Monday, November 13

Sharing Memories Week #46 - It's all Fabians fault

52 Weeks of Sharing Memories
Lorine McGinnis Schulze of "Olive Tree Genealogy" blogspot in 2014 
suggested a 52 week challenge of writing down our memories.  
Well, I am in for 2017! The first Monday of each week of this year 
I am committed to using one of her 
to recall and write up a memory of one of my ancestors or myself

Every year Chicago has its State Street Holiday parade. This will be the 83rd year. During the Great Depression in 1934 the then Mayor Ed Kelly began the tradition. It has alternately been referred to as the Holiday Parade, State Street Parade, Thanksgiving Day Parade and today (now that everything is up for sale) the McDonalds Holiday Parade. Nonetheless it is a highlight of the season for Chicagoans.

In 1959, the year I was seven, my family along with some family friends traveled downtown to see the Santa Claus parade. I remember it was really cold and my Mom had brought thermos' with hot coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids. We arrived early to get a good spot, and we did. Right in front of the State St. entrance to the Palmer House. We were all bundled up and we kids sat on the curb on blankets awaiting Santa. I sat next to Cheryl*. Her parents and mine were good friends, went to the same church, and often did things together. Cheryl* was 3-4 years older than I and I totally admired her. She was everything that I felt I was not. She had the bluest eyes and always had a cute high ponytail in her dark hair. And she was sweet and nice. Everything I wished I was. She and her brother and I and my sister sat on the curb waiting for the parade to begin, waiting for Santa.

And it WAS wonderful. Marching bands, clowns throwing candy, floats, huge balloons and then it happened. Fabian ruined it! In the late 50's Fabian was the idol of millions of teenage girls. A singer who could get the girls sobbing. Here he came waving down the street and the girls mobbed him, tearing at his clothes. The closer he got to the Palmer House the more the crowd screamed and pushed. We jumped up but could not see the parade anymore for the hoards of screaming teens and police attempting to hold them back. Our fathers grabbed us and pulled us back to safety. That was the end of the parade for us and we NEVER EVEN GOT TO SEE SANTA! As much as I admired her I never could be the nice sweet girl that Cheryl* was and in true Ranae style I hollered and ranted and raved how Fabian ruined the parade, all the way home. 

The next days newspaper said that Santa was riding on a fire dept snorkel and it went up and down six stories! I never saw it. Later that week, snooping in my parents closet, I saw hidden Christmas gifts. Tagged with our names, from not Mom and Dad but from Santa. Then I remembered how Cheryl* never said anything to me but looked at me sort of sadly as I sobbed and carried on (as the teenagers did for Fabian) because I could not see Santa Claus. Suddenly, I KNEW THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA CLAUS, and it was all Fabian's fault.

As a teen there were groups, music and singers that I particularly liked but... I never put a poster on my wall, or sobbed over how "cute" Bobby Sherman or others of my era were or "loved" any particular band or singer, or stood in a long line for tickets. Maybe that was all Fabian's fault also. Cheryl's* brother was a HUGE Beatles fan, particularly John Lennon.  For years he idolized that guy and even named his first son, John. I  didn't understand it. Wasn't he there also? Didn't he remember what Fabian did to us that day in front of the Palmer House? 

Forever mad at Fabian,

Click on photo and news article to enlarge for easier reading
*Cheryl is a pseudonym, but if she reads this she will know it was her!*

Monday, November 6

Sharing Memories Week #45 - Dad was a WWII Veteran and he never talked about it.

In a few days is Veteran's Day. We honor those men and women who answered the call of defending our country. My father Melvin, was a veteran. A World War II veteran and he never talked about it.

As a child I saw this picture of him in uniform, displayed proudly in my grandmother's home. I asked him if he had been in the war and he replied only that yes, he had been in World War II and he had been in the Army. Other than that, he never talked about it.

