West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

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Going to work at Sears, I would walk through Columbus Park to get the Harrison streetcar at Central, which was the end of the line. Rosemarie, who was also working at Sears, would leave the house at the same time. But she would take the Madison streetcar to Central and take the Central bus to Harrison Street. She would usually be sitting on the Harrison streetcar when I got there.

I loved walking through the park. One time I wrote something about that, how in the summer you would see all these kids fishing and the old men out there fishing early in the morning. And then when the winter came, or the fall, there was nobody there, and the park was mine alone.

One night on my way home from work in 1939 or '40, I walked through the park and up Menard. A few doors from the park there was an old, tumbledown-looking house. It was painted a dark color, and it had dirty curtains in the windows. We knew that an old man lived there all by himself.

So I walked down the rest of the block and into the kitchen where my mother was cooking dinner. And I said, "You know, ma, I just had the greatest idea."

She said, "What's that?"

I said, "Well, I was walking by that old house down the block, and I was thinking, wouldn't it be great if I fell on the sidewalk someday and that old man came out and said, 'I've been wanting to give this old house to somebody, and I'll give it to you.'"

My mother said, "Well, if what you're trying to tell me is you think your father and I should buy a house, that's ridiculous. Someday you'll have your own house, but it's too late for us."

So years later, after I was married and had children of my own, we went to look at a house that was for sale at 135 S. Menard. I went up to the attic and looked out the window. The two Smith girls, who had lived in the house for 47 years, were there, and I said, "Now there used to be an old house down here. An old man lived there all alone."

They pointed out the window. "Oh, that's the house right next door."

So I didn't get the house that I dreamed of, but I got the one next to it.

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