Growing Up In The Neighborhood!

★~♥~♥~★~ El Morno! ♥~★~★~♥ ~
December 11, 2012

Today is a nothing mucher (Noodle Ring is the food of the day, need I say more?) If you want check out what happened on this day in history and celebrity birthdays  just click December 11, 2011–Noodle ring recipe included.

I do, however, want to give you something to muse over, while you drink your morno cuppa, so  I’m sharing the monologue Cole wrote for his drama class. Ok. I was hard up for El Morno material and uninspired by noodle rings so I turned my 16 years old school work into a blog post. I hope you like it.

The assignment was to write a monologue telling someone eles story.  Cole wrote his monologue using some of the stories his dad told him about growing up in a large family on the Northwest side of Chicago during the sixties.  Thank you to our “Northwest Sider” friends for filling in some of the gaps for Cole.

Joe’s stories written and told by Cole:

I grew up on the Northwest side of Chicago in the 1960s,  the sixth child of seven. My mom spent her days raising five sons, including one set of twins and two daughters, while my dad was either at the firehouse or working a side job. Later in life, whenever people gasped and asked mom how she did it, she made it sound easy. They didn’t come all at once,” she would say. “I had them one at a time.” And then she would laugh and add, “Except for the twins, of course.”

Our neighborhood was our social life. We were free to roam unencumbered from parental check-ins. My parents didn’t care where we were as long as we were home before the street lights came on or five o’clock supper, whichever came first.

By the time I was six or seven, I was constantly being sent to the neighborhood store for groceries, usually to buy milk. The half-mile walk to the store wasn’t bad, but walking home with two gallons of milk, one in each hand, was — I was certain my arms would fall off. When I was a little older, and trusted to buy more stuff, I was allowed to use the red wagon. The family was more excited about this rite of passage than I was. It wasn’t easy maneuvering an empty red wagon to the store, and even harder coming home with it full of groceries, especially in freezing Chicago temperatures. Uphill both ways.  And it never failed — I would arrive home and be berated for forgetting to buy something or buying the wrong thing. Nobody cared that my hands were frostbitten through my gloves  from clutching the metal handle on the wagon. I use to imagine dying of pneumonia and frost bite on the way home from the store and when my family noticed I was missing, probably when they needed to send someone to the store again, they would be so sorry for sending me out into the cold and for the rest of their lives they would ask themselves, “Did we really need that extra gallon of milk?”

My main goal during the summer, after school, and on winter weekends was to escape the house and head out into the neighborhood before someone found an errand to send me on. We didn’t have cell phones back in those days, but we did have well developed lungs from growing up in large, loud Italian/Irish families. I would head over to my a friends house and call him by standing outside at the base of his back porch and yelling YOOOO followed by his name in a very melodic (and loud) pitch! My friend would answer my call by exiting his house, and together we’d head out to gather other friends using the same call method at each house. Unlike kids today, it was unheard of for your parents to drive you anywhere.

Sometimes, we rode our bikes to Brookfield Zoo — eight miles of hugging 1st Avenue sans helmets. Hitchhiking was an occasional thrill that took us to Foster Avenue Beach. Cubs Park was easy to get to by walking to Addison Avenue or Irving Park Road and taking the bus. Addison dropped you off across the street from the park, while Irving required a stroll back to Addison. Irving was used if the Cardinals or the Pirates were in town and you wanted to sit for the ride.

In the summers we played baseball. We’d meet up at Steinmetz, the nearby public high school that had a large open space with a quarter-mile track and probably a couple of acres of flat grassland beyond the track. Older guys had already played baseball for years, and the grass was beaten away for the bases and the home plate and the pitcher. We’d create teams by first naming two captains, who would then choose guys alternately for their teams. Then we’d play till we had to go home for supper, after which we’d meet up again and play till it got too dark to see the ball.

During the school year I went to our parish school, St. Ferdinand. I had five siblings ahead of me in the same school, so the teachers knew me before they met me. “I had your brother or sister,” they would say that first day of class. I worried — which one?

