On rainy Saturdays, I was able to read, work on model airplanes, and clean the basement. My grandparents owned bound volumes of McClure’s Magazine dating back to the 1880s. They were stored in the basement.
In these magazines, I was able to read true stories of great explorers like Livingstone and Park who traveled to the deepest parts of Africa. I was introduced to other explorers who traveled to Asia and South America, and also to the inhabitants of these continents.
My grandmother kept National Geographics as far back as the 1920s. These, too, were shelved in the basement. I owe a great deal of my geographic education to those magazines.
My grandfather owned the complete set of Matthew Brady photographs and commentaries from the Civil War. These were on shelves next to the National Geographics.
I read these magazines many times over the years between 1950 and 1961.
My grandfather had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of this war from his grandfather, who had served in the cavalry during the conflict.
There was a small library area in our living room where I found some novels, as well as a large number of non-fiction books. This was a great place to read on rainy Saturdays.
The books that held the most interest for me were the complete set of Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia. Over a period of 10 years, I spent many rainy Saturdays as well as other days reading these volumes.
Working on model airplanes was another great way to spend rainy weekends.
I had access to my Uncle Gene’s huge tool collection, which was part of the workshop he had built in the basement in the late 1940s.
I started by putting together simple planes propelled by a rubber band. Generally, they flew well so I was inspired to graduate to building more complex planes.
What I thought I could do and what happened were two different stories.
Gene’s tools helped me build planes, but I was not so good at aeronautics as the planes I built crashed shortly after takeoff.
Rainy Saturdays gave me a chance to work on my baseball card collection as well. I bought cards at either the hobby shop on Westgate or Zehender’s Pharmacy at Chicago and Marion.
I had a fine collection of rookie cards, superstar cards, and Hall of Fame cards, which I kept in plastic sheets in a three ring notebook.
On rainy Saturdays, orders also came down from the top to clean the basement. Of course, I received the same orders even when Saturdays were bright, sunny and made for other things.
The job entailed not only sweeping and mopping the entire basement, which included the laundry room, the main section, the storage room, the furnace room, and the wood shop area, but about once a month, I was politely asked to wash the eight basement windows as well. These windows were quite large.
Even though I used a lot of elbow grease, my mother and grandmother could always find places I missed.
So as you see, rainy Saturdays were both mentally and physically stimulating for me.
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 78 years.