May 27, 2009
Radio was the big communicator, back when I was a kid. Whole families huddled around the speaker of that hulk. Our minds, working like a cotton picker on a hot summer day. We had imagination. Vivid, plentiful thoughts, moving throughout the story which was being broadcast.
The characters, were like people we somehow knew. People who lived right down the street from us, in the three story apartment building. That apartment building, was a warehouse of eclectic personalities, popping from every floor, and every door.
Old cars, now relics of the past. New, when we were young. Cool cars too, metal so thick, you could hurt your hand just bumping into it. Lasted a long time, and made moving about the big city of Chicago much easier than taking the trolley, bus or "EL", short for elevated train.
Oh yes, want to get the scare of a lifetime, ride the "EL" around one of those sharp corners, thirty feet off the ground. Steel wheels grinding against steel tracks, making sounds so shrill,the devil himself, would cringe. I know my Mom's hands were crimped for a week, when I would grip her hand so tight around those curves.
People wearing clothes that made them all look like gangsters. Suits way to large, cuffs on shirts that could hide a deck of cards, and a pair of dice.
Litter blowing everywhere, down windy streets, sweeping dicarded cigarette packages, and paper, and dirt, like a hurricane unleashed. It is the Windy City, after all.
Another memory comes to mind now, tennis balls being bounced off the lowest step of building's porches. Thump, thump, and crowds of kids leaping over one another, trying to catch the ball, as it bounced high into the air. No kid would even care to watch that now, much less participate. We did it for hours. Boredom played tricks on the mind.
Did I mention, the best steps to bounce a ball on, were the steps of Peterson's store. To us, it was the candy depot. Apothecary jars, filled with candy of every description. Hands full of candy for pennies. Kids drool when I tell them how much candy, they could have bought back then with two dollars.
We learned young, that after long hours of the thumping noise. People were inclined to buy you some candy, just to make the noise stop for awhile. We weren't too dumb.
Fighting in Chicago was a prerequisite to boyhood. When we would walk down the streets, past the alleys, fear was constant, as all the really bad boys lurked down that alley way. No place for the faint of heart. We all thought we were tough guys back then. Maybe we really were?
No drugs back then, at least, none of us every heard about them. Our parents made vague references to drugs, in retrospect, but, really, they didn't even know what they were. Although, Pops knew what beer was. He knew all about that. All the World War 2 guys drank beer. Because, they really were tough guys. We didn't know that you could be tough, and not drink, and smoke cigarettes.
Life in the alleys of Chicago, was not only for tough guys. It was an avenue for commerce as well. The coal man came with the truck, and shovelled coal down a shute into your basement, to keep your furnace going. Thats right coal. Black smoke billowing from everyone's buildings.
Men selling rags, singing a song that was well known to us. "Rags, Rags, everyone needs rags, Ragman coming, come and gettem" Gosh, they sold everything in those alleys.
Milkmen, with horse drawn carts. Oh now, we loved those horses. They were huge with covers over their eyes. As kids we didn't know what those were. We really didn't care as long as we could pet the horses.
The milkman was kindly, and chipped off chunks of ice, from the big blocks in the wagon, which kept the milk cold. We absolutely loved that. Ice, who would think that a little thing like that would be so important to little kids. I will always be gratefull to that man for his kindness.
Scissor and knife sharpeners. They all had a song. Singing loudly, I admired them so. They were the best kind of entepreneurs. Business men, who set their own pace, in a world of frantic motion.
There is so much more to those days. So many memories that were the best kind of life experiences, back when we was kids in Chicago.
Part two, tomorrow night. Look for it under my pen name/ Native American name, Luksi Humma, in the search bar on the left menu.