Prize Worthy

At the age of eight I was old enough to recognize when Spring had sprung. The days were at least a temperature of fifty degrees Fahrenheit and Daylight Savings arrival and made the sun stay out past 8:00pm. That’s also when three different ice cream trucks would make its way at various times of the evening within a few block radius of Quincy Street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Each truck driver knew his territory in the fight for a kid’s hard won allowance money and made sure not to bud in on the competition or suffer the consequences.

The compact, white colored Good Humor truck had a picture of an ice cream bar on the side panel. Chiming bells was instant recognition that Good Humor was somewhere in the area. The driver dished out to willing customers with appropriate coinage orange colored creamsicles, various flavored popsicles and sundry ice cream cones.
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Awkward Moments

It’s not easy to write about those awkward moments in life when you’ve been set up to be a sap and you know you had it coming. And it always seems to involve women. The earliest situation I recall was when I was in my very early teens and there was some type of game going on between the kids on both sides of the block. I happened to be outside and one frisky young lady was going around chasing me trying to kiss me. The thing was I happened to like her and wouldn’t have minded it but not in that situation. She and her friends were in on it and had a look in their eyes like they were going to have a big laugh about this after she had planted her pucker on my face. I did the noble thing and ran as quickly as I could into my house.
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Ode To Golf

Arnold Palmer was the king of Golf in the early 1960’s before Jack Nicklaus came along and wrestled adulation away from him. Palmer’s legion of fans used to follow him to all the tournaments he played in. They were called “Arnie’s Army”. Being no more than ten years old, I worshiped him from afar watching him on television. On Sundays, if none of my siblings had grabbed the old black and white tv set first, I’d flip on a golf game because there was no baseball action during the period from January through March. In the early part of the afternoon, the ABC network would always seem to be broadcasting an NBA game involving the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks or Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers on the parquet floor in Beantown . By 3pm the golf matches were aired.
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Philosophically Speaking

In the early 1970 ‘s I attended Northeastern Illinois University in pursuit of a well-rounded education. Part of this endeavor meant that I had to take a course in philosophy. Philosophy is supposed to be defined as the love of wisdom. Frankly, though, the philosophers I’ve met were kind of not so wise.

The professor who taught our class did her post-graduate work at the University of Chicago. That alone should tell you that she did not believe so readily in mom, apple pie, the military and capitalism, although she did wear fancy clothes. I suspect that she made a good living and justified her salary because she was doing something very important to help the American Economy. Yeah, exactly.
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Class Action

September of 1960 I turned eight, ready for third grade. The previous autumn I made a fool out of myself the earliest that I could remember when I rushed home to our new apartment in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood a half block from school to proudly tell my mother that I saw a 1964 car. Ma told me that there was no way as it would be four more years before that year’s models would be introduced in the fall. “But”, I insisted, “Perry told me that we both saw a 1964 car pass by”. She then explained to stupid me that my buddy probably meant that the two of us had seen a 1960 Ford car.

Another dumb thing I did that second grade school year was beat up a kid a year older than me during lunch recess. When we returned to class, a student representative from the third grade class was sent to my room to come take me for a dressing down by the ex-nun who taught the eight years old kids. She told me that it was wrong to hit other kids. I tried to reason with her that he started it and that he was a year older than me and should have been able to do a better job defending himself. She didn’t like my answer and had a look on her face that indicated that she couldn’t wait to get a hold of me the following year.
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Child’s Play

Baby boomers remember when kids used to go outside and play instead of sit in front of a computer or electronic games device. In the mid 1950’s, playing outside on Jackson Boulevard in Chicago’s West Garfield Park area meant either doing pretty much the same stuff that my year older sister did. This included hopscotch, hula hoop, jump rope and a great game for whiplash called “Red Rover”. This involved, if memory serves me right, having two rows of kids stand a few feet apart facing each other. The captain of one row instructs his or her line mate to shout out “Red Rover, Red Rover- let Tommy come over”. Then, it would be Tommy’s job to earnestly try to break through the human wall opposite him. Being the boy in this group and one of the younger ones- guess who was most often the sacrificial lamb?
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Complaint Department

When was the last time you talked to someone in the “complaint department”? In today’s world of political correctness, a friendlier term is now in use- “customer service”. Based on interaction with people who populate this ever-growing field of work, the term is most definitely an oxymoron. And you can also say that some of the customer service people are morons, too.

Just last week, I was on the phone with a representative from the phone company complaining that they increased my bill from the previous month by ten dollars. I spent some time scrutinizing the four page statement of small print to figure out that they added an extra three dollars per phone number for something called ‘line charge’ and fifty cents each for ‘linebacker’. Having two lines, that was an extra seven dollars plus three dollars in various taxes to feed politicians need to take away my money. I wouldn’t have minded if the fees were reversed because ‘linebacker’ was a polite way to say inside wiring repair insurance. I’ve needed the talents of strangers coming into my apartment to rip up a few wires now and then. They call telephone repairmen linebackers not because they also doubled as football players but at some point in their career they climbed telephone polls for recreation, I guess.
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Baseball Cards

If you were born before the 1970’s then you most likely remember going into a small grocery store usually at the corner on the block where you lived or otherwise pretty close by. Such a store was an old-fashioned, claustrophobic emporium where in order to get something off a very high shelf the clerk used a long stick with a hook at the end. It acted like an artificial hand that magically grabbed a carton or jar without crashing or crushing it. There was also a ladder on rollers which the braver employee used to slide over from one part of an aisle to another to re-stock merchandise.

The Chicago West Garfield Park neighborhood grocery store I went to in the late 1950’s was on Kostner in the middle of the block south from the corner at Jackson. This was where I bought penny candy and fed my growing baseball card habit. My favorite sweet junk was little waxed bottles with a sliver of colored water inside that was good for one quick slurp as well as rolls of paper with sugary dots on them. I ended up eating more paper than candy.
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Dog Gone It

Like all doting mothers, Ma has pictures of my childhood hidden away somewhere in the storage area of her basement. Years ago, I vaguely remember seeing one of me either sitting on or trying to stand next to a Great Dane dog in the empty lot next to the building we lived in on Independence Boulevard. This event probably takes place around 1954 or ’55 when I am about two years old and soon before we move further west and slightly north to the West Garfield Park area of Chicago.

As I recall, at the time I have a look on my face that does not reveal whether the dog and I are buddies. I do know that today I have mixed feelings about these four-legged creatures. It seems that whenever I am within smelling distance of one (notice I didn’t say who does the sniffing) the animal barks in a language they expect me to understand. It as if they are communicating and do not understand why I don’t respond in kind. Are we brothers of a certain band from a previous life?
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The Goose and the Other Thing

by Larry Teren

Events of the 1950’s that I recollect are experienced in Chicago’s West Garfield Park, a neighborhood on the middle part of the west side of the city. We lived on the 4400 block of Jackson Boulevard a half mile north of the new construction underway to carve out the Congress Expressway. Years later, at the beginning of 1964, it was renamed the Eisenhower after the still-living ex-president who almost a decade earlier signed into law the National Highway Act.
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