Sunday, February 27, 2011
Childhood memories from Prospect Street in Chicago: Running in clouds of DDT when the fog man sprayed the neighborhood, how we scrambled for change at the sound of the Good Humor Man, building our first go-karts and motor bikes with engines from old lawn mowers, watching the knife man sharpening the cutlery from his cart on the street, Gordy giving us a bear hug whether or not we bought a greeting card from his bicycle basket, King and Duke learning to pull our sled in preparation for a Klondike Derby. The taste of an eight-ounce coke or orange Nehi in a glass bottle pulled from the door of the vending machine at the gas station... Penny candy at Mrs. Reece's candy store. The smell of the plastic drawers in the back of her store where treasures could be bought for a quarter. The purple whip cream at the Purple Cow on Western, the taste of a Wimpy's hamburger with its secret relish and onions, hot chocolate made with milk and marshmallows, the aroma of the chicken coop under the back porch, the smell of gasoline and oil and old rags and wet ropes in the garage. Climbing in the third row of the station wagon, facing backwards. Four shopping carts at the Hi-Lo, scouring aisles with mom. Carloads of hillbillies parked in front of the house, sipping on beers and nuts, waiting for dad to return with cash from Beverly bank. Old Mrs. Brown limping from her house with a broom to chase away our bicycles that she swore put gouges in her new sidewalk from the kickstands (actually Mike did it with a pick when he shovelled her walk and broke up the ice the previous winter... Old Miss Miller suddenly appearing from her house to snatch a softball or football that descended on her property. Mrs. Evans carrying a fresh-baked apple pie across the street, Bob the Milkman, Ralph the Dry-Cleaner, Buddy Beakley, Flashlight tag in the Duffy backyard (no poop). Baloney sandwiches, gravy-on-bread, the taste of mom's delicious rock-hard fudge... The smell of Momma Helen's hair when mom dyed it, the aroma of Niagra spray starch when mom and the black lady ironed all day. (no permanent press then). The smell of Tabu powder, the scent of banana peppers when dad made a batch of chile. The look on Ronnie Michelak's face when we told him it was raccoon chile, Dad getting Tom Jones, Rich Licker, and John Huber to rake the front lawn so I could leave the house early. (Only for them to discover when they were done that I wasn't even home). Dad arriving at the house on a hot August day with boxes and boxes of ice cream from the Swift plant when their freezers died and a hundred kids from the block sitting on our front lawn eating ice cream sandwiches and fudgicles and dreamsicles until they were sick. Chum gum coated in confectionary sugar for a penny. The spongy delight of Tip-Top cakes from Mr. Tusher. The greasy-bottomed 25 cent bags filled with day-old pastries from Reizman's bakery every Friday night. Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, USMC, The Man From Uncle, I Spy. Jackie Gleason in black and white. Clutch Cargo, Garfield Goose, Bozo's Circus, Saturday morning cartoons. The magic of Halloween and Christmas. The stripped glass handles of the door in the downstairs bathroom. Spumoni ice cream. Mom's secret stash of peanut butter cups. The stairway traffic as the cats carried their litters upstairs after the dogs carried them downstairs. The never-ending laundry pile in the basement. The spider money, the raccoon, the ducks, the geese. Pat being mauled by a turkey. Bringing cherries from our tree so Pa would give us a silver doller. Cooking hot dogs on a stick over a pile of leaves at Dan Ryan's Woods with John Duffy. Chocolate or white milk in 6-ounce cartons in the basement of St. Barnabas. The flavor of a chocolate long-john after the 6 am mass as an altar boy. Wrapping up my orange belt as a crossing guard in sixth grade. Book bags, pencil sharpeners and the magic of a Bic pen. Secretly suckling on sweet tarts one at a time in Sister Alberta's math class. Sister Nina examing Kevin's snapping turtle with a pencil before Show and Tell. Carol's yellow record player and her 45's of Fabian with Ginny Gratz. American Bandstand, then The Soul Train... That Susie Homemaker oven when I baked my own chocolate cakes. The monkey wreaking havoc at the Dove candy store. The giant polar bear in the lobby of For Men Jr. Dialing four numbers on the heavy black telephone. Camping in Jimmy Brown's backyard. Prank phone calls to random strangers at midnight to tell them their child was just arrested. Shaving with a toothbrush to make my mustache come in. Sweating in my bunk bed, listening to the sound of the Rock Island trains whooshing by over the hum of the window fan. Dad comically standing in the dark for an hour with a bear paw poised over the light switch at the door of the bedroom after we saw Thirteen Ghosts. No one dared move. Buddy Beakley's enormous collection of soldiers. Watching both Mr. Norrises wearily marching home after a day of labor. Skinny Ernie Vogwell and his fat wife. Gypsy John at the coal factory. The smell of heating oil, one dixie cup at a time. Playing Injun Joe with Howie and taking all of his money on his first date with Carol. The older kids, the little kids. Mom remembering my name after running down her list of children to get to mine. The Game of Life, Sorry and Monopoly. Scrabble. Dad nailing windows and doors shut so we couldn't sneak in the house. Scrubbing down the driveway with Comet. The square blocks of ice cream at Prince Castle. A triple decker at Rainbow Cone. The scent of incense in the gym while the new church was being built. Making crossbows and arrows. The backyard crab apple tree, the turtle pond, switches and tomato weeds. My big circus with popcorn balls. Kool-aid stands. short-cuts and alleys and Tim and Vinny Brown's secret tree fort at the prairie. Mike walking down the path telling us his rented horse died when he kicked it in the ribs to giddy-up. Yes, I remember most of it.