Clean Living Wins Again!

May 30, 2011
Here is the story of my grandfather's childhood:
I was born on November 19, 1924. I was the third out of four children. I had an older sister Mary, who was two years older than me, and an older brother Charles, who was four years older than me. I also had a younger brother James, but he died in 1933 in an auto accident. Growing up I had both my parents. We lived in an apartment, on the North side of Chicago. I remember as a kid, since I was the youngest (after James died), every day I would have to bring six buckets of coal up the stairs to our apartment on the second floor where we lived. You see, back then we didn’t have furnaces, just a small fireplace in the dining room which would heat up the whole house. Since I was the youngest it was my job, everyday. I was in good shape back then!

My older brother Charles, was four years older than me. I just remember him more or less as an older brother. I didn’t spend much time with him. I also had a younger brother, James, a year younger than me, but in 1933 he died when he was hit by a truck back in the alley. Shortly after that, we lost our apartment, so we moved to a new apartment, I think it was on Grace Street. And you see, you have to remember that my younger brother got hit by a truck and died. So back then, I wasn’t allowed to go ANYWHERE without my mother holding my hand, for a long time after the accident. But I remember as a young boy, playing baseball with the neighbor kids. See we lived by a lot of empty lots, now there are new buildings built there in place. But back then we always went to play baseball in the big lot nearby. I also vaguely remember trick-or-treating as a kid on Halloween. But this was so damn long ago I can’t remember!

I also remember walking down to the nearby bakery to pick my mother up a dozen rolls. She would give me a quarter, and always tell me to, “bring the change home!” Back then you could get a roll for two cents a piece. You gotta remember this was back in 1932 and 1933! And when there was the Great Depression, I didn’t even know, I didn’t realize it was a depression. I had meals every day, and we were always on the poor side. We lost our apartment once, and my dad got laid off, but it didn’t worry me. Like I said we always had meals on the table.
As a kid, I went to four different grammar schools. Every year I was at a different school. It was just part of growing up! But I started out at John, and then went to Bellplaine which was on Southport and Gray street. And then, now I can’t remember the third school, but it was a half mile west of us on Gray, it might have been on Western Avenue. After the third school, I went to Saint Andrews grammar school from fourth grade until I graduated, which was when I was 31 (I’m only joking)! Then, after graduating from Saint Andrews, I went to Lane Tech high school. When I was in high school World War 2 started.

When they started that war, I wanted to enlist in the navy, but my mother wouldn’t sign for me because I wasn’t old enough. I had already dropped out of high school while I was going in to my third year of high school. I was seventeen. I went back to working full time at the Chicago Tribune as a messenger boy. When I turned eighteen, I knew I was going to get drafted, because my birthday’s in November. So I got drafted in 1943 into the United States Navy. Before going in to the navy, we had to go to boot-camp, and we went to a gunnery school in Gulfport, Mississippi. I spent three years and three days in the navy, in the South Pacific. Well, it was two and a half years in the south pacific, and then I got transferred to the states. When I got transferred to the states, I got a ten day leave, and I spent the ten days at home with my mother and father, and then went back to the navy base.

One day, I was reading the Chicago Tribune. One of our senior nun commissioner officers saw me reading the Tribune. He said, ”Where the hell did you get that?” I said, “Well I get it every day, mailed to me, I worked there for a couple years before I came into the navy.” He said, “When you’re done with it, let me read it after you.” I can’t remember his name, because this was back in 1945, but I know he said he lived on the south side of Chicago. He was a first class petty officer. Anyways, he said to me one day, “Don’t tell the Tribune you’re not there.” Once I got out of the navy, I waited a month and then I went to the Tribune and let them know that I was home. I never heard from the guy again, but his advice helped me to get a job at the Chicago Tribune which I kept for forty one years until I retired. Anyways, he was a real nice guy. He gave me a nice job driving the jeep posts and the watch. We had an ammunition dump about ten miles south of the bay. I used to post watch there at 8:00 or 4:00 in the morning. It was a good time for me. Of course you don’t want to hear about the guns and that.
Now, you see, I was on a merchant ship, not a navy ship. I was on the Ring Lardner merchant ship. A merchant ship is like a freighter. But there were gun crew and navy personnel on this ship. But anyways, we had about twenty-five navy personnel on the ship. There was a gun crew in the bow of the ship, and a stern of the ship, which was where I was at, and there were also machine guns on the upper deck. I served on all of them, but most of my time was spent on the stern of the ship, which we called the F end. Which is uh, navy terminology for the back of the ship! And I spent three years and three days in the navy. Thank god the war was over and I never got hit, though one time I came close.

You wouldn’t believe the weather down in the South Pacific. It was always hot -120-125 degrees! Believe it or not, I only went swimming once, you see I’m not a great swimmer. Now when I was in boot camp, I had to take a swim test. It was the last night of boot camp, so I dove in and swam it back and forth, then got out. But the heat was unbearable at times. Somehow I spent fifteen months in the South Pacific. Well, I really didn’t hate it, I was just always frightful, ‘cause I didn’t expect to ever come back.

After eighteen months we came back from a little island invasion, we came down to Australia somewhere on the north east coast of Australia, I don’t remember the name. And we said, “Holy shucks….” (of course that’s not the word we used)! There was ten thousand ships in that harbor! I thought holy shucks, were going back to the Phillipines! But in the end, we were the only ship that went back to the states. I couldn’t believe it! We were the only ship that got sent back, because we could only do four or five knots. We couldn’t keep up with them. We saw planes overhead, that weren’t ours, so we pulled out Australia and went back to the states. I tried to write letters to my family every time I was in Australia. I would write letters from there, and the mail would catch up with us. I was in Australia when I found out my older brother Charles was a POW in Germany. He was in the air force, and in 1943 he got shot down. It was right after I got into the navy. I was 19, he was 22. It was on his 4th raid that he got shot down. He washed out as a pilot so he became a second lieutenant. They made my brother Charles a bombardier. When he retired he became a first lieutenant.

I had a pretty good life. I was seventeen when World War 2 started! This was so long ago, I have trouble remembering it! The only good thing that ever happened to me was that I met this lovely young lady (my wife).

After getting out of the navy, and reuniting with his brother and family, my grandpa worked at the Chicago Tribune. He met my grandmother, Kathleen Kelly, and they married, having six children. He spent forty one years working at the Chicago Tribune, and eventually retired. Today, my grandpa is well and happy, at eighty-seven years old, he has nine grandchildren. He enjoys going fishing and playing cards, and watching his grandchildren grow up. His catch phrase is: Clean living wins again! He has lived a full and happy life, which he gives credit to clean living

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