13 december 2020

Family. Chapter Seven.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. A man sized boy. The death of Aunt Berniece.

We only stayed the summer in South Chicago, and we were on the move again back to the West side, and wound up in an apartment in the Milke Building on 38th and Albany Avenue. Mom said the place was haunted and claimed to see various apparitions during our stay there. All I can remember is loads of railroad ties which dad had received from The Peoples Gas Company and he and Mart Jordan had them trucked home, and we spent days on a crosscut saw cutting them to stove wood length and then splitting them. It's at this time that my troubles with Misko began, as he expected me to be able to do a man's job on one end of that crosscut and also to devote myself completely to the reduction of that pile of ties. Looking back I can understand his mind. I was by that time darn near man-sized, but still had the mind and strength of a boy. He looked and saw the man size and wanted to exploit it. I had a boy's mind and it was on play and friends. We had arrived at what was to be our years of contention. This situation would acerbate in the coming years into a hostility which would only end when I returned from the war. Let it be known that we never did burn all the ties, we didn't stay there long enough. Mom kept seeing spooks, and hearing strange noises until we finally moved out bag and baggage after she claimed to have seen a disjointed hand moving across the living room window. Oh by the way I failed to mention I was in a new school again, name: Davis. This time the move was in the same neighborhood, and we moved a distance of 4 blocks to a house on 37th Street.

It was here I had my third experience with death, only this time it was again in the family, with the passing of my mother's sister Berniece. She had been working for a family in Wisconsin and had died in the town of Fond du Lac. I remember the sadness, as Berniece was the family joy, her mother's favorite, the failed missionary, The Moody Bible Institute graduate, the unwed spinster who had had one great unrequited love, was gone from us in her mid-forties. She had a lifetime history of heart problems, and it was heart failure that took her. The Savages (family Berniece worked for) arranged for her embalming and purchased her casket, and arranged for her remains to be shipped for burial in the Fults family plot, (Fults was my grandmother's family name) at Grovertown, Indiana. She was to be transferred from one train to another in Chicago and some of the family members were to join the body as escort for the last portion of the trip to Walkerton, Indiana and Nusbaum's Combination Mortuary and Furniture store. She was to lie in state there with the funeral service to be held at the Walkerton Methodist Church, with Burial at Grovertown 8 Miles distance from Walkerton. Sound confusing? You bet.

Well the upshot of the story is that the Railway Express Company managed to lose poor Berniece, and really had no record of where she had been trans-shipped to, and family members were scouring the many terminals in Chicago looking for a stray casket. Lawsuits were threatened, and there was great wailing and wringing of hands. I was awestruck by the whole affair and like the rest of them felt this was horrible. No one wanted to leave Chicago for Walkerton, as no one really knew when or even if there was to be a service. The old folks all had jobs to tend to and taking time off often put the job in peril. Word finally came through from Uncle Norm that Berniece had finally arrived at Walkerton, two days late and a bit rough for wear as it was late summer and baggage car refrigeration was an idea whose time had not yet come. We all piled into what vehicles the family owned, and some of us rode the B&O Railroad and arrived to see that the proper honors were rendered and Berniece was finally home in Grovertown.