Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summertime Memories Are Stories To Write

Minnie Minoso--White Sox Player

Do you have special memories of summertime during your growing-up and teen years? I wrote a short piece about mine last year. You can read it here. Hopefully, my memories will trigger some of your own and you can write a memoir piece to submit somewhere or add to your Family Stories book. 

Minnie Minoso and Me, Riverview Too

I recently saw a notice detailing the death of Minnie Minoso, the first black major league baseball player on the Chicago White Sox team. Reading about this Cuban player’s many accomplishments brought back a memory.

When I was growing up, my dad received baseball tickets through his job from vendors he dealt with. Our family had many a nice afternoon watching either the Chicago Cubs or White Sox from box seats near home plate.

One sunny afternoon in the early 1950’s, when I was about 13 years old, we watched the Sox. My cousin, Carole, and I sat in the front row of the box with one of my brothers. Mom, Dad and another brother were behind us. The fans were cheering the home team, men were hawking their wares through the stands. The sun was shining and the sky was blue, not always the case in Chicago.
Carole and I had our sunglasses on, feeling like movie stars of that era.  At our age, we were more interested in people like Betty Grable, Esther Williams and Alan Ladd than baseball players. Even so, we were having fun.

Minnie Minoso came up to bat. He had a bad habit of letting the bat fly after he’d hit the ball. As he ran to first base that day, his bat flew into the air and shot like a missile straight toward me. My dad saw it coming and literally jumped over the seat I was in. The bat hit him on the arm and bounced off to the floor of our box, saving me from a possible head injury.

Ushers came running down the steps to see if anyone was hurt. I was scared but more of the fact that my father had suddenly jumped over me than the bat sailing toward me. Carole and I were probably looking elsewhere and talking so I never saw the bat coming.
An usher questioned us at length, asked for name and address and left once he was assured all was well. Dad’s arm may have been a bit sore but he never complained.

A few days later, we received a letter in the mail signed by Minnie Minoso. He apologized for throwing his bat and the near accident. He ended with saying he was grateful no one had been seriously injured.

The incident became a family story told many times. My mother was not a saver so the letter got tossed out after a reasonable amount of time. How I wish I had that letter signed by one of the most famous baseball players now, some 65 years later.

Summer wasn’t summer without at least one trip to a vast Chicago amusement park called Riverview, which was home to some of the best roller coasters ever. My dad told us that an uncle of his was a ride inspector and often had free tickets for Dad and his friends in the 1920’s. Riverview existed from 1904 to 1967.

Dad paid for our family at the entry gate. My cousin, Carole, often came with us. We rushed inside to go to Aladdin’s Fun House where we looked in mirrors that made us look funny, walked across rolling floors, rode down a moving slide,  navigated a turning barrel, walked in dark halls waiting to be terrified when a corner lit up with a scary scene and lots of noise and more. We rode the famous Bobs roller coaster, the Chute the Chutes boat ride—a thrill as a boat filled with people was hoisted high to the top of a long chute. Down we went into the water, screaming and laughing all the way. Carole and I loved the Parachute ride and the Ferris wheel and, of course, the Tilt-a-Whirl. I think we slept all the way home in the back seat of the car, exhausted from all we’d done.

My last visit to Riverview was with a date the summer after 8th grade graduation. Mike had been my grade school boyfriend since kindergarten. We walked through the gate, holding hands, and headed straight for Aladdin’s Castle. Mike treated me like a queen that day, keeping his arm around me on the rides and I loved that. It stopped when we climbed into a car for two on The Bobs, the scariest, fastest roller coaster at that time. The attendant clamped the safety bar in place and I waited for Mike to put his arm around me. Imagine my surprise, when he grabbed the bar in front of us with a death grip and said, “You’re on your own on this one!” We both screamed all the way through the ride and wobbled when we got off.

I learned that day that perhaps Mike was not husband material. He’d take care of me til the going got tough, and then he’d tell me I was on my own. 

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