Chicago Northwest Side
Growing up in the great state of Texas, we did not have “sides,” as in the south side or the northwest side. We had TALL fences. Then I married a Chicagoan who navigated the CTA with his eyes closed, understood what the heck 6400 West/3200 North meant, debated citywide ward politics, and frequently hurt my ears with the Chicagoism, “I’m tellin’ you that!”, and talked about growing up on the Northwest side of Chicago. Having grown up without sides, I was often confused when Joe defined people by where they were from, as if where you were from explained everything.
And then I met, Chicago Northwest sider, Julianne and she ‘splain everything. Really.
Being the seventh child of eight, I sort of got lost in the shuffle of strict parental guidance. In fairness, my poor mom had five sons and three daughters who demanded her attention, and my dad was either at the firehouse or working a side job. Belmont and Central became our playground.
The ‘60s were weird for those of us at St. Ferdinand. We had more freedom than today’s tethered tikes. Summer’s drill was to get your chores done Saturday morning and then you were free to go out and “play” as long as you were not a minute late for five o’clock dinner. Boy, what we could cram into seven hours of unsupervised “play!” This was a time of no cell phones and usually one family car that was strictly used for shopping, doctor appointments and Mom and Dad date nights. No child was ever driven to school, to a friend’s, to practice, or to the park. It was your legs or your bike – period.
Once our chores were checked and the back door opened, we took the stairs three at a time and off we went. Our parents trusted us to remain within the perimeters of the parish. They weren’t neglectful – they were tired, and needed their horde to vacate the premises so they could have seven hours of laundry, meal preparation, cigarettes and a little coffee klatching with the neighbors. I usually went to “call” my girlfriend Kathy. Translation: You never knocked on a door or, God forbid, rang the doorbell – ever. If you wanted to get a friend to exit their house, you simply stood at the base of their back porch and yelled YOOOO KAAAAATTTTHHHY (insert appropriate name) in a very melodic loud pitch! Once a parent, grandma, sibling or the named friend acknowledged your presence, we went to “call” another until we’d assembled our band of merry adventurers, and then we were off.
Sometimes, we rode our bikes to Brookfield Zoo – eight miles of hugging 1st Avenue sans helmets. We were fit and crazy. Hitchhiking was an occasional thrill that took us to Foster Avenue Beach. Oh, if my beloved Mom & Dad ever knew! Ah shit, they knew, but as long as they didn’t get a call from a neighbor, the police or hospital, then we were just kids being kids and what they didn’t know saved our ass.
There was one day in the week where they knew exactly where every Catholic and public grammar school kid was: Thursday was the FUN SHOW at The Will Rogers theater. 6-8 hrs of cartoons, with lunch bags of homemade popcorn and penny candy from Joy Lee. No wonder we had to bike to Brookfield Zoo, and no wonder we had street smarts as well as remedial readers. Swimming at Riis and Portage Parks with our rubberized bathing caps tearing the wisps of hair at the napes of our necks is a fond memory, as well as the 40 degree water. Good ole summertime! By the grace of God, we made it through.
Julianne P. Joyce
Thanks Julianna for sharing! What a wonderful writer and storyteller you are.
Odd Loves Company,
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