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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“The Emperor of Ice-Cream” by Wallace Stevens:  “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.”

“Why the emperor of ice cream?  It’s an odd combination: an absolute, imperial power and a benign, sweet treat.  Ice cream is a sensuous delight, eagerly anticipated and gleefully consumed.  If you wait too long to eat it, it’ll melt.  So much for the ice cream–now what about the emperor?

“Ice cream is like life: sweet, or at least hungrily indulged in, while it lasts.  It’s also like the dead: cold and destined to be consumed or to dissipate away.  Perhaps, then, the line that closes each stanza is a wake-up call to readers.  If the “only emperor” or dominant principle of the world is the one we’re reminded of when we see ice cream melting–(or, in a different way, when we attend a funeral  [shown in the poem])–we’d be well advised to heed it and make each moment count.”  –Austin Allen, Poetry [magazine] Foundation

Once upon a time: Rainbow cones on the South Side: 93rd and Western in Chicago.

RAINBOW CONE chicago

There see the giant cone, with five or six colors in slices–not scoops–of ice cream piled on top of one another. 

We screamed with excitement for ice cream as our family made its special way farther south of our Marshfield home.  It was a drive from Marquette Boulevard.  No quick 45-mph trip like today.  Probably in the green ’52 Chevy, 25-30 mph, with plenty of stoplights interrupting the special occasion.

Now when it comes to memories in time about flavors, I don’t recall any special Rainbow offerings, but the colors were vibrant.  This is embedded in me.  And in days before Rainbow–and after–ice cream has been a special weakness of mine.  Not as an addiction, like anything-chocolate, but as that special “Good Nutrition My Plate” (nestled within the perfect food container that not only holds but is eaten) with its various food groups which include NUTS (coco-nut and chocolate peanut butter, pistachio and black walnut); FRUITS (like White House Cherry and rum raisin); DAIRY (lemon gelato and butter pecan);  PROTEIN (egg nog and phish food, and chunky monkey and chocolate Moose-tracks); VEGETABLES (carrot-cake and chocolate malted and mint chocolate chip); GRAINS (chocolate cookie dough, and Grape-nuts).

my plate image

However, Rainbow was but one special source of providing me with melting gustatory delights.  No doubt about it, Good Humor was like no other.

good-humor

The bells of the truck signaled the Coming of the Man in White. He enticed us kids to come outside our homes or from our apartments, or made us stop dead in our playing-tracks.  If we had the twenty or twenty-five cents, our saved nickels and dimes, we made our purchases.

good-humor-man good humor dot comAnd?  “Coconut for me, please.”  The delicious-tasting ice cream bar on a stick, covered completely with a thin coat of white-something loaded with coconuts pieces.  Heaven as I ate it.  Heavenly.  If my favorite was not available, I had to settle for something like chocolate cake or perhaps succumb to savoring an orange creamsickle:

good humor orange creamsickle

Good Humor exists today, in supermarkets, in 7-11, in other places, and even with a few trucks in certain neighborhood locations.  “But it’s not the same.”  Yet I would never turn down a chocolate eclair, a toasted almond, or even a strawberry shortcake bar.

Howard Johnson’s at some time was a place I remember first seeing coconut milk on the menu.  I thought that it would provide me with a special ice cream treat: a coconut milk milkshake.  O YES!  YES!  YES!  And then, later, I asked, “A coconut malted milkshake, please.”  The nectar of the gods for sure!

Gus Pappas died in 1987.  He was 83–and that was a long-ago moment.  In 1953, “Mr. Pappas” (“Gus”) bought a corner confectionery in the Byrne Building, at Garfield (55th) and Halsted: Pappas Sweet Shop.  We just knew it as the ice cream shop.  It was a hangout for me and my friend Bill Manion, or with Joe Balint.  My sister and her friends found time to have their ice cream and their teen-age talk-sessions there.

BURNS BUILDING Pat Telios Reagan BYRNE BUILDING WITH PAPPAS CORNER

No matter how warm outside, I remember the store was always cool inside, with its white tile floors and marble counter-tops.  Cool was needed to keep the dipped, rolled, and wrapped delicacies fresh and tasty (Oh, those chocolate-covered cherries!): Who needed Fannie May candies when we had Pappas on the corner?

