Life on the Chicago South Side

The following is not by any means to be considered an autobiography, but at times it will take on that aspect. It is mostly a chronicle of events and (mostly) people. It will answer many questions (hopefully) that have come up over the years, about family and events. I hope it will make the people involved become real again through their personalities and actions. They actually lived, loved, and were loved.

I will attempt to set this out chronologically, but there may be instances that are not exactly at the right time or at the exact period that I recall them.

After 77 years of living, I recall much about the people, actions, and activities. But unfortunately, everything and everyone is not recalled.

First remembrances began at an early age, in fact, just a little more than infancy. We lived in a rented two story house on 30th Street, next to South Park Avenue in Chicago. We lived on the first floor and the Ganleys lived upstairs. They werre cousins (or so I was told). Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary headed the family and they had Patrick, Thomas, and Mary as their children.

Mary Ganley was my Godmother and consequently, a life- long friend. Tom Ganley was my brother Tom's Godfather.

Two doors down from us lived Hugh Dante with his elderly mother. He was my father's best friend.

The house was heated by a large coal stove in the middle of the dining room, but was not wired for electricity. I remember (probably my first) Christmas tree with ornaments and candles.

Pat Ganley attended Coyne Electrical school in Chicago and eventually it was he who wired the house for electricity.

Tom Ganley was into Prizefighting and was quite a good amateur boxer. In fact he did some sparring for Gene Tunney who eventually became the World Champion by beating Jack Dempsey. In later years Tom was active in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) training young men in boxing.

Mary Ganley was a first grade teacher for over 35 years. She, in fact, taught me much about reading before I attended school, enough so that I was able to skip the first grade, going into the second grade immediately.

Our grandfather (Austin I) was known to all of the family as "Pa". To all others he was known as "Scotty" probably because of the name McDonald. Originally, the name was McDonnell, but when "Pa" came through Ellis Island the one who interviewed him wrote McDonnell as "McDonald". Thus the name changed with the stroke of a pen.

He came from Ballyhaunis, Ireland and used to hold me on his knee and sing Toora Loora to me. It wasn't until 1945 when I heard Bing Crosby sing it in Going My Way movie that I realized there was such a song. He raised German Shepard dogs and had quite a collection of ribbons - blue and red - from showing dogs in Chicago Dog Shows.

To me, he was a hero. He very much resembled Thomas Mitchell in "Gone with the Wind". He was short, stocky, with curly white hair, had the Irish Brogue and even a limp from a broken knee cap suffered years before.

It was said he was great at handling a team of horses and he was one of the original Teamsters. He drove horses in a team for the dairies. In fact when he retired the local Teamster president, Steven Summer, always brought him his retirement checks.

It was also said that in his younger days, he was very tough and people did not pick a fight with him.

My father, (Austin II) was a truck driver and delivery man for the Chicago Towel Company for many years. He worked long and hard five and a half days per week. His immediate supervisor was a man named "Ackerman" with whom "Papa" diidn't always agree. We knew him as "Papa", to all others he was known as "Auty".

He was very close to the Ganleys. He and Mary Ganley spent a couple of years in Ireland with their mothers (who were sisters) when they were young. They were forced to come home when rumors of World War I became strong.

They used to play among the rocks in the river in Ballyhaunis. Gweneth and I visited there and saw the same rocks in 1970.

When we had electricity in the house, I received an electric train for Christmas. As I was much too young to play with it, Papa and Huey (Dante) spent much of their time enjoying it.

Our mother was always "Mom" to us. Others called her "Marce" for Marcella.

I fully believe one of the greatest love affairs I've ever witnessed was between her and Papa. Their favorite song was "Girl of my Dreams". After Papa died, she could not listen to the song. If it came on the radio, she immediately turned the radio off. When he came home from work everyday, she greeted him with hugs or deep kisses. When Papa died at age 36, she was deeply hurt, and (I feel) she never got over it.

Papa played the violin and Mom played the piano by ear. When we were small, they played together while Pa and us kids watched and listened enthralled.

Papa used to read to all of us almost every night. He would obtain best sellers from the lending library at the local drug store. We sat and listened intently and with pleasure, nightly.

Mom was exceptionally close to her sister, Frances (Fran). When Fran married Dan Smith in Winnebago, she would spend as much time as she could on the farm there. The night Papa died, they were preparing to go to "the farm" the next morning. That would have been on Ausust 15, 1936.