Growing Up In Libertyville in the Thirties and Forties
The Neighborhood
My family lived at 606 Brainerd in the block between Lake and Cook. I started kindergarten at Central School in 1931. Except for two years in the service and college absences I was there until 1953. Like many of my friends I found it a comfortable, familiar place, but wondered what lay on other horizons.

 

My parents often commented how fast things seemed to change after WWI and we all had the same feeling after the second war and probably most people today would say that the pace of change is accelerating. As an adult I look back at the various places we've lived and am glad we did what we did; but I have a sense of roots that my children probably don't have and I wonder if it makes any difference.

 

My sense of "neighborhood" mainly involved that one block. Various friends were a block or two away, but they were in different "neighborhoods," both in my mind and theirs. Today, as an adult, I think of where we live as a neighborhood in different sense; it is both larger and less familiar. Mostly I don't know who lives two or three houses away and don't much care. However, conversations with children I meet while walking our dogs persuades me that they have a real sense of people and their names and who does what to whom.

 

Our next door neighbors, the Helfers, lived on the corner at Lake. Harry was at Schanck Hardware for many years. His mother lived there with Harry and Florence and was called "Grandma" Helfer. She used to tell us that we had it easy compared to when she grew up. Charlene, Bob and Harriet were the children. The Helfers had the old-time horse barn with hayloft above and a large tool room on the ground floor. Their yard was quite large enough for little kids to use for football. In the summer we played croquet there, and burned leaves in the fall. There was still a working pump in their back yard and another at the kitchen sink. There were at least two similar situations where wells were left in after city water came. They were quite shallow and by today's standards, probably not hygienic.

 

Mark and Rena Neville were south of us. Their yard was quite large with a garden and grapevines in the rear. Next to them lived the Zollners. Bill Zollner was a brakeman on the Milwaukee Road passenger line. My mother had known Anna Zollner since they were children. The Zollners were unusual on the block in that they were childless and without a car, which was rare even then. They had a splendid grape arbor with benches within where you could sit in the shade. Lots of people grew grapes and to my knowledge they went into juice, jams and jellies rather than wines. After the war I met people from Waukegan who made wine from their grapes and was told it was quite common.

 

Irving Enevold lived in the next house before his family moved to Meadow Lane a few houses from my uncle, Joe Wilson. The Enevolds had three children: Norman, a high school athletic star, and Edith and Rose Doris. Those kids were old enough so they didn't mix with us little kids.

 

The Franzens lived in the next house and owned Franzen Lumber. We played with Bill and Betty. Bill had a big model railroad on a table in the basement and a nice glassed in front porch where we played board games like Monopoly. Their tool shed contained a seemingly bottomless barrel of homemade sauerkraut which we dipped into with our fingers and ate uncooked. They also made a lot of root beer and ginger ale. Before the war Bill had a bicycle route delivering the Chicago Daily News. In the early mornings he delivered the Chicago Tribune, thrown from the back of a truck driven by "Paper" Smith. While in high school Bill worked at the A & P and at eighteen became the youngest store manager in that giant grocery chain. After the war he drove a nice '36 Ford coupe and restored a classic Cord from the thirties.

 

Richard Litchfield had the next house and ran his plumbing business from the barn behind. Their kids were Dave and Dick. The house on the corner at Cook was a two-flat. The Waltons and later the Thomases had the first floor, the Sellers family the second. Dr. Milton A. Wiese, his wife Marjorie and their adopted son Bill lived east on Cook. The Wieses had met during the first war, he as an army doctor and she as a nurse. Dr. Wiese was our family doctor for many years. He practiced in his home. The front porch had been turned into a waiting room. The Wieses and my parents were friends and frequently played cards on Saturday nights. Dr. Wiese was short and rotund with a never failing sense of fun and good humor. I'll never forget when he peeled the tape off my chest and back that had been holding some broken ribs together. It hurt like nothing I've ever experienced before or since. Dr. Wiese sat me on the table, gripped one end of the swaths of tape and just walked around me while I tried not to yell. When he was finished he clapped his hands together and said, "There, nothing to it," and then burst out laughing at the look on my face. He was still practicing when we moved away in 1953.

 

Emory Kirkman lived in the stucco house on Cook at the corner of Brainerd. Next house to the north on Brainerd was owned by Paul MacGuffin, a prominent attorney. It was the biggest yard on the block with a large horse barn later turned into an apartment, a summer house and a long grape arbor. Paul had a great resonant bass voice and his laughter could be heard a half-block away. I mowed their lawn with a hand mower for two summers during the war, no mean feat for which I was paid two dollars, a substantial sum then. We little kids didn't know Lorraine, the daughter, because she was older, but we all knew Johnny, who drove a nice red 1941 Ford Tudor that sat on blocks in the garage while John was away at war. The MacGuffins had a large spaniel named Patsy who was infamous in our family for eating a whole mince pie my mother had put on our back porch to cool.

 

The Bert Ingrahams had a large two-flat with the Loomis family on the second floor. After the war the barn was turned into an apartment. Bert was a conductor on the North Shore Line. His son Garland was old enough to be out of our orbit.

 

Right across the street from us was a large, rather ramshackle house occupied by the Perkins family. In the thirties it was redone by Bill and Ethel Hodgins as a two-flat. My mother and Ethel had been in high school together. The Dean Bennetts and their son Orville lived on the top floor. We shared a two-party phone line with the Bennetts. Our phone number was 223-W and when we wanted to call the Bennetts there was an arcane procedure that I never mastered. Also, there was an unstated code of phone etiquette that came to an end in the later forties with the advent of dial service. The Maude Helfer Schreck house was next. They had a son named Lamarr and were related to the Helfers. Once, after the war, I was coming home in the wee hours and wanting to make a quiet entrance into our driveway and shut off my ignition, forgetting that this locked the steering wheel. My car came to rest in the Schreck's front yard, leaving a set of tire tracks which I tried to clean up with a rake. The next morning dawned clear and no protest from the Shrecks. I never tried the silent entry again.

 

The big house on the corner was occupied by the Nelson family and later by the Charles Jedlickas. Marguerite and my mother had gone to school together. Frank Just, who owned the "Independent Register" and the "Waukegan News-Sun" lived on Lake at the intersection with Brainerd. Just east were the homes of Frank Huber, the grocer, and Fred Ayres. Other families on Lake were the Luecks, Jochheims, Lindroths, Kapings, Varneys, and the Jamiesons across from the cemetery entrance. It was a good neighborhood for kids, though it was tough to get away from adult eyes. There were no burglaries or any vandalism. It wasn't until well after the war that we even locked our back door.
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