From my sophomore through senior year of high school, there were four places that I considered my hangouts.
Often on my way home from school during sophomore year, my friend Joe and I stopped at the Acadia Restaurant on the east side of Oak Park Avenue across from Scoville Park. I would have a soft drink, and Joe would have a cup of coffee and smoke two or three cigarettes.
Even though the Acadia was an ok place for many, my time at this hangout ended in February of my sophomore year when I told Joe that I didn’t want to go there anymore because the place was filled with cigarette smoke.
Joe suggested that we go to Gilmore’s, which was on the southwest corner of Lake and Oak Park Avenue. Gilmore’s was a department store with a cafeteria on the second floor. When we went there, I again had a soft drink and Joe had a cup of coffee and three cigarettes. This is why he was known as “Smoky Joe.” I stopped going to Gilmore’s at the end of the school year, but Joe stayed there until the end of our senior year.
My next hangout was the Zehender and Factor Pharmacy on the southwest corner of Chicago and Marion. My buddies Charlie, Bob, Steve and I went there on weekends. There was little smoke and it was generally quiet. Most of the guys who came here would sit at the counter, have a soft drink or milk shake and not smoke.
I once asked Mr. Zehender how he learned to make fountain creations, and he told me that in pharmacy school he took a semester course in soda-jerking.
A major highlight of the pharmacy was the huge selection of magazines and comic books. Neither Mr. Zehender nor Mr. Factor objected if customers browsed, so I’d look through the Classic Comics hoping to find one I could use in American literature class to help me better understand the novels the class was assigned.
During the second semester of my junior year, my three buddies drifted away from the drugstore because they had access to a family car, so they went to Russell’s at North and Thatcher.
I went with them a few times, but I returned to the pharmacy and hung out there until the start of my senior year when I started going to Rich’s basement.
Richie Schu lived two houses north of me on Oak Park Avenue and in the basement, his dad had built a fantastic rec room. Schu’s rec room was my hangout until the Schus moved at the end of my senior year.
Practically every Saturday night, four or five of us would go to Richie’s to shoot pool, play ping pong, gin rummy, or conduct target practice on his pellet gun shooting range.
Mr. Schu would come down to the rec room occasionally to challenge us to either pool or ping pong. He was good at both games and beat all of us, but he couldn’t beat Bob Gilman in either game. Mr. Schu eventually gave up, but he would always come down to the rec room and greet us.
The four hangouts are long gone, but the great memories remain in my mind.