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A never-ending love story

Ann and Frank Mutnansky and the parlor organ Frank refinished by hand.

 

You might think that I’ve covered all the Roseland bases after writing this column for 12 years. Not so! So many people have such a deep love for Roseland that it’s become a never-ending love story. I’ve been busy lately, what with selling my book, delivering local copies, and, as always, keeping an open ear for all things Roseland.

As a result, I’ve found three more groups of Roselandites that regularly meet to share a meal and reminisce. I’ve attended a number of those casual meet-ups,  interviewed a 94-year-old mother of seven from Roseland, received more Roseland memorabilia for future display and posted more photos of that memorabilia. I’ve also given tours of Pullman to groups of visitors and served as a receptionist and information specialist on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pullman Historic Visitor’s Center receptionist.

I’ve been on the altar at St. Anthony’s for the 8:30 a.m. mass on Sunday for years, where I do the Second Reading in Italian. That privileged position places me with my friend Jack Rossi, who serves as the head altar assistant at that mass. Jack informed me of a group of St. Willibrord High School grads from the mid-1950s who have been gathering with their spouses at the Bourbon Street Restaurant for years.

Jack reminded me two Sundays in a row to attend the March meet-up. He built it up to a high level of anticipation and I was not disappointed. It wasn’t in the least a “senior organ recital,” which so often occurs at similar events. There was hardly any mention of “my back hurts” or “I’ve got a doctor’s appointment” or “my leg is bothering me.”

Current events were the start-up topics and once the conversation got warmed up, the reminiscing began. There were so many great stories, such as the ones about attending weddings as uninvited guests at Stanczyk Hall on 115th Street. A couple of the guys mentioned being found out while crashing weddings and being allowed to stay because of their moxie.

Then the conversation turned to shopping on “The Ave” (Michigan Avenue) and the jobs that the Roseland stores and businesses provided. It seemed that everyone worked at Gately’s, Kresge’s Sherwin Williams or the Calumet Shops at one time or another. They also talked about playing ball at Palmer Park and Gately’s Stadium as well as bowling with St. Anthony’s Holy Name League at the Rose Bowl along with the Saint Anthony’s Young People’s Association (SAYPA) dances.

Since St. Willibrord never had a gym, all athletic activities and events took place at Eiché Turner Hall on 115th and Indiana. The building stood empty for many years and was finally torn down about six years ago. Many years ago, a new Eiché Turner Club was opened in Tinley Park, but it was eventually sold due to dwindling membership. Many of you may recall the framed butterfly collections that lined the halls of Eiché Turner. Most of those were donated to the Field Museum, and a few of them were at the Tinley Park location until it was torn down.

All of these St. Willy’s grads enjoyed good careers, long marriages, and even longer friendships that they maintain to this day. Their spouses also benefit from the group’s closeness because they’ve all become friends over the years. They can be found at 11:30 a.m. on the first Monday of each month at Bourbon Street on 115th and Kedzie. By the way, I had a Swiss mushroom burger that was very delicious, as were all the lunches enjoyed by the other attendees.

The second group meetings on the third Thursday of the month at the 5th Quarter Restaurant at 181st and Dixie Highway in Homewood, and the third group follows up their golf game on Wednesday at Lincoln Oaks Golf Club with dinner and drinks. Both groups have been getting together for many years. If you have any interest in attending, please let me know.

There was a very nice young lady who attended St. Willibrord’s with me in the early 1960s named Janyce Mutnansky, and I was totally surprised to receive a call from her 94-year-old mother! She didn’t immediately tell me she was Janyce’ mother, but that fact was revealed during our conversation. Ann Mutnansky called me to ask if I was interested in visiting her to pick up some Roseland memorabilia at her home, which was about 25 minutes away. I was there within the hour.

What a grand lady to have a three-hour visit with! Her age isn’t holding her back, it’s just altered her pace a little. We sat at her kitchen table, which her late husband Frank made in his spare time. It is a beautiful dining set with built-in leaves and solid wood chairs. She also showed me a beautiful organ her husband received from a relative.

Frank refinished the organ and he and Ann ordered and picked up the necessary parts to complete it. Ann even played the organ a number of times, and it now sits in a place of honor just inside the door so you can’t miss it. Frank was retired for 36 years and became a professional woodworker. There are more several wooden freight trains on display in plexi-glass cases throughout the house.

The walls are lined with photos of the many happy occasions her family of seven children shared throughout the years. When I asked Ann to show me her wedding photo, she took me to the “headquarters” where she spends much of her time. She pointed to one photo among the many on the wall of a 19-year-old Ann and her handsome 21-year-old sailor, Frank.

Frank’s mother wouldn’t sign for Frank to get married in the Catholic Church until he came home from the service, but then she refused to sign again when he did come home. When I asked Ann where they got married, she surprised me by saying South Carolina. It turns out that a friendly priest at St. Nicholas Church knew a priest in South Carolina who would marry them without the parent’s signature. They hopped a train down south, got married, came right back and had a party with their friends to celebrate. That marriage, with such an interesting beginning, lasted 72 years.

St. A’s dinner dance is back on track!

Last year was the first time in many years that St. Anthony’s did not hold a dinner dance and it was missed by many. The event actually just barely broke even so it seemed people wouldn’t miss it. That was a mistaken thought! It turns out that many people realized it was the only time they were able to meet up with former classmates. Many alumns from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s attend the dinner dance as an informal reunion that also gave them the opportunity to visit classmates from adjacent years.

The St. Anthony Dinner Dance will be held Oct. 10 at Serbian Social Center, 18550 Stony Island, Lansing. As we know, we are all getting older and events like this one offer precious opportunities for us to revisit our past and our friends. If you’re considering holding a class reunion of any sort, it behooves you to combine it with this St. Anthony event. Everyone loses another opportunity to revisit their youth if this event goes away. Let’s not let that happen!

Another great opportunity to gather!

The Pullman Reunion Picnic will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 1. There will be kids games and a bike parade, a raffle, souvenir t-shirt sales and music. Grab family members and friends and come on down to Arcade Park.Join your old friends and get your family members to join you at a fun picnic in Pullman. Lots of people just come down and join everyone for a visit while they walk around Arcade Park seeing who they know.

Pullman is moving forward!

There’s a very real possibility that Amazon will be part of Pullman’s business community by the time you read this article. A very large distribution center has also been built in the Pullman area. The Pullman National Monument is hopefully making great progress towards getting congressional approval to become a national park. The difference is that Congress can budget funds for a national park but not for a national monument, which is created by a presidential proclamation rather than by an act of Congress.

My book — ‘Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman, and Kensington Neighborhoods” — can be purchased for $20 through me, at D & D Italian Foods in Chicago Heights or at the Pullman Visitor’s Center. More than 500 books have been sold to great reviews. In 10 years of columns, I’ve covered everything from “The Ave,” the businesses, the parks and athletic fields, the churches, and of course, the pizza places. The book is a good read and a great gift.

Contact me at CJ Martello, 11403 S. Saint Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; 773-701-6756; or petalsfromroseland@gmail.com.

 

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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