RIVERVIEW - Written by CJ Martello
When I was eleven years old, my family took the CTA bus all the way to Riverview Amusement Park at Belmont and Western from 115th Street south and Michigan Avenue. The reason we were at Riverview was because of the Chicago Police Department. No, it wasn't "Policemen's Day" or "Free Tickets from the Police to Get Kids Off the Street Day." My thirteen year-old brother had impressed some eleven year olds by slashing the neighbor's daughter's above-ground swimming pool with a machete while her dad happened to look out the kitchen window.
As a result, the police social worker told my father he needed to do things with us kids because we were bored. Also, we were the last two of a dozen kids, and times had changed since the others had grown up.
We had a great time at Riverview on a day that can best be described as one of those beautiful Sunday afternoons that Chicagoans thrive on. We were milling around with about twenty or so other people waiting for the bus. As usual, back in the 50s, when the bus pulled up, everyone lined up to get on-nice and orderly like.
My mom led our group into the line and as we waited our turn, we could see an older white woman, probably about thirty-five (Hey! I was eleven!), about six people ahead of us.
As we patiently waited our turn to board the bus, the woman grabbed the shoulder of a young "colored" boy about my age and pushed him out of the line. "You don't get on the bus before we do!" she yelled at him, as she moved ahead to board the bus.
The young boy stood off to the side as everyone else boarded the bus, until it was my mom's turn. My mother stepped out of line and took the boy by his shoulder. In her Italian-flavored English she told him, "You get on before us." The bewildered boy did as he was told.
When we boarded the bus with the boy first, my mother walked close behind him. She stopped at the seat next to the woman who had forced him out of line and glared at her with one of those challenging glares that only people in the right have the magnificent, righteous, wherewithal to give. The challenge was not returned.
This was in the 1950s and I was a lot older before I realized how cool my parents were. So what does Riverview represent to me? Fun and Freaks and The Parachute and Chute-the-Chutes-certainly. It also represents the fact that borders are created. A[re] created and that boundaries are challenges. It represents the finest in spirit and the truth that life is lived within the borders and boundaries we wish to build, maintain, defend, or transcend.