Tag Archives: Ogden Park


Vacation: vacation refers to recreation, a get away from day-to-day chores to devote time specifically for relaxation; it can be ritual, annually around the same time, or it can be a one-time event [going to Paris for a wedding anniversary, for example]. It is a holiday…

Is summer really over? Perhaps so, if one goes to a public library recently to see posters similar to this: “Summer Reading Program a Success.”

In agrarian America, most family vacations occur during the summer, while the crops are growing and time for getting away is possible. School is out, often near the end of June, to include July and most of August. Some school districts begin “fall” classes in early August; some wait until after Labor Day.

In the UK, school days often begin in early September, with calendars for holidays similar to those in the US: Christmas and Easter, and Spring Breaks.

However, there is something about vacation-time: summer reading programs, mobile libraries in small-towns, Minnesota. For many, summer is the time for reading. Probably because required readings of books and chapters and notes do not exist. It is Summer Reading Time.

Summer Reading Southern Pines, NC

Southern Pines, NC

I am a reader. Summer or not. But summer was really the time I enjoyed for choosing activities for myself. And choosing the books I wanted to read, liked to read (though I did receive a summer-reading list at the end of the school year. Nevertheless, I could still choose from the lists and lists.).

For the past nine summers, I have had a “vacation”: a retirement of sorts. But I lived and loved and enjoyed the local library. (Barnesville Hutton Memorial Public Library is affiliated with the library system that serves Barnesville, Ohio. The collection of the library contains some 74,000 volumes; the library serves a population of more than 7800 residents.)

Barnesville, Ohio

Barnesville, Ohio

What occurred to me of late was how much more time I spent on vacation–and in the library–than I did use the local library when I was at home. This is like being back in school: vacation-time reading, summer-time reading programs.

And I love libraries in the summer.

“See Spot. See him run. Run, Spot, run.”

Pic: Sharondegaard


That was early elementary reading, and it was “elementary.” And so it goes/went. Then I discovered Ogden Park Library, on the South Side of Chicago. Along with the summer Park Rec rec program (swimming, weaving, and that stuff), there existed the park library: That was the center of my summer life, riding there from home or swimming class, exploring the shelves, checking out books. Checking out books. Checking out books. Heaven.

 Postcard Pic: Chuckman's

Postcard Pic: Chuckman’s

Other libraries that sucked me in, tasted me, chewed me up, digested me–those Francis Bacon’s books he wrote about– I remember so well, in summer, doing research, walking the stacks (something not often allowed now in many larger libraries), checking out books–or simply just losing myself at a table, surrounded with books.

Chicago’s Newberry Public Library:

Newberry Pic: Wikipedia

Newberry Pic: Wikipedia

Chicago Public Library [old building on Michigan Boulevard]:

Old Public Library

Old Public Library

I had a bicycle stolen in Ogden Park in front of the library. In such a hurry to drop off books so they would not be over-due, I did not chain up the bike. In that short in-and-out time, my bike was stolen; it was recovered and returned to me (most of it) a year later. What a sad library memory.

Lost Bicycle

Gone Bicycle

I worked in my high school library (mostly dusting shelves–though I have a good yearbook picture of me in the stacks); I worked in my college library (mostly dusting shelves and books). Yet I wrote graduate papers (for Milton and Shakespeare courses) in the library of the University of Minnesota–during my summer “vacation” time.

Not many years ago, for three summer “vacation” times, I was so fortunate to be in Cambridge, England. The main “big” library was not open to summer students (except practically by Papal decree or a letter from the Queen). But no matter, I was in the summer-school library, walking the aisles, touching the volumes and volumes, doing research on the aorist tense of Greek, used by James Joyce in his short story “The Dead”!

Cambridge Pic: Wikipedia

Cambridge Pic: Wikipedia

I can hum “Marian, madam librarian” from The Music Man–often. I’ve got trouble, right here–in love with books and libraries.

And now, September, then November–and summer is over. “Vacation”? I know I can have everything I need now through the Internet. I don’t need summer.


But walking the stacks, touching the volumes and their spines, smelling the books. And, as in The Music Man, having a librarian, like Marian, checking out my books. That’s what love has got to do with it. I love libraries.

© James F. O’Neil 2014

I Love Books

I Love Books















Some synonyms for “bleak”: black, gloomy, cheerless, chill, cloudy, cold, dark, darkening, depressive, desolate, dismal, dreary, glum, gray, miserable, morose, somber, sullen, sunless, wretched…

Not every snowy and cold winter in Chicago is/was “bleak.”  But delivering papers in the cold and dark afternoons of my childhood often seemed bleak.

I could not often use my bike because of the snow.  So I had a sled to haul the papers from the distribution point at 69th and Racine.  I had to walk there after school (still in grammar school), fold my papers, then begin my route.  No easy summer bike ride with a paper bag on the front of the bike, no easy travel “to work” and then back home.  Winter brought the cold after school.  Then dark–and colder.

My little brother Tom was often there with me, slogging along, making my duty and responsibility to my customers less bleak.

My original route began with 39 customers.  I was the young kid delivering the afternoon paper during the week, with some Saturday and Sunday (early Sunday morning) customers.  I was the paperboy for the Chicago Herald American.

Chicago Herald-American_mast

We began our undertaking at 69th Street and Loomis Boulevard, working our way north.  Crossing 67th Street–Marquette Boulevard–we delivered only on the west side of the street.  Ogden Park, with its paths and hills and summer rec swimming pool, now covered with snow, took over the east territory to Racine Avenue.

 map of ogden parkMap of Ogden park

At the corner of 63rd and Loomis sat our winter oasis: Rexall Drugstore.

A Rexall Drugs Sign (logo). Credit: wikipedia

Sitting in the shadow of the elevated train, the “L,” back then the end of the line for A trains south, was Our Rest Stop.  Our Watering Hole.  It provided us with our favorite nourishment after that cold Windy City walk opposite Ogden Park.

My brother sat in a booth, snow melting from his boots and mittens.  I ordered and paid at the soda fountain: “Two hot chocolates with marshmallows, please.”  (I always was polite to the person making our delicious creamy drink.  More marshmallows for the polite.  Big marshmallows.  Two, maybe three.)

We sat, joking and laughing, perhaps recounting our Snow Warrior battles along the route, or counting money collected.  I always paid for his drink, his reward for helping me.  Then we had to return to the bleak midwinter to finish the route.  Once again my brother and I trudged along, to customers on Ada, Throop, and Elizabeth, from 64th back to 63rd, up and down both sides of the streets, the wind now blowing across the park, from the south.

Finished.  Then home: from 64th and Elizabeth to 67th and Marshfield, rarely though the wind-swept snow-piled paths in the park, down to 67th , then west, crossing the frozen streets of dirty snow and slush, sled bumping off the curbs, to wide Ashland Avenue, then to our home refuge. 

chicago snowy street and row houses c 1960 chuckman's

Chicago Snowy Street and Row Houses  c1960. Photo: chuckman’s

Sometimes, though, on our way home, we stopped at a neighborhood grocery store, getting a five-cent pie, our snack for a job well done.  Cherry was always my favorite, or lemon–or maybe coconut cream.  Small pies, easily shared, or gulped down by one.  I still long for those pies, now more crust than filling (and with no whole cherries). 

When I grew older, when winter turned to other seasons, and my companion found other activities of his own, the winter-time paper route had grown from 39 papers to a route of 73.  It became too big; it was split.  The drug store was no longer on the route.  Those warming cups of chocolate were no longer needed. 

I no longer stopped at Our Rest Stop.  (Besides, I hated sitting alone.) 

©  James F. O’Neil  2014


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