This spring break I had the opportunity to travel with my grandparents. We drove up to Illinois and toured my grandfather’s home town. We visited with relatives, ate German food, saw a play, and heard many old stories. Here are just a few old family tales.
My mother used to be in the Young Singers of Callenwald when she was little. They were a prestigious children’s choir that would often sing at big events or with famous people. One weekend she and the choir were invited to sing for the introduction of New Coke. The families were instructed to drop the kids off in front of the building and were not to come back until the event was completely over. There was a celebrity guest at the event, but everything was hush-hush. My grandparents dropped my mom off as instructed and eventually picked her up. Naturally when she got back in the car hours later they asked her how it went. Her exact words were, “Oh it was pretty good. We sang with this black guy who played piano. He was blind and bobbed his head all around.” That’s right, my mom sang with Ray Charles.
We were in downtown Glen Ellyn, and we passed a corner near the old theatre. My grandfather told me, “That’s the shit car corner.” Confused, I asked him to elaborate. He proceeded to tell me that when he was twelve, he and a few other “hoodlums” would stand on the corner and yell “Shit Car” at the teenagers driving their hot rods. Since it was a one way street, the teenagers would have to completely make a circle, giving my grandpa time to run and hide in the theatre. “When the lions are out, you don’t have to be the fastest gazelle. Just make sure that you’re not the slowest gazelle…I was always the second slowest.”
My grandfather was the third out of four boys growing up in Illinois. Willie, Bob, Rudy, and Fred. Well Fred was four years younger than my grandfather, and my grandfather absolutely could not stand him. “He was the baby, and he was just so cute. I hated him!” So my grandpa walked up to three year old Fred, innocent and unsuspecting in his high chair, and just punched him in the gut. He punched him so hard, he knocked the breath out of him. Fred couldn’t rat out my grandpa due to the lack of breath, so my grandfather simply walked out of the kitchen and got away with it. More than sixty years later, they both still remember that day.