The holidays in Roseland weren’t like the scenes pictured in the greeting cards. I don’t ever recall a Hallmark card depicting cars trying to make it up “the hill” at 115th and Michigan, for example. The holidays I remember were opportunities for my brother and me to go out and shovel snow. In those days, knocking on someone’s door and asking if you could shovel their snow was acceptable. We didn’t make very much, but it was a great learning experience in how to make money.
My St. Anthony class of 1961 was the last graduating class in the “old” church. That winter of 1961-62 was the year when it was discovered that heated marble steps turned snow into slick puddles of water. All of those older Italian women that went to church every morning began to lose their footing, some even falling. The solution was simple enough: turn off the expensive heaters Fr. Nalin had included in his designs and start shoveling.
The one snowfall that stands out in my mind is the blizzard of 1967. One of the reasons I remember it so well was that I was on leave from the Army before heading to Vietnam for a year. I have a photo of me standing with my girlfriend, Phoebe Bakkers of Bakkers’ Pharmacy, in what might normally be snowdrifts except for the fact that the entire city was covered in a waist-high blanket of snow. The snowdrifts were actually five feet high or higher.
The newspapers reported on the snowfall and, as the days went on, how helpful everyone throughout the city was to each other. People were stopping to help strangers push their stuck cars. Neighbors grouped together to shovel each other’s house or car out. Strangers offered rides to anyone trying to make their way through the snow.
There is a reason we feel a twinge in our hearts when we think of Roseland. The Roseland we all remember is the Roseland where it didn’t matter if it was a 95-degree day or a minus 20-degree day, neighbors helped neighbors, people gave each other rides, and we all stepped up to help out when we saw that someone needed help.
Our Roseland wasn’t really made all that different by the snowstorm of 1967. That is why today, there is a group of former Roseland residents who get together to reminisce about their lives in Roseland. There is a Roseland Reunion held in a forest preserve each year where Roselanders check in to see if former neighbors, classmates or friends have also showed up. There is an online Roseland website,www.oldroseland.com, that offers opportunities to “chat” or visit “forums” to discuss memories or view photos.
These are the reasons our explanations to others of what Roseland means to us fall short. These are the reasons this column exists, so that we have a place to reminisce and discuss all of those good people and places and good times that Roseland gave us. We were all living in a wonderland, year around, and if holiday greeting cards existed that depicted life throughout the four seasons, our Roseland would have presented the ideal setting.
Jack Rossi, still from Roseland, claims that Panetti’s on Michigan Avenue near Kensington made the best ciopette. Also, Jackie Frigo and her family took a day trip to Rockford’s for some ciopette.
Frankfort’s Bob Dodaro, 83, called to give me some clarification on the Piemonte Bakery story.
Dominic and Louie opened Piemonte Bakery at 159 E. Kensington at the turn of the century. It was the front building where Tony Lofrano still works on cars. In about 1918, Louie decided to move to Rockford and Dominic kept the business in Chicago. Piemonte Bakery on Kensington didn’t make it through the Great Depression and Dominic went to work for Torino Bakery.
At that time, Torino Bakery was owned by John Felici and Babe Benedetto. Within a year or so of Dominic’s going to work at Torino, it also closed its doors. That was when Dominic, John and Babe all went to work for Gonnella at the Torino location. John and Babe became the managers of the Gonnella Baking Co. store. Eventually, Dominic, John and Babe all retired from Gonnella. If anyone has any further information on the ciopette story, please let me know.