As I write this column, news continues to blare about the impact of the coronavirus on every aspect of our lives. We’re all aware of the cancellation of festivals, parties, get-togethers and organizational events. What’s a person to do? How’s this? I’m dedicating this month’s column to all those outdoor events that are so popular to Roselandites, whether or not they take place this year. Please, keep in mind that you should check for the current status of any events listed.
At this point in time, I’d be telling you about the Pullman Family Picnic that would be coming up on the first Saturday in August. Then there are Italian fests at Villa Cesare in Merrillville, the Ameseno Lodge in Chicago Heights on Taylor Street in Chicago and in Mokena, as well as the Marchegiana Society’s Sausage Fest.
The Pullman Family Picnic was almost cancelled but too many people wouldn’t let it go away so it was scheduled for this year. One of the great things about the Pullman Family Picnic is that people just “stop by” to see who they might know. Food and drink has always been available for purchase. However, those in the know make it a day of fun, food, reminiscing and hugging it out with friends they haven’t seen or contacted in years. (Not everyone is on Facebook.)
The hundreds of people who attend are continuously breaking off into groups that used to hang out together, go to school together, attend the St. Willy’s or Mendel dances together, or played pick-up or Little League baseball together. Great recollections of the good times on “The Ave” (Michigan Avenue) and shopping are some of the topics of conversation.
Those events have become a cornerstone of summer activities. Remember when we were kids and our church organizations had picnics? For St. Anthony’s, it was the Holy Name Picnic and other churches throughout Roseland had their events. One of the biggest draws for all Roselandites was the St. Anthony Carnival. Before that it was the St. Willibrord Carnival on the west side of Kensington and Michigan.
That carnival was where I found out oysters-and-beer was a thing. When I was in seventh grade, the Tilt-a-Whirl became my favorite ride once I realized people were losing all their pocket change as it spun around. I remember going down to the carnival grounds on a Saturday morning when no one was around. That’s when I pulled up the seat cushions and found about $6.75 in change. I managed to do that a few times before the “carny” guys chased me away. Apparently, that was their secret piggy bank for extra beer money!
Today’s Italian festivals are the best place to enjoy a variety of our beloved food and music. Every fest provides a lot of Italian food from local restaurants and the wise buyer doesn’t buy a whole meal at one stand. You can get a better sampling by buying the smaller sizes offered from each stand. It’s really no more costly but you’re going for variety and fun. Stay home if your goal is saving money.
The music is always great and the people who run these events generally make it a point to include a traditional Italian dance group that everyone can enjoy. A big musical draw for Roselandites is Frank Rossi with his drummer Mike Vittori and bassist Bruce Meyer. They have a strong Roseland following so it’s a guaranteed fun and nostalgic time seeing their show.
The Feast of St. Anthony has always been celebrated the second Sunday in June, Alumni Sunday on the last Sunday in April and the annual dinner ddance over Columbus Day weekend. They all serve as opportunities for folks to get together to recall fond memories and old friends. They’re such a nostalgic good time because we’re all getting older and we’ll do anything to keep these memories alive, because they’re our memories and not those of the next generations.
Also, taking place on the second weekend in October is the Annual Pullman House Tour. This event is a great opportunity to visit Pullman and take part in the festivities in the Pullman Visitor’s Center. It’s almost become a tradition to have the music entertainment provided by the Traverso Singers. John Traverso of Traverso’s and the Ken & Dick’s family leads his little group through some fun, nostalgic songs.
Many of you reading this column, are aware of my book — “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman, and Kensington Neighborhoods” — and many people have purchased it. It wasn’t until I had sold quite a few copies and reread the book in light of feedback from that I realized what an important piece of history the book is. It’s the only piece of literature dealing specifically with the Roseland in which we grew up.
Some of you have asked why the book doesn’t have an index. I thought about it but decided to do without one because many of the 120 columns contained in the book cover a wide range of topics, making it almost impossible to index. I’m going to have to count on the readers to mark the most meaningful passage with Post-It notes so they can refer to them again and again.
My book can be purchased for $20 at D & D Italian Foods in Chicago Heights and from me by check or VENMO for $20 + $4 s&h at the contact information below. More than 500 books have been sold to great reviews. In 10 years and 120 columns, I’ve covered “The Ave,” the businesses, the parks and athletic fields, the churches, the pizza places of course and so much more. The book is a good read and a great gift, especially now that people are home with time on their hands.
Contact me at CJ Martello, 11403 S. Saint Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; 773-701-6756; or firstname.lastname@example.org.