“GRAND PRIZE GAME”

Long Run today, I was thinking about Mom.

Many years before most of my brothers and sisters were even born, when the family still lived in Park Ridge, a letter was sent to WGN TV c/o Bozo Circus requesting tickets for The Bozo Circus Show. These tickets were requested for the oldest children in 1961 and did not arrive until late 1968. We had moved to Mt. Prospect by this time and were all enrolled in St Raymond’s School. The oldest children would not be allowed back into their 6th and 7th grade classrooms if they appeared on something as innocuous as Bozo’s Circus. My brother and I, being in 1st and 2nd grades, were in the sweet spot for Bozo’s Circus. Johnny S. and Tommy S. from Park Ridge were our age too and would join in on the fun. All of us boys were the lucky recipients of the precious tickets that took seven years to reach our mailbox. The memory of the actual show is foggy. I remember being in line to get into the television studio, shuffling to our seats, having the studio doors shut tightly and being packed in like matchsticks. “All the world is a stage and the people are merely players”, this was going to be a great show.

My mother had unfortunately contracted a flu bug. When the studio doors closed, the queasiness started. My brother and I were so excited to be on The Bozo Show, we did not notice my mother with her head halfway into her purse as the show started. “THE GRAND PRIZE GAME” was due to start and they would randomly select a boy and a girl from the audience. They achieved this by scanning the audience with the WGN-TV camera and superimposing two magic arrows that only the television audience at home could see. The two arrows appeared alternately while pointing to the same spot. Frenzied music was played until the camera stopped. Wherever the camera stopped, the arrows would be pointing to a lucky boy or girl. That boy or girl would get to play “THE GRAND PRIZE GAME”. The game was simply played by throwing a ping-pong ball into a series of six buckets. Important to point out here that these shows were LIVE shows, no tape replays back then.

There was relative calm before the camera began to move in an erratic pattern. The maniacal music started and the studio shuddered under screams of 1800 five to seven year old chidren. The camera was scanning the audience and I was trying to make myself as big as possible by elbowing my brother and my mother to increase my chances of occupying more real estate and therefore getting picked by the magic arrows for the “GAME”. Johnny S. and Tommy S. were on the other side of my mother and I am sure they were engaged in the same strategy on her other flank. Every child that was crammed into the sardine can of a studio was now screaming at the top of his or her lungs. This feverish action probably increased my mother’s nausea. Now there has never been a tape of this show produced but the camera was said to have stopped on my mother during a particularly bad case of nausea. The magic arrows were alternating in their frenzied pattern pointing directly into my mother’s purse. This was probably borne out of curiosity by the cameraman himself, “What is that woman doing there in row five, seat twenty-seven?” When the cameraman realized that the Chicagoland metropolitan area audience was actually witnessing my mother’s sickness live, the camera moved very quickly as far from my mother and, therefore, from the four eager little boys who had accompanied her.

I was positive that I would be picked for the “GAME”. I had no idea what had gone wrong. The boy who was picked threw a ping-pong ball in five of the six buckets and won twenty-three dollars in fabulous prizes. What could have been? I would have hit all six buckets! Would my life be different than it is today, the next Conrad Hilton perhaps? I think I would still be feasting on the giant Tootsie Roll (remember that?). One can only speculate. My mother, on the other hand, while her trajectory was excellent, may not have had the distance for the sixth bucket.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you like your Bozo story.

The lake is as foggy as my memory but this really happened. Favorite song today, the maniacal song that goes with the magic arrows. Most of you know the tune.

Lac Harper

Lac Harper

September 23, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about photographs.

JPD has a strong personality. He knows what he wants. He may not be abrasive, loud or mean but he does not give up easily. It is part of a grand plan that he has possessed all along. If you are one of his progeny, you simply do not exist depending on the decisions that he made long ago. You see, Jimmy had a girlfriend when he went into the army. Her name was Sue Yeager. He was shipped off to Germany and shortly after he arrived he received a letter. The letter was from Sue Yeager and it begins, “Dear John…”. This was not good for the young private, not only was his name Jim (Who the hell was John?) but he may have understood that it was his destiny. Shortly after that, he gets another letter. This letter is from his two sisters, Margie and Tootsie. This letter included pictures of family and friends. One of the pictures was a photograph of one of Margie and Tootsie’s pals, Barbara McGrath. Margie O’Connor (nee Dolan) and Tootsie Cady (nee Dolan) might have had a plan too. They liked Barbara. Young Barbara would help Margie and Tootsie babysit for even younger Peter on Friday nights. Out of the blue, JPD told his sisters that the pretty young lady in the photo would be his bride one day. Both of his sisters informed him that Barbara was engaged to marry Jim W. and he should put this idea out of his mind. JPD would not listen to reason and insisted that the young lady in the picture was destined to be his wife. Talk about love at first sight, according to mom, it wasn’t even the most flattering picture. When JPD returned to the west side, he met his future bride and began the process of wooing her to what he figured was their collective destiny. First, he would have to convince her that Jim W. was not her destiny and she might want to end the engagement. Barb must have been convinced because when JPD and Barb went to visit John Moag on the South Side, JPD asked Barb to kindly remove the engagement ring. What did she do? She did not hesitate and put her engagement ring from Jim W. in her pocket, never to wear it again. Mary Ellen, Barb’s sister, eventually returned the ring to its original owner and JPD asked Barbara McGrath to marry him. After a whirlwind engagement, they were married in November of 1955. They have been together ever since. So, if you ever wonder where you really came from, it was a seemingly innocent act by Margie O’Connor and Tootsie Cady. They put a photograph in an envelope and then they put a stamp on that envelope and then they put that envelope in the mailbox and started the whole thing!

Love at first, second and so on… Favorite song today, Lara’s Theme (from Dr. Zhivago) performed by the Ray Conniff Singers.

A man with a plan.

A man with a plan.

August 21, 2015

Tempo run today, I was thinking about I-Oka Ave.

After Monroe Street and Fairview Avenue, I grew up on a street called I-Oka Avenue. The streets around my house were named for American Indian words, tribes, chiefs and elders. I-Oka is said to have meant many things but beautiful and welcoming place is a common theme. I-Oka Avenue is in Mt. Prospect “Where Friendliness is a Way of Life”. It was always a source of pride to say that we lived on I-Oka but the main reason that we moved there was that the house was right across the street from a K-8 elementary school. St. Raymond de Penafort School. At the peak, there were seven Dolans enrolled in this school. They even installed a “Children Crossing” sign at the end of our driveway. I remember when we moved into the house in 1967, a four bedroom colonial, it took the neighbors about three hours to construct fences to keep us out of their yards. Good fences make good neighbors but I don’t think they fully grasped the Quebec Indians’ definition of I-Oka. There were plenty of reasons to keep us out but the fences served as better hurdles than they did barriers. The back fence was the whiffle ball homer, the gaps in all of the side fences were escape routes that were highly porous. The reason for a yard fence was completely lost on us and we soon realized that there were other families as large as ours that had lived in the neighborhood longer than us. Why all the fences went up when we moved in was a mystery I had no interest in solving. I just knew that the shortest route to the football field, baseball diamond or basketball hoop was through someone’s yard. I-Oka means welcome, the arrival of the Dolans on this street may have redefined this word to mean “get off my lawn”.

Maureen and Jimmy training for a run. Favorite song today: Down to the River to Pray performed by Allison Krause.

Training in the 70s

Training in the 70s on I-Oka Avenue

August 19, 2015

Track workout today, I was thinking about daily copy.

