High School Years
In the spring of 1961 we moved into a rented apartment at 15030 University in Dolton. Though it seemed we lived at 111 Street for years it was only a summer, fall and winter and part of a spring. The apartment on University was very nice it had two bedrooms a master bedroom and a smaller bedroom. My dad cut the master bedroom in half so my sister and I could share it. Once she got of a certain age I was moved out into the dining room. Girls after all need their privacy.
The apartment was within walking distance from Thornridge so in rain, snow, bitter cold and 90 plus degree heat I walked to school. There was never a thought of getting a ride from mom and certainly not dad. After all walking is how they got to school, “Why when I was your age I had to walk through knee deep snow to school wearing nothing but galoshes and an old winter coat.” There were of course variations to the story. Substitute rain for snow, or add in bitter cold or heat.
Most days walking to school was enjoyable, a chance to meet up with friends and talk. Days when it snowed we had snowball fights on the way. When it rained or was too cold or too snowy we just toughed it out, we didn't melt or get sick. Now the very idea of walking to school in inclement weather is unthinkable. That rite of passage is gone for the most part. We do everything to protect our children from even the littlest hurt or inconvenience. Just riding a bike requires a helmet, arm pads and knee pads. We never would consider wearing those things when I was young. Getting hurt, cut, scraped and bloodied was a badge of honor especially for boys.
We live in a very hard and sometimes very cruel world. Those who cannot adapt or who are weak will not survive. Nor will a nation that is made up of weak people who are looking to be taken care of. We as a nation are rapidly losing our ability to care for ourselves. We are constantly looking to the government to solve problems we should be solving ourselves. If we continue to give up our freedom to be taken care of we will soon lose all of our freedoms and like those in North Korea singing the praises of our Great Leader who cares for us.
If there was one thing we knew in my father’s house it was respect for our elders, period end of conversation. If our parents told us to do something we did it or suffered the consequences. My dad use to say, “My children may not love me but they WILL respect me.” In the end I both loved and respected my dad and mom. I thank them for giving me the self-discipline to succeed in life. Without their teaching I could never have done or accomplished anything. My dad taught me that if I wanted something I would have to work for it. That teaching has led me to places I could never have gone or have hoped to have gone. Hard work and education always leads to a better life.
Living on University Avenue was to be some of the best times of my life. The bulling at Thornridge was in many respects easier to take. There were three of us who didn't fit in with any group and we became friends. It’s easier to go through hard times with friends. One summer day we were fixing our bikes in an old shed by the garage and one of us suggested building bikes and selling them. The next day we went to the Dolton dump and searched through the garbage for bike parts. We found plenty. One man’s junk another man’s treasure.
Two days later we sold our first bike for $35 and our bike business was born. We used the old shed by the garage as our workshop. Throughout the summer we would take the parts from the dump and build a bike out of them and sell it. We got the frames and parts for free and sold most of our bikes at a $35 profit. We got so good at putting bikes together we could build two or three bikes a week easily. We advertised in the Shopper a local paper especially made for buying and selling unwanted or unneeded items. It was free and our only source of advertising.
We all came from working class families and were taught that if we wanted money we had to earn it. We had pride in being self-sufficient in earning our own money. The bike shop was just one of the things we did. We had a grass cutting, car and window washing and general cleanup business. Every Saturday during the school year when the weather was nice and every day, almost, during summer vacation we went house to house offering to cut grass, wash cars and so on. We made very good money sometime over a hundred dollars a day to be divided among three of us. Because we all worked together we were able to wash several cars and cut several lawns a day. We even had areas set aside. On Monday we worked one area then on Tuesday another and so on. We instinctively knew not to work the same area every day.
We loved winter especially really snowy winters. We would go door to door offering to shovel driveways and sidewalks. Very often we made well over a hundred dollars a night. This was before the advent of snow blowers in every garage. Many men didn't want to shovel snow after a hard day’s work. Many times we would be walking by a man shoveling and get a job without asking. The three of us could shovel several houses during a three or four hour period.