Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Childhood memories of traveling to Chicago, guest blogger

Dave Graf recalls: "When I was a kid (starting as early as age 5), I loved to take Route 64 to Chicago to visit my grandparents. They moved there when WWII was over. It was more fun than going into the Windy City by the Tollway. Names such as Sycamore, St. Charles, Itasca, Bensonville--(we turned off of 64 and took Rte 83 to Irving Pk)--were MAGIC names. Even Kings, IL was "magic" because as far as I was concerned, Kings was where we broke loose from our local area. The closer to Chicago we got, the more excited I was. I told you the story about when I went to Arlington Park with the Jewetts. We ate at the Hotel Baker, in St. Charles on that day (*)when Steve and I stared from outside the window, looking at, and smacking our lips at the people eating inside. Unfortunately, Norm caught us--but that's another story. Mom and Dad stopped at the Log Cabin, located right next to the Fox River. If I remember right, the Latrines were in the basement and there was a glassy area where you could see how the river looked at that level. I also remember a Wurlitzer Juke Box they had in the dining area at one time. I was fascinated by the way the colors in the tubes changed. Now Jim and I sat in the back seat on these excursions--and we would push, punch and pester each other much of the way in. The reason we behaved at the Log Cabin was that if we got TOO wild back there, Dad would pull over, off the road before we got to the Cabin. He would say something like this, Do you boys see those chimneys with smoke coming out of them? Those buildings are the Reformatory for Boys--and unless you promise to settle down, we will turn right now--and head over there!" The first few times we were afraid he would do just that, but later on we wised up, grinned at each other when the folks weren't looking--and were well behaved because it was nearing chow time. Somebody told me a couple years ago that their parents did the same thing!

We turned onto 83 at Montana Charlie's Steakhouse. I would have loved to have eaten a huge steak there later in life, but I suppose it's gone. We drove Past Kiddieland, in Addison, IL, a Seminary called "Our Lady of the Snows" I believe (that name rings a bell). Then right from (I think Harlem) onto Irving....and there it was! It used to scare the pants off of me--"Dunning Mental Health Facility!" Every so often, some of the patients would be right up to the iron fence that surrounded the place! The Reform School was nothing, next to Dunning!

On to Irving Park. The bus route ended at Narragansett, and returned to the run to the East, near the Lake. When I was about 12, I'd get onto that (electric) Irving Park bus and go from one end to the other. I memorized every stop and where it was: Calif (2000), Western (24), Cicero (48)., Austin 6000) etc. Past Nicky Chevrolet "With the Backward K". We'd go to Drake Avenue, turn North and head to my Nana's home at 4332 N. Drake, just South of Montrose (4000 W). And I was in Heaven. We would all sit on the 2nd floor on the porch, in the back by the alley, in the night and listen to the steam trains rattle by on an overpass about 6 blocks away. The RR was the "Soo Line". Nana's mother and father lived in the same "bungalow". We did this for years. I would sit up on that same porch with my Great Grandfather and listen to the Cub games. I learned OTHER "Magic Names"--Sauer, Rush, Baumholtz, Minner, Caveretta, Pafko etc. Magic names, and Magic Times--Trips to the City with the Big Shoulders. Maybe someday, God will return it to a wonderful city to visit--as well as a great place to live in!"

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