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


Opening Day for the White Sox…

Well, it’s finally here: Opening Day for the White Sox, although it’s on the road in Texas. It’s always wonderful to reach this day because I love baseball season and the game itself, and it signals the beginning of another spring and summer filled with hope, fun, and disappointment–mostly disappointment. Whatever the feeling, though, it’s baseball time once more!

I watched the whole game today as the Sox took on the Rangers, last year’s American League representatives in the World Series, and I wasn’t too upset even though the Sox lost, 3-2. Lots of changes have taken place, but it’s still the White Sox and I can root for no other. My allegiance goes back to the late 1950s, so I’ve been down many a road with many a White Sox team that promised, yet didn’t really deliver. Regardless, I hung with them all the same.

Converesely, there’s that lovable loser ball club on the north side that has, for whatever reason, endeared itself to a great majority of followers, content to faun over them ad infintitum. I still know not what their infernal attraction is, but I can never follow them, nor do I have any interest in their success as each season winds along. For me, it’s always been the White Sox–through the good and the bad.

According to most “experts” in the Chicago media, there’s really no reason whatsoever to put any faith in the White Sox this year. According to them, the Sox are sure to  be total losers and quite distant from any kind of challenge to winning their division, not worth much at all. However,  I can’t agree, being a Sox fan and having witnessed other minor miracles through the years. True, this year’s team doesn’t have a Dick Allen or Bill Melton, a Wilbur Wood or a Terry Forster. They don’t even have the Big White Machine to fire up and explode around the ballpark between games of a doubleheader (remember those?).  The many moments at Old Comiskey continue to echo about in one’s memory, and will be forever etched in the minds of all of us who had the pleasure (?) of being there for them.

The current White Sox? We shall see exactly what they do have! All I know is…it’s baseball time again. Time for Ed Farmer and Darren Jackson to keep me company all summer on my little black radio up there in Michigan as I sip another cold one on the porch late into a Michigan night or make my way around the lake on my pontoon. It’s all good! Go, go, go, White Sox…

An Old Friend…

My current writing project is a collection of short stories and memoirs–many started and put aside years ago; some currently “under construction.” One idea that continues to bounce around in my head has to do with my many years spent building and living memories at Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox! As I fired up the MacBook earlier today, I began a “research journey” of things related to the park, surrounding spots, and people and events I enjoyed in person or through radio/TV broadcasts. My earliest memory of actually visiting Comiskey Park is somewhere in the late 50s. But it was the late-60s thru the 80s that hold the most memories, for better or worse.

I often wonder whatever happened to those fellow fans I’d wind up sitting beside out there in the left-field grandstands or center field bleachers, on hot summer days, drinking Meister Brau, Falstaff, or Budweiser. We were all in our early-20s and never really knew each other by names. In fact, very seldom did I ever see any of the same people more than one time. But there was always an undefined camaraderie, a mutual desire for White Sox success, flowing out there amongst us. And the later the game became, and the more beer we consumed, the greater that camaraderie was! It was, to say the very least, wonderful being home from college in the early 70s, spending summers at Comiskey Park so often and rooting for a team that was forever short-handed, seemingly short-changed, and always short on real talent! But there was nothing better than being one of those few fans who showed up for games–usually well before the starting time so we could take in batting practice basking in the cool atmosphere of old Comiskey! 

As I write this, and I really have nary a clue as to how I got onto this less than a week before Christmas, I think about so many things that take me back to those days and nights at 35th and Shields, along the Dan Ryan. Perhaps I’m somehow hoping someone will gift me with a Wayback Machine, allowing me to once again visit my dear, old friend. 

I can dream, can’t I? Down that road I go…MLA