Saturday, January 20

Saturday's Old Photo

I have a couple of winter photos in my old photo collection and January seems a good time for one of those. This photo is of a sliding party we had in the winter of 1962 in the front yard of our home in Liberty Drive in Wheaton, Illinois. We are using old pieces of cardboard instead of toboggans or sleds, and the hill doesn't look very big, does it? I do remember how much fun it was, and that it was my first time sledding. Later on, after we moved to Minnesota, sledding on real sleds down big hills would become part of my regular winter time experience--and I have the barbed wire scars down my back to prove it--but at this time, this tame little hill was exciting enough.

Who are the children? There's my sister and me for certain, and probably the two Mainprize girls. The two other children may be the two Mainprize brothers, and if they're not, I'm out of guesses. The blond head on the right, standing at the top, is probably me.

We lived in that house for about a year while my dad was a student at Wheaton. It was a lovely house, roomy and bright with a big fireplace, but it was scheduled for demolition so the rent was cheap enough for us. Our block was right next to the jail, and the county had purchased the block we lived on with plans for it to be the new jailhouse parking lot. Our house and the one you see next to it were the only houses on the whole block. The rest of the block was divided into plots for the community garden, and during the growing season, there were often women with children there, hoeing or weeding or picking vegies.

I was in first grade when I lived there, and I walked 7 or 8 blocks down the street to school. The wife of another student at Wheaton, a former elementary school teacher, had taken an interest in me, and she offered to take me out to a restaurant for dessert if I read 100 books. Going out to eat was not in my family's budget, so that promise was big incentive for me, and I read the 100 books in short order and collected my reward.

This is also the place where I got my first bike. I did a lot of riding up and down the sidewalk in front of this house. The large back yard was also a good place to catch fireflies.

However, when I think of this house, the first thing I remember are the trains. Our back yard butted right up to the railroad tracks that run through Wheaton. Trains to and from Chicago were coming and going day and night, and twice during the short time we lived there, someone was killed on the tracks behind our home. Once it was a suicide, and the other time it was an old woman whose pull cart with groceries had become stuck on the track while she was crossing.

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