West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

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In 1940 the people we rented from on Menard said they wanted the apartment back. So of course we were all desperate. We hated the thought of giving up Austin. So we went out walking--blocks and blocks and blocks--and the only place we could find in the neighborhood only had two bedrooms.

The apartment on Menard had three. Ed had one, ma and pa had one, and the three girls had the other. We had a studio couch and a full bed in our room.

Then Rosemarie and I got together and decided, if we can't find a place to live out in Austin, which we loved, then let's go back to the neighborhood near Sears, so we can at least have the advantage of walking to work.

So we went down to the Sears neighborhood and walked around, and we found this two-story, white stone building on Flournoy Street, 3608 Flournoy. It was a second-floor apartment, and it had a vacant lot next to it which was like part of the house. So we figured, well, at least you'd get a little air and sun. Of course we didn't realize about the train running back of the house.

It was such a big apartment that it went all the way back to the alley. The biggest bedroom, which Rosemarie and I shared, had a diagonal window that looked right out on the elevated tracks. Well, the el wasn't so bad, but when that Aurora-Elgin train went by--the "roarin' Elgin," with these big flashing lights--even with the shades down you still got all the noise and the lights. I would jump out of bed in the middle of the night and find myself standing there in the middle of the floor, and I wouldn't know where I was.

Vince would say, "Well, if you have a light alongside your bed, just flip the light on, and then you'll know that it was just a train going by."

Anyway, we moved in there around the first of September, and Marge and Bud were married on the 21st. While they were getting married, German bombs were destroying London and we were all hoping we'd stay out of the war.

"I hate war," President Roosevelt said. "We're never getting in the war. I hate war." That's what he said.

So Marge and Bud got married. They used to call themselves Mud and Barge. Anyway, they got married, and when we went to their house there was no music. It just didn't seem right. They were the best piano players we knew. So I came home, good-hearted, you know, and I said to my mother, "I think we should give the piano to Marge, because, after all, Loretta gave it to her in the first place."

So Marge and Bud got the piano.

Bud fingered the piano so beautifully. And then when he went to the war he got frozen fingers and frozen feet. When he came back he had this Raynaud's disease. All his fingers were infected, and he couldn't play piano for a long time.

You know, a lot of them never talked about the war. Ed never talked about what he did in the war. I know he was in Europe. He might have been in the D-day invasion. He was in Europe right after the invasion, but I never really knew. He never talked about it.

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