5 th Grade, continued
Jim Austin of the J.A. Show on WCVS 1450 arranged to broadcast a stay awake marathon live talking on the air and spinning the latest hits from the showroom of R.E. Broe Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth downtown on the east side of Fourth Street, north of Governor. Parents took Bill and me down to see him in action. While records were playing, he was talking with people who had come to watch him (like us), and I was one happy kid when I asked him for his autograph, and he gave it to me. On a card he wrote “Later! J.A.” I didn’t understand what “Later!” meant, but it affected how I would autogaph my poetry books 40 years later.
. . . . Delivering the Chicago Daily news in all kinds of weather was a matter of pride with me, and I enjoyed it. My greatest challenge was late, darkening winter afternoons in heavy sleet, which I encountered probably five times. On the worst of them, halfway into my route, the streets and sidewalk became too icy to ride, so I walked my bike. Along the way, sometime after 5:30, mom pulled up in the car and offered to let me put the bike in the trunk of the car, and drive me the rest of the way. That really touched me, but I thanked her and sent her home. I knew I’d be okay, and I was. Dinner tasted great when I arrived home.
. . . . . On Saturday mornings, dad would awaken me about 6:15, and the two of us would fold the thick weekend editions at the kitchen table, talking and drinking coffee. Minutes after I’d walk through the back door from delivering papers, he’d have a terrific breakfast cooking for me. I was always done by 8 am, and had the rest of the day for fun if I had done all my collecting from the people on my paper route, which I usually did on Thursdays and Fridays after dinner.
. . . . As long as dad and I lived at 2016 S. Whittier, he cooked breakfast for the family. He was always up by 6 and cooking mom’s breakfast. Eggs or pancakes or French toast, bacon or sausage and coffee. Every evening, when I’d day goodnight to him, passing through the living room and on my way up the stairs to bed, dad would ask me what I wanted for breakfast the next morning. He as a superb cook. I still cook sunny side up eggs the way he taught me. Early into kidhood, I drank coffee because it was the grownup thing to do. Milk was great the rest of the day. Mom and dad would breakfast together, then she would come upstairs to get ready for work, awaken Bill and me if we weren’t already, and we’d head down for the second shift. Then we’d head upstairs, shower seperately, get ready for school and head out seperately. Then dad would get ready for work and head down to Roberts Bros., sometime driving when we had a second car, but nost of the time taking the bus. Bill had his friends and his way of doing things; I had mine. We never went anywhere together unless it was with the rest of the family, and even then only if we had to go.
. . . . Besides delivering the paper, a few times a year a station wagon full of newspaper boys went canvassing — selling the Chicago Daily News door to door — in strange and interesting neighborhoods all over Springfield. Mr. McDaniel, our branch manager, drove the station wagon and would pick us up at home, deliver us in pairs to streets he had selected, and check on us, waving or nodding as he drove slowly down the street. There were sales contests, and I always did okay with them. I often had no clue where I was out canvassing, and though I knew not where I was, I was never “lost” because I knew if my partner working the homes on the other side of the street and I continued walking for the next two or three blocks, Mr. McDaniel would pick us up. When the other fellow and I found ourselves leaving a house close to the other one across the street, we’d meet in the middle to discuss how things were going. Somewhere on the west side — Park, Douglas — my partner was having a bad night; no sales. I was having a good one, probably four new subscriptions. On a whim, I suggested we trade sides of the street, and maybe his luck would improve. The next house — on HIS side of the street — which I visited subscribed to the paper from me, and he sold nothing! We resumed selling on the sides of the streets we had started the evening on. Another night has stayed with me. I don’t remember where we had started, but it was getting pretty dark, and I was starting to worry exactly where we were. I happened to glance eastward and was startled to see the Illinois State Capitol Building bathed in floodlights as it was in those days. I had never seen it from that angle before, and I never forgot that perspective. I had been working the north side of Monroe walking east when there were many more residences there than today. I rarely drive east on Monroe and glance at the Capitol without remembering as a fifth grader I sold the Chicago Daily News to nice people on that street on a dark spring evening many years ago!
. . . .The only part of my career with the newspaper that I did not enjoy was collecting the money, knocking on doors and asking for anywhere from 55 cents to a few dollars from people who sometimes tried to avoid me. A major annoyance to my parents and unhappy potent of traits to come, was my habit of spending money I collected from customers and spending it on hot dogs, Hires Root Beer, model airpland kits and candy at Sears. Oten they made up my shortages with tieir own money. They never let me forget my stealing from the newspaper and their coming to my aid frequently. To this day, I regret stealing and spending money that was not mine that way.
. . . .Around 4th & 5th grade my new friends Bill Marshall, Make Price and Mark Swartout shared the thrill of smoking cigarettes and Tiparillos (with plastic tips to be placed into the mouth) for the first time. On a warm Saturday, they came over to my place, and we went roaming the neighborhood, looking for a nice back yard to smoke in. Any nice back yard would do, and it didn’t take us long to find one. It had the first weeping willow tree I’d ever seen in the back yard, on Pasfield south of Ash. About half an hour into the smoking, Bill Marshall and I threw up so violently under that willow tree that it scared us all. I would not pick up another cigarette until high school.
. . . . My paper route continued with little inconvenience and thrills a plenty. When I was still in Miss Ruppelt’s class, Dorothy married Bob Shymansky, a movie-star-handsome fellow whom, I believe, she met two or three years earlier. The first time I had met him, he had pictures from his service int he US Army and the tanks he drove or helped crew. He was a nice guy and so were his parents, John and Margaret Shymansky who lived in a house on north Fifth, south of the junior college. After they parried, Dot and Bob moved to St. Louis where he worked for Selig, ca chemical company. Dot stayed home and took care of the house. After they settled in, my family visited them one weekend. We visited a huge amuesemanet park which I believe has since been torn down, the St. Louis zoo. I also learned that all the kids in St. Louis were playing theis new game called soccer. We watched people playing it as we drove by parks. Bob and Dot predicted it would become as popular as baseball in the USA.
. . . . Another nifty part of 5th grade was establishing some healthy, innocent relationships with some 5th grade girls. Diane Wilborn was almost forgotten. In her place were Mary Ann (forgot her last name) and Linda Walden. These were days when eye contact and smiles meant a lot. Conversation was consistently fun with Linda with her black hair, light complexion and convivial “hail fellow well met” outlook. It would be more fun in the years to come.
. . . . .Soon after I had been posted the words just shared at an earlier Internet site, Linda, then living in Arozona, e-mailed me and we traded notes via e. She had been married a few times (at age 50-something, who hasn’t been these days?) and we discussed meeting somewhere between Arizona and Springfield. We didn’t, and that’s okay. My memories of her are golden.
. . . . . .Sometime between fifth and sixth, I discovered a hobby shop on South Grand between State and Glenwood. I visited there twice on my bike. It is still kmy dream of a perfect hobby shot: small enough to see the owner when entering the stor, full of the fragrance of Aero Gloss dope, balsa and glue. The fellow who owned it built flying models, adn several hung from the ceiling. I didn’t spend money there but I wanted to. I always wanted to return wtih enough dollars for some plastic models, but by the time I found they money, the shop had disappeared, replaced by a big funeral home that still stands there. During my second visit, I watched a man come in and explain that his son was illl and he wanted to buy him a model kit. He departed the shop with an ITC kit of the Stinson Model U Trimotor. Many years later I added an example of that kit to my model kit collection.
Coming next: Sixth Grade
Live long . . . . and proper.
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