I was 9 when the Clubhouse was built on a plot of land next to our garage. It took my friends, Charlie and Eric, and my Uncle Gene and I a month of weekends to put up the walls and add the roof, floor and door. As you can guess, my uncle did the real carpentry work. We got all of the wood from the shed that was attached to the garage. My uncle even attached three benches to the inside walls so six guys could easily sit in the building.

When we were finished, the Clubhouse measured 6 x 6 x 6 feet. It lasted through four years of snow, rain and wind. It finally collapsed after a heavy windstorm in the late summer of 1953.

The Clubhouse was a great place to go and read in the summer, a place to stash our “ammo” and use as a fort during the winter snowball fights. It was also a wonderful place in which to talk with one or more pals and make plans for future days. We even got in some board games whenever we moved a small table into the building.

The Clubhouse lasted through my grade school years up to my first days of high school. I’ll always remember it as a great place where I could be with friends, and then to be alone to think and dream about the future.

First days at school

I came to Holmes School in fourth grade, and my teacher was Miss Holland. The principal was Mr. Carlyon. Practically everyone in my class asked me where I lived before I came to Oak Park, and the boys asked me if I liked to play sports. I told them I lived at 516 N. Oak Park Ave., that I had lived at 202 E. Walton in Chicago, had attended Bateman School, and that I loved to play baseball. With that statement, I was one of the guys.

On the first day of school at OPRF High School, my grandfather walked with me to Oak Park and Ontario because he was headed for the Lake Street el. I walked east on Ontario to the high school and found my homeroom, which was located in the basement. My homeroom teacher was Mr. May, a science instructor. Since the classes were shortened for the first day, I briefly met my other teachers. I had Mr. Kaiser for science, Miss Linden for English, Mrs. Ackerman for algebra, Miss Zielke for Latin and Mr. Noth for physical education. I had seen Mr. Noth a few times previously because his sons also attended Holmes.

When classes ended, I went to the school bookstore and paid about $40 for my books, and then I went to Reyff’s dime store on Oak Park Avenue (like I had done, too, throughout grade school) and bought school supplies.

These “first days” have continued for over 60 years, as each fall I once again answer the school bell, but for 46 years, I have been in front of the class.

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