The Good Old Days: Rain

I love rainy days; especially weather watching for storms. I get so excited checking weather reports and the radar; technology that we have today versus the good old days. Though Alexa and Weather Underground do make mistakes. But even back then, everyone loves a rainy day…. napping, reading, playing a game or spending time with your own vehicles of nostalgia though for many that may be on our computers, phones and visiting social network sites.

Just the other day there was a morning rain storm and for many in the area, electricity was lost for hours. Today’s people could not survive with the loss of power during a rain storm and unfortunately attics are not made for snuggling. Right before the storm really began, I took my usual, summer morning walk and loved watching the clouds formulate while the raindrops slowly fell and it felt beautiful. The winds picked up as soon as I reached the house.

At the elementary school I work, grades kindergarten – second, no one…no one… liked to get rained on. We would always have extra umbrellas available if we were escorting a student from a car or bus. One of my jobs was to help manage kindergarten recess and generally it was outside. The kindergarten classes would eat lunch first and then all 100+ students would head out one door to the playground. I would open that door, always checking the grounds first before releasing them.  One spring day, the air was heavy, a little cloudy but none of the other recess supervisors had rain indicators on their phones saying that rain was on the way. Our phones did not lie about weather alerts today, but I was hesitant when I opened the door.Well, we let them go and they were all out less than ten minutes, when there was no thunder, lightening…. but pouring rain. I blew the whistle to have them line up early and I was shocked how well they managed. Some screamed but for the most part, they didn’t run slamming into the one door we always used that entered the building. They lined up in their five class lines, facing one of the other supervisors and the wall of the building, who always stood there. As I passed the lines to open the door and let, them in, some were actually holding their hands out, smiling, looking up at the sky as the rain continued, quietly stamping the puddles already forming, but each line gracefully walked into the building.

Some had spring jackets on and they didn’t complain after hanging their coats and heading into their classrooms. Some did ask if they could change their shoes since they had an extra pair of tennis shoes for P.E. The main office had video cameras and watched them come in; hoping there would not be a mob and there wasn’t. Those adults viewing the cameras were surprised at the smiles of fun on their faces.

Oh, boy how good their bare feet would have felt in the rain that poured most of the afternoon….just like the good old days.

Magical summers

Many Baby Boomers growing up did not always have their summers planned with vacations. Some went to summer camp and many, like me, waited anxiously for best friends to get home from camp so we could play or create the next adventure. Some of us had no place to go during the summer with the exemption of exploring the neighborhood because we did have full freedom to go outside and play on a nice day.  Full freedom to explore and be back by 6 for dinner or for some until the street lights came on. No fear of stranger… danger!

Sometimes, we would go to the local playground or city park such as Chicago’s Bessemer which had a community pool or Stoney Island Park, which was popular for its ball fields, now known as Jessie Owen Park on the South Side of Chicago. Of course, riding our bikes(without helmets) often doing all sorts of stunts to get there. Many families had plastic, above ground pools in their backyard…not so different as those today.  The backyard sprinklers were are last resort but always fun once turned on. We never got sick drinking from the hoses either. Playing hopscotch, kick the can, red light, green light, red rover, Chinese jump rope, jacks( inside and out.)

I am not sure if it initially came from boredom or just not sure what to explore next but we produced plays, musicals and all sorts of summer shows for our families. One my friends and I did was about Betsy Ross and instead of the infamous lemonade s tand we re-created the Sip and Stir on a front porch which was originally an ice cream shop in Old Town. We made chocolate shakes and decorated the porch with tissue flowers. Though unless we had help from a Mom, we had to make sure that cooler was stocked with ice.

If in junior high and a Chicago city kid, sometimes we would ride the local Illinois Central Train downtown for lunch in the Narcissus room at Marshall Fields. Sometimes we would ride the bus to Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park on the west side; one of the first indoor malls.

However, screens did come into play when it was a rainy day. You could select from 3- 5 channels. If it was Saturday morning, you had a variety of cartoons to choose. Prime television was generally in the evening and reserved as a family event after your friends returned home. Board games or blind mans bluff were always an option and some of us had indoor ping pong or pool tables that we were allowed to play in the cooler finished basement since some did not have air conditioning.

