In the past year or so, I’ve been telling people that I’ve been writing Petals From Roseland for 12 years. Now that September has rolled around, marking the first month I took over from Mario Avignone, I stopped to do the math and realized that I’ve actually been writing the column for 14 years! It was September of 2008 when I was first introduced as the author of Petals from Roseland.
I personally paid my thanks to Mario by visiting him in the Manteno Veterans’ home a few times. I also attended the premiere presentation at Casa Italia, along with Mario’s family, of the film “5000 Miles from Home,” which featured Mario and other local Italian-American World War II veterans. The last time I saw Mario, I gave him a ride back to Manteno from Panozzo Brothers, taking advantage of the opportunity to thank him at length for the great job he did writing the column for all those years and telling him I hoped to continue in the same way,
Throughout the years, I’ve written a total of 168 columns and covered a variety of topics including various individuals, organizations, events, and a whole host of memorable topics. Those topics have covered everything from Kensington, Pullman, and Roseland style dining, ciopette and grustoli, to parades, little league, movie houses, Pullman picnics, and schools and athletic clubs.
The community of Roseland had it all and each neighborhood, be it Pullman, Kensington, Rosemoor, West Pullman, Gano, Stewart Ridge, or Sheldon Heights had its schools and playlots and parks, each creating a personalized world of memories. Through the years I’ve been kept abreast of many of those memories by those willing to share their stories.
I would say that the stories most relished by those who shared them, are stories about Michigan Avenue, “The Ave,” and include everything from meeting a first love while working at Gately’s to hanging out after school at a snack shop or coffee shop. The holiday parades were another big event to recall which, I guess, would include the opening of Roseland Little League season with a parade all the way to 125thStreet from 110th and Michigan. Christmas decorations with the Santa Parade sponsored by the local merchants was always looked forward to.
One of the best events on “The Ave” was always the July 4th Sidewalk Sale. It was always a three-day event that gave the merchants a chance to get rid of all of the hard to sale stuff they accumulated throughout the year in anticipation. Bargains galore that may have included a pair or two of bell-bottom paisley mustard-yellow pants, which my girlfriend and I wore exactly twice before deciding they were just too far out!
The organizations we remember from Roseland have been another source of stories even though many of them no longer exist. The Spaghetti-O’s is the most recent group to come to an end and brought together many Roselandites that fondly recalled the days spent in other groups. The Roseland Operetta Club was always well-represented at the monthly Spaghetti-O’s along with members of many bowling leagues and athletic clubs, not to mention Palmer Park or West Pullman Park teams. The monthly Spaghetti-O’s meetings were always held at Lorenzetti’s in Chicago Heights which moved from just down the hill on 111th to eventually end up in Chicago Heights. Those in the know, don’t need any explanation for “down the hill” but, for the uninformed, that was anywhere east of Michigan Avenue.
Schools, their playgrounds, and their sports teams have always been a good source of stories. At one time both Fenger and Mendel high schools were respective league leaders. If ever there was a reason to bring out old newspaper clippings, high school sports discussions would be it. After World War II the camaraderie of spending years together in battle was continued by battling on baseball fields at Chicago Parks.
So, as you can see, although I’ve written 168 columns over the past 14 years, there are still more stories out there that I am willing to write if you readers are willing to share them with me. I am ready to spend time talking about a memory that interests you and that I could write up and share with others. Most of my stories came about simply from paying attention and asking a couple of questions.
For instance, my articles on the “Great Ciope Hunt;” Someone would always bring up the topic of ciopette by mentioning getting hot, freshly baked ciope from Torino/Gonnella. I talked up the topic and someone contacted me about the Piemonte Bakery that had been in Rockford until a few years ago. It turned out that our Kensington ciope source was originally a “branch” of the Rockford bakery. I would never have found that out had someone not decided to share their story with me.
Another source of topics has been copies of the Calumet Index and South End Reporter that people have shared with me. A number of those papers were dedicated to specific topics and listed names and addresses of people in photographs. The ads in these papers have also become a great resource recalling memories of places we all shopped at and some of us worked at.
Although I’ve listed so many resources I’ve used throughout the 14 years I’ve been writing this column, the best source has always been the people who have been willing to share their stories whether in person or in writing. As a writer it is my job to edit or correct any stories shared with me so that the one who partners with me by sharing their story looks good. Come to think of it, that’s the same line of thinking when I’m dancing: my job is to make my partner look good and it is the same when someone partners with me in sharing a story for all to remember.
Here’s to hoping you’ll share many more stories with me so that I can continue to share stories and memories with all the readers of Petals from Roseland. Thank you for a great 14 years!
Love the column? Buy the book! Copies of “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available from me with prompt delivery at $20 + $5 s&h. My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights, at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago and at Miles Books, 2819 Jewett Ave., Highland, IN.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756.