I have alluded to Jimmy’s daily schedule in the past. Running, working, going to church among many other activities. When I was old enough to work and live in Chicago, I did just that. In between really terrible jobs, I was able to work with my dad. One thing that I really enjoyed about working with my dad at the Federal Building was lunchtime. Jimmy would take me to Berghoff’s stand-up bar for a fried halibut sandwich on rye, a pickle and a root beer. Not a great deal of calories in that lunch but, wow, was it good. The job itself involved running cassette tapes from the court reporters to the typists at the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago. The world was inexorably moving toward digitization and computers but this was truly old-school. The actual job involved a choreographed work process. Jimmy would be one of a few court reporters taking the dictation in the courtroom. He took this dictation on a Stenograph machine. This machine is a cross between a typewriter (remember those) and an enigma code machine. It would spit out an endless strip of paper about 3 inches wide and many miles long. The shorthand recorded on the paper was indecipherable to the uninitiated. When we were young, we thought my father was a spy and he was recording all of our activities and secretly reporting the activities of 9 and 10 year old boys to the government. Sort of like what the NSA does to all of us today. After taking about a half hour of dictation in the courtroom he would cede his position just below the judge’s bench to another court reporter. After a seamless transition with the other reporter with the court proceedings continuing uninterrupted, he would take the Stenograph back to his office and immediately remove the strip of paper and begin to read the shorthand into a cassette recorder. That is when I would jump into action. I would take the cassette which contained about 5-7 minutes of court proceedings to a typist who would type my father’s spoken word to a page. When the well-oiled machine was rolling along, there would be typed pages next to the typewriter that would go back to Jimmy. He would proofread the pages and make the necessary changes. Once the corrections were made, I would take the pages and make 5-10 copies. This delicate dance would continue all-day until court was adjourned. When the workday was done, we would have the “daily copy” of every word that was spoken in court that day, usually about 300 pages, within 30 minutes of adjournment. I thought this was so cool and I was part of the wheels of justice. I would then deliver the full daily transcript to the opposing law firms and call it a day. With the advancement of voice recognition software, I doubt the same process is in place today. Lots of fun working with dad and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world, not even a fried halibut sandwich on rye.

The path to the marathon. Favorite song today: Busted performed by Ray Charles.

The road to infinity.

The road to infinity.

August 18, 2015

This is a first, thanks to Maureen for this story. I was not able to attend this event and add my own brand of mayhem!

Guest blogger: Maureen

Commuting to work today, I was thinking about trains.

For over 30 years I took the “L” or got a ride downtown to work. In March of this year, my firm moved and forced a different commute—the Metra Milwaukee Road North Line from Grayland to Union Station. Union Station is two blocks from Ogilvie Station where for 50 years Dad took the Union Pacific Northwest Line (formerly known as the Chicago & Northwestern). Now that I’m on the “big” train, I think about the many trips he took back and forth to work. One thing that always struck me was that he would run 5-10-15 miles a day, but he never walked the four blocks to the train or home from the train. That meant Mom driving uptown and back almost as many times as he commuted. Or when we were old enough, she’d be making dinner and shout, “Someone go get Daddy!” and one of us would grab his London Fog wool stadium coat and whatever shoes or boots were in the front hall, jump in the station wagon and zip uptown.

When Dad retired in January of 2001, someone got the idea that we’d surprise him for his “last” train ride home. It was slightly complicated because when he retired, he flirted with the idea of teaching court reporting, so he had signed up for a semester as an adjunct instructor at MacCormac College. He actually had to teach a class on his last day of his job at the Federal Building. If he got out on time, he’d make the 8:30; if not, it would be the 9:30. Let’s just say JD was involved, so you know it turned into a full-blown military mission. It also helped that we had Matt the SEAL in town. Eileen happened to know a guy who worked for Metra (actually a running friend of hers), so she told him about it. He thought it was a great human interest story, so he called a reporter from the Daily Herald. On the night of the famous last ride, we had Jim’s spouse, his sister, eight of his children, various spouses, about 20 grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 16, my sister-in-law who just happened to be taking the train to Barrington, the reporter – all converged on Ogilvie Station.

John set up reconnaissance on the Madison St. bridge with a walkie-talkie to watch for our hero. Matt was inside the station to get the signal whether to load the group onto the train or not. The kids were excited but nervous – big trains pulling in and out, bells ringing, smoke belching, everyone talking at once.

It got to be 8:20 then 8:25. The tension was mounting. Finally John’s voice squawked through the walkie-talkie – “The Eagle has landed, I repeat, the Eagle has landed.” According to John, the first generation Motorola Talkabout walkie-talkie unfortunately made it sound like “The Beagle is Branded.” On top of that, Dad was running at full speed because he was going to miss the train! After some confusion, everyone ran to the platform and started loading. We ran through the train cars to the end car where the conductor opened up a dark car for us. We were scrambling so fast, the kids were actually terrified. The reporter brought up the rear holding out a child’s mitten: “Who lost a mitten?” Really, I think he thought we were nuts.