I know that he received Christmas cards and periodically long letters from men he had served with and even visited Army buddies on occasion. However he always went alone, never taking my mom or we kids with him. He never talked about it.

AP photo, now owned and a copy may be purchased from

In the late 80's I came across this AP photo in the National Enquirer. It was titled"Ghosts haunt Omaha Beach" with some typical bogus National Enquirer story of people seeing ghosts of the soldiers that died on D-Day invading Europe. The photo however distinctly showed my father in the foreground! I took the paper to him and his response was "hummm, looks like me, we came off a landing craft like that into the water, I had a helmet with a cross on it like that and carried the exact same supplies." The photo prompted him to also identify other men by name. He explained that he did indeed land on Omaha Beach but not on D-Day. He was part of the reinforcements. I questioned him more. It seems that he was more than willing to defend his country but didn't feel he could ever find it in himself to shoot someone for any reason. His helmet with the cross indicated that they made him a medic.  "You didn't believe you could shoot an enemy?" I asked him incredulously. "How long did that last?" He thought for awhile and with a small sad smile said, "Halfway up the beach". I remember questioning him further about the war, just general questions, and he rebuffed me with "you don't need to know about those sort of things." He never talked about it again.

After his death I found in his dresser quite a bit of WWII memorabilia. Photos of him and other soldiers in boot camp and somewhere in Europe, his discharge papers, draft notice and other memorabilia. Those photos were never displayed or in an album and that was the first time I had ever seen them.
He had never talked about it.

After the death of my grandmother I became interested in my family history. The movie "Saving Private Ryan" was out and I wondered again what part my Dad had in the war. I pulled out Dad's discharge papers and did some internet sleuthing. He was in the 3rd Armored division, Spearhead unit that along with others fought their way from the beaches of France, cold, hungry and often with inadequate supplies all the way to Berlin. His particular unit, the anti-tank company, 423rd infantry, had high casualties. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge where 19,000 American boys died in that battle alone. His unit had liberated a concentration camp. He never talked about it.

from the pamphlet (passed by censor for mailing home)
Spearheading with the 3rd Armored Division, in the Bulge, Duren-Cologne, The Ruhr Pocket, East to the Elbe

Dad was part of what we now call the "Greatest Generation:" Those men and women, out of duty and love of country went when called during WWII. They saw lots and did what they had to do. They saw no need to glory in it.  Although I am sure what they experienced, saw and were forced to do must have haunted them, they did what they had to do, for their country, for their family, for their children.  They bore the burden of those memories to protect us. "Those are things you don't need to know about." 

He never talked about it.

Thank you Dad,

November 11 and every day
Remember all of those men and women who served. 
They did what they had to do
...for our country...for our families...for our children.

***click on above photos to enlarge for easier viewing***

Monday, October 30

Sharing Memories Week #44 - Halloween in the 50's

52 Weeks of Sharing Memories
Lorine McGinnis Schulze of "Olive Tree Genealogy" blogspot in 2014 
suggested a 52 week challenge of writing down our memories.  
Well, I am in for 2017! The first Monday of each week of this year 
I am committed to using one of her 
to recall and write up a memory of one of my ancestors or myself

Happy Halloween! I have a bowl of candy all ready for the trick or treaters coming tomorrow, but I don't expect all that many even though I live in a suburban neighborhood full of kids. Yet many of the homes around me are decorated to the max. LIghts, pumpkins, ghosts, giant spiders, goblins etc. to the extreme. Almost as much as you see during the Christmas holiday season. I think the lack of trick or treating boils down to two things; fear and helicopter parenting. Between the fear of sexual predators, serial killers and terrorists many feel it is just not safe to send your child door to door, from stranger to stranger. Every stranger is now "stranger-danger". I get that although I do think that the fear is overblown. Parents also seem to feel it is their responsibility to keep their kids constantly entertained with increasingly bigger and better Halloween activities. They drive them around to parties, park activities, pumpkin farms, haunted houses, Halloween themed movies etc. etc. And of course the little darlings have to have the most up to date, expensive, most disgustingly adorable or disgustingly horrific and gruesome costume Mom can find at the overpriced specialty Halloween store or by scouring the internet weeks in advance. 

