Friday, January 27, 2012

Late '57-1958

Dressed in Sunday clothes at Nalco's Open House

In the Fall of ’57 we moved to 4505 Springfield Avenue far west within the city of Chicago. This was an easy commute to Nalco Chemical Company where Bruce was then employed.

Almost unheard of with this large family we were able to rent a brand new home, 2-flat, located within the landing patterns of the airplanes arriving and taking off from Midway International Airport. Was grand to be living in brand new space, suburban almost. We bought a tan naugahyde hide-a-bed and placed it in the bare living room. Soon we bought some Bates bedspreads which I cut and hemmed for the large picture window to close us off at night from passer-by view. Gran said, “Truly, you don’t need those drapery for it would be wonderful for folks passing to look in on such a nice family”. We found we needed some privacy. There were 3 bedrooms. Joan’s baby crib was set up in the middle room with the old army cot for Michael to bed down. The other two boys were set up in the back bedroom. The home, newly constructed, had a large yard without any grass or landscaping, though white picket fence between neighbors. I brought my iris rhizomes from the university and planted them beside the back door.  
Patrick and Kevin with Trikes
Patrick and JoanMary at our Front Door
Baby JoanMary and Bruce After a Walk
JoanMary 1 Year Old and Walking

A young family mom, pop and two children lived in the upstairs flat. The oldest, a girl, was Michael’s age and attended same school. Mary Eckstein and I got along fine. This Mom showed me a picture of herself dating her husband. She was slim and gorgeous. Already she had gained weight and sort of dowdy.  The dad was a Flight Controller at Midway Airport. Never did forget how she would wash every one of their bath towels daily as is done in motels. These homes were in a Polish neighborhood; all homes so neat and tidy. Michael attended first Grade now. Sunday Mass was said in Latin, of course. Some Masses had sermons in the Polish language.
Michael is in 1st Grade- Attends St. Bruno's School
This is the time I commenced planning meals ahead for the whole week. We initiated the birthday celebrations with pizza and cake to simplify those special days after a few more bustling and complicated ventures with chicken dinner. Our washer and dryer were in the basement as were the neighbor’s machines. One of Chicago’s spring rains flooded this new basement. Homemakers found clothing still  required ironing. On one of these ironing deals my iron tipped off the board and hit the floor scarring the kitchen’s nice, new linoleum. I felt awful. If only it were pieces of tile. I used to put the three boys in the tub in the bathroom while I fixed our supper. I’d pour in some Ivory liquid which made so many bubbles. They never tired of these times. They'd spend an hour or more in the water having a super time while getting clean bodies. The result after many months was we discovered a problem with the plumbing leaking behind the tile and some pink tiles were coming loose. Don’t remember the room having a fan. A new house can have building flaws. Our landlord, Mr. Soprich, lived in an identical 2-flat next door. 
Christmas Some of the Stewart Clan Watching TV at RW Stewart's 
Patrick, JoanMary  [I year almost] Michael, Kevin
No women drove vans. Station wagons were vogue for the boomers. With our micro-bus [van] I was able to attend a few of the monthly meetings with the 49ers, Mount Mary College Alumnae living on the south side of Chicago. I felt embarrassed driving the VW as it seemed like driving a truck. Women didn't drive trucks. We took a few Microbus trips to our old stomping grounds, the Science museum. There was little to interest us in the surrounding neighborhood. Children spent a lot of time in the backyard. Or out front on their trikes.

The next upcoming event in our Bergin family was Elayne’s wedding to Tom Sullivan.
Ready For Bed- Michael, Kevin, Patrick, JoanMary on Auntie's Lap
Tom’s mother and father invited all the family to a reception in their honor at a swanky Illinois Club in the Chicago loop.  Mr. Sullivan, Sr.  told me, “Anyone could tell you’re Irish. You have the map all over your face”. This is the first occasion I had too much alcohol to drink. Drinks were freely available. I always enjoyed drinking the foam from beer mugs, rarely tasted a wine other than  Mogan David, a very sweet red wine. I enjoyed this evening and was faced with all kinds of fancy, hard liquor drinks.  And they were free. I was woozy all the way home. And, oh, the headache all the next day when my services were required to carry through my busy spouse/mother routine. This was a learning experience, indeed. I hate headaches. Why would I ever again acquire one deliberately? Uh-uh. For me this was a good learning experience. From this moment on I would control alcoholic usage as my father patterned for us.

