Sunday in Humboldt Park

It was a mid-September Sunday in 1950s pre-air conditioning Chicago. Most days, my siblings and I zigzagged between school, our third-floor apartment, and our parents’ convenience store a block south on Western Avenue. Seven days a week my parents toiled in the “Milk Depot,” selling glass gallons of milk so rich there was a layer of cream on top. In addition to the walk-in cooler’s array of dairy products, the shelves sagged with canned goods, loose cookies at 29 cents a pound, fresh bread and rolls, and $2.19 cartons of cigarettes. The loss leader milk and cigarettes often drew customers for a regular priced item or two, but the trade mostly came after the nearby A&P Supermarket closed.

I attended Casimir Pulaski School, several blocks away, and walked there in rain, shine, snow, and ice, annually garnering perfect attendance awards. In warm weather, the classrooms and halls teemed with the eau de toilette of kids—kids, like me, who ran and played every minute of recess and lunch hour. Back in class, sweated up and raring for freedom, I daydreamed about being transported to the park.