As a kid in Chicago we did attend a Halloween party given by the youth group at our church. Prizes were given for the most original, most scary, most prettiest costume etc. and at school we also celebrated with a parade and a party. Didn't matter if you were poor or not because the costumes were home made. I remember a plethora of cowboys, beatniks (what is a beatnik? my grandkids ask), hobos, clowns etc. Now in this strange politically correct world we now live in even Halloween is suspect! I grew up in a very conservative fundamental Evangelical Christian family and Halloween was no more than just fun. I couldn't believe that two of my grand kids, who go to a Christian parochial school, have a "trunk and treat" where people gather in the parking lot with candy in their trunk for the kids. Some of the congregation feel they are honoring Satan by celebrating Halloween and it would cause too big of a commotion to allow celebration of Halloween activities within the church/school building proper! Are you serious? Get a grip! Are you willing to also forgo your Christmas tree or Easter egg basket? You know that originated in pagan rituals also didn't you? Yeah, I didn't think so. These are really strange psuedo-Christian times we live in. Just my opinion.

Another homemade Mom creation 
me as the "Jolly Green Giant"

Get a grip Ranae...back to Halloween "back in the day". My Mom was always a big part of Halloween. She helped us make our costumes mainly from stuff found around the house, some of her makeup, and a bit of bought crepe paper, scotch tape etc. She encouraged our originality. The choice of costume was ours. The trick or treating? Halloween was all about the trick or treating. Of course Mom had rules. We were given the N, S, E, and W street limits. We were not allowed to enter anyone's house for any reason, and we were not to go into the large 36 flats found on many corners in our Irving Park Chicago neighborhood. Those buildings are full of "shifty immigrants". I guess reputable immigrants only lived in apartment buildings of 6 flats or less, as we did! The last rule was that no candy could be eaten until Mom inspected it at home. She would toss the homemade popcorn balls or baked goods. She was thinking more of sanitation I believe. I don't think she ever thought any of the neighbors (even the 36 flat folk) would actually poison a child. I am pretty sure also that a few of the better candy bars mysteriously disappeared into my Dad (maybe Mom also) with the ruse of "checking out the candy". When our bag was full of candy we returned home. We weren't done, we just emptied our bag, took a breather, and went back out for more! 

Funny how you reminisce about your own childhood experiences as though they were superior to those of today. Well, I think that also is true of my kids' memories and I hope someday my grand-kids. I hope they will look back fondly, telling their kids  "I dressed like a Minion and trunk or treating and the hayride at church was the best."  Their kids will likely respond with, "what's a Minion?".

Monday, October 23

Sharing Memories Week #43 - Forever in Blue Jeans

52 Weeks of Sharing Memories
Lorine McGinnis Schulze of "Olive Tree Genealogy" blogspot in 2014 
suggested a 52 week challenge of writing down our memories.  
Well, I am in for 2017! The first Monday of each week of this year 
I am committed to using one of her 
to recall and write up a memory of one of my ancestors or myself

Chicago public schools did not start until after Labor Day. The start of school meant getting three new pairs of shoes which were expected to last until next spring. School shoes, gym shoes and Sunday shoes.