Gus had a son, James (“Jimmy” to us), who worked in the store.  In my time, Jimmy began singing with the Chicago Metropolitan Opera.  Though his first role was in the chorus (My mother and I saw him in La Boheme.), he was a star to me.  He brought music and fun-with-music into my life, and an appreciation of opera that I do cherish.  And there is nothing today that compares to my savoring a Green River Malted Milkshake, with homemade ice cream, that Jimmy Pappas made for me.  Yum!

green river malt

GREEN RIVER MALTED MILKSHAKE

©  James F. O’Neil  2016

 Vanilla-Coconut-Milkshake-Silk-PureCoconut COCONUT MILK

Major Ingredient of a Homemade Coconut Milkshake

 


 

 

BY: JAMES FRANCIS CUMMINGS O’NEIL NEE ČAPEK

“I know my father and my mother, but beyond that I cannot go. My ancestry is blurred.” –V. S. Naipaul

* * *

Once upon a time, from my interviewing my mother, and thus it is written (here), I learned that the beautiful young maiden (of course!) …

KATRINA VON KOENIG, Great Grandma Katrina, a worker in the Barony of Luxembourg (it’s sounding so romantic and mysterious) met

FRANK ČAPEK [b. 1834], a laborer who was (maybe) in the Prussian Army (that would be romantic, like in Elvira Madigan), later turned anarchist, and (perhaps) a bomb manufacturer, in Chicago, for the eight Accused Conspirator Workingmen in the Haymarket Affair (Riot), May 4, 1886.

HaymarketRiot-Harpers

Drawing from Harper’s Magazine and Wikipedia

I heard about this man when I was a child. I grew up believing I was related to a famous anarchist, because Grandma Schuma said so, and because my mom told me so.

I couldn’t wait to see my Great Grandpa Čapek’s picture in the newspapers.

Frank Capek (Great Grandpa)

I spent hours at the beautiful Chicago Public Library on Michigan Boulevard, using the actual newspapers and microfilms of the events of May 4, 1886. (At one time later, my Uncle Elmer told me he studied, too, about his grandfather, and claimed he recognized pictures. He lived with Great Grandpa at 5431 South Seeley Avenue [I remember that house across Garfield Boulevard] until the Prussian soldier died.)  Great Grandpa Čapek was a talented watchmaker. He died in 1930.

* * *

Frank and Katrina, whom I did not ever know, had eight children, with beautiful ethnic Bohemian names: Emilie [b. 1886], Mike, John, Frank, Joe [b. 1884], Theresa, Katherine, and Mary. I could never understand why my Bohemian relatives chose these names. But when I thought about emperors and empresses, presidents and monarchs, like Franz Josef and Maria Theresa, or King John, maybe the “common” names were more special emulations than Leopold or Vlad the Destroyer. (Not many songs about Leopold, but Emily? Maria? and Joe? or Meet John Doe?–or A Guy Named Joe–or, even better, “What a good Joe he is!,” the compliment.)

immigrants at ellis island

Bohemian immigrants on Ellis Island

There they were, these Bohemian kids (not CZECHS!, not Slovaks, not Slovenes, but Bohacs, or Bohunks–Hunkies or Honkies!). Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918. Bohemia was a kingdom, from “way back when,” like before A.D. 600–those days of Beowulf….

bohemia in 1882

Bohemia in 1882

I learned–and was reminded often–that I was a Bohemian, because “Mom said so.” There I was, growing up in the ethnic South Side of Chicago: Damen and Seeley and Garfield Boulevard (55th Street), and Back of the Yards. Some neighbors were postal workers; others, electricians, tradesmen, homemakers. Family people. Neighborhood people. [Emilie worked in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. She was a meat packer for Libby Foods.]

JOE ČAPEK married ANNA JARYKOVIC.

Joseph Capek and  Anna Jarykovic

JOE AND ANNA WEDDING PICTURE

Anna–of course, it had to be “AH-NAH”–died in 1924. In 1918 she had contracted the flu–the world influenza pandemic that occurred near the end of World War I. (More died from the disease than died in the war. I learned that in school.) She then contracted and succumbed to TB. Growing up, I remember many trips to the North Side, to Bohemian National Cemetery, and the graves and headstones.

Bohemian_National_Cemetery

Bohemian National Cemetery Entrance

And Mayor Anton Cermak’s mausoleum

cermak tomb

Cermak Tomb

–and the nearby restaurant that had the best roasted duck, with mashed potatoes and gravy. On the way, we sometimes passed the TB Sanitarium….

tb sanitarium in chicago Jennifer A. Stix 1974 photo

Photo by Jennifer A. Stix 1974

Joe and Anna begot: Herbert (Uncle Herbie, who went with Aunt Flo); Joe (Uncle Joe, who went with Aunt Aggie); Elmer (Uncle Elmer, who went with Aunt Gladys) —I knew them all; and LILLIAN CATHERINE [b. November 16, 1918] (my mom).