The 1970s ushered in my teen years, a time of … well, never mind. That’s a story for another time.


I’m having dinner with Joe’s sister and my brother-in-law tonight, and I’m sure she’ll share, after reading Joe’s stories, that her younger brother was delusional and swear that he was babied and coddled throughout his childhood. She won’t remember a little red wagon, and if she does, she will be the one pulling it uphill both ways. It has always amazed and amused me (an only child) how siblings can grow up together with the same parents and have completely different childhoods. Of course, I also suspect that Joe never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Did you have to walk three miles in the snow to school and back? Carry potatoes in your pockets to keep your hands warm? I can tell you that I didn’t have it easy. Once, my dad forgot to plug in my heat rollers after he came in to wake me up, and sometimes, my mom made plain toast when I asked for cinnamon toast, and — this is the worst part — once in a while, the garage was a little chilly but my dad refused, in spite of my discomfort, to run the car with the garage door closed, so trust me, whatever your story is, I’m sure I can feel your pain!

Odd Loves Company!

22 thoughts on “Growing Up In The Neighborhood!

  1. Morno,
    Can’t say that I mind not celebrating noodle rings. Baseball in my neighborhood was much the same way as Joe described it probably the most notable thing was a lack of parental involvement. Today everything is so organized. My kids were always in something or another opposed to just making it happen on their own. Not necessarily a bad thing that times change but I think we had more fun just knocking around on our own.
    Kind of feel at a loss now that the food of the day was canceled. Should I just fall back to pie?

    • Pie or chocolate is always Odd default. Sorry I should have mentioned that….baseball never played but my mom did…and has the scares to prove it. Joe coached soccer and it never ceased to amaze him how parents ran after their kids with water bottles and snack was more organized than game plans. Knocking around on your own is good.

  2. Cole got it right. Being the 7th of 8, my memories are much the same. Child labor at its peak! However, I wouldn’t have traded my childhood or hood for the world. Remind me to tell you of sleepovers when the boys would sneak out of their houses, sneak over to the host house and ….

    • One lies and the other swears to it :-D. Perhaps another guest post is in order so you can share that story with the masses not that your typing hands are almost ready to fly across the keyboard.

  3. those 1960s carefree days of growing up were second to none. doesn’t every generation say that? i had the same requirement of needing to be home before the streetlights came on. i hated that! loved riding bikes, swimming at the town pool. spent my youth on the playground with the neighborhood boys playing wiffleball, kickball, basketball, football, hill dill come over the hill on the blacktop & have scars to prove it.
    yes, walked to the bus stop in the snow & cold of pa & mi. not 3 miles though…..more like 1.5 miles. waited outside school doors until the bell rang when we were allowed in. brrr!
    youngest of 5 so i understand the whining of the older ones saying how easy i had it compared to them. sure. i always described us as 5 individuals who happened to share the same parents. just remember, none of the other siblings experienced being the 1st born, 3rd born, youngest, etc. of the family. the dynamics of the family changed everytime another kid appeared.
    i just noticed for the 1st time that the odd snow appears here, too! cool!
    31* here! tomorrow the same. won’t last, but still nice. nikki was pretty frisky on the morning walk! life is good.
    good day!

    • Just like a “pack” I suppose. Each member brings in a new dynamic. And of-course parents get tired…What was the end of the end for the first probably mattered a whole lot less by number 5.
      It is still in the 40’s here. I keep saying people are going to start to flock to Chicago for our mild winters. We keep doing snow dances but so far nary a flake.

