Saturday, August 06, 2011

I Remember 1964 , Little Flower, Clancy the Roller Skating Monkey, Tommy Walsh,and Nailed Rick Kogan's Pop Quiz

Thanks Rick Kogan!

1964, I was twelve. I lived in a two bed room Georgian looking north to the railroad tracks at 1755 W. 75th Place in Little Flower Parish of the Chicago Gresham neighborhood. Little Flower was founded in the mid 1920's to serve the massive Catholic demographic in Gresham. Monsignor Stephan McMahon was a priest, lawyer and real estate genius who built one of Catholic Chicago's most impressive campuses between 79th and 81st Streets/ Honore and Wood Streets. The grammar school was tuition free to parishioners and brand new co-educational high school was filled to capacity.

The Church Rectory had a fruit(Peach, cherry and apple) orchard and underground garage all within view of the two grammar school buildings. A huge convent housed the Religious Sisters of Mercy who operated the school. This was a working man's parish that looked like it belonged to the Gentry. Monsignor McMahon made this happen.

President Kennedy was killed before the start of year. I was in Sister Dorableats's sixth grade class and would end the year in Sister Gertrudas's seventh grade class -both Sisters of Mercy were in the words of Grandpa Hickey - 'hairy-faced old Galway bitches.' My academic preparation for life consisted in rigorous reading and arithmetic drills and understanding that these two particular nuns had no use for the male species whatsoever.

We testosterone pups formed a reactionary Band of Brothers and engaged in minor larcenies in recognition of the Hoods' intense dislike for our smelly, willful, sloppy, curious and energetic selves. I was and remain an affable goof who had the pleasure of the company of great people. The three Mike Kellys (1,2,3), The brace of Bobby Ryans (1,2), Willie Bigane, Freddie Knight, Al McFarland, Jimmy Shea, Jimmy Zach, Larry Fiscelli, Danny Miller, and the great Tommy Walsh* were told in no uncertain terms that we would collectively "Die on the gallows." Yeah, right. For kicking over the Mission Money Monkey?

The nuns won a Clancy the Great Skating Monkey at the Mother McAuley Fair. It was a battery operated roller skating plastic monkey that skated when money was tossed into the yellow plastic hat in its hand. They used this ruse to weasel our dimes and nickles and pay to keep the Congo Catholic. You think I'm bullshiting? Well, I'm bull-truing.

Among us was Tommy Walsh. Tommy was the son of a single Mom in our parish, which was about as common as a Vegan Cannibal. Tommy and his Mom lived in an apartment flat building on Honore Street and Tommy's Mom worked at the Bell Phone Company at 87th & Ashland. Tommy, unlike the rest of us had scads of free time. He was a genius and an Irish Greaser.

Most of us Micks dressed like the little gents that our moms wanted us to be. Tommy Walsh dressed like a tough Dago from 69th & Ashland. He wore Stacy Adams Rat Stabber loafers ( fence climbers with heels) on his feet and a black leather Cabretta coat for all seasons. Tommy was also morbidly obese and walked pigeon toed. Tommy was Outlaw, Baby!

Tommy Walsh was Young Emerson Writ Large! A Concrete and clay Thoreau with a sense of humor. He was as a God to us lesser more compliant male untermensch! He said what was on his mind to his pals and boon chums and to the Black and White hard women with pens and cough drops tucked under their Wimples. When told of his sinful nature in not dropping dimes into the Mission Can, Tommy replied, "What and help the tribes cooking our Missionaries, S'ter? No thank You!"

Again when queried on matters theological, "Hey, I don't ask you 'How Do You Feel About the Immaculate Conception?' Do I S'ter?" Whack! WHACK! Tommy often was sent to see Father Gerrity and after the Clancy Incident, Monsignor McMahon -Himself.

The day that Clancy the Roller Skating Monkey arrived to shakedown each and every classroom, Tommy Walsh was prepared. He sat in the very first seat at front of the classroom, next to the cloakroom.

