If you have been reading my blog you know I had a very special bond with my Oma. My love of cooking, my dry sense of humor, and my sassiness all came from my Oma.
One of my favorite things to do was to sit around Oma’ s kitchen table and listen to her stories of childhood, moving to Chicago as a young girl, and dating Opa.
Oma was born in the late 20’s and did not have the luxury of indoor plumbing until sometime in the 40’s. The thought of this was so foreign to me I had to ask her questions. “How cold was that in the winter?” “Very!” I suppose if the word duh had been familiar to Oma she would have added that to the end of her answer. “What did you do if you had to use it in the middle of the night?” “We used chamber pots (i.e. bedpans) instead.” “Yuck! That’s gross!” Peals of laughter. “Did you have toilet paper?”
“We would crumble up the pages of the outdated Sears catalog which was always a bit uncomfortable for me.” ” I can imagine! It had to be so rough.” “Oh no not that, we were use to that. I just did not want to use any of the pages that had male models on them.” Tummy rolling laughter from me. “You know they could not see you.” “Just the thought of it.“
Honestly, just the innocence of that was my beautiful Oma in a nutshell.
Oma was one of thirteen children and the youngest girl. She would tell me about watching her sisters being courted by various beaus. If her brothers did not like a certain gentleman caller they would sneak outside and dismantle his buggy carefully carrying the pieces up into the hay mound and reassembling it there. Thus requiring the prospective boyfriend to take the time to unassemble and reassemble instead of taking their sister on a buggy ride.
“What did they think when you started dating Opa?” “Luckily I had moved to Chicago and they were already married and raising a family and didn’t have time for such pranks.” “How did you meet Opa?” I always loved to ask her this. Her whole face would soften. “I was trying to flirt with his friend and doing such a horrid job of it your Opa kept laughing.” She always ended the story with, “I fell in love with that laugh right then and there.”
The Big City:
The thought of my shy Oma moving to the Big City without any of her large brothers still makes me immensely proud. The courage that must have taken. She left the quiet fields of rural living and moved to a city known to be rough around the edges, a little crude, with notorious gangs. It was Al Capone’s town after all.
“Why did you move to Chicago?” “I wanted a TV and I could find work in the city.” “What was it like back then.” “Not as crowded. There wasn’t all the traffic there is today. You could still see open fields.” “Weren’t you scared.” “Of what? I lived with a group of nurses in a house owned by the hospital. We worked, lived, and played together.“
“I suppose in a lot of ways my experiences were no different than any other young persons today or yesterday. I was young, on my own, and enjoying the freedom of making my own choices. It was a different time. Safer in many ways. As long as you avoided certain parts of the city you were fine.
A new restaurant in Des Plaines, IL introduced us to Speedee, drive up dining, and 15 cent burgers. A cheeseburger was a whopping 19 cents. You probably don’t remember Speedee, he was later replaced with a clown named Ronald McDonald. We would often double date and drove there on our days off. It was a pleasant drive. O’hare did not take up 7,200 acres of landscape back then.
After dinner we would return to the city and cool off at the movies. It was one of the few places we could afford to go that offered air conditioned relief from the heat. Or we would walk outside of The Pump Room hoping to spot celebrities. We could never afford to eat there of course.
Music was very important at that time. Mercury Records, Chess, and Vee-Jay were all influential at the time. Tony Bennett was singing at sock hops and a world of possibilities awaited us. I had planned to stay a year or two and move back home. Then I meet your Opa and the rest, as they say, was history.
To Be Continued Someday….