Back When Life Was Easy

My grandfather, Quentin Arthur, was born on February 4, 1930. He lived on the northwest side of Chicago with his mother, father, and four brothers. He lived at 5709 North Karloff in Chicago Illinois. I interviewed him because I wanted to learn about his past and hear about his life. This is his story:

I grew up mainly around Brynmawr and Pulaski. We used to call it Boneville because it was surrounded by cemeteries. There were only three streets in the neighborhood. Within the three streets there were enough kids to play baseball in the streets. Or we would go in the prairie and play football. We mostly played sports. My older brother was the best. He played baseball in school. My favorite sport was golf. I caddied often and played too. Monday was caddies day so we were allowed to play on the courses. I caddied at Brynmawr Country Club when I was thirteen. It was an all Jewish country club even though we weren’t Jewish. In them days it seemed like I made a lot of money. That’s when I started to play golf. Joe Cafka and my older brother Ronald caddied with me. We went to school for a while to learn how to caddy but it was easy for me. I didn’t play at school though. It was too far. I couldn’t drag my golf clubs on the street car.

I had four siblings. All brothers. There was Ronald, Edward, James and Daryl. I was the second oldest. I was the closest to Daryl, he was the baseball player and the oldest. We were three years apart. Three of us went to Sunday school. After that we kind of got away from it. We would go to church a couple times a year. My mother was always home so we didn’t have much rules. My dad was a carpenter so he worked all the time. We weren’t rich, didn’t have a car. I just played with my brothers. We only had two bedrooms, and there were three of us in one bedroom. Upstairs, second floor with no air conditioning. If you didn’t know better, you’d just open a window. One of us always washed the dishes, and one wiped them. Long before dish washers. And there wasn’t too much more we done. I’d get the vacuum cleaner, not too often though. My mother was kind of a stickler so she done most of that. We’d make our beds I guess. Clean up the room a little bit. Our relatives, aunts and uncles, lived very close and they would come over a lot. They lived in the city, not too far away. My mother had 5 brothers and sisters and my father had one brother. We got together several times a year. We had lots of cousins. We weren’t real close with them but whenever we’d get together we’d play.

I went to Sauganash Grammar School. A very small school. The graduating class was about twelve people. I had good teachers. I had to walk to school and walk home. I went almost a mile every day. I walked with my brother and a few friends who got dropped off along the way. We lived the farthest from school.

I went to Van Steuven High School for one year and then I went to Lane Tech for three years. It was just a regular run of the mill. I got decent grades. They weren’t great but I done enough to get by. I liked mechanical drawing and math. It wasn’t easy but I didn’t struggle. Didn’t have too much homework. I studied in school so I wouldn’t have to take it home. I was a pretty fast reader. I didn’t like Latin and I struggled with chemistry. I could never figure out what we were doing. They had patrolling officers going around so you couldn’t be off campus and there was no lunch hour. You couldn’t get away with much. Couldn’t even walk on the lawn. I never got in any trouble. I’d have to stay in the house sometimes for little things like not bringing my school books home. I got caught on the golf course a couple times for sneaking in without paying because I didn’t have money to pay.

I don’t remember the Depression much. My father was always working. We had gas rationed and food rationed and heat rationed, shoes were rationed, and just about everything was rationed. We never had a lack of anything, we always had something. I don’t recall my father every being laid off. I didn’t know anybody that was out of work. I guess we were just lucky. You had coupons, like food stamps, gas stamps; I think they had clothing stamps, tires and stuff like that. Cigarettes were hard to get, I didn’t smoke but they were hard to get. Most of them went to the guys in the service. In them days kids didn’t smoke like they do today. We didn’t know it was bad then. Nobody that I knew drank alcohol. Adults did sometimes, not a lot but they’d always have some beer when relatives would come over. A couple quarts of beer, nothing big. The adults would always play penny and nickel poker, which was big in them days. That’s how I learned to play cards. Sit there and watch them. They didn’t have much but they kept on going. My mother would take us shopping, just on the street car. She liked to go to Weebles stores; there was one on Lincoln and Belmont. We went all the way there on the street car. That’s a long way to travel on the street car. My father bought a car in 1940, I was 10 years old. A lot of people didn’t have cars. It was normal. My dad bought the car just before the war, summer before.

We didn’t go on too many vacations. What was a big deal was to go to Bangs Lake. It was out in Wauconda. Route 12. Two lanes. They got big slides out there and it was a big deal for us to go to Bangs Lake. We went up in the morning on a Sunday and came back that night. We went swimming and fishing and that was about it. And now and then we would go up to Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was a big deal back then but not today.

My two best friends were Joe Cafka and Budd Schmidt. Neither one of them went to school with me. We all went to different schools. I knew them from the neighborhood. We would play baseball in the streets because there were no cars, run around in the prairie, have bonfires. Sometimes we’d go to the corner store or we’d go to a movie on weekends, I’d get a quarter from my mother. We’d go downtown which was a big deal. We occasionally had people over, not all the time but sometimes. In the summer we were out every day. Always doing something. We would go to Whaling Pool, go swimming which was a big deal. Or we’d get on our bikes and just ride. Make a lunch and just head out. We used to walk down the railroad tracks lots of times. We would go skating in the river and play hockey on the river in the winter time. You didn’t worry about anything in them days. We’d go down the street, about a mile, and the river was there and we’d get a spot. The bravest guy, he’d walk on the ice and make sure it didn’t break and we’d skate around for a while. Or we’d go to the park; all the parks had ice skating rinks. My skates were handed down from my uncle; I don’t think I ever had a new pair of my own. They had some hills over there and we’d go sledding down those. We always kept busy. Always had something to do. To today’s standard it wasn’t much but it sure was a lot of fun.

My grandfather entered the Marine Corps right after high school. After serving for two years in the Marine Corps, he moved back to Chicago and got married to his wife today, Marianne and they had two children together. The one thing he said over and over was that you don’t need money and a bunch of toys to have fun, as long as you had your friends and family life could be great. Those days were the best days of his life.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback