversations and talk of YCS activity.

There were semester breaks, holidays when Bruce would drive his small scooter at 45 miles per hour all the way to Rockford, IL. where his university contact, Roy, also earned income at Pierce Chemical Co. He met Roy’s family who lived on a farm, like his ma and pa, enjoying their company and they his. He stayed overnights with a bachelor he met employed at Pierce, Jim Sullivan. Jim drove a mercedes, I recall. Bruce would return home driving 45 miles per hour, full throttle. He says he kept up that little engine in top notch condition.

Both Michael's, Patrick's and Kevin’s daddy and grandfather Bergin were as much at ease in the kitchen or anywhere else in the house doing what females do as they were in the yard or shop.   Our boys had superb models. Was there anything females do which was forbidden them? 
TinyTearsDoll @ Christmas

I almost forgot to share the story about the boys receiving a gift doll for Christmas before JoanMary's birth. My intention, they being boys, should know as much about nurturing as females and other than watching adults there were  ways to learn. They now had this popularly marketed doll named 'Tiny Tears’.  One could feed it water and it would wet it’s diaper. Joan Mary was a girl, our girl. She had these three brothers. She kept right up beside them. She would join in those times of robust play. She had little trouble keeping up. Sand play, climbing, cars and trucks, balls, rough house, frontier men, whatever she was right there among them, keeping up. She was handling her place in sibling order just fine, thank you. Her daddy was treating her much like he would treat the 3 boys. My problem-- but, but, but she’s a girl. She wasn’t following in my imagination footsteps. She wouldn’t even think of putting on a fake Raggedy Ann smile. She could scream, yell, keep up with any male child. Could she ‘sit on a tuffet’ and a spider frighten her away? Heavens, no. I thought we had a problem. Much later I learned it was my problem. What is a woman-- a real woman? She had so much to teach me. For myself there were mostly these conflicting feminine ideas in my head. I could also rough house with any brother or cousin or neighbor. My problem was mental, was idealistic, was cultural. Patterns. Even  Blessed Mother Mary was presented lop sided. Would she shoot baskets?  They even said her child wasn’t born like mine, like any animal giving birth. Was the ideal woman to be sexless? There was a lot my daughter and I were going to learn together about being authentic females and we’d make great strides before this century ended. I’d seen habited nuns who came out on the playground, bunching their skirts and rolling up their sleeves to join a ball game at recess. And they were good, too. Their dribbled balls were sent through hoops, too. Could females be more than nurses or teachers or mothers with many children?

University Chemistry Department was conducting student interviews as possible employers of graduates. Bruce participated in a few of these. One of the interviews was Boeing in Seattle. We discussed this prospect, moving to the northwest, leaving extended family behind. [Similar to my family’s move to N.Y. or to Boston before the farm was purchased]. My mother certainly was apposed when she found out we were entertaining this idea. Bruce would have been hired. Also, he was interviewed by Nalco Chemical Company located far west side of Chicago. They had a great package to offer their employees. 
We each were finding living as family students was becoming mighty stressful. Though Bruce wouldn’t graduate this June. 

When Nalco offered Bruce a position though he wouldn’t graduate this June he nevertheless decided to accept Nalco’s offer. They were satisfied he would continue to work on his degree and delay, for a time, his graduation from the University of Chicago.

We bought a ’57 Volkswagen Microbus, German manufacturer, a very innovative automobile for the times, sliding door, 3 seater, tiny engine, no heater for cold days. No one drove vans. Station wagons were vogue for the boomers.  
Picture Stewarts took of their son and his new car at 'house on the hill'

It was unusual for any make auto to have air conditioning, but no heater!  This seemed a perfect car for our family. The scooter had served us well. Now was the time to move on.

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