July 15, 2015

Progression run today. I was thinking about pop bottles today.

I have been writing about the North Long Avenue Apartment. Mom and Dad showed up at home with the new baby, Mary Eileen. A reason to rejoice, right? As it turns out, things were getting tense with the landlord. They had been in the apartment for a short time, and the occupancy had doubled. Two had become four and the landlord was doing the math. The landlord had two kids himself but that was the nuclear family. No plans on expansion.

Things got tense when Mom bought a clothes dryer from a door to door dryer salesman. Who buys a dryer from a door to door salesman? She set it up in the basement to ease the burden of drying dozens of diapers every day. The salesman never told the couple that the dryer would have to be vented, so the happy couple skipped that step. The landlord did not have a clothes dryer and this increased the tension. It was early in 1958 and the morning sickness was in full swing again. It was becoming obvious to the landlord that there was another bun in the oven still dozens of diapers in the dryer. The landlord now realized that this woman would not be pursuing a nice quiet professional career. Instead, he had concocted in his own head that she was trying to take over the world with little babies. He had had enough and evicted the couple and their children in May of 1958. With few options, they moved to 5305 West Monroe Street to the upstairs apartment. This had to be done and the family realized it. Pa (Peter Dolan) lived downstairs with young Peter Dolan and Kathleen Dolan whom everyone knows as Tootsie. Dad’s sister Margie married Kevin O’Connor and lived close by. The clan was crystallizing.

Spring turned to summer and summer turned hot! Mom was due to give birth in August and the weather was not cooperating. On August 14th the temperature was well into the 90s. August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption and a holy day of obligation. This meant you had to go to church on a weekday. Mom’s sister Mary Ellen came for a visit on the 14th, Mom and Aunt Mary would go shopping that evening once the weather cooled. They all had a summer dinner and dad began to ready his own babies and Aunt Mary’s two babies for a bath. There was no air conditioning in the house and you had two choices to cool off; go to the movies or take a bath. Baths were cheaper and you could fit all the babies into one tub. Besides, with 120 degree temperatures in the upstairs apartment, what baby doesn’t love bath time?

Part of food shopping back then was collecting all the returnable pop bottles from the house and lugging the cache back to the grocery store for the deposit. If anyone from that generation gives you a funny look when you show off your recycling prowess, don’t be surprised. Back then, everything was re-used. The “greatest generation” were the greatest recyclers. The returnable pop bottles were like having money in the bank. After six trips by two pregnant woman carrying hundreds of heavy glass pop bottles down the back stairs, they were on the way to the grocery store. The temperature outside had not cooled off and when they returned from the store, my mother boldly pronounced to my dad, ” The hell with it, I ain’t going to church tomorrow, I am exhausted”.

It was at that point that the skies opened up with the most violent thunder storm that the City of Chicago had ever seen. Lightning, thunder, rain, flash floods, it must have been a sign from heaven. About an hour into the storm, my mother realized that it was time for a trip back to St. Anne’s Hospital. The streets may have been flooded but she was officially in labor again. They were close to the hospital but it still required advanced scuba gear to get them to the destination. Mom was rushed straight back up to labor and delivery while my father checked them into admitting.

The waiting room was now a familiar place to my dad. For those not familiar, the hospital waiting room of the 1950s was the place where the expectant fathers waited for the doctors, nurses and expectant mothers to evolve our species. Fathers back then might have thought a stork would be coming down the chimney to bring babies and gifts. My dad arrived into the waiting room soaking wet. The other dads were dry having been there for many hours, well before my mother had angered God and the Archangels. All the prospective dads looked pityingly at my father until the nurse opened the door. All the future dads looked pleadingly at the nurse. They were expecting the news that they would soon be released from this smoke-filled purgatory.

The nurse said. ” Mr. Dolan, Mr. James Dolan?”

My father raised his head. His wet hair was still dripping water onto his shoe and he asked “Me?”

The nurse said, “Congratulations, Mr. Dolan. You are now the father of a beautiful new baby girl”

The other men sat back down dejectedly. My father blessed himself, having narrowly escaped his wife actually giving birth in a police speed boat.

My mother ordered the nurses to bring her baby and breakfast directly to her private room. The nurses now recognized this woman was more experienced than themselves in the art and science of childbirth. There was an unspoken respect that they gave to my mother now. My father and mother admired the little girl. They had protected the baby from the storm and called her Maureen Ann. A priest came by and gave my mother a special dispensation for this holy day of obligation, August 15, 1958. You could here people rowing boats outside the hospital on their way to work or the grocery store that day.

Here is a picture of the house. Favorite song today: What a Wonderful World performed by Joey Ramone.

5305 West Monroe Street as it appears on Google Maps

5305 West Monroe Street as it appears on Google Maps

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