9 december 2020

Family. Chapter Six.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. More moves in 1935-1936. Dad is influenced by "The Leathernecks Have Landed".

In the spring of 1935 dad was hired by The Peoples Gas Company at their plant on Crawford Avenue, and again we moved to be nearer to his work. this time it was a two-flat on 30th and St Louis, and it was while we were living here that Diane was born. Once again a new school. It was the Gary School in a predominantly Bohemian neighborhood. For the time we lived here, I cannot for the life of me recall even one friend or person with whom I played. It was not a happy time for mom or dad as they were in a constant battle over money, sex, and no more kids, ever. It was peaceful for us most of the time as dad was working from 3 to 11 and I was in school during the day, so we didn't have much contact through the week, but what came to be known as the Sunday sunshine became a regular part of our lives. It was a constant weekend battle with dad usually storming out of the house and going to find solace among his Croatian friends, and Mom then resenting him even more for having this outlet. She of course still had Alice, but she was clear across town, over an hour by streetcar, and she also had her sister Clora who lived less than 2 miles from us and we often walked from 31st Street over to 38th Street to visit. This then was about the size of the social life of the family. Dad still had his finger in the activities of the CPA, and I remember we all went to the big picnic and 4th of July rally at Willow Springs that year. The reason this is so vivid in my memory is that mom bought me a playsuit that consisted of a shirt and short pants, and I hated it. She also bought me white shoes which only compounded the gravity of the situation. Today it's the style. Then it was as if my world had ended. I was not going to be seen in such a rig, but I was, and I wore it to the picnic, and I survived

The people who owned the house on St Louis were named Damon. And they had two sons. Both were in their teens, and had as their quarters the attic portion of the house fixed up as an apartment. I had developed a good relationship with the older brother and often would be up there reading what was the forerunner of comic books. They had stacks of old Sunday funnies bound together in large book form and from the amount of them they had been saving them for years. I would often go up to the attic and spend hours reading. On one occasion I went up there and there was four of the neighborhood teenagers and the younger brother and they had a girl named Elsie Hodak stripped on the bed and they were taking turns with her, it appeared with her approval, as she seemed to be an active participant in the activity. No one made any objections to my being there, and I witnessed my first orgy. It's strange, but as I recall I felt no particular arousal, and I was not invited to participate. It seems that Elsia was mad for one of the lads and had been active with him for some time, when he insisted she take on all his friends. I know the thing finally wound up with her crying and me leaving with a feeling of shame at being a part of her degradation. It was later that I heard that she had gotten pregnant and had ran away from home. I still wonder whatever became of her.

Don't ask why we moved again, we were either evicted or something, I really don't know the reason, but in early 1936 we moved again, back to South Chicago, and a house on 91st and Burley. I was back to J.P. Thorpe school and the rest of the summer was spent there. I know it was during this time that I first determined that I was to be some kind of soldier. I was up on Commercial Avenue one day and found a quarter on the sidewalk. I knew without question I should take it home, but instead had a gay afternoon going to the Commercial Theater and seeing a picture called The Leathernecks Have Landed and I knew then and there that my ticket out was going to be in the military. It was then that I affected the military style of wearing a visor cap, and I was not happy in anything but high top boots with my trousers tucked in. For the remainder of my years at home I wore this sort of a get up whenever I could. I was fascinated by anything Army or Navy and the first time I told my mother I was going to join the Army or some such, she swore she would push me in front of a streetcar first. I think that at the time she really meant it. I continued my dislike of school, but had a love for reading and most any day would find me in the library of the Bird Memorial Center, which was located just across the alley from our house. What a grand library, and here I read all of the Rover Boys series and the Radio Boys and Tom Swift, plus Kobe Tyler and his Pals. It was the start of my lifelong affair with the written word. I read the Leather Stocking Tales, and Drums Along the Mohawk, and Zane Grey, and damn near anything the library would let me check out. I lived in a world peopled by the characters in those books, and I guess I even mistook it for reality

It was during this period that Grandma and Grandad finally gave up trying to make it in Walkerton and returned to Chicago. I can recall they moved into two furnished rooms with a kitchen which was shared by all the tenants. They were only there for a couple of weeks and went to live in the attic of Clora Jordan's house on 38th Street. Grandpa, was 71 and Grandma 65 and they were penniless.