Tomorrow, a Friday Five. Today, a prompt from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop:
Your childhood neighborhood.
Rogers Park (Public Domain)
My childhood neighborhood, from when I was born until I moved after freshman year of high school (minus a year or so when we lived in Indianapolis) was Rogers Park, the furthest-north neighborhood in Chicago. No kidding: walk all the way north on Sheridan Road, eventually you’re in Evanston. On the map, I lived in the section marked “Loyola” on the map, for Loyola University, down in the lower right-hand corner. I went to church at St. Ignatius Church and to school at St. Ignatius School, so yes, the Jesuits were a big influence.
It was a nice neighborhood, really, almost a suburb, with lots of “two-flats,” two-story apartment buildings containing two apartments. Some of the buildings were three stories, some were one building with two addresses, one for the left side, one for the right, and some buildings were huge courtyard buildings with five entrances, each of which had two addresses, so it was like five buildings arranged in a U, except they were all the same building.
There were parks in the neighborhood, mostly along the lake. Beaches, actually, with playgrounds. My grandparents had an apartment on Loyola Avenue, right near the university. They had the greatest back yard. Walk out their back door, you were practically in a playground. Their apartment was huge, but then, there were nine people living there at one time.
Our apartment was a block from church, on Glenwood Avenue. There were lots of kids on the block, but if you walked down the street, you didn’t see us. We were all in the alley between Glenwood and Wayne, a block over. The only vehicles that drove down the alley were garbage trucks. Most of the time, we were out there playing. We never usually used to go to the front door to see one of our friends; we’d walk down the alley and yell their names, and they’d come out, or we’d go to the back door, which during the spring, summer, and part of fall was open with a screen door separating their apartment from the world.
No kidding, we’d play softball in the alley. Usually one of the corner bases was a pile of dog-doo, but we didn’t have to step in it.
Devon Avenue was the big shopping district. There were two funeral homes, one Jewish and one Catholic, both of which had big parking lots that we weren’t supposed to play in, so naturally we were always playing in them, at least until they threw us out.
Sheridan Road was the other big street. The Granada Theater was there. When “A Hard Day’s Night” came to the Granada, the lines stretched halfway down the block. It’s my favorite movie of all time, but I didn’t see it at the Granada. I kind of wish I had now. The Granada wasn’t so much a movie theater as a movie palace. Shame they closed it and just let the place rot until they tore it down for senior housing. Not that a place like that could survive in today’s world of theaters with twelve screens. But it was beautiful.
I used to have to go to bed at nine, even during the summer. We didn’t have air conditioning except for the living room, and Mom wouldn’t run it at night, so we’d sleep with the windows open. My room faced north, and I could see the bell tower at St. Ignatius and hear the Angelus bell ring. It rang four times a day, at 7 AM, noon, 6 PM, and 9 PM. I’d be in bed at nine, usually with the radio on low, pretending to be asleep, and always up at seven the next morning.
I remember so much about it, just little glimpses of life, like walking to Morse Avenue after Benediction on Friday and getting the WLS and WCFL surveys, listening to White Sox games at night during the summer and Loyola basketball games during the winter, all the little stores on Loyola Avenue, the “L” station, swimming in the lake and trying to avoid the dead alewives that would occasionally float by, running to school after sitting around until the last minute watching “The King And Odie” or just one more corny skit on “Bozo’s Circus,” seeing the seedier side of the neighborhood when I was a paperboy, walking to the library on Clark Street…