Lillian C. Capek Schuma

LILLIAN C. CAPEK

Mother Katrina, while helping Anna with the children, died of a heart attack: November 1918….

In June 1910, having fallen (madly?) in love, Emilie Čapek (Joe’s sister), while working at Libby Foods, married her handsome supervisor, Edward Albert Šuma [Schuma] [b. 1884]. I have the wedding pictures. My, what a handsome couple they were!

Edward Suma-Schuma and Emilie Capek

Edward Suma-Schuma and Emilie Capek (seated)

* * *

My Grandpa Schuma was hospitalized, was dying. In Evangelical Lutheran Hospital cafeteria, in 1956, on the South Side of Chicago, I came to know who really begot whom. I heard a beautiful story from my mother, a story of family and love. I heard of the love of a mother for a daughter, and a grandmother’s love. Then illness and death. How could all these children have comprehended it all?

Family togetherness, and the love of a generous aunt and uncle (Emilie and Ed), “begot” Lillian as “parents” and for me were my Grandma and Grandpa Schuma. They took the little girl. “Uncle Joe” kept the boys. I never knew that Joseph Capek was my real grandfather–until 1956. I knew my “grandparents” helped raise me when my father (Francis Cummings) was overseas with the Army. Their house was the first I can recall, at 5644 South Seeley Avenue.

5644 South Seeley, Chicago Grandma s Place

5644 South Seeley Chicago (current)

I grew up there with them: with their daughter, my “Aunt” Emily, and with my sister and with my (2nd) cousin Marilyn (who was begot by “Uncle” Bill Knoch).

So I learned the family “secret.” Yet it was never meant to hide or deceive. Life went on. I learned the facts, the “truth.” My mother said it was so.

Nothing changed after that. Except for my awareness. After Grandma Schuma died, I was present for the reading of her will, in 1958. Then the lawyer stated the “where-from?” that began in 1924: “My niece Lillian,…” when they took in that little girl. Nothing really changed for me.

How does one ever begin to tell a story of ancestry? The more I work with the lives and the connections, however, the more I realize the story was really the beginning of how my sister, my cousin, and I–three little kids–became part of the family story. I never looked at it this way before. Those earliest of pictures I have of me alone show a cute happy baby in my mother’s arms.

jimmy loved b

Jimmy Loved

Later pictures begin to show three little children, each a year apart, with smiling faces.

 

jan jim marilyn january 1944

January 1944 THREE FRIENDS [Janice, Jimmy, Marilyn]

Then, standing together, holding hands.

GRANDMA'S PORCH 1945 B

Grandma’s Porch  5644 S Seeley 1945  [Marilyn, Jimmy, Janice]

In  the beginning,… Janice [b. 1939], Marilyn [b. 1940], and Jimmy [b. 1941]….

Little did these women, sister and cousin, who begat my formation, who made me laugh, who taught me some funny-ness–little did they know they’d become the main characters in an important story:

“Where ya’ from?”

© James F. O’Neil 2016

kim novak bohemian daughter

Kim Novak famous Chicago Bohemian

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Corned Beef? “In the United States and Canada, consumption of corned beef is often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. Corned beef is not considered an Irish national dish; the connection with Saint Patrick’s Day specifically originates as part of Irish-American culture, and is often part of their celebrations in North America.

“Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century. Corned beef and cabbage is the Irish-American variant of the Irish dish of bacon and cabbage. A similar dish is the New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef, cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes, which is popular in New England and parts of Atlantic Canada.” [Wikipedia]

Cornedbeef WIKIPEDIAYummy Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Since I could ever remember, we had corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish Catholic Feast Day of St. Patrick was almost a Holy Day of Obligation: Attend church under pain of mortal sin. Well, it wasn’t really such a day; but it was a day off from school, it meant a Chicago parade, and it meant the Italians in my neighborhood had to wait two more days to get even with us by brandishing St. Joseph’s Day–and by having local processions and festivities.

[Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph is in Western Christianity the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1 May was created in order to coincide with the celebration of International Labor Day (May Day) in many countries.]

