My grandmother often said that young people will receive many bumps, bruises and sprains before they reach 21. She was absolutely correct.The Merton brothers, who lived on the 500 block of North Euclid, were constantly falling in or out of something. One winter day, when Jack Merton and I were standing in front of his house and getting ready to go to Scoville Park to sled, his younger brother Donny climbed out of a second floor window onto the porch roof and pelted us with snowballs. Suddenly he slipped and rolled off the roof and landed in the snow-covered bushes that surrounded the porch. He had a few scratches on his forehead, but he didn't suffer any other injuries. Not to be outdone by his younger brother, Jack skidded on some leaves the next fall and smashed shoulder first into a tree. He sustained only a bruised shoulder.
The winter when I was 11, Melody, the 8-year-old girl who lived behind us on Euclid, was climbing up the out side of our back porch stairs when she fell. She let out a terrific scream and rolled around holding her left ankle. I ran inside our house and told my mother what had happened. She phoned Melody's mother who rushed over to our place. She used our phone to call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, Melody and her mother were driven to West Suburban Hospital. It was discovered that the ankle was badly sprained, so Melody spent a few weeks on crutches. She healed well and continued her climbing adventures, but not at our house.
There were always bike accidents because of the high speeds we raced on the streets, and the daring stunts that we tried. I hit parked cars a few times because I didn't pay attention to wet conditions. I also fell off my bike a few times going too fast around corners, and I even flipped over the handlebars more than a few times from bouncing over curbs. I was lucky because I received only some cuts and bruises.
The sled accidents I either saw or was involved in occurred either on or at the bottom of the hill at Scoville Park. These were collisions, rollovers or sledding into the bushes or the iron fence at the end of the slope. Fortunately, the bushes and fence were there or some of us would have sledded onto Lake Street.
I believe there were more accidents playing games on the Holmes School playground than there were in any other place where we played games. The day before Easter vacation when I was in sixth grade, I was running with the football for a touchdown when I slid on the gravel and bent my left ankle. The teacher and a classmate helped me into the school, and the teacher called my house. My mother came and took me to West Suburban Hospital, where an X-ray showed a severe sprain. I had to remain on a cot in our dining room for a week with my ankle taped and elevated. I was able to hobble (using a cane) to the kitchen and bathroom, but I was not permitted to go anywhere else in the house.
After a week, I started putting pressure on the ankle, and I went back to school having missed only one day. I tested the ankle two weeks later by sliding into second base during a softball game. The ankle was OK and, by the way, I was safe at second.
As I look back on those days, it is a miracle that some of us weren't disabled, but I am certain that the Good Lord was watching over all of us every second of every day.
John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and an English professor at Elmhurst College. Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn't gotten far in 71 years.
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