How I Became Grandpa Don

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Chapter 7
Becoming Domesticated
1955 - 1956

Recorded by Donald J Plefka (Grandpa Don) March, 2001

A lot happened in our lives during these two years. It was a transition period for both of us. Looking back, I can see the hand of God guiding and shaping, even though we didn't, or I should say, I didn't give Him much thought at the time. I don't know what Anne thought about religion because we did not talk about it. 
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Finding a Job 

After the putting the Navy behind me and the long ride home from Norfolk on the Norfolk and Western's Powhatan Arrow, there was a period of adjustment. Wedding plans were pretty well set. 

Anne had reserved a date at the Syrena Restaurant on Archer Ave. for the reception. They had good food and a hall in the basement. She had also hired a group for the music. The Wedding dress was being made and there wasn't much for me to do. Anne had also made arrangements for the wedding at St. Christina Church. We met with Fr. Donald Duffy for the usual series of pre-marital instructions. (He must have done a great job.) 


Fr Donald Duffy
(A recent Photo)

Mom's health had improved to the point that she now had a job with a downtown bank. She delivered mail using a cart. She loved meeting new people so the job was perfect for her. At first it was part time. Her income was supplemented with a World War I widow's pension. She later went on full time at the bank. The pay was much better, so it was worth giving up the small pension which had an earnings limitation attached. With mom working, I had no financial obligation to detract from my new life.

I thought I was prepared for life in the Radio Broadcast industry and set out to find a job. There were none! I saw an office for the FAA (Federal Aeronautics Administration) at Midway Airport and knocked on the door. When I told the man that I was an ex navy ET looking for work, he asked how I knew they needed someone. Their employment office was in Kansas City and that is where they were advertising for the Chicago opening.. After an interview, I filled out an application which he would forward to KC. It sounded great! My navy years would apply to my seniority and thus my pay. I would be inspecting commercial aircraft radio equipment and certifying it for operational use. He said he really needed help and could not wait till I started. He told me, however, that the employment office was extremely slow and I should find a temporary job while I waited. 

Mom suggested Western Electric. They were advertising for draftsmen and I had a cousin and the husband of a cousin working there. I was hired and started working in a huge office filled with drafting tables. It was said that when you entered the room, all you saw were "ass holes and elbows" (draftsmen leaning over their drafting tables). I settled in with no trouble at all. Teams of draftsmen (and women) worked for "checkers" who assigned the work and checked the results. We did our work in ink on linen. The drawings were to last a long time. We worked six days a week but the first 2 1/2 hours on Saturday were at straight time because we worked 7 1/2 hours a day the rest of the week. After being there about a month, I was called to see the department foreman. You didn't see him unless there was a problem! After stuttering around for a bit, He told me, "Most of the people were married, had mortgages, and car payments. They would have trouble making their payments if they didn't work Saturdays". I did not understand. Then he suggested, "Why don't you slow down a little!" I liked what I was doing and my co-workers were great.  Not having been there very long, I was surprised when they took me out to lunch. I was even more surprised when I came back to find my desk covered in wedding decorations and several very nice wedding gifts on it. 


Anne, Adriana & Pat


Anne and her Aunt El (Me in the background)

There was, of course, a wedding shower for Anne. Her mom and dad pretended to take us out to dinner. They were buying a new house and her dad insisted on stopping at a local tavern to meet with the builder on the way.  Anne was very upset because her dad had been on the wagon for some time. (Drinking had been a problem.) We went to the back room of the tavern and Anne was totally surprised. 

Anne's parents had some friends who had an room with a bathroom in their basement. We needed an  inexpensive place to start our marriage so we went to see Joe and Florence Jozaitis. It would do very nicely and they let us come over and clean and paint it before the wedding. On one side would be a couch that opened to be the bed. There was a kitchen table and chairs, a gas range and a refrigerator. There was also a large cabinet for our clothes. We had a great time decorating the place. You can't imagine how happy we were!

The Wedding and Honeymoon

Anne's friends Pat and Adriana were her choice for bridesmaids. Her brother Harry, was the groomsman and my cousin Bob from Grand Rapids was the best man. Bob was selected on my mother's suggestion. I had lost contact with my pre-navy friends and navy friends would not be available for the wedding.

On the morning of Saturday, July 30, 1955 we went to the little brick church of St Christina on Homan Ave in Chicago. IT WAS HOT! And ... I forgot the ring! (I had always blamed Bob and this is the first time I ever admitted that I forgot the ring) Fr. Duffy managed to keep Anne waiting in the small stuffy Sacristy while I rushed back home to get it. She was actually able to smile when she came down the isle. She was beautiful! We were married!


St Christina Church (Homan Ave)
A much younger Fr. Donald Duffy presiding


Adriana, Pat, us, Bob, and Harry


With my Mom


With Anne's Mom and Dad

 

Since the wedding ceremony was in the morning, and the reception was in the evening, Anne and the girls went to her house and, after stopping there for some photos, I went back to mom's. In the afternoon I went to a motel we had selected and checked in so we would not need to do that after the reception. (Interstate 57 now occupies the motel location.) 

