Train trip takes writer back in time by Bob Karolevitz We took Grandson Sam on his first train ride.
The abbreviated trip was on Amtrak�s eastbound California Zephyr from Omaha to Chicago. Of course, his parents � Pat and Jan Garrity � went along on the somewhat hurried junket, dictated by Sam�s school schedule.
We had a good time, though. We saw the skeleton of Sue, the South Dakota-found tyrannosaurus rex at the Field Museum of Natural History; donned funny hats as we welcomed 2004; and generally gave Chicago the once-over in the limited post-Christmas tour.
While the main purpose of the journey was to give Sam the Amtrak experience, the Windy City excursion brought back a lot of memories for me and Phyllis, too.
For instance, she remembered the time when she was one of three young ladies who drove to Chicago shortly after World War II; and I recalled my brief employment by the Curtiss Candy Company, makers of the Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars, there.
The reminiscences were especially nostalgic for me.
I turned back the calendar in my mind to see and hear a young Nat King Cole playing side-saddle piano with his trio in a bar in the Cicero district. And I mentally strolled again on Howard Street between Chicago and Evanston, stopping at jazz joints along the way. (I wonder whatever happened to clarinetist Jerry Wald, a favorite of mine then?)
I could still see Red Ruffing pitching for the Yankees against the White Sox at Comisky Park; and I was enthralled by Phil Cavaretta at first base for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. After all, it was my position, too, back when I envisioned a baseball career for myself.
Then there was the College All-Star Game of 1948. Paul Cleary, an All-American end for the University of Southern California Trojans, was a World War II friend of mine, so I was included among those collegiate giants. He even got me to their training table, masquerading as Pete Pihos of Penn State who failed to show up.
I gave him and his buddies (including the late Tommy Fears) a tour of Chicago in my Kaiser automobile. And I think I�m partly responsible for their resounding defeat by the Chicago Cardinals at Soldier Field � which, by the way, I hardly recognized this time with its increased seating and Space Age look.
Several months later I resigned from the candy company, but my departure was over-shadowed when one of the founder�s prize cows died in his herd at Cary, IL. There was mourning at the Curtiss headquarters in Belmont, not because I was going but because the trophy-winning animal had gone to her rest.
To this day I don�t think anybody knew I left.
Years later Phyllis and I returned to Chicago to receive (with the late Ross Fenn) the Polish Gold Medal Cross for our book, Flight of Eagles.
I wanted to take Sam to the city�s Polonia district to expose him to the world�s largest Polish population outside of Warsaw� but there wasn�t time.
We think the boy had a good time. I know I did. No doubt some day he will reminisce about that first train trip, just as I had memories of Chicago in the dimming past.
I�m glad we took the time to go!
� 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz