Editor’s note: This is another installment in an occasional series of reminiscences of Dear Old Oak Park from a longtime Dear Old Oak Parker (DOOPer):
Four physicians lived on my block: Dr. Grissom, a pediatrician; the Drs. Beverly, both pediatricians; Dr. Sullivan, a urologist; and Dr Shiona, an anesthesiologist. Dr. Grissom lived next door to the north of us, and he made house calls (didn’t they all?) so my medical care as child was assured. He was a kindly man who quelled my family’s concerns when he always said, “Don’t worry, it’s going around.”
The Dunne family lived next door to the south. The two youngest boys beat on each other every day. Bob, one of the older boys was in college, and Ed, the eldest child, was a Dominican priest who taught history at Fenwick. Georgie, the only girl, was also in college.
Mr. Dunne owned a Packard, which may have been the best car ever made. No matter what the temperature, that Packard started immediately. Mr. Dunne and his car were my alarm clock, because he went to Mass every morning at 6:00 and the Packard, which he parked on his driveway, roared to awaken me.
The Jesuit Provincial Home [Hales Mansion at Oak Park and Chicago avenues] was directly across the street from my house. Often I watched the priests walk up and down their driveway reading, and I waited to see if they would trip, but it never happened. When I was a Cub Scout, each year our pack sold raffle tickets for 25 cents each. I figured that since the Jesuits lived in such a huge home, they must have a lot of money, which meant that they would be ripe for my sales pitch. It didn’t work out that way because each year they bought only one ticket. However, each Christmas a priest would come to our house and give me a sack of presents. I believe that evened out over the years.
During our seventh- and eighth-grade years, the boys took industrial arts, and the girls had home economics. Each Friday afternoon after eating lunch at our respective homes, the boys and girls would walk to Mann School at Division and Kenilworth for these classes.
It didn’t take anyone long to discover that I was manually inept-i.e. two left feet on the dance floor and now two left hands in the shop. The boards I cut were hacked up, my electric wiring frizzled, and I constantly dropped type on the floor. Mr. Leland, our teacher, was very understanding and helped me get through the rudiments so that I passed both years of “manual arts.” This experience helped me decide that engineering would not be a good career choice.
Summer was fun time, but there were also the mandatory jobs like mowing, gardening, painting, etc. When the jobs were completed to my grandmother’s satisfaction, it was time for baseball. This routine continued until I reached 16, and then it was time for salaried employment. However, the unsalaried jobs at home did not disappear.
The chores were completed after work and on Saturday mornings, and baseball was played in the evenings and Saturday afternoons-but only if the chores were completed according to the standards established by the adults in my family. Although I didn’t realize it then, the jobs were meant to include me as a partner in running the house.
When the guys reached 16, we had driver’s licenses, so we could go farther to play ball rather than just going to the schoolyard. It was around this time, though, that we took up bowling, and eventually this became our game of choice.
It was also at this time that many of the guys discovered girls, and, for them, dating became their main activity. The shy guys, including myself, continued to play ball and bowl, but when we entered college, we went separate ways and didn’t see much of each other over the years, but when we did get together, we always talked about the great summers we had.
By the way, all of us shy guys have been married to wonderful women for over 40 years.
A favorite place-especially in the summer-was Zehender’s because of the cold drinks dispensed at the soda fountain. In fact, whenever I took a prescription to be filled, I always waited at the fountain and drank a “Green River” while I waited for the prescription to be filled. On the weekends, the fountain was busy until closing time at 10:30 p.m., but it was populated mainly by high school and Concordia students. I believe many permanent relationships began at this fountain.
On a Sunday evening in the late summer of 1953, I was playing ball, and a piece of dirt lodged in my eye. Since no doctors were available, my mother and I went to Zehender’s to get some eyewash, but instead, Mr. Zehender took me into the back room of the pharmacy, sat me down, and removed the piece of dirt. Would a pharmacist feel safe doing this now?