August 28, 2015

Speed workout today, I was thinking about sports.

The year 1964 began in a bit of a malaise. Dad was in law school at Loyola University in Chicago. There were six children in an already crowded household in Park Ridge and maybe too many boys. G.I. Joe was officially introduced early in the year and the boys were dominating the yards and alleys in the neighborhood. Many do not know that the Saletta’s had not moved into the house next door yet and JPD was starting to learn the ropes from Ollie Ulvilden. Ollie lived in the Saletta house and made his presence known very early in Park Ridge. Ollie was a sales representative for Wilson. You know, Wilson, famous for footballs and probably even more famous for Tom Hanks’ famous buddy in the movie “Castaway”. Wilson was a volleyball. The FedEx box from the movie could have also contained a football, a basketball, a baseball glove, a golf club, golf balls, or a myriad of other sporting goods products and still be dubbed Wilson. When mom and dad were moving into the house in Park Ridge, my father was carrying a handful of boxes, a lamp and probably a child when a voice called out from the bushes, “Incoming!” A football appeared from over a hedge in a perfect spiral, my father dropped everything in his arms to make a beautiful over the shoulder catch. Dad would have danced and spiked the ball if that behavior had been invented yet. Instead, an impromptu pick-up football game started that lasted the rest of the afternoon. That was Ollie, the Wilson sporting goods salesman who lived next door. My father couldn’t believe his luck. Mom was in the process of giving birth to a football team and a company representative from the largest sporting goods manufacturer lived within a football throw! This was going to be his ticket to the big leagues. When John F. came along, Ollie and dad began to devise a plan that was unbeatable. Dad already had the T formation for a future Bears team. There would be baseball in the spring, football in the fall, basketball whenever, this was great. In reality, the Chicago area was basketball crazy. Dad’s alma mater and current law school, Loyola University, just one year earlier had beaten the mighty, two time defending champion, Cincinnati Bearcats 60-58 in the NCAA Division I Final Four championship game (it wasn’t called March Madness or the Final Four yet, that was a later invention, probably from Ollie). The Loyola Ramblers had started and finished the game with the same five young men on the court, no substitutions. This would be the Dolan boys one-day. They would be outfitted and coached by Ollie and dad. They just needed one more boy to fill up the roster.

The morning sickness began to appear early in 1964. Dad and Ollie figured that mom would soon give birth to the fifth boy and together they would be the future starting line-up for the Loyola Ramblers. It was all set. Ollie would outfit the boys and dad would coach them to greatness. Early training had started before young John F. could walk. Dribbling was his specialty. I was just toddling around at age 3 when I found myself practicing the hook and ladder, give and go play. Ollie and JPD had it all planned. As summer turned to fall, mom started to look more like she had eaten a basketball. The baby was kicking and dad was convinced that he was posting up in-vitro and almost ready for the starting line-up. Mom and dad left the kids with a babysitter after my father had passed the bar exam that fall. Mom, dad and bun in the oven traveled to Springfield, Illinois so my dad could get sworn in as a lawyer. Oh, happy day!

Meanwhile, the girls in the greater Chicago metropolitan area were preparing for the arrival of another four boys. The Beatles were coming to Chicago for the very first time. They would perform at the Chicago Amphitheatre and the town was topsy-turvy over their arrival. Ollie and dad were oblivious to the fact that the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had just cracked the Billboard charts. Instead, they were humming to the tune of “I Want to Hand You the Ball”. September turned to October and the tension mounted. Mom was due the third week of October and her O.B. GYN from two doors away was practicing jump shots with dad and Ollie. Everyone was convinced that JPD was on a roll and another boy, his fifth, was on the way.

Dad had memorized the way to the hospital by now and arrived early with a young mother experiencing labor pains. Dad knew the drill, this was the seventh birth. Check-in, up to labor and delivery with mom, he would take his position in the waiting room ready for tip-off. He sat down and watched some riveting TV. He watched The Fugitive, a couple of Twilight Zones, an episode of Gunsmoke and still no word from the nurse. What was taking this baby so long, this new arrival was going to be late for practice. Just then the nurse walked in and asked “Mr. Dolan, Mr. James Dolan?”

My father switched off the TV and responded, “Yes.”

“Mr. Dolan, I am happy to inform you that your wife has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is waiting to meet her daddy”, the nurse replied.

All thoughts of basketball glory were forgotten. Finally, a girl! Four boys in the house was enough to test the sanity of anyone. He now had another baby girl. He had forgotten what that was like until he saw the sweet little baby. It was October 22, 1964 and mom and dad had another baby girl. They decided to call her Kathleen Therese after dad’s beloved sister, but everyone knew her as Tootsie. While there is only one Tootsie, K.T. quickly morphed to Katie. Phyllis McAuley had been saying prayers to St. Therese, so she asked mom to help her out and name the baby after St. Therese “The little flower”. Considering this little flower had sprouted in a garden of boys, mom thought this was a slam dunk. When they arrived home on Fairview Avenue, the neighborhood celebrated the arrival of this little flower. The kids in the neighborhood built all sorts of special carriers and wagons to tote her around. Basketball became a distant memory as the season started, the Loyola Ramblers tanked that year. Katie was now the baby of the family and the little flower of the neighborhood. Even Ollie was pleased and he brought her a baseball glove which one of the boys quickly claimed as his own.

The smoke has cleared. Favorite song today: I Want to Hold Your Hand performed by the Beatles.

Clear Skies

Clear Skies

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