Stories abound . . .

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Throughout the 13 years I’ve been writing this column I’ve heard many stories, and the fun part is I don’t have to seek them out! You readers are more than willing to talk about your Roseland days.

At any of the many occasions that bring Roselandites together — whether it’s a gathering sponsored by St. Anthony’s, an event hosted by the Pullman National Monument or a chance encounter at a funeral — all anyone has to do is mention the old neighborhood and the stories begin to flow. Here are some of those stories that I can recall. Feel free to send me any stories that come to mind when you begin to reminisce.

Back in the late 1940s, after the war, some of Pullman’s teenagers would get together after school and hang out at Palmer Park or Arcade Park. Sometimes they would meet up in Arcade Park until they got bored and then walk to Palmer Park.

What fun is a direct walk between parks when you could eat up time by walking through the neighborhood? Or course, walking through the neighborhood offered its own opportunities for good times.

There was an empty lot near 115th and Cottage Grove where a school bus company would park its buses. While walking by these buses someone came up with the idea of getting in the buses. Of course, being teen couples, the buses provided the perfect opportunity for making out — another fun night in Pullman.

St. Anthony’s carnival was the best in Roseland, and always coincided with St. Anthony’s feast day, the second Sunday in June. It was attended by thousands of Roselandites throughout its 10-day run. While the kids got to enjoy the rides and games, the adults got to have beer and oysters and take their chances pulling jar tickets at the prize booths.

One year, on the very last Sunday night of the carnival, a parishioner and his wife were trying their luck at one of the prize booths that still had numerous prizes on its shelves. The man kept buying tickets because of all the prizes and there weren’t many pull tickets left in the jar. He felt he had great odds of winning a number of prizes.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the prize-to-ticket ratio worked. The man spent quite a bit of money buying the remaining tickets in the jar and didn’t win any of the prizes. He raised such a commotion over the unfairness of the situation that Fr. Nalin had to be called over to calm the man down. Fr. Nalin had to return a good deal of the money spent by the man on the tickets in order to restore the man’s faith in St. Anthony’s.

Speaking of carnivals, St. Willibrord’s excellent carnival used to take place at Kensington and Michigan Avenue on the west side of the street. At the last carnival organized by kindly Fr. Exler, the talent show grand prize of a gold wristwatch was won by an Elvis impersonator from Roseland. That was in 1954, when Elvis was becoming the major star of the music world.

A year later, the property became the Roseland Plaza shopping center, with a DeKoven Drugs, the Coffee Pot and the National Food Store among the businesses.

Gately’s was the center of “The Ave” (Michigan Avenue) shopping area. The department store provided many families with everything they needed, including jobs for their teenagers.

One of the unique things about Gately’s was its pneumatic system for sending money and notes between the store’s departments and the offices on the upper floor. You put whatever you wanted to sen into a cylinder, closed the top, inserted it into the tube and pressed a button to send it to the offices.

One day, one of the high school girls who worked at Gately’s was being visited by her boyfriend. While she was busy, he thought it would be great fun trap the end of the package wrapping string in a cylinder, insert it into the pneumatic tube and send it to the offices. Let’s just say the laughter that ensued was not shared by the girlfriend!

Back in the 1940s, there was a pop bottling company on Prairie Avenue just south of 115th Street, where St. Anthony’s new convent was built in the 1950s. While it was still around, the company unwittingly offered a group of Kensington teenagers a unique way to make a little extra money.

There was a fence around the back of the property, where the company stored their returned pop bottles for sterilization and reuse. When no one was looking, the enterprising teens would climb over the fence and, working as a team, take as many pop bottles they could from the storage area and hoist them over the fence.

Once that part of the mission was accomplished, they would regroup and return the bottles to the company as if they had just spent their day looking for empties throughout the neighborhood.

American Sale has become the place to go to meet your recreational furnishing and holiday decorating needs. Interestingly, the company began as a Christmas specialty store located just off the Ave on 112th Place. It did so well that the owner decided to open a full-time store. They now have numerous locations throughout the Chicago area.

The annual May Crowning of the Blessed Mother at St. Anthony’s was something we looked forward to as students because it meant the end of the school year was a couple of weeks away. However, it meant a lot more to the eighth-grade girls than the boys knew! There was an unspoken rivalry among the girls to see who the nuns would select to do the actual crowning.

If anyone can add to these stories with personal experiences of your own, or if you have tales on different topics, please send them along. I hope to combine these recollections into a memorable and nostalgic look back at our shared experience of growing up in the neighborhoods of Roseland, Pullman and Kensington.

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or; or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.


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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