Valentine’s Day memories

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petals112“Valentine’s Day was met with the same excitement no matter which grade school you attended. St. Anthony’s, St. Louis, St. Salomea, Pullman, Poe, VV, Scanlon or Gompers — it didn’t matter — the exchanging of Valentine’s cards was always a big deal and for some, a terrifying ordeal.

My guess is that it became less of an ordeal for those who rarely got a Valentine once the nuns/teachers made sure that the kids brought enough cards for each student.

For me, there are only a couple of Valentine’s that I remember.

I recall the time my sister Tootsie and I stopped by Wanda’s Novelty store at 117th Place and Michigan Avenue.

We were on our way to her friend Kathleen Panozzo’s house so they could visit and I could do my Valentine’s cards for school. At Wanda’s, I picked out a pack of 30 cards so that I would definitely have one for each of the 28 students in our classes (and that was a small sized class). While my sister and Kathleen talked and did high school girl stuff, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote my name on those cards — I never did master that cursed cursive writing.

The other Valentine memory of note was in 1960 when St. Louis Academy had Saturday roller-skating in their gym. I’m pretty certain that the floor was tiled in light blue asbestos squares. That was the place to be on Saturdays. I had been there often enough to know some of the kids from St. Louis. I lived on 116th Street down the alley from St. Louis of France Church, which is why I was about the only St. Anthony kid there.

During the intermission, they held the St. Valentine’s Day raffle. I was one of the lucky winners of a small, heart-shaped box of Whitmann’s chocolates. The next song was an all-skate so I confidently went and got one of the St. Louis girls to skate with me. Why wouldn’t she skate with me? After all, I was definitely a winner!

Recently, my friends Suzy Lebron, formerly from 116th Street, and Claire Maurello, formerly from Riverdale, stopped by for a visit to check out Pullman. Suzy volunteered her Valentine story from back when she was 15 and her husband, Oscar ,was 16 and they were going out against her father’s wishes.

At the time, Suzy was just about over her chicken pox but still couldn’t go out, so she wanted Oscar to come over to make cookies. She had to deal with a couple of obstacles, though. First, her father didn’t care too much for anyone dating Suzy, and second, her father had taken down all the kitchen cabinets. He was in the process of staining and varnishing the new cabinets he had put together and had them standing throughout the house in various stages of completion.

Suzy was lucky that her mother was more accommodating of her daughter’s wishes. She allowed Suzy to have Oscar over because Suzy’s father worked the 3 to 11 shift and wouldn’t know if she didn’t tell him — which she didn’t. After cleaning the kitchen from all of her dad’s handiwork, Suzy straightened things as best as possible and Oscar came over. Baking those Valentine’s cookies must have had the desired effect, because eventually Oscar and Suzy were married and now they have three beautiful Valentine gifts of their own: Ariana, Nick and Dan.

In Memoriam

Anthony LaBanca, age 87; husband for 66 years of Ann nee Maglio; retired from Sherwin Williams; CVS High School graduate (1/18/1928 to 12/3/2014) … Dominic Valente, age 80; Homewood resident, formerly of Chicago Heights, Frankfort and Chicago’s Historic Pullman neighborhood/St. Anthony Parish (10/24/1934 to 12/2/2014) … Carmella Ryan, nee Sartori, age 88; longtime deaconal couple with her husband, Edward (2/10/1926 to 11/27/2014) … Joseph Moncada, age 91; husband of the late Juanita, nee Rosas; longtime resident of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood; retired from Sherwin Williams (4/9/1923 to 11/18/2014).

Contact CJ Martello at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628;; or leave message at 773-701-6756; 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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