A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Beset by never-ending winter’s woes
Plans thought of, yet once again discarded askance
Alas, perchance I come upon hope
To plan with permanence

After suffering through a long drab winter, enduring an April and May that was more winter than spring, and playing catch-up through the month of June, we’ve finally arrived at midsummer. Though our summer may lack the drama of one of Shakespeare’s plays, it’s time for us to stake a claim and make this season our own.

Let’s take a trip back to earlier summers in Roseland where “The Ave” (Michigan Avenue) was the center of our world. I’ve seen some photos that show July 4th celebrations taking place on the Ave from the 1940s. I’ve seen photos from the 1950s and 1960s when the Ave was decorated not just in celebration of the July 4th holiday but for the July 4th Sidewalk Sale.

Those sidewalk sales meant a lot of fun for all the kids and bargains for everyone. All the merchants would dig through their stock rooms, pull out all the merchandise they couldn’t sell throughout the year, and place it on tables in front of their stores.

After having been out circulation due to my two-year stint in the military, I needed to get some new civilian clothes. Those were the days when your taste in clothes and music were what counted.

I remember a pair of paisley bellbottoms that I thought were the best ever. It was 1969 and bellbottoms were the in style. They were a light beige with yellow paisley swirls and they looked really cool — for the 1960s. I wish I knew where the picture was of me in them standing mext to my future wife, Marilyn Chao.

I found them on a table at J.C. Penney’s on the Ave at 113th Place. I couldn’t pass them up at just $5 a pair. In retrospect, the low price should have given me a clue. I believe I wore those pants exactly one time and that was when we took the photo.

Everyone who lived in Roseland made it a point to hit the Ave during those July 4th Sidewalk Sales. I’d guess that everyone has a memory, or maybe even the merchandise from those sidewalk bargains. All the stores had bargains that made those memories and one of the stores that I recall is All American Sales. The store has grown and multiplied but still has bargain sales to this day.

As we all know, none of the stores could compete with the variety of merchandise and deals that Gately’s Peoples Store offered. Gately’s was second only to the downtown stores. Throughout the 10 years of writing this column, I’ve talked with people who lived in Roseland’s nearby communities and suburbs and every one of them recalls their parents taking them to Gately’s for their shopping needs.

Being the largest business on the Ave, Gately’s always had sale items in the center aisle of the store. As soon as you walked in, you became tuned in to buying. Old man Gately was a shrewd marketer and the center aisle sales tables were a really great marketing idea.

The week of the Fourth of July may have been about sales for the adults but for the kids, it was all about the parade. There were floats and clowns and plenty of people marching and walking. The fun part was catching or picking up the candy that was thrown from the floats. No one cared what it was, it was just a matter of getting free candy.

Being a soldier of the 1960s let me say that there wasn’t much celebrating of our military during those years. The Fourth of July celebrations were strictly a celebration of our independence from England. However, the times have changed and people’s thinking along with it.

Military service has become respected, losses due to wounds or death honored, and a realization that it is not war that we honor but our warriors. This July 4, we should celebrate not only our country’s independence, but the lives that were sacrificed so that we can have the memories we now cherish.

As we gear up for our Fourth of July celebrations, don’t forget to mark your calendar for the 10th Annual Pullman Family Reunion Picnic on Aug. XX. There will be food and drink available for purchase as well as live music. You can also take part in raffles and games and walk around Arcade Park searching for your friends from the days of your youth. Memories are what we cling to and you can find friends to join you as you cling to those memories.

One more thing! In May, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America honored me by presenting me with the Leonardo da Vinci Award for Excellence in Journalism. The award honored my efforts over the past 10 years to keep alive the spirit of our Italian American heritage.

I was extremely honored to be among the recipients of this distinguished award. I would like to thank all of my readers for supporting my efforts in maintaining the Petals from Roseland, which was begun many years ago by Mario Avignone and has been my mission for the last 10 years.

In honor of this being my 10th year as the Petals from Roseland column, I plan on completing a compilation of the “The Best of Ten Years of Petals from Roseland by CJ Martello.” I’ll keep everyone posted on the status of this planned publication.

Okay, another thing! Also in May, the IA-Literati conference took place at Casa Italia. Sponsored by the Casa Italia Roselli Library and chaired by Dominic Candeloro and Dr. Anna Weiss, the event was a success.

There were 14 presenters with books ranging from cuisine to family history to poetry. Each author was able to explain and highlight the importance of their work.

If you are an Italian-American author or would like to be one, you should review the Casa Italia Facebook page often for updated information. You can bet I’ll be a presenter at next year’s 15th Annual IA-Literati with my book “The Best of Ten Years of Petals from Roseland by CJ Martello.”

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or cjfranoi@yahoo.com; 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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One comment

  1. Lois Dal Santo Harring

    Congratulations, CJ, on receiving the “Leonardo da Vinci Award for Excellence in Journalism”! Thank you for helping to keep our Italian American heritage alive!
    Lois Dal Santo Harring

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