My wife and I were two naïve people filled with excitement. In 1953 during the planning of our wedding we went about locating an apartment. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s apartments were difficult to find. The building boom hadn’t quite started and you were lucky to find one.
It was that difficult. For example, my oldest brother was married in 1948 and had to live with his brother in law until they could locate an apartment. My next older brother was married in 1950 and to find an apartment he paid the ‘landlord’ a bonus for it. It was located over a tavern on W. North Ave.
Based on their experiences and the times in which we lived, we decided to scout for an apartment several months before we were to be married in October 1953. My future wife heard from her cousin there may be an apartment coming available next door to her. So we excitedly contacted the landlord who lived on the property.
It was located in an old fashioned U shaped court yard on the second floor. The apartment was perfect. It was sunny with a good view out of the window. And, we were equally excited to live next door to her cousin. The rent was $60 per month (yes, that’s what is was in 1953). So we took the apartment.
Now this is only the beginning of our naiveté. We paid our first month’s rent and received a proper receipt. But, we never took the key. After all it was 3 more months before our wedding so we told the landlord we will continue paying the rent until Oct 1, 1953 when we take possession of the apartment. No problem! We stopped in to see our new landlord the first of every month with our $60 for the rent. And each month we received a receipt. Now dear reader here is the part of the story you’ve waiting for.
October 1 we went to the landlord for the key to our apartment only to discover he had rented it to another couple. We were mortified to put it mildly and got into a heated discussion with him. We told him we had receipts for the months we paid the rent and, pay attention, we were told the apartment number was not on the receipt and that was his out. Now we learned our first hard lesson early. Don’t trust your landlord!
We were offered a first floor apartment on the other side of the courtyard facing the alley. Not only that, he conveniently did not inform us it was above the coal delivery receptacle. (In 1953 most older apartment buildings were heated by coal). It was a decent apartment but a totally different layout than the one we thought we rented. The kitchen was small unlike the other one and it was always darker in there. But, with the excitement of the wedding and at the tender ages of 21 and 20 we were happy. So we took the key.
In retrospect we should have taken the key to our first choice but in those years we felt it would be improper and make our parents nervous. What we should have done in hindsight is to give the key to her Mother so both our parents wouldn’t be concerned about any hanky panky. After all, in those days there weren't any try outs before your wedding.
Given our early experience with our first landlord we learned to be more careful in the future. About six months after we moved to another much nicer location with sunlight, a large kitchen, and happiness. We lived there when our two daughters were born. We got off to a rough start but later purchased our first home and we were the landlords (along with the bank) and happy as two love birds. We had all the space we needed with 4 bedrooms and a finished rec room in a house filled with happiness.
Memories light the corners of my mind…And I hope yours too.
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