Last week, I wrote about Wicker Park/Bucktown, where I spent my early childhood. In the late 1950s my father took a job on the far south side. Eventually the commute was too much. Fortunately, a relative was building homes east of Cicero Avenue, near Midway Airport. My parents bought. We moved.
There was culture shock. I went from the urban jungle to a suburb like setting. Except for the noise from the Airport, the area was quiet, staid, and vanilla. There were no quirky characters, no factories and stores, or taverns, on side streets, and few people walking around.
The homes were mostly solidly built brick raised ranches, with a smattering of bungalows, Georgians, and two flats. After World War II builders turned farm land into urban subdivisions.
The area was inhabited by mostly Polish people and other Eastern Europeans. Most were immigrants of white flight from other neighborhoods. They were the generation who worked hard, fought prejudice, achieved middle class status, only to practice prejudice themselves. They moved from Douglas Park, Lawndale, Pilsen, Little Village, and West Town to flee people of color, blacks and Hispanics, who emigrated from other parts of the city. Their last bastion before the suburbs were the southwest and northwest sides.
Instead of streets and alleys to play in we had backyards. As most new kids do, I went looking for people my own age. It did not take long. The sounds of kids playing dominated the area. It was a far cry from the sounds of the inner city.
The area was also dotted by commercial strips, mostly the newly named Pulaski Avenue, Archer Avenue, and 63rd Street. Most of us were enrolled in one of three Catholic schools, which were within walking distance. I wound up at St. Turibius, about a mile from home. We lived right on the border of the parish.
St. Turibius School was established in 1928, one year after St. Turibius Parish was founded. The faculty consisted of two Felician nuns and 87 students. The school was accredited between 1933-1934. At that time enrollment was 169 students. In 1959 a junior high building was opened and it included a library. The nuns had large convent.
The large church parking lot and adjacent streets were used for outdoor recess. Most of us came from hard working families. But, there was some economic diversity. There were children of professionals, wealthy business people, and artists. One pair of twin's father played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
We received a quality education at St. Turibius. After a lifetime of working, living, and associating with various people, I firmly believe the elementary education we received then was better than high school and even some college education today. We were prepared for the next step. Many of us went on to college preparatory schools and flourished.
Yesterday St. Turibius held an open house for prospective students and their parents. I took a trip there and wandered the neighborhood. Not much changed since I left decades ago. The brick homes and two flats were still there, well kept, with trimmed lawns. There was the sound of kids playing in alleys, on sidewalks, and backyards.Lawn was being mowed, cars were being washed, and the area still had a suburban feel. The various small businesses changed with the population. instead of mostly Polish they were now Hispanic.
The school is as I remembered it, right down to the tiles on the floor in the narrow halls. I was not allowed to photograph the interior. I was told they needed permission from the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The image below is a home formerly owned by the Polulach family. They were very wealthy for the times. Their wealth was derived from selling vacant land, especially one parcel to Walgreens in a cash and stock deal. In 1981, widow Dorothy Polulach was murdered in the home. It was a contract killing over the estate of her deceased husband. Ms. Polulach's hands and feet were handcuffed and she was shot to death.
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