My grandparents, Walkie and Hicks, had the best back yard ever. If you walked out their back door and across an alley, you were standing in Albion Park, which had a big grassy playground with swings, a slide, a merry-go-round, and monkey bars, and a beach right along Lake Michigan.
© Aughty | Dreamstime.com – Classic Bronze Baby Shoes Photo
The day I got my first pair of baby shoes, my godmother, Fabulous Auntie Jill, took me out for a walk down to the lake. When we got to the beach, she met a friend of hers and stopped to chat. But I didn’t. I was in Lake Michigan up to my eighteen-month-old knees before Jill realized I wasn’t standing beside her. Needless to say, those shoes fell apart before they could be bronzed.
© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com – Group Of Children Having Fun In Playground Together
We’d go over to Walkie and Hicks’ house for lunch sometimes and stay through nap time. I’ve already discussed my aversion to naps, so my brothers would have their nap and I would try to stay out of trouble. One day after lunch, they were in the park and I was sitting with Walkie and my mother on their back porch, from which we could see my brothers playing. They were running around and having a good time, and my mother decided she’d let them play until they came in, then she’d put them down for a nap.
Well, one of my brothers (I won’t say which) was out in the park and realized he had to go to the bathroom, and he knew that, if he went in, Mom was going to put him down for a nap. So he stood beside the swings, pulled down his pants, and went wee-wee.
Of course, Mom, Walkie, and I were watching this whole scene unfold. “OH MY GOD!” Mom shouted, and she was out the back door like a shot. I, of course, thought this was hilarious, both the sight of my brother relieving himself in the middle of the park and my mother dashing across the alley and into the park to grab him, and couldn’t stop laughing. Nor could Walkie, who tried her best to get me to stop laughing as she was herself trying to stop before my mother got back, a little brother in each hand.
Albion Beach, now Hartigan Beach Park (Source: Chicago Park District)
Walkie died on New Year’s Day 1962, and not long after that Hicks remarried and moved out of the apartment on Loyola Avenue. While we no longer had the advantage of having relatives with easy access to the beach (until a few years later, when my Aunt Jinx and Uncle Cas moved to an apartment on Loyola), we still went to Albion Beach pretty regularly. There was noplace more comfortable when it was hot out, because it was always about five degrees cooler at the lake than anywhere else in town. This story is somewhat related, as it involves Albion Beach.
We moved to Glenwood Avenue at the beginning of my second grade year (1963). The key feature of the apartment, as far as my mother was concerned, was the huge air conditioner in the living room. The first hot day of 1964, around Memorial Day, she turned it on, and the cool air rushed out of it. By the end of the day, it was blowing hot air. Mom was frantic. She just had to get someone out to fix the air conditioner, without which she would surely perish, even though we had lived up to that point without it. She spoke with Mrs. Rabbitt, the landlady who lived downstairs, who assured Mom she would call the repairman and get him out as soon as she could.
Nowadays, when you call for service (e.g. the cable company), they give you a day and a four-hour window as to when the service technician will be at your house, ready to work. In those days, the window was “he’ll be out in the next week or so.” Mom resolved not to budge from the apartment until the repairman had come and fixed her precious. Which meant that Dad and the three of us would have to join in her vigil.
Saturday came, and naturally we all wanted to go to the beach, because it was close to ninety degrees, but Mom was adamant. “We have to wait until the man comes to fix the air conditioner,” she said.
“But Mom, it’s Saturday! He’s not going to come today!” I really wanted to go to the beach, and so did Jimmy and Kippy and, as it turned out, Dad.
“They said he’s real busy and is working through the weekend to catch up,” she said confidently. “He’ll be here soon.”
At about one that afternoon, Dad said, “Bunny, the boys want to go to the beach, so I’m going to take them. You can wait here if you want, they’re driving me crazy.” As I recall, there was some discussion, but finally Mom not only agreed to let him take us, she decided she would go with us, too.
We went to the beach and stayed most of the afternoon there, and when we got back, there was a “SORRY WE MISSED YOU” tag on the front door from the air conditioner repairman.
It’s been over fifty years since that happened, and I think I figured it out: the air conditioner repairman must have been sitting across the street for several days, watching our apartment until we all left, then run in and hung the tag on the door…
Hope you enjoyed today’s installment of Wednesdays for My Wife!