Continuing Saga #3 (Early Chicago)

I’ve been playing again — having so much fun making more necklaces — have to start selling these creations!

Pandora: Ivory acrylic beads with square bone spacers with black and ivory art pendant
Pandora: Ivory acrylic beads with square bone spacers with black and ivory art pendant
Ladonna: Beach glass shards with beach glass beads and crystals and silver spacers + earrings
Ladonna: Beach glass shards with beach glass beads and crystals and silver spacers + earrings

The bottom one is actually polished glass shards and beach glass beads. Pretty!        Lots more on the website:  https://gibsongrafe.com

Back to the Continuing Saga —

My parents finally arrived in Chicago in 1937 after that challenging auto trip from New York. They found a small apartment close to downtown (and the Merchandise Mart) at 180 E. Delaware. I found out on a much, much later trip to Chicago that Oprah Winfrey lives in that same building now. Mother loved it because there was a little grocery store in the lobby and she could just order food and have it delivered.

I was born in March 1940, on St. Patrick’s Day. From what I’ve been told, my grandmother was “in attendance” and immediately said “Well, of course, you’re going to name her Patricia!” This may have been the first time my mother didn’t concede to her mother. Later on I thought it was kind of odd that they didn’t have names picked ahead of time, but mother said all she could think of was Susan’s Hat Shop that she would pass on the way downtown. So, I was named Susan. No middle name. Susan Johnson, just about as plain as you could get.

The costs were quite a bit lower way back then:

Augustana Hospital bill: March 1940
Augustana Hospital bill: March 1940

Meanwhile, my parents still lived at 180 E. Delaware. It was a one bedroom apartment but had this fabulous bar right in the living room.

 

The meeting place: 180 E. Delaware, Chicago
The meeting place: 180 E. Delaware, Chicago

Fortunately, the bar had some really large drawers — just the right size for a baby!

That was my bed until my parents found a larger apartment at 500 West Surf Street at the corner of North Broadway and W. Surf Street. This would be my home for the next 10 years. Wonderful, happy years!

550 Surf Street, Chicago
550 Surf Street, Chicago

By this time, my parents had started their own business with a shop on Michigan Avenue named Johnson’s. Fortunately, all was going well — at least for a while. I remember going to Bateman School and having a marvelous time playing on the swings. I’ve always loved the freedom of swings.

Roller skates were another avenue for adventure. Skates had just come out with wheels wrapped in rubber which made for much more comfortable skating. I was inspired by the tales of the Norwegian champion figure skater, so I wanted to be the “Sonya Henie on Roller Skates”.

Fun in the neighborhood!
Fun in the neighborhood!

We lived on the fifth floor but I wasn’t allowed to ride on the elevator by myself until I could reach the 5th-floor button. Apparently, it never occurred to me that it wasn’t long until I could have reached the 1st-floor button and ridden the elevator down. Instead, I had much more fun sliding down the bannisters in the stairwell for five floors. For a long time, mother wondered how I was wearing out my pants so quickly!

The view looking east out of the living room windows of the lake was spectacular.

View of Lake Michigan
View of Lake Michigan

The events of Pearl Harbor quickly brought a pause to this idyllic existence. My father was a born and raised Southern so naturally wanted to volunteer immediately. But, he had a new child and they weren’t accepting new fathers at that time. So he signed up for the Merchant Marine which was probably turned out to be more dangerous than being in the Army.

There was a dire housing shortage in Chicago at that time. I remember the Chicago Housing Authority going from apartment to apartment. Any space that wasn’t being utilized to their criteria was claimed for the war effort. We were okay since we had three people and two bedrooms. But good friends of my parents lived in the same building and they had two bedrooms — one for them and one for their dog. Woody’s room had a dog bed and a chest of drawers. Woody’s room was no longer. The Housing Authority converted the apartment into two apartments. Because of the severe housing shortage, my parents decided that when my father was called out for duty, mother and I would go back to New York to live with my grandparents and sublet the Chicago apartment for the duration.

My grandparents lived in a grand apartment building at the corner of Riverside Dr. and 145th Street in Manhattan. More about that later.

My grandparents' apartment building: 676 Riverside Dr., NYC
My grandparents’ apartment building: 676 Riverside Dr., NYC

While we were in New York, I went to school at the L’Atelier French Academy (An immersion preschool for children 2.6 to 5 years old) on 73rd Street. I would go back and forth on the subway with an older girl who went to elementary school. My best recollection of the time spent at the Academy was that one little girl kept wetting her pants so there was always a pair of underpants on the radiator drying out. Besides that, we had to curtsy every time we met a nun in the hallway. When we went back to Chicago and I was in the first grade at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, they called my mother to ask her to tell me to please stop curtsying every time I saw a nun. I was bobbing up and down like a bobble-head!

More to come . . .

Be sure to check out our other website for bold and beautiful handmade jewelry: https://gibsongrafe.com

 

 

 

 

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