September 22, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about parades.

By 1966, there were so many kids on and around Fairview Street in Park Ridge that it was beginning to scare some of the childless couples in the neighborhood. The Ulvildens escaped from Park Ridge to find a quieter residential area. Still in their 30s, a retirement village was out of the question but the greatest generation was populating boomers into the suburbs and there was little escape. In the fall of 1965, the Salettas moved in next door. Three furniture movers from Polk Bothers were waiting on the lawn for Captain Jack Saletta (he was in the Air Force) to arrive so they could install the new fridge. Mom saw the movers, they looked hungry, and so she made them all tuna salad sandwiches. As she delivered the sandwiches, Dr. Saletta the elder showed up and eventually recounted that story to Suzy. Suzy and Barbara became fast friends from that day onward. That friendship burns bright to this day, exactly 50 years later. Irish or Italian heritage, the story was the same, the bigger the family, the better. If there was a hungry mouth, you broke bread.

I would not characterize the roving bands of children as gangs but that description is not far off. I was only five years old but there are certain memories that are fire branded into my brain. There were many families and even more children. The girls tormented the boys and the boys tormented the whole neighborhood. There were leaders and then there was the endless rabble of followers. Being five, Johnny Saletta and Teddy Kennedy and one of the Hanson boys were my crew. We were all burning so many calories at play that food was always a background objective. I remember the Hanson boy making PB & J sandwiches. Johnny, Teddy and me waited patiently as a five year old spread the peanut butter and jelly, smashed the sandwiches so they all fit into the bread toaster (slot toaster, not a toaster oven) and toasted them to five year old perfection. Needless to say, there was food everywhere. If I did not say it then, let me say it now, thank you for the sandwich. That sandwich probably allowed me to survive another day.

The neighborhood was coming together as a cohesive unit, when my mother announced in 1966 that she was pregnant with number nine, she may as well said that the Pope was coming to Fairview Street. The news spread like wildfire. Everyone was so excited, it became the main topic of conversation. Will it be a boy or a girl? Which dresser drawer will the child sleep in? The reality was hitting the family. Even though living on Fairview was a dream come true, the house they lived in was much too small. Reality hit hard and by January of 1967, the house on Fairview Street in Park Ridge, Illinois was put up for sale. Shortly after the house was listed, it started snowing and did not stop for months. The first wave of snow is iconic for Chicagoland history. The “Snowstorm of ‘67”! Almost two feet of snow fell on January 26, 1967 after the temperature only two days before was 65°F and sunny. The initial snowfall is still said to be the most in Chicago recorded history for a 24 hour period. The snow kept falling over the next week until well over three feet accumulated. After the snow fell, the wind began to blow and snow drifts paralyzed transportation. Needless to say, not too many came to the Dolan Fairview Street open house.

Storm of 1967

Storm of 1967

The snow kept falling into April. For us kids, there were snow days and tobogganing and hot chocolate. School, what school? The only thing that saved mom from complete and utter insanity was the fact that it was a winter wonderland and every kid wanted to spend every waking hour outside. The older girls in our family, would do the grocery shopping by themselves for a family of ten. They would pull an empty sled to the Jewel food store and return laden with foodstuffs. They were eight and nine years old, thanks Eileen and Maureen. Precocious does not fully describe these two. We survived the snowstorm in part because of their heroic acts. An impromptu sledding chute was built in the front yard. For a five year old, this may as well have been an Alpine Bobsled run. In reality, it was a mound of snow 100 feet long. From almost to the second story of the house to the street, up and down, up and down, I thought I was the Bill Schuffenhauer of Fairview Street.

April arrived and the weather turned mucky and the snow turned to rain. The bobsled chute was melting, slowly. What was an epic snow season turned into the most epic mud season of all time. There was so much snow that the Olympic luge trials continued unabated through the weeks of rain. Around the middle of the month, the sun came out and it got warm. The rain and the melting snow were wreaking havoc on the luge run.

On April 5, 1967 mom reminded everyone about important things. “Jim, I think it is time to go to Resurrection Hospital.” Being the ninth trip to the hospital, he could have negotiated this process blindfolded with Houdini chains tightly tied around him. The anticipation spread on Fairview Street when the news broke that mom was at the hospital. Suzy set into motion the parade and welcoming committees to implement the long anticipated plans.

The neighborly Fairview Street OB had prepared the staff and without any problems delivered a beautiful baby girl. The date was 4.5.67. A special date to everyone and easy to remember. This was a special day for both the household and the neighborhood. The name was never an issue for JPD. He wanted to make up for the Christopher naming rights and decided there was only one name. Barbara Ann Dolan, this was to be the name of the sweet baby girl and she would be named after her mother. Jennifer would have to wait until 5.6.78 if mom could keep rolling. Mom rolled her eyes to that idea but loved her baby’s name as much as she loved her own. It was a beautiful baby born on a beautiful day to a now very large clan. Little Barb was now the baby of the family.

The weather had changed for the better and spring had officially sprung on a long snowy winter. JPD figured it was time for the spring cleaning ritual. One of the major tasks would take most of the day. He removed all of the storm windows to put in the screens for spring and summer. Barb and Barb were due back from the hospital soon and he would be ready. With eight children under his care, a house for sale with showings at unpredictable times, mud season at its apex, a melting luge run outside the front living room window, he might have bit off more than he could chew. In fact, it was a perfect storm. The storm windows were strewn across the living room and the door-like outside windows were fully open to the luge run outside. The children saw an opportunity to luge out of the living room window to the street below. Suzy was hanging banners –“Welcome Barbara and Barbara” – and balloons for the triumphant arrival of the newborn baby and her momma. A parade with seemingly hundreds of children was forming to strike up the celebration. A real estate agent showed up for a surprise showing of the on-the-market house. JPD was methodically cleaning windows all over the house, not to be interrupted from his task. Just as the mayhem was reaching its zenith, Barbara and Barbara arrived home from the hospital. Strike up the band, it is time to celebrate! Little Barbara Ann Dolan was the new queen of the neighborhood. Such a beautiful and appropriate day.

The baby was christened just a week later as the snow began to fall again. Like a Fairview Street snow globe, I grabbed my sled and started to practice for the Grenoble, France Olympic trials. The nice couple that experienced the craziness on spring cleaning day bought the house on Fairview and the Park Ridge Camelot was officially coming to an end.

First day of Fall tomorrow, could snow be far behind? Favorite song today, Frosty performed by Albert Collins.

The Path

The Path

2 thoughts on “September 22, 2015

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