School shoes would be saddle shoes or sturdy utilitarian type shoes and "they better last until school is out". "Gym shoes" were for exactly that, school gym. Boys would have the high top PF flyers brand, black in color. Girls had the low variety Keds and I remember they were always white. Friends, on the first day of gym, would purposely stamp on each others feet to try and dirty them up a bit. It just wasn't fashionable to wear bright white shoes. Church shoes were reserved for Sunday or very special occasions. Generally black leather with a strap. They called them Mary Janes.  The rumor was that good Catholic girls could not have patent leather Mary Janes because, if polished, they would reflect what was up your skirt! I guess the Protestants hadn't heard that or else they would have had patent leather banned also. The older teens wore penny loafers. It was said a girl kept dimes in the shoes so if her date went "bad" or she was stuck somewhere she would have change for a pay phone to call her Dad or a friend for a ride home. Believe it or not I read the penny loafer originated in Norway! Read about it HERE.

just imagine - in knitted wool?
Speaking of skirts, we girls were not allowed to wear pants to school until I was well into high school. Only dresses or skirts and blouses. Every girl had a pair of snow pants or just an old pair of pants that was worn in cold weather to school. But in school they had to come off. I remember in the third grade or so some marketer came up with the idea of pettipants. This was like long underwear pants that came to just above the knee, sometimes decorated with a little lace. My grandmother had an inspiration, or so she thought. With the same wool yarn and Norwegian technique as her famous sweaters she knitted me a pair of pettipants complete with dancing snowflakes and reindeer running around my thighs. Bulky and itchy wool they were a nightmare to be sure and luckily my Mom could see my chapped thigh misery and bought me a pair of the traditional variety. "Don't tell Grandma."

Chicago closets were small and you shared with a sibling or two but there always seemed to be plenty of room. Clothes like shoes came in three varieties, school, church and play. Church clothes were those nice dresses with the crinoline underskirts usually bought for you by grandma for Christmas or Easter. You had maybe 3 or 4 school outfits that when they became too skimpy or grubby to hand-down to a younger sibling or cousin became your play clothes. Summertime the shorts came out but you NEVER EVER wore those out to visit or to church. In fact when I was very young a dress was mandatory for all day Sunday. Even the men wore suits complete with skinny ties to church. Maybe, just maybe they took off their jacket and rolled up their sleeves after services to have Sunday dinner. By the late 60's Mom and most of the other neighborhood ladies had loosened up a bit with the times and would occasionally wear capri pants. Grandma?  She never would have worn pants, only dresses for her.

like the bowtie?
With the late 60's came my teens and also some really terrible clothing choices. The "London Look", miniskirts, platform shoes, fish net stockings, huge collars and horrendous color combinations. I hung with a pretty conservative crowd so thank goodness we didn't follow any of the popular hippie trends. We bathed regularly, styled our hair, shaved our pits and ALWAYS kept our bras on. Check out how "groovy" hubby and I were in '68. Too bad (or maybe good) you don't see I was wearing fishnet stockings and white patent leather go-go boots → → →
In college I pierced my ears and my mother was horrified. "Why don't you pierce your nose, put a ring in it, so the hippies can drag you around?"  Mom died in the 70's. I can't imagine what she would have said about the shiny polyester and gigantic shoulder pads that came with the 80's.

Clothing styles today aren't all that bad, just a little bit skimpy for my tastes. I particularly hate seeing such tight clothes revealing so much. Even more so in that the teens of today seem a lot fatter than in the past. I mean why a halter top with a large ring of blubber hanging out? Don't get me started on tattoos either. Back in the day it was strictly for the military or guys in prison. So many are also done poorly or reflect something, someone or some idea so current that in 10, 20 or 30 years will it have any meaning at all? I can laugh at that photo of me in an orange, red and pink mini-dress but at least those colors are not painted on me forever!

It seems we baby boomers are forever the long hair, T-shirt, blue jean generation. Most days, now that I am retired, you will find me also in jeans. I do wonder though what a young guy thinks, when walking in front of him is a thin shapely gal, tight jeans, long blond hair, swinging her hips seductively. Then she turns around and you see her 70 year old wrinkled old face. Scarey! My least favorite boomer-guy look? Bald dudes with a pony tail coming out of the horseshoe.

I guess clothing, and now tattoos, are one of the ways you tell the world who you are, what is important to you, who you are trying to impress and what generation you came of age in.

Forever in blue jeans,