 Mary and I kept an appointment at a dress shop to have our red, satin dresses fitted. We would be Elayne’s bride matrons.
Priscilla                 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Sullivan               Michael
Elayne and Tom were married at St. Joseph’s, in Richmond and had a lovely reception in Woodstock, IL. Once more we had most of our cousins with us, aunts and uncles.
Elayne Bergin Sullivan, MaryKay and Mary [dresses were red satin] 
Following their wedding they took up residence in Alton IL. The senior Sullivans lived there as well. This city is just outside St. Louis, MO. I suppose the winter passed easily being milder IL winters down state. Come Spring and Summer Elayne began to complain about the heat and high humidity in the south. Perhaps she was lonesome for family as well. Was quite a trip to come home.

Jim stayed with us, for a short period of time while attending college. He was dating Angela Jeanne whom I said attended the same college my sister-in-law, Mary, attended, and Jim having met her through Mary. She had all the pre-requisites for satisfying my parents, Irish, Catholic, College. Jim writes- “Mother and dad relinquished the studio apartment on Wabash and Chicago Avenues upon Elayne's marriage in Oct, '57;  and returned to the farm, leaving me to your hospitality, sleeping on couch in front room and studying in basement.  Your kids listened to Captain Kangaroo mornings. I was with you until Spring semester ended in late May of '58.  Then on to ROTC Summer Camp mid June to early August.  Then worked for dad completely painting the barn including the highest portions that had never been more than oiled. I was compensated with Mother's diamond ring [this ring mother inherited from her Aunt Maime] which I had re-set at Wolfe's Jewelers in Woodstock as Angie's engagement ring presented over Thanksgiving as I recall. 
I remember those many evenings when Jim joined Bruce and me lingering at the kitchen table. The children were in their beds. There were a trying few days when JoanMary, was having the usual growing up rejection to bedtime. She was in the room adjacent to the kitchen and would not settle down. She was training me to continually return to her and offer solace. Finally, with the guys fortifying one another and me, we decided to just let her ‘cry it out’.  Eventually, she would settle in. So awful for me to just sit there, outside her door, and listen to her sobbing. At LONG last she stopped crying, in exhaustion, I think. We passed this hurdle.
JoanMary Loved to Rock
JoanMary loved to be rocked. I’d pick her up onto my lap, cuddle her, and we’d sing the songs from the fascinating nursery rhymes from our Luther record. Especially fitting was ‘Little Betty Blue lost her holiday shoe. Now what would little Betty do? Give her another one just like the other one, then she can walk in the two’. 
One day Michael came home from St. Bruno’s school with red blotches forming on his skin throughout his whole body. He caught the 2-week measles. We put him to bed as he slowly recovered. The other children would catch the measles from him.

Michael Brought Our First Contagious Disease Home From School
JoanMary Gives Raggedy Ann a Tight Hug
Alas! I was allowing La Leche Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to deeply influence me. The founders of La Leche League were seven mothers from Illinois who had breast-fed their own children and were motivated to help mothers who, for a variety of different reasons (often related to social expectations and misinformation) had difficulties with and questions about breast-feeding. Sound familiar? Marian Tompson and her friend Mary White began with a conversation about the joys and difficulties of breast-feeding while at a local church picnic in August 1956. They each invited other friends to join the discussion; Mary Ann Cahill, Edwina Froehlich, Mary Ann Kerwin, Viola Lennon, and Betty Wagner. These women are considered the founders of La Leche League.
Dr. Herbert Ratner [director of public health in Oak Park, IL] and Dr. Gregory White were invited to meet with these women and advise the group about medical aspects of breast-feeding, leading them to  access  the small amount of medical literature about breast-feeding then available. By the end of World War II, most women bottle-fed their babies. At the time of La Leche League's founding, the breast-feeding initiation rate in the USA had dropped to 20% of babies. I’m wondering now what the successful rate was. Well, I’ve shared with you up until now a play by play account of one woman’s trial and error experiences. Mine. Case rests. LLL over the years since grew to be the world’s foremost authority on breastfeeding.


  1. Hi, Enjoyed reading your blog. I worked in research at Clearing in the early 1970's until we moved to Naperville. My daughter attended the University of Chicago, so enjoyed reading your account. Actually I thought all your entries were great. I posted a like to your blog on the Nalco Retirees site. I am sure others would enjoy reading it.

  2. Hi, Some of us who had worked at Clearing were wondering where this photo was taken. Is it in lobby or maybe the basement? In the 1970's the basement was remodeled into a nice lunch room type area...not sure what it was like in the late 1950's.


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