Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Chicago Years

(Last week, in honor of my dad's birthday this month, I started sharing some of his life story. Click here to see what you missed in the first installment.)

When my dad’s family emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1920s, they settled in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.

My dad started selling newspapers on street corners, for three cents apiece, keeping one cent from each paper he sold. It would have seemed like a small fortune. He dropped out of school, after graduating from eighth grade; it was more important at that time to work. It didn’t mean however that it was the end of his education. My dad read everything he could get his hands on and never quit learning.

When the Great Depression descended on America, my dad’s family managed just fine. They had lived through bad times in Germany.

My dad and both of his brothers got jobs at a golf course. With some families having no members employed at all, the brothers didn’t want everyone to know they were all from one family. Frank, being the youngest, started going by his stepfather’s last name. I don’t know how that officially happened at the time, but that became his permanent name, the legal name of his kids and grandkids.

In June of 1934, my dad’s older brother married and moved to the area known as Lincoln Park, Illinois. On the hot evening of July 24, John Dillenger, public enemy number one at the time, was coming out of the Biograph Theatre on Lincoln Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. He had been set up by a prostitute, and agents of the Division of Investigation, the precursor to the FBI, were waiting for him. Five shots were fired, three of them hitting Dillenger.

People from all around the neighborhood hurried to the scene, and even after the body had been removed, taken to the Alexian Brothers Hospital, gawkers continued to arrive. It was reported that some even dipped their clothing in the puddle of blood on the sidewalk as a souvenir of the famous criminal. My father, nineteen years old at the time, was one of the visitors to the scene, running to the Biograph Theatre as soon as word got out of what had happened. There was no report, though, that he took any souvenir.

Quite the claim to fame, huh? 

(This is the oldest picture I have of my dad. It is July 1945 and he is 30 years old, on his wedding day. I cut my mom out of the picture because she would kill me if I put it on the internet, even though she was a beautiful bride.)

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