Tag Archives: baby boomers

The Ghost of Christmas Memories Past

I used to wonder why old people liked to talk about the past.  Now that I am in the “old people” club, I totally get it. It has little to do with not being progressive or keeping up with the times or even wanting things the way they were. and everything to do with fond memories.  I mean, who doesn’t want to visit great memories? Especially around Christmastime. I don’t necessarily remember visions of sugar plums dancing in my head but I sure remember spritz cookies, Russian tea cakes and homemade fudge. Since I was a product of The Greatest Generation and a Baby Boomer I didn’t have to worry about The Great Depression and other atrocities,  me and my siblings had it pretty good.

I remember the giant Sears catalog along with a few others in our household becoming dog-eared as we searched the “Wish Book” as it was called for the perfect gift to ask Santa to bring us. In reality maybe we got one or two items on our list and it is doubtful the items ever came from Sears as my parents were Montgomery Ward shoppers, but it didn’t matter. The fun was in the wishing and looking and dreaming (geez, I think that was a 1960’s song). Anyway, the anticipation of maybe getting a thing or two on our Santa’s  list kept us on relatively good behavior for at least a few weeks and undoubtedly a blessing for our folks who barely had to utter “naughty or nice” to keep us in line.

Most moms didn’t work outside the home in those days so my mom got into the swing of Christmas by stenciling Christmas decorations on our window panes by dabbing a sponge dipped in liquid pledge (odd but true) that formed Santa, trees etc. Then she baked up a Christmas cookie storm and hid the cookies from us because she didn’t want them all gone before Christmas. We were always pretty sure my Dad got some early cookies though. She also always made us nightgowns or pajamas that were usually red flannel with really dumb looking Little-House-On-The-Prairie sleeping hats (the book not the TV show) so we could take an equally dumb picture in front of the Christmas tree. She always gave us these pajama things on Christmas eve along with slippers. One year I got beautiful blue fluffy, furry slippers. I was thrilled not to once again get the slipper socks which were the norm back then. Imagine getting excited about a pair of slippers? This is why we call it the good old days.

I remember we went Christmas caroling with the kids on my Chicago city block even though most of us couldn’t carry a tune. About a month before Christmas the only music teacher on the block and probably the only parent who felt up to the task would contact our parents and ask them if we wanted to participate in Christmas Eve caroling. I don’t ever remember being asked by my parents if my sister and I wanted to do this, I just remember going over to the teacher’s house (one house down ) for “practice,” a few times before the big night. I do remember her telling me I needed to sing from my diaphragm and that I sounded nasally. And I do remember thinking I was into dancing not singing and people would just see a bunch of cute neighborhood kids singing and not necessarily care if they sounded like a professional choir.

We only went to houses on our block where we knew people well or that had kids in the singing group. Some people gave us candy or hot chocolate, it was great to be out at night on Christmas Eve as a kid and some people even gave us money. I remember one time a guy named Moose Krause, who was the brother of the policeman, who lived next door to us and was visiting, giving the music teacher $20.00. That was a lot of money back then, it was the late 1950’s. We all figured it would be divided up amongst us singers who were freezing out butts off singing in the snow. But our music teacher had other plans for the money and told us it should go to our neighborhood Catholic church collection box at midnight mass. The Christmas spirit took hold of course and we all agreed she was right. It wasn’t until years later and talking to my Dad that I realized that Moose krause was the athletic director of Notre Dame and a huge notable athlete in his own right. My Dad was talking to him for quite a while on the front porch that one Christmas Eve and for my folks, who would go to Notre Dame games quite a bit in those days, meeting  Moose was a big deal. For us kids the big deal was yet to come, Santa Claus was coming to town.

 

 

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Filed under humor, nostalgia

Summer In Chicago 1950’s style

 

I grew up in the city although it didn’t seem all that urban to me. What I though urban meant as a kid didn’t connect in my kid-brain with the tree-lined streets, lush lawns of Marian Blue grass or Creeping Bent and the Georgians, Cape Cods and Ranch style brick homes of my neighborhood.

My neighborhood was a direct result of much-needed housing for those returning from WWII who married, started having kids, in many cases lots of kids and yes, everybody knew our name. It was the law of the land I guess so our neighbors could tell our parents that we walked on their grass or tried to climb their tree or walked between parked cars or God forbid, rode our bikes in the street. We didn’t know it then of course, but we were the baby boomers.

It was a working class neighborhood for the most part with a few professionals thrown in for good measure. You could always tell who made a little more money, their houses were just a little bit fancier than the rest.  Oh yeah, everyone was Catholic. Some even wore their Catholicism on their front lawns, in the form of statues. These were usually the Italians, the Irish thought such outdoor displays tacky yet every room in their houses claimed enough crucifixes, rosary beads, holy cards, holy medals, holy statues and palms from Palm Sundays past to outfit a new church. Tacky? In many cases overkill too, but I’m Irish so I can say such things.

Everyone had a front porch or as some called it a front stoop. Folks would sit on it and talk, or watch kids play or read the daily metro newspaper. Lawn furniture? I never saw anyone with lawn furniture, not even on their lawn. Lawn furniture was up at my grandparents cottage. It was hard and metal and the back was shaped like a shell. But, in the city we sat on the cement porch.

Everyone played outside all day almost every day, especially in the summer. We found plenty to do with bats and balls, Hula Hoops, jump ropes, roller skates, chalk, dolls, trucks and toy guns. Some of us had dancing lessons or organized baseball or softball but we weren’t carted around daily by our parents so we would have stuff to do. The neighborhood was safe, we didn’t always lock the doors and we played in the alley with marbles because they would roll better. When the streetlights came on we knew we had to go inside because well, just because that was the unwritten rule for anyone that wasn’t a big kid.

My sister and I were going to take a trip back to the old neighborhood last week to see what our old house looked like now. She and my brother had been back more recently than me and of course we keep tabs on it through the news. I’m no spring chicken and I was worried about what we might see or encounter even in broad daylight. I figured two old ladies, even in a car could look like an easy mark. She agreed. We figured maybe we should spend our twilight years remembering the good times in a great neighborhood, rather than face the reality of toy guns that have turned into real guns. Alley games have now been replaced by drug deals and sitting on your front porch can make you a gang target even if you never met a gang member in your life. The streetlights rarely go on as many of them have been shot out and now what I thought urban meant as a kid is a far seedier, grittier, unsafe version of reality for my old neighborhood than what was in my mind’s eye as city life.  My old Chicago neighborhood is like a war zone and I can only hope and pray the good guys win.

My brother sent me this DVD;  http://amzn.to/1qzaaRz called Chicago, the Boomer Years. I think you can only get it used on Amazon as the PBS Chicago channel sells it for much more new.  It sure is a riot to watch if you are a boomer. I am an Amazon affiliate so I get a small commission if you purchase through my link.  My brother said he sent it because he remembers me and my sister wearing funny hats to church and saw some just like ours in the DVD. They were like a scarf with flower petals and we thought we were quite fashionable  little kids in the 1950’s.

 

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July 7, 2014 · 11:07 am