The conductor turned out the lights again in our car and headed back. He actually knew who Dad was. Dad sat in the same seat on the same car for all those years. Upstairs, south side, second car from the front. As he was collecting the tickets, the conductor stopped at Dad’s seat and said, “Sir, can you come with me?” He led him down the stairs and into the dark car whereupon we all yelled, “Surprise‼” We almost lost Dad that day to a heart attack. Once he recovered from the shock, he was grinning from ear to ear. The conductor then escorted him to the locomotive car where he brought him up to the engineer to introduce him. Dad in his Brooks Brothers suit and wingtips climbing up to the engineer! Then the conductor presented him with a lapel pin and a lifetime pass to ride the train (which he never used; he always paid when he went downtown after he retired).

So the reporter wrote a nice story about the mild-mannered commuter who took the same train to work for 50 years. And the kids had a memory for a lifetime about Grumpy’s “last train ride.”

 

Favorite song today: Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel

The C&NW

August 6, 2015

Recovery run today, I was thinking about mentorship.

JPD is a teacher to me. He didn’t want to teach me the saxophone or to be a lawyer. He wanted to teach me to be a human being. We tend to think about raising our kids is a combination of nature and nurture. From the nature side, I get some traits from my mom and some from my dad. They too received certain traits from their parents. I never knew my dad’s mom and barely knew Pa (dad’s dad). Even though I barely knew him I think I know part of him through my dad and myself. I look like my dad and he looks like his dad. I always thought that I wanted to be just like my dad. I thought early on that I would study law. That way, I would be just like my dad. I found out later that this would not guarantee that I would be like JPD. What he did for a living had much to do with his personality but it did not define him. What he is as a human, he still is and always will be. He is a teacher. He is patient, he wants you to succeed. He wants you to learn but he does not force you to work. He teaches by example and is generous with his knowledge. I remember our philosophical discussions. When I was born, did he think I was a blank slate? He did not think this was the case. I brought something to the party and it was important. This taught me that everyone has something to contribute and I should strive to learn what that might be. When I was learning what I might like to be, he was supportive. This allowed me to keep pursuing. I am a scientist today because of my dad (and mom). I strive to be a philosopher. I want be logical. I want to be a good listener and I want participate in the great discussion. I want to be a good student and I want to teach my son what my dad taught me. Most of all, I want to be just like my dad.

Raymond’s Run in front of St. Raymond’s Church. Favorite song today: All The Way Home performed by Bruce Springsteen.

JPD and Katie are circled.
JPD and Katie are circled.

July 25, 2015

Recovery run today. I was thinking about Saturday chores today.

Jimmy Dolan was a busy guy. Up before the dawn, run with the buddies, off to work on the 6:03 Chicago Northwestern, church at St Peter’s, coffee with Richard Dagdigian, work, home on the train thirteen hours later, only to repeat the same series again the next day. Weekends were special. This was a time to bond with the brood. Saturdays were wide open from 0500-0900 to run with the buddies. By 9 am every Saturday, time was reserved for lawn or housecleaning. Summer was all about lawn chores, winter was reserved for cleaning the house, the whole house! As a progeny of this man, I was required to learn the intricacies of making the bed or sweeping the driveway. For the first five years or so, I was the apprentice. Apprenticeship meant learning how to properly make the bed, for example. The bed sheet, if folded onto the bed properly could defy the laws of thermodynamics. If a quarter was dropped onto the sheet at a height two feet, it would bounce to a height of three feet. The sheets had to be wrapped tighter and neater than a stick of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit. Jimmy Dolan was taught the proper way to make the bed by a drill sergeant during his time in the army. It was now his special task to pass this knowledge down to his boys. None of his sons joined the army because we already knew how to make a bed.

In the summertime, I was apprentice for five years to learn how to sweep a driveway. Our driveway in Mt. Prospect is long enough to suit the Biltmore Estate. Start sweeping from the top left and continue until you have swept the driveway and the streets in a four block radius. One sweep followed by a double tap of the broom to remove the debris from the bristles of the broom. Not one pebble or blade of grass was ever left on the driveway (or on the street) but there were always plenty the following Saturday. When you were an apprentice, you never did the work, you only watched. This was the way every nine year old dreams of spending a sunny Saturday afternoon. The funny thing is, this is how I sweep my own driveway. I did it today and thought about JPD the whole time.

The trail. Favorite song today: Jumbalaya performed by Professor Longhair.

The trail.

The trail.