Moving forward, looking back

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Another year has gone by and we’ve got a lot to reflect on. One reason we reflect is to honor those who have passed and to create a path for the new year. We also want to consider all the plans we made last year and couldn’t bring to fruition for one reason or another. Now is the time to prioritize those plans and add to them to give us important things to attend to throughout 2024.

Of course, that’s easier said than done! It seems the older I get, the more I feel like my get up and go, has got up and went. Fortunately, as a retiree, deadlines only exist when I decide they do.

When it comes to Pullman, this should be the year for progress made on several projects that we’ve been waiting on. The Veterans Roaster and Brewery and the 101-room Marriott Hotel should be scheduling their groundbreaking events for the first half of 2024 since they’ve skipped 2023. The two businesses will be located just west of the plaza where Lexington Betty Smokehouse, Blue Door Neighborhood C, Wingstop, Potbelly’s and Culver’s are located. They will be occupying the empty lots leading up to the Pullman National Historical Monument. Allo of that is located across the street from the Pullman Club Coffee on 111th and St. Lawrence (which is in the former Sessions Restaurant building). This new coffee shop is part of the Pullman House Project and is well-worth stopping by for a cup of coffee and to see some genuine Pullman restoration.

I can report that the 50th Annual Pullman House Tour was among the most successful ever! I did my part by volunteering at one of the houses on the tour on St. Lawrence Avenue. It turned out to be a unique experience and very different from any of the previous years I’ve volunteered. The house was previously owned by an uncle in the Pullman Gbur family. The man is part of Pullman lore due to his being a bit of a hoarder. Pullmanites were fond of him. One of the neighborhood sayings was: “If you need anything from the 1940s check with John, but make sure to give him a little time to look for it.”

The house has been purchased by a Pullman couple who were looking for a space for the artist husband to use as an gallery and studio. With the house tour coming up, they decided to gear up to take part. Visitors to the house enjoyed the art and the artist. One of the best things the artist did was to leave one of his “works in progress” on an easel. Visitors loved seeing his technique and the range of his works.

When I tell folks where I live, I always give them a certain look when they say “Pullman? Really?” that usually gets them to say, “Oh, I haven’t been back to Pullman in at least 20 years.” Pullman has been transformed by its designation as a preservation community. We have also added loads of new businesses but the real attraction for new residents is our designation as the Pullman Historical National Monument.

Thankfully Pullman house values have risen but not so much that our taxes have skyrocketed. Quite a few of the new homeowners in Pullman have come from the North Side or suburbs because of the great value that can be found in a Pullman house. This is how Pullman builds stability as a safe place to call home within a caring community. I find it interesting to note that I’ve personally heard from several of the new residents that they will never get back the money they’ve invested into their homes. They’re fine with that! Why? They never plan on leaving Pullman!

Cyd DeNardi Maravalo, who grew up in Pullman, put together a reunion for her Fenger Class of 1959. Cyd opened it up to all Fenger graduates because it’s so difficult to plan anything since COVID. Cyd and her fellow Titans had a great time reminiscing about the good old days, when they got the full benefit of growing up in the Roseland community. The reunion was held at Barraco’s on Harlem (formerly Traverso’s), which is well-known for its lunch buffet, great food, Italian deli and summertime patio.

I was fortunate to have been invited to attend and, as a thank you, I brought along some Roseland memorabilia, including Fenger yearbooks, Calumet Index Annuals and a Greater Roseland Area Directory (August 1971-72). Since the Fenger class of 1959 grew up in Roseland during the 1940s, I also brought along “The Greater Roseland Advertising Guide,” which lists all the businesses on Michigan Avenue in Roseland. One of the more unique features was that the printing company expected Roseland residents to turn in these books annually to receive the current year’s book.

As I reflected on my early years, I’ve often thought about my friends and classmates from St. Anthony’s grade school. I recall going to my friend John Cortese’s house across from Scanlan School to do homework and have a risotto dinner with his family. I often drive down Front Street and pass by the former home of my classmate Cynthia Langlois. Every time I do, I’m reminded of her parents pulling up next to the St. Anthony playground on Kensington Avenue during recess. It stands out because they had been hunting and had their trophy tied to the front fender: a dead deer! Another of my memories is of my buddy Andrew Galvan and I doing homework. I know I needed help and, being the youngest in my family of first-generation Italian Americans, my brothers and sisters were busy doing their own thing.

Since I started high school by attending Sacred Heart Seminary, I never knew what happened to Andrew or my other St. Anthony classmates, In the middle of my sophomore year, I left the seminary and became a student at St. Willibrord, where I did see some of them. However, I never saw my buddy Andrew and often wondered what his life was like.

Back in November, a fellow member of the Veneti Nel Mondo passed away and it happened to be Andrew’s sister Teresa Galvan. Good old Panozzo Brothers Funeral Home came through once again. I made it a point to seek out Andy. He looked at me and said “I know you! Who are you?”

We walked outside to the patio and tried to cover more than 60 years of life and living. It turned out we had both been in Vietnam in 1967. He was with the infantry in the south and I was with the artillery in the north of Vietnam. He’s retired and now lives in Las Vegas with his wife and I’m single and back in Pullman. Andrew grew up in Pullman, so I told him all about the exciting things that have happened since he hasn’t been back to Pullman for many, many years. After 20 minutes, just when we were getting going, his wife came out and got him as other people were looking for him.

Later, I introduced myself to his wife, Donna, and their two daughters. They were staying with their daughter in Baltimore and were leaving after his sister’s services the next day. I implored them to take a quick visit to the Pullman National Historical Park and to take a drive through Pullman. Andrew asked the same question that many people ask, “Pullman has changed, hasn’t it?” The answer is always “No, and it’s gotten more preservation-oriented, guaranteeing that it doesn’t change.”

I asked Andrew’s wife Donna where they met and she gave me the best possible answer: “On the Ave! He was cruising the Ave (Michigan Avenue, as was done in the ‘60s) and he beeped at me.” She saw him two more times that evening and then came the first date that never stopped. A real Roseland “Cruising the Ave” story. What else could I do to end our reminiscing visit but give them a copy of my book “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman, and Kensington Neighborhoods.” Donna said she’d definitely be reading it on the airplane.

“Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” has sold more than 900 copies since it became available a year ago. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have provided so many fond memories of the Roseland we all grew up in. I have some copies of the book available if anyone is interested in sharing or revisiting their life in Roseland. Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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2 comments

  1. Ernest Dalle Molle

    Thanks CJ for a great article and your remembering of those you grew up with and the activities that tied you together. I love how you caught up with your friend Andrew, especially how he and his wife met—cruising the Ave! Now that brings back some personal memories.

    Also, thanks for words on Vietnam from “War Stories”. Blessings upon you!

  2. Great journalism and writing, CJ. It gives you a great sense of what it was like to live in Roseland “in the old days,” and in our days. Bravo!

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