Defining Who We Are


A little house with three bedrooms,

one bathroom and one car on the street.

A mower that you had to push

to make the grass look neat.

In the kitchen on the wall

we only had one phone,

And no need for recording things,

someone was always home.

We only had a living room

where we would congregate,

unless it was at mealtime

in the kitchen where we ate.

We had no need for family rooms

or extra rooms to dine.

When meeting as a family

those two rooms would work out fine.

We only had one TV set

and channels maybe two,

But always there was one of them

with something worth the view.

For snacks we had potato chips

that tasted like a chip.

And if you wanted flavor

there was Lipton’s onion dip.

Store-bought snacks were rare because

my mother liked to cook

and nothing can compare to snacks

in Betty Crocker’s book.

Weekends were for family trips

or staying home to play.

We all did things together —

even go to church to pray.

When we did our weekend trips

depending on the weather,

no one stayed at home because

we liked to be together.

Sometimes we would separate

to do things on our own,

but we knew where the others were

without our own cell phone.

Then there were the movies

with your favorite movie star,

and nothing can compare

to watching movies in your car.

Then there were the picnics

at the peak of summer season,

pack a lunch and find some trees

and never need a reason.

Get a baseball game together

with all the friends you know,

have real action playing ball —

and no game video.

Remember when the doctor

used to be the family friend,

and didn’t need insurance

or a lawyer to defend?

The way that he took care of you

or what he had to do,

because he took an oath and strived

to do the best for you.

Remember going to the store

and shopping casually,

and when you went to pay for it

you used your own money?

Nothing that you had to swipe

or punch in some amount,

and remember when the cashier person

had to really count?

The milkman used to go

from door to door,

And it was just a few cents more

than going to the store.

There was a time when mailed letters

came right to your door,

without a lot of junk mail ads

sent out by every store.

The mailman knew each house by name

and knew where it was sent;

there were not loads of mail addressed

to “present occupant.”

There was a time when just one glance

was all that it would take,

and you would know the kind of car,

the model and the make.

They didn’t look like turtles

trying to squeeze out every mile;

they were streamlined, white walls, fins

and really had some style.

One time the music that you played

whenever you would jive,

was from a vinyl, big-holed record

called a forty-five.

The record player had a post

to keep them all in line

and then the records would drop down

and play one at a time.

Oh sure, we had our problems then,

just like we do today

and always we were striving,

trying for a better way.

Oh, the simple life we lived

still seems like so much fun,

how can you explain a game,

just kick the can and run?

And why would boys put baseball cards

between bicycle spokes

and for a nickel, red machines

had little bottled Cokes?

This life seemed so much easier

and slower in some ways.

I love the new technology

but I sure do miss those days.

So time moves on and so do we

and nothing stays the same,

but I sure love to reminisce

and walk down memory lane.

With all today’s technology

we grant that it’s a plus!

But it’s fun to look way back and say,

Hey look guys, THAT WAS US!

Simple Amusements, Part Three-Radio

Dagwood has created a typical Dagwood sandwich...

Image via Wikipedia


Radio was a large part of my life.  It was my entry into the world of imagination.  Every day after school, I played outside, then came in just before supper to listen to my favorite radio programs.  The programs were soap operas for kids.  A story ran in daily segments Monday through Friday. Every day a chapter left the main character hanging in a situation covered in the next segment.

The programs I  listened to: The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Yukon King, The Green Hornet, and Gene Autry. After supper, the entire family listened to variety shows like Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, Blondie and Dagwood, and the Life of Reilly.  We also listened to a mystery show called  The Inner Sanctum. It began with the noise of a squeaking door that  ran shivers up my spine, and set my mind into mystery mode.

Mom didn’t like to hear the radio on loud, so I turned the volume down real low. It was so low that I had to put my ear on the speaker. I leaned against the Zenith console, closed my eyes and imagined the characters in the story acting out their parts. In my mind I saw the Lone Ranger on Silver, his big white horse. Tonto, his Indian sidekick rode next to him.  At the end of each episode, the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off into the sunset and one of the characters always asked “who was that masked man?”

I visioned the Green Hornet opening the secret door in his house to get to the “Black Beauty.”  To me the “Black Beauty” is a 1939 Buick sedan. I saw Sky King flying a Cessna low wing plane.  I saw Sargent Preston mushing his lead dog King through the snow and cold of the Yukon. I laughed every time I heard Fibber McGee opening the door to his hall closet, and his junk fell out with a big cacophony of sounds. I could see the look of bewilderment on Riley’s face when he got into his weekly jam and uttered “what a revoltin’ development this is.”

The radio played a large part in my life by making my mind work creatively. It stimulated the imagination, and  I participated in the adventures.

Rec Hall

A 1910 Pullman car which served as the Denver ...

Image via Wikipedia


One nice thing about Mendel was the campus layout and the buildings.  The school was formerly the Pullman Technical School.  The area of Roseland where it is located is very near the Pullman neighborhood and the Pullman factory.  Pullman, the man, believed in providing his employees with everything they needed.  The result was an entire community built around the factory.  Block after block of row houses were rented by people working for the Pullman Car Company.  He also built the school for his employee’s children.  The school specialized in the trades that were required to build the railroad sleeper cars that Pullman sold.

The Augustinian Fathers bought the old Pullman Tech and turned it into Mendel Catholic High School for boys.

The main building was flanked by a wing on each side; one east, the other west.  Behind the main building was smaller brick structure that formerly housed the auto shop.  Mendel didn’t need or want an auto shop so it was used as the recreation center.

All the students went to the rec center at lunch time.  It was set up with tables and chairs for eating.  A vendor set up a kitchen to sell hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries.  I was surprised to see how many boys bought their lunch.  I was also surprised to see so many boys smoking.  The rec hall was the only building on campus where smoking was allowed.

At lunch time the center provided music from the juke box and ping-pong tables for those who wanted to play.

After school hours the building was home to many clubs.  One of the most popular clubs was the radio club.  Kids who joined the radio club learned how a radio worked by building one from simple parts.  They also learned about ham radio.  This club was probably the most popular at the school.  Many of the boys who were in the club graduated, and then started careers in radio or communications.  One of my classmates ran WTTW, Channel 11 in it’s early days.  Recently, I met a man on a Folks on Spokes bike ride who graduated after me who is a ham radio operator.  He helps the bike club with communications on the Easter Ride.  He got his start in radio in the Mendel Radio Club.

I remember a single song from the juke box paying in the rec room.  It was very popular and was played over, and over, and over every day.  The singer is Patti Page, the title of the song is “How Much is That Doggie in the Window”.

The rec room was a popular spot but was replaced within the next year by a new cafeteria.  Two projects began during that first year, 1952-53.  One was the gymnasium/cafeteria; the other was the chapel/monastery.  The monastery was to become a major part of my life in the following year.

The gym was really necessary.  After seeing the gyms at the other schools, ours was really fourth class.  The new one would allow teams to come to play on our campus.

The Monastery was needed to free up class room space in the east wing.  The priests and brothers all lived in the upper floors of the east wing above the wood shop.

The new building went up fast and the following year when the gym, monastery and chapel opened, the school improved tremendously.  However, another 400 kids arrived also.  The old rec hall lost its flavor once the new cafeteria opened.

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