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4/27/2010

On the streets

I grew up on the Southwest side of Chicago. A little neighborhood just east of the big Western Electric Hawthorne Works plant which straddled the border between Chicago and Cicero.

It was a pleasant little neighborhood, full of ex-GIs from WWII, and sons away in Korea. It was an area of bungalows and porches and open windows with screens in them during the summer and radios you could hear while you were out on the sidewalk and nobody ever cared what time it was. Except when it was dinnertime.

And there were Kids.

We were born in '45, '46, '47, 48. We were the kids that the GIs had after they came home and caught up on all that pent up lust that had built up during the war. We had no TV. We had no air conditioning. And mostly we didn't have much money.

What we did have was imagination - and all the other kids in the neighborhood. We used to stand outside a kid's house and yell "Yo-o [insert name here]". Yeah. Our cell phone was standing in front of someone's house and calling them outside. If they weren't home? Tough. You found somebody else to play with. And we didn't have to yell too loud either. Nobody's house was all closed up. In the summer, every window in the house had a screen in it, or a window fan. I remember sitting in front of the window fan going ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h listening to the sound reflect back at me off the spinning blades of the fan.

Anyway, the Chicago I remember from 55 years or so ago is a lot different than the Chicago that exists today.

When I was a kid, WE roamed the streets of our neighborhood. Day and night. And we all came home every night.

Today, kids who roam the streets of Chicago might just kill you. Or each other.

Soon, those same streets might just become the roaming grounds of the Illinois National Guard.

Somehow, the thought of the streets of the city where I was raised being patrolled by TROOPS has an ominous feel to me.

We are Rome, and the barbarians who will see to our demise, are us.

18 comments:

~L said...

This is a tragedy Lou. I just saw our local news report about the possibility of the NG coming to town...our beautiful city is breaking. Such a shame that the children of your neighborhood today are unable to see where you grew up. Even in the suburb of Wheeling in the early 70's, kids roamed the streets until dark and trusted any neighbor to band-aid a boo-boo or offer a snack. Great memories for me. Personality seeds sown. I pray for the peace of those afflicted, involved, and fearing the crime. Peace, L

Lee Vandeman said...

Oh Lou - what a beautifully vivid and heartbreaking post about change. And not the good kind of change. I also grew up in Chicago - did I tell you that when we met? Only until the age of 9 but we lived near 51st and Archer and even in the early to mid-70's, we would stand outside and yell, "Yo-o (whoever)" while standing outside. When we moved to Phoenix in 1976, I was almost nine years old and I remember doing the ol' "yo-o" call and the parents of the kid I was calling for came out and said, "Why are you yelling like that? Just ring the doorbell."

:-)

Anyway - you have painted a picture of youth and freedom and I am hanging onto that....

Great post Lou.

Lee

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I often wish my kids could experience just a little bit of the summers I had as a kid. Life was so much different back then.

Jientje said...

Nothing stays the same, it's frightening sometimes. This was a beautiful post Lou.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

Your memories are beautiful.

Oh, how I wish our kids and grandchildren could live that carefree life.

Rusty said...

Yea quiet times, unless you were caught in the crossfire of the Chicago Outfit.

Seriously, times are different. I was stunned when I heard they were considering the National Guard to patrol the streets for crime control. There will be no going back....

moneythoughts said...

I hate to say it, but a lot of the problems we are facing today is because of the budget problems that are facing so many people and the cities that are responsible for public safety.

I liked your post and while I was born in '42, we had very much the same in our neighborhood too. Things change, but they don't have to change for the worse.

Audubon Ron said...

Wow, great post.

Hockeymandad said...

Isn't it sad that this has become the reality across our country in just the past 15-20 years. I may have been born a few years after you, but I know of what you describe because it was quite similar when I was a kid. Great post my friend.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

As a society, we've become internal to our homes, TVs, and computers. For instance, I have over numerous close friends I've met through blogging... yet I don't know my next door neighbors. It's very sad. I'm sorry to hear this, hon.

Indigo said...

It's not just Chicago (although I haven't heard of any other needing the national guard as of this comment). It's all over. I mourn right along with you, the child I was, the little girl who knew what it was like to roam the neighborhood. I mourned my own daughter never knew such freedoms.

And the hardest to stomach by far is...so many don't see what has become of us or our future. (Hugs)Indigo

ree said...

Let's not let Chicago become Detroit. (And moving from one to another, I can say that.)

Nevine said...

Lou, that is so so sad. My husband is a Chicago boy. He also tells me the Chicago he knew as a young boy is not the Chicago of today. And just last night we were watching WGN and they were talking about sending in the troops to patrol the city, and his jaw just dropped. But I do recall visiting Chicago with my husband a couple of years ago. It was my second time there, and though my first visit and my second were separated by only 2 years, there was a difference that was marked! It seems the danger rises every day. So sad... Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen... and I've seen many.

Nevine

LceeL said...

~L: And Peace to you, too, ~L.

Lee Vandeman: I went to Kelly High School one year for Summer School.

DysFUNctional Mom: Yes, it was.

Jientje: Thank you, Jientje.

Kelley: Yeah. Me too.

Rusty: That's what I'm afriad of - no going back.

Moneythoughts: They don't have to - but they have.

Audubon Ron: Thank you, Ron.

Hockeymandad: Thank you, Sir. What are you getting Angie for her Birthday?

Coal Miner's GD: But I'm so glad I know you - and have had the chance to meet you.

Indigo: No - they don't see - they just see what THEY are concerned with day to day - with no thought to anyone else.

Ree: No - that won't happen. Daley won't let that happen.

Nevine: Chicago is a very special place - I, too, have seen cities all over the world - and Chicago is one of the world's great cities.

CaraBee said...

What has happened in the last 20 years to bring about such a drastic change? Because my childhood in the 70s and 80s was a lot like that, too. I roamed the neighborhood from a quite early age. Heck, my parents shoved us out the door in the morning. It is happening everywhere, although I hadn't heard that things were so bad in Chicago that they were bringing in the National Guard.

It's a sad commentary, for sure.

Emily/Randomability said...

My Dad is a Southsider too, from the Heights, born in '47. I'm sure he and his brother's & sister's were all carefree as you, and eventually my sister's and I in our small town.

Life with Kaishon said...

That last line is amazing. Profound. And dead on.

I love that my son can still roam the neighborhood and play with his friends. He begs for a cell phone and I tell him not to be ridiculous.

The first thing I did when we moved in was get a screen door. A lot of the neighbors don't have them. It makes me sad. I think it is usually better to be open than it is to be all closed up.

I was going to say that I hope it gets better in Chicago one day, but I am sure it won't. Just like it is not getting better in Philly, or any other place for that matter.

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

Isn't it something that sometimes when we talk about what "they" and "those people" are doing, we are talking about ourselves.