St Joseph IN GLASS  st aphonsus church wexford, PASaint Joseph in Glass

Saint Alphonsus Church

Wexford, PA

He was the stepfather to Jesus; St. Patrick only drove out snakes from Ireland….

However, more people in America ate turkey at Thanksgiving time than they ate ham. And more people in American ate corned beef at St. Patrick’s Day-time than they ate Italian sausage and peppers (though I cannot “prove” this allegation by me)!

Well, corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots had been the steady diet of my O’Neil family since I became part of the O’Neil/O’Neill Clan. So my wife and I have continued to carry on our clannish traditions with our own family on that Special Day of 17 March.

170px-Irish_cloverLuck of the Irish Shamrock

Note: In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously set May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour workday would become standard. As the chosen date approached, U.S. labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day. On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” In Chicago, the movement’s center, an estimated 30,000-to-40,000 workers had gone on strike. What then occurred is the Chicago Haymarket Affair. “No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Haymarket Affair,” with its rally and riot and trial and executions. “What began as a rally on May 4, 1886, the consequences are still being felt today. Very few American history textbooks present the event accurately or point out its significance,” according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman. [Wikipedia]

So, the Haymarket Affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers, Catholics and Communists alike.

Thus ends the history lesson relating Saint Patrick, Saint Joseph, The Haymarket Riot, May Day celebrations, the eight-hour work day, and corned beef and cabbage. Now about those Reuben sandwiches….

sandwich-corned-beef by kaufmans deli skokie ILCorned Beef on Rye by Kaufman’s Deli

Skokie, IL

© James F. O’Neil 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”–
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Turn, turn, turn. A time to laugh, jump, play; a time to build, tear down, and rebuild.

Our family used to live in Chicago, at 1623 West Van Buren, near Ashland, with the “L” behind our building. But:

Demolition for Congress Street Expressway

Demolition for Congress   Expressway

The Congress Street [Eisenhower] Expressway made us move.

I went to 1st and 2nd grade at St. Jarlath’s on Jackson Boulevard.

Saint Jarlath Catholic Church and School

Saint Jarlath Catholic Church                 

(St. Jarlath: Ethnic Origin: Irish. Date of Origin: 1869. Neighborhood Location: West Town, 1713 West Jackson. In September 1969, the church closed. [“Heavens to Purgatory: Imploding Churches Flatten Chicago”: “Over the decades, grand churches such as the Catholic St. Jarlath’s, St. Leo’s, and St. Charles Borromeo, along with Protestant houses of worship and synagogues are demolished, erased from the cityscape.” –Lynn Becker, arcchicago.blogspot.com/2013/01])

When the demolition of our neighborhood began, I cannot remember. I cannot recall wrecking balls, bulldozers, or men working. However, what I do recall vividly are the fires from the piles of wood that remained after demolition of the buildings.

What are brothers and sisters playing together supposed to do? Their playing field now looks like a World War II bombed-out neighborhood in Berlin or in Hamburg. What to do? The alleyways are gone. A few abandoned cars under the “L” tracks. But the rubble fires?

What is there about a campfire that attracts us and keeps us nearly frozen in time, mesmerized, as the flames rise, the embers glow, the wood crackles and pops, perhaps even shooting tiny missiles of fire, sparks. Sparks that might be dangerous to little hands or clothes or long blond hair of a fourth-grade girl.

Campfire Fun

             Campfire Fun

Picture me in second grade, my play-pal sister, Janice, two years ahead of me, stirring up the fires of demolition. What fun! Feed the fire with other sticks of wood. Make the fire come to life: “We have fire!” We are entranced.

Someone reported us to our mother.

The playtime ended. No more Fire Starters in the rubble on Van Buren. What to do now? Put pennies on the streetcar tracks? Did that. Play in the car, swinging on the steering wheel. Got too big for that. I am sure that we found something else to do–and were informed that our building was next to go. We moved to the South Side.

So long ago, so many great memories of childhood.

Here in my Ohio neighborhood, I am seeing trucks and equipment. Demolition is occurring. Not for an expressway but because a cottage is old and rotten and decrepit. So the buildings, perhaps some nearly seventy years old or more, are coming down. Part of a renewal-scape project.

Here is what it looks like:

Demolition of Cottages #7 & #8

Demolition of Cottages #7 & #8,  Epworth Park, Bethesda, Ohio

And so it goes, for life goes on. It is for the best. It is time: turn, turn, turn.

