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The best years of our lives

Recently, I came across an article that began with “The Best Year for …” I don’t remember what the focus of the article was but the article did spark an idea: What was the best year of your life in Roseland? Throughout my tenure with Fra Noi, countless people have shared their fondest memories of growing up in Roseland.

I’ve met couples at Spaghetti-Os dining at Carlos Lorenzetti’s, at St. Anthony’s on Sundays, and at special events like the St. Anthony Feast that took place on June 8th; at Roseland Roundtable’s Traverso Pizza Parties; and as they came to visit Pullman. So, I write this column with real insight into the answers to the above question. If you would like me to add what you consider your best years in Roseland in a future column, just let me know.

Since we’re in the middle of summer what else comes immediately to mind but the Roseland Little League! Many of the young boys of Roseland joined the Little League as their first organized sport. The season always began with the parade down the ‘Ave’ (Michigan Avenue). The parade began at 110th and didn’t stop until it got to the Little League Field at 124th and Michigan Avenue.

That was quite a hike, but I’ve never once heard anyone that took part, complain about the length of the parade route. It was just too much fun with everyone you knew either giving you cheers or jeers. Those Little League years have been brought up many times as the best.

On the pride in a school event, there was no bigger honor for a young girl at any of the Catholic schools than being chosen to place the May Crown on the head of Jesus’ mother Mary. In one of my columns the crowning was the topic by way of wondering if anyone recalled the words to the song that was sung at the crowning.

I heard from a number of women that had the privilege of either doing the crowning or were in the crowning court. Insofar as the song, Immaculate Mary, a couple of them never forgot the words that accompanied that most special event. They remembered every detail of the event as a cherished moment in that best year of their lives.

For those that lived in Roseland before the Little League existed, there was the return from the war and the years following the war. WWII lasted five years and many service units consisted of men that grew up in the same neighborhoods and, following the war years, they wanted to continue that camaraderie.

Many a group owes their life-long friendship to the baseball teams they formed to play at Palmer Park or West Pullman Park or Fernwood Park. Not only did the men get to socialize, but their girlfriends and wives joined them. The games were followed by a continuation of the picnics the women had started while the men played ball or they would all go to their favorite hangout.

Many of those young people had their lives interrupted by the war and, upon their return, attempted to assume some semblance of their previous lives. At the same time they were getting on with the serious side of life like working, choosing a career and which brand new GI benefits to use.

Many chose to use their educational benefit which completely altered the direction of their lives. These men and women look back on those years as some of their best years — friends for life, careers, and the beginnings of families.

St. Anthony’s Parish provided many of those “best year” comments I recall from the annual dinner dance fundraisers to the annual April Alumni Mass & Breakfast. It’s always pure enjoyment to see someone’s eyes brighten with a sparkle as they become totally animated in talking about a favorite teacher. There’s also the other side of the coin when, at one Alumni Breakfast, Mrs. Fanti came to see if any of her former students would remember her, let alone show up. She needn’t had worried as many students thought Mrs. Fanti as the reason for one of the “best years” being their time at St. Anthony’s.

Rest assured that the most times I’ve heard someone say “the best years of my life” it has always been followed by “my time with him” or “my time with her” — their spouse! It seems that when we’ve shared the many magic moments with which life gifts us, whether those are public or private moments we hit a home run and get a crowning “A” for our efforts from our partner.

Contact CJ Martello at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; cjfranoi@yahoo.com; or leave message at 773-701-6756; 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.