Yesterday, I posted a story about the gang of kids with whom I went to grammar school. Today, I am beginning a series of stories related to my adventure in high school. The time is September, 1952, the school is in the Roseland community of Chicago. My story is not different from the story of all kids who were born just before and during World War Two. The activities we enjoyed were the same. We all employed the same form of communication; letters and face to face speech. Phones were still scarce within the home, with a few public phone booths scattered about in businesses. Radio was the strongest media format. Television was still a rarity within homes, but catching on quickly. Not every family owned an automobile and public transportation was abundant with trolleys that ran frequently. Kids bought single 78 rpm records to play on their hi-fi players. Portable radios were the size of a large box of Cheerios, and used four to six “D” size batteries. It was a time of my life that I would not trade for anything.
The long summer ended and the big day arrived. Mom packed a lunch for me, and I set off to ninety-third and Woodlawn to catch the street car. I was excited; I didn’t have a buddy with me. I was on my own. The few minutes waiting for the car to arrive made me more anxious. Should I take a chance and walk to the next stop? Just then I spotted the red trolley making the turn onto 93rd Street from it’s journey around the Nickel Plate round-house at Kenwood.
The ride to Cottage Grove lasted all of five minutes. I got off to wait for my transfer onto the Cottage Grove South car. Another wait to make me anxious but there was more traffic to watch on Cottage and it relieved the anxiety a bit. The trolley stopped near the corner and I stepped off the curb to cross the lane to where the long red trolley stood in the center of the four lane street. The pavement was all cobblestone and rough. Once I was on the Cottage Grove line and headed south, I breathed a short sigh of relief.
The Cottage trolley went two blocks before it made a left turn onto 95th street to cut through the via-duct under the Illinois Central (IC) tracks to where Cottage Grove continued south on the east side of the railroad tracks. The IC tracks are elevated from the south suburbs all the way to 47th street. The viaducts passing under the tracks are long, dark and noisy. As soon as the trolley broke out of the viaduct it swung right to head south again. At this point the trolley tracks were between the street and the raised Illinois Central tracks. Because of the separation the motorman could make time between stop signs and cross streets. The electric motors accelerated smoothly, and since the tracks were off the street and there was no traffic in the way, the trolley sped along at 40 miles per hour and more.
At 103rd we had to slow down for the stop light. After that, we slowed down once more for the viaduct at 107th. The 103rd and 107th cross streets were a lot lower than the track bed, so the trolley dipped as it approached these intersections. There was always the chance that a car or truck would break out from the viaduct into the path of the trolley. For this reason, the motorman slowed the trolley considerably to cross the intersections.
I started to get nervous again because my stop at 111th was nearing. The conductor called it out and the car stopped. Many boys of my age got off. Some were on the car when I got on; others joined us at stops along the way.
Again, I crossed over the street to catch the trolley going west. It was waiting there, and I had to run to catch it. I jumped up the stairs with my transfer ticket in one hand and my lunch bag in the other. The trolley took off, and before I could get settled into a seat, we were at South Park Avenue. I got off at the rear door next to Pullman Bank. There, across the street was the gate that opened onto the drive that led to Mendel Catholic High School for boys.
The walk up the drive was pretty because the forty acre school campus was large and well landscaped. At this point there was a crowd of boys all headed in the same direction to the tall, stately building in the center overlooking the pond and 111th street. I ran up the front steps and opened the door to a new world and a whole new segment of life.