Saturday afternoons could offer corny black and white horror movies such as Attack of The Crab Monsters,Teenagers From Outer Space and I Was A Teenage Werewolf. This was all after adjusting the TV antennas which could take some time especially if weather was poor and Mom watching over you while you made Jiffy Pop, the best stove- top popcorn that you loved to gently slide back and forth over the burner and watch the foil expand to new heights. Evenings were always spent with my favorite paint by number set from Bargain Town or reading which was encouraged before I went to bed. We always took trips to the local Chicago Public Library branch. Today, I am an avid reader and love to paint for fun.

Raising children in the 1990’s actually was pretty similar to the 1960’s though there television sets had a lot more channels to select. And they still made Jiffy Pop and my kids loved to help. Personal computers were just showing up in homes and they were pretty bad. So were pagers used mainly for work and more Mom’s needed jobs. I still let my children take over the neighborhood on bikes.Though, they did not have the run of as many blocks like we did in the old days. They did play outside and established some creative plays to perform for parents. Games were similar like tag, Red Rover with the exception of Marco Polo, a new game at the pool. I found sometimes, as parents,we would get too involved in the preparation of games and adventures. Maybe,we should have taken a back seat more often and just watched them build their creativity and love for one another. A very difficult exercise.

Today, just give kids markers, chalk, paper, and even washable paint. Let them go for it outside. Give them boxes, paper towel rolls, saved cereal boxes, tape and let them create their own summer houses, vehicles or forts. Pull out old clothes, dresses and see what they can do. Let them play with their friends and learn together. As far as games,Duck, Duck Goose and Monkey in the Middle seems to be popular. Gathering by themselves to play without you is the best of time for your children during the summer.

But never limit your field trip trips to the local library. You can actually cook Jiffy Pop on the grill outside. And watch the entire shows and movies from the past on Netflix. Maybe true summer fun hasn’t changed that much after all.

We share our memories of the Chicago blizzard: January 26th 1967

The following describes my experiences along with friends, family and acquaintances caught in the blizzard in 1967. What about you?

My Mother was so grateful we had just has the furnace filled with oil prior to the blizzard since oil trucks could not get through!”

Many wore professional mountain snow shoes to get through the streets.

It took my father what was usually a 15 minute ride from work in his car, two and a half hours to get home because the cars were not moving at all.

We played tackle football games a lot and my Mom sent me to the A&P pulling a sled to pick up groceries. The store shelves were pretty empty and I kept tipping the sled on the way home”

My friends Dad was stuck at his office for 2 days.” All he wanted to do was take a bath when he got home and sleep.”

“My aunt grabbed a bus after getting off the Illinois Central railroad. It was a long wait for the bus and when she finally got on, the bus only made it 2 blocks but couldn’t get past the snow drifts. She had to walk the rest of the way home.”

“I laid down in the snow; made snow angels and felt like owned the world.”

“Made over $40 dollars shoveling.”

“My Dad got stuck downtown and ended up hitching a ride home from a Chicago Police Officer.”

I was a newlywed of just 1 month — we were happily snowed in!

I was a Jr. in High School. I drove that day because I was taking finals. It took me over 3 hours to get home. Normally less than 20 minutes. My dad was furious with me…like I knew this was going to happen. School was closed for a whole week.

My Mom was really tiny and she got planted in the snow.  It took several neighbors to get her out.

The Blizzard of 1967 trapped people in cars and public transportation was nonexistent. Many had abandoned vehicles and walked to gas stations, churches and schools to spend Thursday night, January 26th.  By Friday, the city was a standstill. The snow had stopped at 10am with a total of 23 inches, the greatest snowfall in Chicago’s history.

In the city of Chicago 20,000 cars and 1,100 CTA buses were stranded in the snow. People walked to stores to clear the shelves of bread and mild.  Helicopters were used to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and food and blankets to those stranded. Expectant mothers were taken to hospitals by sled, bulldozer and snow plows. Looting became a problem on the west and south sides of the city. All houses were heated by oil added to the furnaces. Oil trucks could not get access to buildings.

Because of high winds, drifting could be over 10 feet in places which included front doors and garages. Many had died from trying to shovel the snow. For the first few days, children were sent to stores for supplies with sleds and snow shoes to pick up food. Many of the stores shelves were empty.

By Saturday the 28th, Chicago was beginning to dig out. The city sent a workforce of 2,500 people with 500 pieces of equipment and other states also sent heavy equipment to help with the snow removal. Snow was hauled and dumped into the Chicago river. O’Hare finally opened around midnight on Monday. Schools did not re-open until Tuesday.