But that pile of wood…. I need to call my sister. Can she come and play?

© James F. O’Neil

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Thanksgiving turkey is now mostly eaten–the remains becoming soup or turkey salad (with mayo), or sandwiches for the kids’ lunches.  (Some leftovers might even be put into the freezer for later…)  The festive food preparation, eating at the Turkey Day Table, the family conversations and discussions, football games and scores, and the trip home are fast becoming memories.  Another Thanksgiving….

My memories of Turkey Day Vacation of 1961 may be “outdone” by others’ recollections; but at age 20, I had a holiday vacation like no other since then.

College students home for holidays lose sleep, party hearty, visit relatives, stay out late, go places (like dances, movie theaters, or Black Friday shopping events with others in crowded places), and sometimes travel long distances to get to the traditional Turkey Day Feast (See Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the 1987 film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes).

An Illinois Central Railroad diesel locomotive...

An Illinois Central Railroad diesel locomotive on static display in Carbondale, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some, these activities weaken immune systems.

In 1961, to my Chicago home from school in Saint Louis: 300 miles.  Thanksgiving holiday: Wednesday to Sunday.  A round trip on the Illinois Central Railroad.

Now I cannot recall the specifics of my arrival home, the turkey dinner (November 23, 1961), the activities with friends and family–and how much sleep I did not get.  But pneumonia I did get somehow and somewhere.

 “Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs causing cough … and difficulty breathing.  A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.  Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life threatening … most serious for … people with underlying health problems or weakened immune systems.  Most people with pneumonia begin with cold and flu symptoms and then develop a high fever, chills, and cough…  Pneumonia usually starts … after having a cold or the flu.”

The Chicago weather that November ranged from a high of 55 to a cold 30 degrees.  Some nice days, some much colder.  Not much snow around, just crispy and cold at night.

My holiday ended Sunday night, the 26th, but not before I took out the dog.  I was in my shirtsleeves, I remember: no jacket, walking the dog in an open field, 39 degrees–colder in the wind near our place near O’Hare Field.  Walking into the warm house I got the chills.

“Off you go”–or something like that my dad said to me, as I boarded the Illinois Central late Sunday night.  (I took the Illinois Central, for its train routes allowed me to leave later from home and have more vacation time.)

I did not feel well; I had the chills.

The only seat I found was in a small compartment chair-like seat next to the door between train cars.

All night, as I tried to sleep, people would be opening and closing the door, letting in the cold air, letting the cold air blow on me.  No other place to move to.  I was getting cold and colder, despite being dressed in my heavy black wool overcoat.

At three o’clock on Monday morning, my friend met me at the train station.

Saint Louis RR Station

Not much sleep.  Didn’t want breakfast.  Into my dorm room bed I went.  No class attendance: I became feverish and delirious by suppertime.  By six, I was being driven to the hospital where I fainted in the X-ray room, as I remember.

xray-barnes-1951X-Ray Barnes Hospital 1951

(I have no remembrance of ever sitting in an ER.)

Admitted.  Put into bed.  A small bed–in the pediatric wing!  (The hospital census, I was later told, was high with few beds left.)

So my Thanksgiving vacation included a five-day stay in a hospital.  The latter required medications, rest, and more rest.  But did meet a young college student like me, also admitted to pediatrics.  Female.

When I returned to campus activities and classes, I found myself running on SLOW for a few months.  Yet, though I was later deemed “fully recovered” and released from a doctor’s care, my lungs were never “as good as new.”

That’s my storied Thanksgiving memory.  For now….

© James F. O’Neil  2013

By: James F. O’Neil

“Riding the Subway as Therapy”– Jared Keller (http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/12/riding-subway-therapy/4075/)

On a recent trip to Minnesota, I rode the tram in the Minneapolis airport.  Carry-on bag with me, I stepped onto the tramcar, moved away from the doors which were about to close (as I was warned), and sat down to the right in a senior seat.  I had a perfect front view of the tracks, and a view of how I was going to travel to Concourse C.

TRAM TRACKS MPLS AIRPORT 2013

In a moment-flash-to-the-past, a recurring moment, I was transported to Chicago, the Chicago L, the Englewood Line, then called The “A” Train.

CTA “A” TRAIN TO HOWARD STREET

(The CTA ‘L’ is sometimes written as “L” or “el,” short for “elevated.)  My little brother and I were travelers of the CTA rails.  My small companion, five years younger, and I went for L rides, for something to do.  What a cheap date!  When we rode the transit system, from bus to L, the fares were 12¢, and then rose to 20¢ in the late ‘50s.  (In 1957, the base fare was raised to 25¢.)

