My daily walk to and from high school varied during the four years I attended OPRF.
I would leave my home on Oak Park Avenue at 7:45 a.m. and walk a quarter block south on Oak Park Avenue to Chicago Avenue and then walk east one block to Euclid. It was here that I would usually meet Susan Gustafson who lived on the 500 block of Euclid and with whom I had attended Holmes School.
On the way to school, we talked about classes, teachers, classmates, family and what our plans were for the future.
We always walked on the north side of Erie, however, because Miss Elizabeth Cheney (of Cheney Foundation fame), who lived on the southwest corner of Euclid and Erie, owned two huge Great Danes that would charge the fence and make a great fuss whenever someone walked past what is today known as Cheney Mansion.
One winter day when I was walking to school alone, I slipped on some ice and fell on my backside, and when I tried to get up, I fell on my stomach. My pants were soaked from the waist down.
When I got to my homeroom and asked the teacher if I could go home and change pants, he told me to go to the washroom and dry off with paper towels. This method did not work, so I had to wear wet pants for seven hours, and I had to put up with questions about how my pants got wet.
For the first two years of high school, I walked homeward with Keith Jackson and Joe Stoklas. They lived near Whittier School, so we walked north on Scoville to Chicago Avenue where they would go north and I would walk west to Oak Park Avenue.
At the start of our junior year, Joe moved to Wenonah Avenue, so my route home changed.
Joe and I would leave from the Ontario Street entrance of the school (now enclosed by the 1967 addition) and walk west to Oak Park Avenue.
Sometimes I would walk north to my house, and he would walk south. Other times we would walk south on Oak Park to the Acadia Restaurant, which was just north of Lake and have a Coke.
Joe liked to go to the Acadia because he could then smoke a few cigarettes along with the majority of the customers. All I got out of this was a load of second-hand smoke.
Sometimes we would stop at Gilmore’s (now Winberie’s) and drink a Coke in the second-floor cafeteria. This place was also smoke-filled and not to my liking.
During my senior year, I walked home with Roger Dempsey — a non-smoker — who lived on the southwest corner of Forest and Chicago. We’d go west on Erie and north on Oak Park, and Roger would then go west and I would go north.
When walking with Roger, I’d get home by 4, which gave me enough time to do a few chores before the family had supper at 6.
These walks provided me with a chance to discuss many issues with a friend, and though we didn’t solve the troubles of the world, we certainly solved some of our adolescent problems.
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 a retired English professor (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn’t gotten far in 75 years.