  4. How odd, I too am one of seven, but we were five girls with a set of twins and just two boys. I laughed at the part about being away from the house as much as possible – only too true that if my Mom saw us hanging around she would put us to work. Back in those days we also had trips to the store – usually for my Dad’s pack of Export A King Size (cigarettes). Neither store was too far away and they each seemed to sell exactly the same thing, but it was never our call. If we were sent to the “Corner Store” but went to “Jackson’s” instead we’d be in for it. One memorable day I was sent to Jackson’s for milk just before lunch. I don’t think I was gone more than ten minutes. When I got back I noticed broken glass all over our back patio and looked up to see the second story window was gone! I went in to a room of eight people silently eating lunch – no one was talking and clearly my Mom was MAD – no one was fessing up, but that’s how we rolled. Even when we got into fights amongst ourselves we had each other’s backs. Later I found out my one brother had tried to throw my other brother out the window (who knows why) but as far as Mom was concerned, it just shattered on it own! Fighting was rare though. Summers we played baseball at the armory across the street, when we weren’t at the town swimming pool, and winters found us tobogganing on the hill near our school. If the weather was bad we hung out at the library a block away. And my Mom signed us all up for the town’s free music classes where we all learned a different instrument and played in the town band. Most of us were mediocre, at best, but we had many a fun summer night after it got too dark to play baseball when we would sit on the porch and entertain our parents – and every neighbor within earshot, with lively renditions of band music. Katybeth, thanks for letting me take this wander down memory lane!

    • I like the idea of big families taking care of one another–mostly you hear about the fighting. Sounds like growing up in your Canadian neighborhood had a lot to offer.

  5. Yes Yes to the ‘coming home when the street lights came on or in time for dinner, whichever was first’ — my childhood too. I am often melancholy that my son doesn’t have that experience. . .(also laughed out loud at ‘uphill both ways’)

    • I have wished for more neighborhood kids to play with for Cole but our school community has allowed for our kids to run amuck some what, don’t you think?
      Can you believe I had to think about the uphill both ways for a little bit the first time Joe used it. BS rolled so eloquently from Joe’s lips.

  6. Even though I am older than Joe, I can relate to his childhood…especially the trips to the grocery store in the cold, sometimes dark..I hated that ! No, I can’t remember my parents driving me anywhere.. I also grew up in an Irish / Italian family.. oh, no, now I am remembering too much and I am getting ticked off..LOL 🙁

  7. We played hide and seek in the cemetary each evening. We each had little penlights to look behind the graves. I fell in an open grave one night and my brother had to give up a really good hiding spot to pull me out. He was so mad! Those poor souls never had a good evenings rest while we were growing up. A favorite ploy by moms was “go play on Grandpa’s grave” when they wanted a few minutes rest from us. We walked through the cemetary over the train trestle bridge to the movies on Saturdays. Good times!

  8. Aw, what a cute picture of young Joe — do they still pose kids with their First Communion Rosaries these days?
    How much did Cole embellish this story? I’m thinking, of course, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
    I remember playing outside in the summer until we were called for dinner, then running back out and playing until dark. We got a LOT of exercise which kids, sadly, don’t get now. Do I sound old??

    • I have no idea. Well, I’m pretty sure he did not have to walk to the store uphill both ways…but the embellishing came from Joe. Cole was just the reporter.

  9. Katybeth grew up in TX, where it never gets that cold. She never walked to school one day in her whole life. However she’s right about the cinnamon toast and the heat rollers!

  10. Growing up in the late 40’s early 50’s the best of all times. My friend and I agree we had the very best time to grow up in. Money was scarce so we didn’t have much and only my dad worked like the rest of families. But… We took care of every thing we got because we never got much so we valued our meager possessions. We would leave the house after breakfast ,come home when we heard the noon whistle at the factory,eat and be gone again until we saw dad drive up the street or hear the 6:00 church bell ring. Then we’d better get our butts home for supper. Sometimes it would be dads whistle that got us running for home. Summer’s were spent at the park pool, and winters either ice skating or sledding down the park hills. I only wish my grandson’s could live one day as I did growing up. They sure would see how spoiled they are.

  11. Oh I remember growing up in the 60’s! Not in a big city, but still, it was always uphill both ways to the bus stop. Especially in the winter.

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