The Monkey had a hat-ful full of pennies, nickels and dimes that two young nuns would dump into a big metal pail. " Take out your pennies and do God's work! Here Comes Clancy!"

The Monkey made the circuit of rows and ended with his hat-ful of loot on his delightful way to the big money pail, but had to make it past Tommy Walsh. Tommy let go of a convulsive sneezing fit and launched out a large leg at the mechanical monkey. His razor toed Stacy Adams footwear caught the plastic primate under the chops and the toy from the good folks at Ideal went out of commission and clouds formed over the Catholic Congo. Tommy was paddling in the murcky waters of Really Shit Creek! The howling classroom showered coin of the realm to the squeals of delight and approval from the timid showered down like me. Mike Kelly 1. grabbed a few dimes for a post-curricular trip to Millie's Candies and Sundries on 79th & Winchester. Sister Dorableat, who looked like Broderick Crawford with a hangover, twisted Tommy's ear and dragged him to THE OFFICE. He was sent from there to the Monsignor.

Hours later, after Book of Valor essays, we watched out of the classroon windows as Tommy Walsh and Monsignor Stephan McMahon walked among the peach trees in the rectory orchard. Both the Monsignor and Tommy were laughing their asses off.

The Second Vatican Council was wrapping up. The Church decided to self-evaluate. We no longer have builders and priests and like Monsignor McMahon, but there are still nuns like Sister Dorableat -in civvies.

1964! I remember it well. Thanks to the Tribune's best link to genuine Chicago history and the greatest speaking voice in the City, Rick Kogan for today's walk back.

I nailed the quiz.

Chicago Live 1964 Almanac quiz

1. The Southwest Expressway, completed in 1964, was later renamed in honor of whom?
A. Adlai E. Stevenson II
B. Dan Ryan Jr.
C. Dwight D. Eisenhower
D. Bishop Louis Henry Ford
Your answer was correct.
2. What Cubs star infielder and former Rookie of the Year died in the 1964 crash of a small airplane he had been piloting?
A. Ryne Sandburg
B. Ken Hubbs
C. Rogers Hornsby
D. Lou Brock
Your answer was correct.
3. Fill in the blank: 7.1 inches of snow fell on March 29, 1964, making it the snowiest _____ in Chicago history.
A. St. Patrick's Day
B. Ides of March
C. Vernal Equinox
D. Easter
Your answer was correct.
4. What famous Chicago residential complex was completed in 1964 along the north bank of the Chicago River?
A. Lake Point Tower
B. Park Place Tower
C. Chicago Spire
D. Marina City Towers
Your answer was correct.
5. What R&B singer and graduate of Bronzeville's Wendell Phillips Academy High School was shot to death in 1964?
A. Marvin Gaye
B. James Ray
C. Sam Cooke
D. Nat King Cole
Your answer was correct.
You got 100% correct.
Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

* Tommy Walsh was the only student out the one hundred twenty kids in my grammar school class to attend a Chicago Public High School. I hear that he earned a Doctorate.


Unknown said...

I am looking to purchase Clancy the roller skating monkey. If yourself or know any one selling one I would love to purchase!!! Please email me any info you may have. Thank you !

Tom Best said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of Little Flower. It was touching and very funny. It reminded me a lot of my days at St. Ethelreda in the 1960s. We had Mercy nuns, too, except none of them looked like Broderick Crawford! And yeah, every class has a kid like Tommy Walsh. Funny you mentioned that his mom worked at Illinois Bell, because that's where me and my two pals, Larry Fishback and Billy Fitzpatrick, decided to play "trampoline" on the hoods of the employee cars in the parking lot. Not a great idea! Especially when a squad car happens to be driving by! Anyway, I'm glad I grew up when and where I did at 88th and Laflin. Brainerd was a great place to be back then. And so was Gresham. Never heard of Clancy the skating-monkey before. Hmmm. We just put our mission money in small canisters.

Tom Best said...
This comment has been removed by the author.