 Later, we went to the restaurant. The food was great and the music was too. We had a wonderful time and we danced ... and then we danced some more. Everyone had a great time and no one complained about the heat. At that time you didn't have air conditioning so you didn't miss it. 

When it came time to end the evening, ...
...  we didn't! 

We convinced the band to stay another hour and we danced some more. The restaurant manager finally said we had to leave so Anne and I went into the office and opened the wedding envelopes to get the money to pay for the reception and music. We went against tradition and were among the last to leave. 

Anne and I went back to her house so she could change clothes and we were off to a motel on Ashland Ave. 

The next morning, after having breakfast, we went back home, went to Sunday Mass, and packed for the honeymoon. Both of Anne's bridesmaids lived on the north side of town and stayed overnight at Anne's house. We drove them home on our way out of town, heading for the Wisconsin Dells. By the time we reached Arlington Heights it was getting late so we stopped for the night. 

On Monday, we were passing Madison, WI and saw a very nice lake. "Lets go swimming!" We had just passed a motel and what looked to be a good restaurant. It turned out to be a great place to stop for a swim and, later, a great romantic dinner. On Tuesday, we made it to the Dells. Chicago to the Dells in three days. It is probably some kind of record.


Anne on the beach at the Dells

The dells were great. We rode the Duck, watched the dog jump from rock to rock, saw the Indians dance, and took a boat ride. Driving around, we saw a sign that said "beach" and took the road through the woods to find it.  For our $0.75 parking fee we saw the entire Bartlet Water Ski show. Their grandstands were just a few yards to our right. After a few days, we started home.
 We went by way of Crystal Lake where Anne's Aunt and Uncle ran a store on the south side of the lake. It had been her grandmother's and as a child, she spent a lot of time there. We had a pleasant visit and for the first time I rode a horse. We stopped a a grocery store near our one room apartment , bought a few supplies and very late that night settled into our castle.


Anne took the lead

 

Our Beginnings as Husband and Wife

That room was a good place to start and it only flooded twice in the time we were there. On one occasion I got out of bed up to my ankles in water. Another time it had a foot of water when we came home from work. Florence sometimes made dinner for us and often she would come down for a visit. She was good to us and we enjoyed her dog who liked to sample our gin. I called the FAA office several times and was told not to give up on my application. They still needed me and no one else had applied. So I waited.


Anne in our living room / bed room after a hard day at work.

We made a couple feeble attempts to find a parish for Sunday Mass but we didn't like the parishes in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Besides, it was easier to sleep in on Sundays. We never spoke of religion and I was just too busy to think about it. There was always something to be done at mom's house so week ends were busy. Anne's parents often had us over for dinner on Sunday and sometimes we would go to my mom's. Ann's mother was warming up to me and I found that her dad always did like me. Occasionally we would get together with Susie and Bill. That and a hamburger and a movie every few weeks filled out our social life. 

Mom decided to sell the house. She would move into a small apartment in a house owned by her brother George. Uncle George and Aunt Ella lived on the second floor with their sons Richard and George. It was closer to downtown and would make it easier for mom to get to work. And, ... Anne was pregnant. We needed more room. 

We had no money for a down payment but arranged a private loan through a friend of the family. Now we had less than nothing but would start to accumulate equity in the house. In February of 1956 We moved in with a little hand-me-down furniture. The living room was bare but we went to Joe's furniture store and ordered a three piece sectional "L" shaped couch. The fabric was out of stock so we waited almost three months for it to arrive. On the delivery day, Anne stayed home to wait for it. I came home to find her in tears! There was no way it could be placed in the room without blocking a door! We lived with that mistake for a long time.


109th and Millard.
Back in Mt. Greenwood

On a Monday morning in early March, we were awakened by the doorbell. We both overslept and my car pool driver was at the door. Rather than make them late for work, I told him I would call in sick. We had a leisurely breakfast and I went through the Sunday paper again, this time looking at the want ads. I don't know why, because I was still waiting for the FAA. I noticed an ad for an electrical draftsman at Kelso-Burnett Co. and mentioned it to Anne. She had noticed it too but hadn't said anything. Deciding to call, I asked several questions and was told, "If you are interested, come in." I made an appointment for later the same day and met with Joe who told me that he was only screening out undesirables  and I would be interviewed by Ed. At the end of my interview with Ed and discussing an hourly wage, He said, "OK, if you want to take a chance on us, we'll take a chance on you". I went home to tell Anne I accepted a job that paid the same for five days work that now took six days. I gave my two weeks notice at Western Electric and in the last week of March in 1956 I started at KB for $4680.00 per year.

Note.1  ...I retired from Kelso-Burnett in 1996. I had become a Vice President and member of the board of directors by oversleeping.  ... One of life's Miracles.

Note 2 ...Several months after starting at KB, I received a letter from the FAA stating that they were moving their employment office to Washington, DC. My application would be delayed but I was still under consideration. ... I am still waiting.

 

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1955
1956