The block I grew up on was back in a time when America was strong and prospered and oh so different from the times of today.
I remember a time when neighborhoods everywhere were like families,close knit and somewhat safe,even in the mist of one of the world’s largest cities. Almost self contained in fact,all within a square mile or two,built for ones needs. It was a time of fulfilling needs first and working toward the wants in life after the needs, just the opposite of what today feels like,and that’s not good or happy either.
It felt like a small town to me growing up in the mist of a very large city. On a city block filled with so many different nationalities it’s hard to name them all,treasures of learning for each child lucky enough to grow up there.
Everyone worked,that included 50% of the moms from the late 1940’s on. If one mother worked and needed help there was always someone close by to count on for help,and returning the favor was the norm. People worked hard and no one expected a free ride from any government, in fact there were no laws then providing for aide as a right. Aide was only for the disabled and elderly,and the elderly in my world were cared for by family first. Churches and charities, neighbors and families united together back then for a common good. Makes me smile now, how lucky I was. And we all got along or at least nodded in passing to one another kindly.
From my window on the second floor of the tiny white house built in 1900 of wood, I could see the church , and the grade school was just across the street. Friends were all within a block or two, or less , so you always had someone to play with or explore the neighborhood with. And though it was working class to middle class, it was safer than it surely is everywhere now. Exploring was our world. From parks and lakefronts with boat docks, to soccer in the alleyways where you also learned to ride your first bicycle by crashing into someone’s garage doors, it was great. Makes me smile now almost sixty years later. Our house built in 1900 of wood, now torn down for modern condos and progress and building code violations too I’m sure,( well it isn’t progress to me),was my families home,and my happiness. It was warm and safe and the smell of my aunt mothers German cooking filled the air many weekends as a treat.
Lyle’s Pharmacy was my favorite just down the street. From it’s marble soda fountain built in the early 1900’s, to the man that cared for a neighborhood. Everyone loved and trusted,Lyle. Folks didn’t run go to doctors then for every little thing as they do now, but talked with Lyle, the Pharmacist and neighbor ,who often times could make exactly what one needed for a minor illness. Many trips to the doctor were saved by that good man. And for us kids his real soda fountain cokes and green rivers cost only 5 cents, with a penny more for a cherry coke. I earned my cherry cokes by getting my sweet uncle Otto his Sunday paper on Saturday night at ,of course Lyles.
The bakery was Jewish, next to the Japanese jeweler, next to the Italian florist ,and the Polish butcher shop was incredible to say the least. What a world to grow in! I’m laughing and smiling with sweet memories just thinking of how diverse and educational it all was. We saved our meager allowances to buy 45 RPM records at the neighborhood record shop, which was right next to the Woolworth’s 5 and dime store. Oh my what can one buy now with five cents?. The Woolworth’s was a whole world unto itself and fascinating to browse. Everything one needed was there. I still have the ten cent wine glasses mom bought there in the fifties, what treasure. Almost forgot, the lost art of the TV repair shop that worked overtime servicing the neighborhood , as everyone finally had a TV set by the mid 50’s. And then there was the movie theater. We saved up for the Saturday movies which played a double feature for just 25 cents. If we were lucky mom would give us just a little help for the popcorn money needed after we walked the mile to one of the most elegant theaters around. It too was built in the early 1900’s and still marvels any movie theater built today.
The Century Movie Theater, Chicago, Illinois
We learned the importance of faith early on too, in what used to be decent Chicago public schools. Not only celebrating Christmas, but Hanukah too, since the Judeo Christian faith was the major religion of this great country, and it still should be considered just that. All other faiths were welcome. Some were Buddhist and even a few muslims ,and we all got along. Amazing. The way it should be, amazing.
The old white house I grew up in, bought in the very early 50’s, turned into a blue sided house in the 1980’s after the last family member that lived there passed on and it was sold. The early 2000’s brought the tearing down of this gem, as progress and building codes grew to laughable levels, and wood was no longer safe for humans to live in. Many fought against tearing down this sweet home, but the city won in the end, and paradise was paved over for modern multilevel condos only a few years ago. Thirty six years of memories and life for one family in that home, I had sixteen of those years personally. I wouldn’t trade it for anything on this earth.
Memories of perhaps a time when America was stronger , schools and churches were freer, people were a little less stressed and they cared a little more for each other in their neighborhoods, we had work and crime too was just a little lower. Maybe one day this country can get back just a little of what we had in the 1950’s.
Thank you for reading!
** The blue house is pictured above after it’s 80’s remodel, from being my white sided house filled with love. The other 2 to 4 flats are on the same street , pictured above.