charles little recollections
Chuck's letter to Russ Mason about his recollections from the 1940s and 50s
August 25th, 2015
Memories of Adams St. begin with Elizabeth Hurd in her wheelchair looking out of the front parlor windows keeping tabs on the street characters she had come to know. The back parlor was less spacious and had an upright piano I had to play on at some point each visit. On the opposite wall was the fireplace in front of which Elizabeth's funeral [she died in 1941] was conducted, with chairs set up there and in the front parlor. Someone from church played the piano and Tony from church sang, followed by the drive to Downers Grove.
After high school I did one quarter at U. of Chicago, commuting from W. Springs, did 18 months army time, and resumed at UC. Someone, I don't know who, suggested I live at Adams so in Sept. '47 I moved in with Grandma, David and Jane. They outfitted a very small room off the kitchen with a bed and a desk/chest. I liked it. My door was opposite to the door to the staircase down the back alley. Deliveries came up these stairs -- the iceman with blocks of ice for the icebox, and the vegetable man who would come up and discuss with Grandma what was good and what she planned to cook. Both men had horse-drawn wagons. The Greek vegetable man was putting his sons through college. During this same time David often brought home odd cheeses and I've had a taste for the smellier the better ever since.
A friend of my father in W. Springs bought a small heat-treating business that occupied a barn behind a building across Adams. So I was hired to go over there weekday mornings at 5AM to light the furnaces and sit there so they would be ready when the workmen arrived. Study time, then off to school. At night I also attended the American Acad. of Art in the Kimball Bldg. on Wabash, which (the school) was operated by a tall man who had been James Mason's basketball teammate at the U. of Chicago. He would always ask about him.
The summer of '48 (I hope my dates are right) Jane Mason and her mother went to Colorado, and I stayed at Adams and took a six-week six-hours-a-day immersion course in French at UC. Quit half way through on the verge of a breakdown. Final graduation was June '49.
On my last day at 1415 Adams I was loading books and clothes into the car parked out front, making several trips up and down. On the last trip I found all of the clothes gone. Aunt Jane was more upset than I was.
Ida Frances perfectly described the Frances Mason giggle. But one night at the Adams dinner table with her and Aunt Jane I mentioned someone having made a minor mistake at school, and when Grandma asked what the outcome was I muttered something about his probably having been hanged, and she fell into a prolonged fit of real laughter. Asked what struck her so funny, she said my comment was something her husband would have said. That has stayed in my mind as a sort of connection with a grandfather I never knew. I was one when he died.
In Jan. '50 I began grad. school in the art dept. of U. of Georgia. In June my mother, Jane Mason and Frances Mason drove down to Athens and we all returned to Chicago. Whose idea it was I don't recall, but it was a nice trip. By Sept. I was back in the army, and on January 1st I landed in Korea.
The 1415 Adams flat was a beautiful place to live, as I am sure Ida Frances would agree, and I think of it and its occupants with pleasure.
Chuck's letter to Sarah Aldridge about his recollections from the 1930s and 40s
September 5th, 2015
In the summer of '44, before high school senior year, I answered a call for farm workers to aid the war effort. From Chicago, I took a train to Woodstock where I was met by a govt. agr. agent who drove us around looking for a farmer in need of help. Spent that summer near Hebron on 160 acres with a middle-age man and wife--cows, crops, chickens and kitchen garden. Earned a dollar a day. Saturdays the three of us went to town (Hebron) and while they bought supplies I (16) sat in the drugstore with a malted listening to the jukebox.
At harvest, all the neighboring farmers joined in the use of a steam-driven threshing machine that they said was the last of its kind. I returned to school in the fall with an appreciation for how hard farm work can be.
Earlier, while in grade school, I spent 2 summers on a farm in Plano, Illinois. The (reel 25) Shaddles ran a camp for boys. Our families paid them and we essentially worked the farm. It was mainly rich kids from Hinsdale.