Spring break all those years ago…

Every year about this time…

Iimages-1.jpegt’s officially spring, according to the calendar, even though it’s still not very warm yet. However, local forecasts say that we’re supposed to enjoy temperatures near 60° today, but they could have fooled me. I’ll believe it when I feel it!

Anyway, it’s that time of the year when the mass exodus to parts warm and sunny begins in earnest for folks in the northern climes. It’s called spring break. And though we just returned from our own wonderful sojourn to warm and sunny Florida and Texas, I can’t help but think about all of those other spring breaks to Florida we enjoyed for so many years during my teaching career.

And we definitely had the spring break ritual down pat as we prepared to get on down to Florida, year after year. It was always the same: Carolyn, our two kids, and dog(s), would be waiting in my school’s parking lot at 3:00 on the final Friday before spring break.

As soon as the last bell would sound, I would hurry out of school, hop in behind the wheel of our waiting van, and start out on our twenty-four hour drive—straight through—down to Stuart, and later Sarasota, Florida, where Carolyn’s mom and dad resided.

We were young then and were never daunted by the wear and tear that a straight-through drive like that inflicts on a person! That was always part of the adventure, I thought.

Furthermore, trying to leave Chicagoland at 3:00 on the Friday at the start of spring break was (and still is, I would imagine!) basically insane. It was always a slow crawl as we edged along, reaching the tollway to connect to I-65 and points south.

Of course, it seemed as though everyone else under the sun was doing the same thing. And if there were other factors, such as construction issues or ridiculous drivers, our pace was slowed even more.

Regardless, there was always a  sort of festive atmosphere amongst the passengers in our 2190748.jpgFord Econoline all those years ago, and we knew that every turn of the tires took us that much closer to our sunny southern destination and a week’s worth of fun and sun.

Writing this now from our small town in northern Illinois, I feel a million miles away from those exciting days when spring break rolled around. If nothing else, it was an annual family adventure, laden with laughter, nonsense, and togetherness.

Perhaps thinking such thoughts this morning is another little sign that I’m realizing my status as a senior citizen (how can that be, really?). And, I suppose, there’s that inevitable stream of nostalgia that tends to creep in to my daily life more and more frequently.

Both kids grew up, married, have lives of their own now. We see them—never as often as I’d like—but that’s how it goes in this wonderful pageant that is life. Carolyn’s mom and dad had to give up their Florida place several years ago due to failing health. They’re both gone now, and it never seems quite right being in Florida without their presence. And it can truly be said that they made spring breaks a wonderful thing for us—for so many years!

And maybe that’s why each year about this time, recalling those many spring break adventures, and the long, long drives involved, is so special. If it were possible, I would love to be eagerly anticipating 3:00 this coming Friday in my old school’s parking lot. Alas, I’ll have to settle for the rembrances of another time.

Happy spring break, lucky ones…daytonabeach.png


Summer Jobs: 1969 Memories

June…1969…One year at Kent State under my belt! Nineteen and full of vim and vigor, ready to have a wonderful summer back home in LaGrange, Illinois (soon to be nearby Western Springs as my parents moved).

As I wrote in an earlier post, summers during my college years (1968-73) were spent working various jobs and experiencing many interesting people and events. They were fun summers, to say the very least, and I also made some pretty good money during those summer months.

Summer ’69 found me hooking up with a construction company—Hardin’s in River Forest, Illinois. As had happened the previous summer, and would for the next few summers, I attained these jobs thanks to my dad and the various contacts he had at his place of employment—Hunt-Wesson Foods in Chicago.

So for the hot summer months in ’69, I worked with a guy named Ed Ivy and two or three Mexican fellows repairing curbs and sidewalks in and around the Oak Park/River Forest area. I became somewhat proficient using a pick and shovel to clear away old concrete and rubble and helping to frame out where the new concrete was to be poured. It was good physical work, and I enjoyed being a part of the crew. I wouldn’t want any part of that now, but in 1969, I was young and happy to do it.

A few weeks into the summer, I received a call from a person my age, the son of one of my mom’s friends. He played on a semi-pro baseball team on Sundays. Mom had casually mentioned to his mom one time that I was a baseball fan and would love to get back into playing the game. Thus, I received a phone call shortly thereafter with an invitation to come on out to their next game and to bring my glove and shoes and any other equipment I possessed since they needed a few more players. The manager, Hank, was able to scrounge up some pants and a jersey that fit, and, just like that, I was a member of the team. I didn’t even have to try out, so I was certain they were quite desperate for bodies to fill out their roster!

My baseball playing “career” resurrected, I spent many Sundays at Bedford Park as part of the team and meeting more friends and partaking of the wonderful post-game parties back at the manager’s house. We weren’t very good—losing most of the double-headers each Sunday—but we were very good at those parties!

What songs stick out that summer? Lay Lady Lay, In the Year 2525, Get Together, and Make it With You by David Gates and Bread evoke many a memory all these years later. Even the release of Rubber Ducky by Ernie from Sesame Street (I kid you not!) bangs around in the old memory bank from some after-game parties!

Of course it was the summer of Woodstock, but since I had no interest in that scene at all (dope, hippiedom, acid rock, etc.) it basically came and went without me being aware of it happening! Though once I returned to school in the fall, I would hear all about it—ad nauseam!

