I was born in the West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park, Illinois, on Nov. 2, 1941. My first home was the top floor of a three story brownstone at 5000 W. Huron St. in Chicago. I remember nothing about this place. I was told that the folks on the bottom floor, the Kemp family, had monkeys and raced them in little cars at Riverview Amusement park.
The first memories I have is growing up in Geneva, Illinois. My folks moved there in 1944. They bought a little two bedroom home that cost about $4000. It was on two acres across from the town's water tower. We raised our own vegetables and had some chickens. Life was good.
Geneva was a small town where nobody locked their doors and everybody watched out for everybody else. Our neighborhood was filled with young families and kids my age. Dad took the train everyday to downtown Chicago, over an hour each way, where he was an accountant for International Minerals and Chemical Corp.
These were the days before TV and I loved to listen to the radio. Especially to the kiddie western shows. Roy Rogers. Gene Autrey. Especially Hopalong Cassidy. I got a quarter allowance every week. That's what it cost to go to the Saturday afternoon matinee movie at the Geneva Theatre. Big choice every weekend. If I spent the money on the movie I couldn't buy anything else for the rest of the week. If I bought something else, all my buddies would be in the movies on Saturday afternoon.
If I didn't go to the movies I would go into the basement at the Ben Franklin dime store and look in the toy section. There a prune faced old lady would always say, "I wouldn't touch that if I were you." I couldn't stand the old bat.
But, there were really nice folks in town, like Mr. Rosenfelder who ran the local Ace Hardware store. One day I was in looking at nifty toy trucks and he came up to me and said, "I bet you'd like to have that."
I said, "You bet!"
He replied, "Well, why don't you just take it...it's yours as a gift."
I still remember that and many times when kids come in my store I like to give them something. Every kid ought to get something for free every now and then. It gives them a positive outlook.
What a great life. But, all good things must come to an end I realized when my folks decided it was time to move to Tucson, Arizona. I think it had something to do with my health, because apparently I had "sinus problems," whatever that meant. I think Mom just wanted to go where it was warm. In the middle of 4th grade we left. Dad kept his job in Chicago, and just Mom and I went to live on a ranch outside of Tucson in the Tanque Verde section of town.
It was a 4 room school, with two grades per room. The kids played baseball year 'round. They also were different than the ones in the midwest. They knew a lot of words that I never heard before and boy did they create a commotion when I used them at home!
I had a horse, Twinkle Toes that I rode after school and on weekends. It was great! In Illinois I could only listen to cowboys having adventures with horses on the radio. Here I was actually doing the stuff myself.
THE MEL TORME BELT BUCKLE
One of the teachers at the Tanque Verde School, Mrs. Porter, was a friend of popular singer, Mel Torme. At an assembly she announced that he was going to visit our school and that we should buy him a gift as our show of appreciation.
Now, this was not a rich school. Many of the kids were from Hispanic families and could barely afford to buy lunch. Many didn't even eat lunch. But, despite this, we pooled all our pennies and nickles and got enough money to buy him a gift. It was determined a nice belt buckle would do the trick.
The day for his appearance came and he never showed. There was no explanation. We never got our money back. I always wondered what happened to the belt buckle.
Our stay in Tucson was short lived and we moved back to Illinois in April of 1951. This time to Mt. Prospect. I spent the rest of 4th grade, and 5th and 6th grade there. In those days kids played baseball all the time; I did, too. Not organized ball. You just got together every day at the park, chose up sides, and played.
Here I began listening to Chicago White Sox games on the radio with Bob "It's a White Owl Wallop" Elson, and became a fan. Most other kids were Cubs fans. Not me, I rooted for the White Sox in keeping with my rebellious tradition.
I went to a special "Meet the Sox" event and got to shake hands with all my favorites...especially first baseman Eddie Robinson. I thought he was the greatest. I never forgave the Sox for trading him the next year for Ferris Fain. He was a bum. Always getting into bar fights.
There's a lot of talk these days about how sports figures should be "role models" for kids. I thought back on how we looked at these guys when I was young. We heard about things they did off the field and it just didn't matter. We didn't care. All we cared about was how good they were when they played. How many home runs, or strikeouts they had. We didn't pay any attention to that other junk. I bet kids still feel the same way.
I was president of my 6th grade class and came in near the top in the school spelling bee. I missed at the end on the word "prominent." I had never heard the word before. At the end of 6th grade we moved to Palatine, Illinois. Another new school.
In 1955 I graduated from 8th grade at Oak St. School and in the fall entered Palatine High School.
I stayed there until Fall of 1956, my sophomore year. We moved to Tucson, Arizona and I started at Catalina High School. I graduated from Catalina in 1959. Check out our alumni site, www.chs1959.com.
In 5th grade I went to Woodcraft Camp in Wautoma Wisconson
With my duck, Dilly, in the back yard of our house in Palatine, Ill. I was in 7th grade.
Great summer days! With Dad and my first best friend Billy Snyder in our back yard, 1949.
Palatine, Ill Oak St. School
7th Grade Homeroom 1953-1954
Even though we just moved there, of all my grade school classes, Mr. Clarke's 7th Grade was my favorite...probably of any class from Kindergarten through college. The teacher was outstanding and the kids were diverse, smart, and interesting.
We watched the Army-McCarthy Hearings on TV, read The Sea Around Us, and I heard about sex for the first time from an older guy down the street (it sounded awful).
I had my most humiliating experience this year. On the class football, I was a halfback, intercepted a pass, and ran 95 yeards the wrong way for a touchdown for the other team. For a while I was known
as "Wrong Way Ray."
Watch this comedy classic with summer hi-jinks as Buddy Edward Domek and Ray Lindstrom deal with a balky hammock. Narrated silent home movie from 1957, Palatine, Illinois. Hilarious sketch with fun for the whole family.