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Lockport, Illinois

b. 1936

lockport Grade School
Lockport Grade School, early 20th century
1010 Madison in winter
Grandparents' house at 1010 Madison, 1940s

I attended Lockport Grade School for eight years, beginning 1st grade in 1942. Unless it was raining I walked to school: down Twelfth to Madison; Madison to Tenth; Tenth to Washington; and Washington to Ninth. A familiar sight in the 1940s was the chestnut tree on the southeast corner of Tenth and Madison next to my grandparents' house at 1010 Madison. As of summer, 2009, the chestnut tree is still there.

My grandparents' house is still there also. It looks to be in good condition, but it doesn't feel the same. For example, my favorite room was the sun room at the front with windows on three sides that provided a view up and down Madison street. Today the windows are gone, and a fireplace is on the front side facing Madison street. I'm sure it's cozy---but different.

My teachers (from memory) were:

  • 1st grade: Jean Rowley (Finley),
  • 2nd grade: Betty Murray,
  • 3rd grade: Mrs. Rhodes,
  • 4th grade: Mrs. Madeline Cannon,
  • 5th grade: Mrs. Audrey Sullivan,
  • 6th grade: Miss Combs,
  • 7th grade: Mrs. Lenore Grace, and
  • 8th grade: Mr. Boyd Bucher.

Mrs. Bush was the superintendent.

A nice thing happened in 5th grade. Around Christmas, Mrs. Sullivan picked several of us who were well behaved and getting good grades to do a colored chalk mural on the blackboards. It was a good feeling to be picked as part of this group and that experience had a lasting influence. I still try to get good grades so I can be one of the group who gets to draw the colorful pictures.

Most of the kids in my class went to Lockport Grade School for eight years. I still see many of them in my memory. Harold Norton was a friend who lived on Fourteenth Street. His parents ran Norton TV, which was in the building that is now the Tallgrass restaurant. I hung around with Robley Heninger, who lived on Seventh Street by State Street. Ronny Johnson lived on Sixth Street just back of the school. Ronny got good grades and was also good at sports. Frank Ogren, noted for his red hair, had a huge electric train set-up in an upstairs bedroom. Frank was on the west edge of our Twelfth Street neighborhood. I also remember Roger Kloster, Ronny Winkler, Joyce Zolecki, Carol Grant, Brenda Widner, Nancy Wohlgemuth and also Mary Ellen McCarthy whose birthday was December 2nd.

We played marbles on the playground at recess. I had a cloth bag that contained my marbles. The rules were something like this:

Whoever was playing lagged a marble toward a line in the gravel. The person closest to the line got to shoot first. You aimed at another marble and if you hit it you then had to shoot your marble into the hole. If you missed the marble or missed the hole, then it was the next person's turn. If you hit a marble and made the hole you got to keep the marble you hit and shoot toward another marble.

I sometimes stopped in to see my grandmother Julie on the way home from school, making sure to get home in time for my radio programs. Those were the magic days of adventure radio, where in fast-paced 15-minute segments you went along on adventures with Terry and the Pirates, Jack Armstrong---the all-American boy (sponsored by Wheaties, the breakfast of champions), and Sky King (sponsored by Peter Pan Peanut Butter). When I was 10, 11 and 12 years old these programs were all on the air in late afternoon, say between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. My father would come home at exciting moments, and I would hear, "Why aren't you outside playing baseball with the rest of the kids?"

My dad had been a teacher and coach at Lockport High School, and he couldn't understand that I didn't want to play baseball with the rest of kids. I wasn't good at it and never would be. The radio shows had a grip on me that baseball couldn't come close to matching.