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Ready. Set. Reunion!

Once again, it’s time to get your nostalgia on! The Annual Pullman Family Reunion Picnic is scheduled for Aug. 5. It’s time to come together to reminisce about Roseland’s good times. It’s another opportunity to visit with old friends that you haven’t seen since our beloved neighborhood went through major changes in the 1960s and 1970s.

Throughout this past year I’ve attended six different events and each time I’ve met someone who knew of this column and appreciated the memories they brought forth. I’ve told every single person that they can continue that feeling and catch up with old friends in Pullman at this picnic.

The picnic takes place on the grounds of Arcade Park with plenty of parking available. Last year a couple of Roselandites showed up with their classic cruisers. The great thing about seeing those cars is that they all were the cars of our “cruisin’ the Ave” days.

What should you bring to the picnic? the choice is yours! I’ve seen everything from the kitchen sink to tents; from provisions for twenty to food bought per person from the Pullman Reunion Committee Kitchen (PRC Kitchen); all kinds of canopies to motorhomes with their built-in canopies; and every favorite outdoor chair you can imagine. It’s a real come-as-you-are picnic!

Many of you readers may wonder why I push for attendance at this picnic and the answer couldn’t be simpler: we don’t have that many opportunities for gatherings of this sort and we’ll have even less in the future. This is the one event throughout the entire year where anyone can show up without having a specific affiliation like the Fenger, St. Nicholas, St. Louis reunions; the Friends of Roseland Pizza Party; St. Anthony Alumni Sunday; or the Spaghetti-Os regular meetings.

Each of these groups serves a very meaningful role in keeping us bound to the Roseland we all grew up in and love. However, they are each individual groups with their own specific attendees. Some are based on attending the same schools, some on age groups and some on church affiliation. They all have Roseland as their common connection but they are all separate groups.

The greatest characteristic of the Annual Pullman Family Picnic is that it is attended by Roselandites of any affiliation. I’ve seen people I’ve known through a short membership in the Sea Scouts that met at the Fifth District Police Station on 115th & Indiana. I’ve also seen people I attended grade school with until I graduated in 1961 and headed to Sacred Heart Seminary. There have been people who have come from a couple of hundred miles away and tied their picnic visit into a family visit or even a family reunion at the picnic itself.

There are hundreds of Roselandites in attendance at the picnic who take a walk through the neighborhood and through the first floor of the Hotel Florence. As the day goes on, people take a walk around Arcade Park just to see who they know. Old friendships have been given new life throughout the years this picnic has been held. Everyone is casual, in a good mood, and enthusiastic abot running into friends they haven’t seen since their school days in Roseland.

I recall years where entire families showed up and claimed spaces along the grassy border of Arcade Park and basically set up housekeeping for the day with chairs and tables for all visitors — both expected and unexpected.

The fact remains that Roseland, in general, isn’t the Roseland we grew up in and never will be. However, the memories and spirit we have and hold precious are shared by others and this is a great opportunity to regenerate and enliven those memories.

As an added plus, Pullman is now known nationally as the Pullman National Monument and hosts visitors from around the world. I was volunteering at the Visitor’s Center when a young family from Sweden came by. They had free time in Chicago and were sufficiently impressed by Pullman’s history to make the trip from downtown. Sven, Julie and their baby Vigo had a great time visiting the exhibits and viewing the 18-minute film about Pullman’s history. After the movie, I mentioned that I did a one-man George Pullman Show. That was when Julie told Sven “I told you CJ looked like George Pullman!”

The anecdote is to show that there will not only be Roselandites at the picnic but there will more than likely be tourists in the neighborhood. It’s going to be a very busy day with tourists and Roselandites spending the day at the picnic enjoying the day and the festivities.

The Pullman Family Reunion committee — Ed deLeon, Kelly Starcevich and Chuck Livingstone — have children’s games and a bike parade planned. All children are welcome to take part so it is certainly a great time to bring your grandchildren to see where you spent your youth. Since the picnic begins at noon: St. Anthony’s is worth a ride by, as well as Holy Rosary Irish which has recently been sold by the archdiocese.

If you plan on attending but aren’t sure if you should bring anything — don’t! There will be food and drink for sale. Then again, there’s always the possibility that someone you know will share their goodies with you. There will be raffles in support of the picnic fund, which helps to defray the costs of the event. As always there is live music throughout the day. Many of the musicians that play annually are Roselandites who have been playing since their high school days in the ’60s and ’70s.

And there’s always my Roseland memorabilia display and canopied rest spot with chairs for a break. Everyone is welcome to come by to see what’s on display and to relax before continuing their search for old friends and relatives. Roseland calls!

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or cjfranoi@yahoo.com; or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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