Just after World War II my parents purchased a large home on Kimbark Avenue on the South Side of Chicago. Our family was in transition as my Mother, my brother and I had lived with grandparents in Pennsylvania while was my Father was in the Army overseas.
The house at 4823 Kimbark Avenue stands to this day probably with some changes since 1940s. When we moved in the house had five bedrooms, five fireplaces, five bathrooms, three floors with an apartment on the third floor. The house had been built, I believe, in the 1850’s and still had the remnants of gas light fixtures. Every bedroom had two closets, one walk in complete with shelves and drawers and one with a marble sink. Behind the house was a one story garage. The former carriage house had burned many years before. The houses seemed close together separated only by a driveway. Our driveway was to the right of the house. It went into the garage or continued around the back yard then went between our house and the house on the left. Our family and the family next door often used the circular driveway. 47th Street was a block and a half away. When we first moved in we could hear the bells of streetcars on 47th Street.
If you listen carefully you will hear a seven-year old girl experiencing life in that house on Kimbark Avenue.
My mother opened the door to greet my uncle.
“Hello, Gof.” I greeted my quiet uncle. “Let me show you the house.” My uncle had just arrived and was to stay with us.
He carried a couple of bags and some sort of duffel that had Navy written on it. “This in the hall. As you see it is pretty big with square grand piano right there. Over here is the music room with grandmother’s piano and our radio. The radio doesn’t work very well. Tommy and I have to sit up close with our ears pushing on it to hear anything. Then here is the living room. Look at all the places for books. They all have special glass doors to keep the books from falling out. But if you look up way over the bookcases, you see windows that are magic. Sometimes when the light shines thru, you can see rainbows dancing on the floor. I just love it when they do that.”
“It is wonderful that you have two pianos. Are you taking lessons?” my uncle questioned.
“Not yet, I am pretty busy with school. I am in second grade now. Do you know that I have gone to 3 schools so far this year?”
“How did that happen?”
First I went to second grade in Allentown, when we lived in Pennsylvania. Next was when we went to see Grandmother in Beulah, Colorado. The only school was a 2 room school. It was right across from the church where Grandmother plays the piano.”
“How did you like the school in Beulah?” my uncle questioned.
“I loved it. I got to listen to the teacher for first grade, second grade, third grade and fourth grades. It was the same teacher and we were all in the same room. There were only about fifteen of us. I wish all schools could be like that.”
“Where do you go to school now?”
I go to Kenwood school. It is a really big school. It is made of yellow bricks and has a huge play ground. We have about 40 children in my class.”
“Let’s see the dining room. We have all these windows. From some of them you can see the driveway and from others the very small back porch and then the back yard. That brick building is a garage where Daddy parks the car. Mother drives Daddy to the 47th street station to catch the train downtown everyday.”
“Is that the same car your mother used in Pennsylvania?”
“Yes, you can still see the letter B on it because Mother worked in the electric company.”
I continued , “This is the swinging door to the pantry. This pantry goes from the dining room to the kitchen. This is where we keep the glasses and dishes. The other one we call the back pantry. We keep olives, some cherries in a jar and Spam in the back pantry.”
“The kitchen is quite large.” my uncle said. “What’s this?”
“That is the porch where the milkman puts the bottles of milk so they do not freeze.” I answered.
My Mother led us out of the kitchen to the back stairway saying, “Gof, we are so glad that you are back. Now let’s go see your room.”
(To be continued.)