When I was a kid, the guys on Oak Park Avenue and the guys on Euclid Avenue had many snowball fights against each other every winter until I was in eighth grade. The contests would take place at the empty lot on the northeast corner of Oak Park and Chicago.
The fights were planned when Rich Schu from Oak Park Avenue would tell Eric Bourne from Euclid Avenue that the fight was on for the coming Saturday. The sides were evenly matched — Spitzer, Schu, Dunne and I from Oak Park Avenue, and Bourne, Merton, Parmelee and Dugan from Euclid Avenue.
The only rule was no throwing of either ice balls or dirty snow.
Three out of four guys on my side could throw well, but Dunne couldn’t throw for distance. On the Euclid side, Parmelee threw softly, and Dugan usually hung back and stockpiled snowballs.
Our side had one objective — to cut down the numbers of the opposition. We knew that once Dugan was hit, he would go home, but he was hard to hit because he hid behind a wood pile and threw only if a target was close to him.
During one exchange of snowballs, Schu hit Dugan in the shoulder with a snowball when Dugan popped up from behind the woodpile to see if there was an easy target. When this happened, Dugan let out a yell and ran home.
Parmelee was a favorite target, too. He was big and lumbersome, so he was an easy target. Parmelee was respected by us because he would take a lot of hits and still be game and he never ran away from the fights.
Bourne and Merton were scrappers, but sometimes Merton would throw an iceball. Once he hit Dunne in the neck with an iceball, and our side cut Merton down in a hail of snowballs.
The fights usually ended with Dugan running away and Merton simply quitting.
Our side took hits but never quit.
Once, during a pitched battle, Bourne threw high and hit a Cadillac moving north on Oak Park Avenue. The driver slammed on the brakes, parked the car, jumped out and walked toward us.
He was a young guy, probably in his early 20s, and he looked tough.
He asked us who threw the snowball, and we said it was an accident and that we were sorry.
He said he was going to teach us a lesson, and that’s when he made a mistake. He pushed Dunne who stood well over six feet, and Dunne shoved him into a snow pile.
At this point the rest of us scattered because the guy started to chase us, but he left Dunne alone.
Two of the guys ran east, and I ran north to my house, cut east on the driveway, ran into the garage, grabbed a shovel and started shoveling snow by the garage.
I didn’t see the guy anywhere, so I felt he must have given up the chase. I walked to the front of the house and saw the guy arguing with a cop about the ticket he was being issued for parking in a no-parking zone.
After this close call, even though all of us got away from the guy, we agreed to pursue less perilous activities in the future.
So on an overcast day in March, 1953, our pitched snowball fights permanently ended.
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 77 years.