Our route was the walk from 67th and Marshfield, to the bus on Ashland, then north to 63rd, transfer to 63rd to Loomis, where the Englewood Line ended/began. 

 Tom and I--Forever Bound

63rd and Loomis

Through the station and up the stairs we went.  (See the 1995 romantic comedy film While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman for a view of fare-collecting and L train stations.)  Almost running to the front of the waiting “train,” the two of us pushed into the first car, sitting in the front across from the motorman.  We’d share turns on the single seat by the front window. 

As the train went underground, becoming the subway under the Chicago Loop and farther north, the journey under the city thrilled us both–and a greater thrill when the motorman opened his door, propping it open with a foot or leg, allowing us front-row seats to the controls of the machine.  We drove with him.  We were in command. 

Lights and rails and signals raced by; then we slowed for each underground platform stop.  As we came to daylight, we saw and felt the climb up the rails to over two stories above the city.  We were always able to look down at porches and cars and people, or look into third-story windows.

From 63rd and Loomis to the end of the line at Howard Street, we delighted.  Then everyone off, down the stairs to the exit to the street.  We would walk around, finding our favorite stop for a Coke, then looking in the showroom window of the Mercedes-Benz dealer on Howard and State Street.  In the showroom, we walked around, transfixed–really–looking at the new gull-wing Mercedes-Benz,

 

1955_Mercedes-Benz_300SL_Gullwing_Coupe_34Pic of that Mercedes in 1955

Then we’d make our way back home, looking forward to the ride, but somewhat let down, of course, for the trip was over.  But at the same time, what a trip, nearly from one of the city to the other.

As we grew older, the trips became less frequent.  Yet like Holden Caulfield protecting his sister Phoebe (in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye), I was my brother’s savior on one unforgettable L ride. 

We were traveling underground.  I was in the single seat (my turn…), facing the motorman compartment, but able to turn face-front.  My brother was in the first double seat, next to the window, looking forward and left.  Both of us thought nothing of the old man who came from a crowded platform and made his way to sit down with us in the empty place.  Next to my brother.  Small talk (as I look back), about our ride and us. 

From the corner of my eye, I saw the man move his hand slowly from on his left leg towards my brother’s little right leg covered by brown corduroys.  I mean, this guy was some kind of pervert and all…  Honest to God!  And I got excited and all.  And nervous.  I mean, what was I supposed to do?  I’m not kidding.  I kept worrying, in slow motion and all, about what the pervert was going to do–and all.

I looked him in the eye: “Don’t touch my brother or I’ll kill you, I swear to God I will!”  He stood up and moved.  There I was, sliding away from the window, sitting down next to the little guy.  There I was, the catcher in the rye and all.  I caught him before he was swept over the cliff.  I saved him and all.  I swore then and there that I would NEVER let harm come to him–and all.

 * * *

From Wikipedia: The Chicago rapid-transit system is officially nicknamed the ‘L’.  This name for the CTA rail system applies to the whole system: its elevated, subway, at-grade, and open-cut segments.  The use of the nickname dates from the earliest days of the elevated railroads.  Newspapers of the late 1880s referred to proposed elevated railroads in Chicago as ‘”L” roads.  The first route to be constructed, the Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad gained the nickname “Alley Elevated,” or “Alley L” during its planning and construction, a term that was widely used by 1893, less than a year after the line opened.

In discussing various stylings of “Loop” and “L” in Destination Loop: The Story of Rapid Transit Railroading in and around Chicago (1982), author Brian J. Cudahy quotes a passage from The Neon Wilderness (1949) by Chicago author Nelson Algren: “beneath the curved steel of the El, beneath the endless ties.”  Cudahy then comments, “Note that in the quotation above … it says ‘El’ to mean ‘elevated rapid transit railroad.’  We trust that this usage can be ascribed to a publisher’s editor in New York or some other east coast city; in Chicago, the same expression is routinely rendered ‘L.'” The Chicago Tribune style guide also uses ‘L.’

As used by CTA, the name is rendered as the capital letter ‘L’, in quotation marks.  “L” (with double quotation marks) was often used by CTA predecessors such as the Chicago Rapid Transit Company; however, the CTA uses single quotation marks (‘) on some printed materials and signs rather than double.  In Chicago, the term subway is only applied to the sections of the ‘L’ network that are actually underground and is not applied to the entire system as a whole, as in New York City where both the elevated and underground portions are called the subway.

