I first met Eddie when he was in the sixth grade and I was in seventh. He was one of the students who crossed Oak Park Avenue at my patrol post on the corner of Oak Park and Chicago.
Eddie was an only child who lived with his parents and grandmother in an apartment next to First United Methodist Church on Oak Park Avenue. His dad taught engineering at IIT, and his mother taught math at a Chicago public high school. His grandmother mainly stayed in the apartment.
Eddie and I had a great deal in common, including a love for western movies. The Lake Theatre showed many western movies during the early 1950s, and Eddie and I rarely missed seeing one, paying 25 cents admission. Most every Saturday afternoon, we would go to The Lake to see our favorite western movie stars, of which there were many.
Eddie and I also played sports — especially baseball, but for some reason we decided to take up tennis, which turned out to be a complete flop because neither of us was fast enough to play the game. We persisted, however, ignoring the derision of the other players on the courts at Scoville Park.
We then decided to play ping pong, and this required some improvisation since neither family owned a ping pong table. We bought paddles, balls and a net and persuaded Eddie’s mother to let us put two extra leaves in the Vollmer’s dining room table.
We told her that the clamps used to attach the net to the table wouldn’t scratch the table. Well, the clamps marred the table and our games came to an end.
Eddie and I also had a love for reading. We didn’t read to discover the answers to the mysteries of life; we read for fun.
Our problem was that the librarian at the Main Library on Lake Street tried to limit our reading to books in the children’s section — like animal tales and simple stories about American history. We read through these books rapidly, and we were then allowed to check out books from the adult section.
Eddie and I were particularly interested in adventure stories by Dumas and one-time Oak Park resident Edgar Rice Burroughs, which included not only his books about Tarzan but also the Martian books. We also enjoyed Zane Grey and Victor Hugo.
Although Eddie and I were rascally guys, we were both reasonably intelligent, but Eddie was sharper than I was in adapting to new situations. He was also self-assured and had an outgoing personality.
The two of us were always hoping to win an electric train, an erector set, or a bike by selling magazine subscriptions. Eddie was the one who knocked on doors and made the sales pitch while I stood on the sidewalk trying to look intelligent. My job, though, was to keep the paperwork in order.
Eddie was a super salesman because we won an erector set and an electric train. I kept the erector set and Eddie kept the train.
Eddie and his family moved to Pittsburgh at the end of his eighth-grade year because his father accepted a teaching job at Carnegie Tech.
I lost track of Eddie after he moved, but because he was a smart and resourceful guy, I am certain that he has had a great life.
I am thankful that Eddie Vollman was my friend.
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.