Besides my construction job and baseball playing and parties on Sundays, I also found myself one or two times a week at Comiskey Park, when the White Sox were home. To put it simply, 1969 was an atrocious year record-wise for the Sox. Consequently, their attendance was something less than visible! Often, I had the run of the place it seemed, and I always had a good time out there. I actually was able to purchase beer there, even though I was only nineteen. As I do to this day, I hung on every pitch, hit, error, home run, strike out, win, or loss. It was a terrible season for the White Sox, but I still stuck with ‘em, as bad as they were. (Perhaps it was the beer…) I suppose it’s what they call “bad fun” these days. Whatever, the White Sox were (and are) a vital part of my summers. (A topic for a future post)

Looking back, I now realize how fast the summers fled, and 1969 was certainly no exception. Before I knew it, I was preparing to head back to Kent State for my second year, one that would bring me face-to-face with many more interesting people, places, and historic events.

The fall of ’69 would turn into the spring of ’70, and most people know why that is significant at Kent State. As a nineteen year old, I could never know what lay ahead as I worked and played and laughed and sang that summer of 1969. Many things would take place in the fall that was to come and the spring that changed the course of the way things were at Kent State. Regardless, I enjoyed my summer months at home in Illinois thoroughly….CortlandWriter


Summer Jobs, Summer Memories

For some reason, while I was enjoying my morning coffee on the porch and watching the lake begin to come to life the other day, I flashed back to all of the summer jobs I’d had down through the years and tried to categorize them within the correct time frame of my life. They were critical points in my summers (1968-1972) after high school and through my Kent State years, and I found it rather enjoyable taking a nostalgic memory trip back to the experiences, people, and places provided each summer. Today’s post will focus on that wonderful summer of 1968, when I was just eighteen, and the world was my oyster (whatever that really means!).

After graduating from high school in Ohio in June of 1968, I moved to Chicago where my dad had been working at Hunt-Wesson Foods for a couple of years. Mom and my younger sister would come along later in the summer once we found a place to live. As would be the case for the next few summers, my dad was able to land me a job at “the plant” where he worked.

My initial job that summer was in the Quality Control lab where I was surrounded by all kinds of scientific instruments and other gadgets and doo-dads that I had nothing to do with, other than to wash the zillions of test tubes, beakers, and various other lab paraphernalia. I spent many an hour standing at the sink and steam table/washer and basking in the humidity of it all! All I can say is the pay was good and the work was not back-breaking.

As luck would have it, my “career” as Bottle Washer was short lived. A week or so into my “washer” job, an opening down in the Shipping Department had cropped up, and I jumped at the chance to make the change, even though I knew nothing about shipping, receiving, bills of lading, or other such things. But I would learn as that summer played out. I moved down into the bowels of “the plant,” and hooked up with a kindly old gent named John White. He was new to the job himself, so it was a case of each of us figuring things out as we went. He and I got along well, despite our vast age difference. We didn’t screw up too many times, and it was a fun job for the rest of that first summer in Chicago.

Interesting characters came and went—truckers mostly—and I will never forget much of the colorful language they’d throw about as they made a pick-up or delivery. Many enjoyed teasing me and calling me “College Boy” and giving me a rough time because I liked the Sox instead of the Cubs. They were good guys, and I wonder how many of them are still alive today. Despite the fact that my formal college education would begin in September, the stuff I gleaned that summer was just as important, I realize now in retrospect.

For anyone who is old enough surely remembers what a chaotic summer 1968 was. Beginning with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy shortly before I moved to Chicago, the turmoil was constant. The Viet Nam “conflict” was raging and escalating and becoming more and more unpopular every day. There appeared to be no easy way out.  President Lyndon Johnson and the other politicians managed to mangle things at every turn.

Summer ’68 in Chicago was also the venue for the Democratic National Convention, the one that has come down through time as the one where the cops are battling the long-hairs and “anarchists” out there in Grant Park and its streets and avenues. It’s the one where the protests and “anti-everything” America took form, the same theme I’d hear time and again while a student at Kent State. It’s the one that would offer up Hubert Humphrey, a good man, to run against Richard Nixon in November. We know how that all turned out!

I still remember feeling so far from home, a stranger in a strange place, and fighting, daily, that gnawing homesickness and heart-broken misery as I yearned for the love of my life back in Ohio. I couldn’t wait for Friday afternoons to roll around, so I could get in the car and on the highway that would take me out of Chicago, across Indiana, and back to Ohio.

The soundtrack of that summer was highlighted by Stoned Soul Picnic, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Grazing in the Grass, and José Feliciano’s Light My Fire among many others. And Journey to the Center of the Mind by Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes still echoes around in the old memory vault, recalling those many late-night drives in our Corvair back to Ohio.

It’s not always easy trying to remember things that occurred so very long ago. But, then again, there are places and moments that are vivid and real and fresh all over again. It’s good to think and remember and realize just how important the summers of my life have always been and the role they have played in my life and of those whom I love.

Summer ’68 was a starting point for the rest of my life. At the time, I never realized the twisting and winding course my life would take. Next…summer of 1969CortlandWriter