Link: http://www.chicago-l.org/index.html 

Note: The Website is found as Chicago “L”.org

© James F. O’Neil  2013

By:  James F. O’Neil

“Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.”  –Horace

October.  Summer is a memory.  Schools are back in session for a new year, a new term.  “What I Did Last Summer” is long finished.  But wait!

What did teachers do “all” summer?

In my entire college education, I had only one course in economics.  I did not understand much of it; the plain grey-covered textbook weighed at least 15 pounds.  My transcript shows that I received a C in Econ 152 Intro to Economics.

My work-life began with a Social Security card, and a job in the produce department of Wieboldt’s in Chicago, on 63rd Street and Green.

 Wieboldt's 63rd and Green departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com

Photo: departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com

This job brought me my first real paycheck and my first taxed Social Security earnings ($21) in 1957.  At sixteen, I was on my way to retirement (and the not-yet-known-Medicare), but certainly did not know it nor understand what was ahead for me in the work force.

In 1957, I was a junior in high school.  I had no earnings to speak of until 1963, the year I began teaching, the year I was married.

The Intro to Economics course taught me nothing about budgets, doing income taxes, withholding, rent, income, health insurance.  The GNP and Adam Smith did not help me with my first checking account.  (We did money orders for the first two years together.)  

We newlyweds had rented a nice one-bedroom apartment, 2nd floor, in a three-story building with long balconies, and dumpsters in the parking lot in the rear.  Wonder bread was 25¢ a loaf.

 wonder-bread-sign-garry-gay images.fineartamerica.com

PHOTO CREDIT: garry-gay images.fineartamerica.com

We could fill the tank of the ’62 Corvair for $3.00; and my Camel cigarettes were 25¢ a pack.

However, we soon realized near the end of the first year together that my teacher salary of $4300 a year was not going to be adequate for our lifestyles of fast cars and nightlife at the drive-in. 

During the summers after a school year, most young teachers, having reported final grades, and having cleaned their classroom and done other bureaucratic duties in order to receive the final paycheck, had to find work for the summer. 

In the summer of 1964, I unloaded boxcars for Jewel Tea Company. 

jewel tea box car americanrailroadcentre.com

Photo of Model Boxcar: americanrailroadcentre.com

Unloading boxcars was, without a doubt, the hardest work I have ever done in my life. 

I was a lean, mean machine who could unload fifty-pound packages of bags of sugar, emptying a “sugar car” in an hour.  Green beans and SPAM took longer.  Ketchup cars were often scenes of massacre as the cars were “humped,” sending cartons of ketchup smashing against walls and ceilings.  After the broken glass, crushed cartons, and sprayed blood-red ketchup were disposed of, the remnants were able to be stacked in proper form on the pallets, awaiting the two-pronged forks of the lifts.

Summer could not end soon enough, with sandwiches made with ground baloney and mixed relish for lunch.

After the next school year?  No more bloody boxcars. 

“Fuller Brush!  Good afternoon!  I have a few specials to show you today.”

fuller brush man www.emissourian.com

Photo: Fuller Brush Man http://www.emissourian.com

The work was fun and the products were good (like the DCW–Dust, Clean, Wax–cleaner).  And the brooms never wore out.  My territory was mostly in the Palatine area near Chicago.  Selling, carrying that Fuller Brush case, then sorting orders and packaging and then making deliveries, was the routine.  The best part?  Meeting people–and no baloney sandwiches.

My territory got too big; my manager wanted me to do more.  I quit. 

After the snows melted and the spring rains came, I knew summer would come after another school year finished.

I drove a dump truck.

dump-truckDump Truck

I worked for a landscaper.  I was a real “sod-buster,” taking the truck to the sod farm, getting sod or loads of dirt, and delivering–safely, through the streets and on the roads of northwest Cook County–to the job sites. 

My sod-busting and sod-laying and plant-planting work brought me home every night looking like a Welshman from the mines. 

At the end of the summer of 1966, that chapter of my life, which really began long before at Wieboldt’s, concluded.  We left Chicago and headed up to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  It was to be our first big Adventure in Moving.  But more summers would lie ahead.

I was only 25….

oh-the-places-youll-go novelreaction.com

Image: novelreaction.com

© James F. O’Neil  2013

 

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