How I Became Grandpa Don

.
Chapter 8
Starting a Family
1956 - 1962

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

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The Chicago Sky Line in February, 1959

Chicago.gif (150595 bytes)

This picture was taken from a point west of the Adler Planetarium. 

To see what else was going on at this time visit:
http://timelines.ws/20thcent/TWENTIETHCENT.HTML

Anne and I were both working downtown. She was still "Miss Lawler" at the insurance company. As an underwriter, she dealt with many people outside the office so it was easier to keep her name. However, it did generate some office jokes when her pregnancy began to show. I went along and always asked for "Miss Lawler" when I called her.

I immediately liked my new job. Very soon, I got to know everyone in the office. That was impossible at Western Electric. After a short time I started taking twice a week classes in Wiring Design at the Electric Institute. The company paid for them upon completion. The work was not difficult and consisted of preparing installation drawings for the electricians and then "as-built" drawings which were turned over to the customer when the work was done.

A lot of work needed to be done on the house. Additional electrical outlets were needed  in most rooms. The bathroom needed updating and there was a lot to do outside. We were busy! 

Mom settled into her new apartment and I would bring her to our house for dinner almost every Sunday. This became a problem. With both of us working, there was little free time. To make matters worse, mom became a guest when in our house and Anne felt like a servant. Mom seldom invited us to her apartment. 

In October, Anne quit her job because she wanted to devote her time to the new baby. I had a raise in pay after six months and with a little overtime, we were able to get by. 

We bought a dog. Cindy was a very good dog until the baby came but then got very upset and she had to go.


Anne and Cindy
(and Dan)

 


Dan and Anne
A picture of pride and Joy

On Halloween, October 31, 1956 Daniel Joseph was born. We did not want a "Junior" to confuse things. (Of course, we did not anticipate having two people named D J Plefka working at Kelso-Burnett.) Daniel was Anne's dad's middle name and my dad's first name was Joseph. Also, as a teen, Anne and her friend Pat had volunteered at St. Vincent's Home and she fell in love with an orphan named Dan. Dan was a red head and Grandpa Lawler was as proud as he could be. His nickname was 'Red' because of his red hair, now turned white.

Anne's mom and dad were great. Her mom helped (when asked) and had us over for dinner often. Her dad was also there to help when ever I needed it. They lived about a mile away and if Anne and her mom didn't see each other every day, they talked on the phone. Her Brother Harry, had joined the Air Force and after training was sent to Korea.

Anne learned to sleep when Dan slept. I tried to get up and take care of him when he woke up at night but Anne was afraid (with good reason) that I could not handle it. In the evenings we both took up 'paint by number' which was very popular then. I still have a couple of my creations. I learned to blend some of the colors and take some liberties with the lines. I tried to paint without the numbered guides but my talent was not there. 

For a time, Anne didn't get much sleep at all. Dan would not go to sleep unless she held his hand. She spent many hours in a lawn chair next to his crib. When he fell asleep, she would carefully let go of his hand and try to sneak away. Sometimes it would work.

 

One day I came home from work and Anne had cut the lawn. She said, "I almost didn't get it done." The axel pin on the roller of our reel type push mower had broken. She saw that the roller was hollow so she put it in my vice and broke off the other end. Then she cut a solid brass curtin rod to length, pushed it through the roller to create a new axel and reinstalled it on the lawn mower to finish cutting the grass. That's my Anne! 


Christmas 1957 - 
Proud dad, Dan and Santa
The Santa was a gift from Anne's Aunt Pat and Uncle Tony. The Santa was a Coca-Cola retail promotion.  (Coke bottle in Santa's right hand) It became part of our annual Christmas decorations and still is.

When Dan was about a year old, Anne was pregnant again. Her mother was there to help as needed but Anne tried to handle things herself as much as she could. Once in a while she would need to tell her mom that she wanted to do it 'my way' and her mom would back off. On Friday the thirteenth in June of 1958, Anne was ready to deliver. We dropped Dan at the Lawler's house and drove through a terrible thunderstorm to the hospital. Anne Marie came into our lives. She had thick black hair and was the third Anne Marie in the line. She was beautiful. 

I told Anne that I could arrange to take a week off from work to help when the new baby came home, She said, "No thanks, I'll have enough to do taking care of the kids." We now had a girl and a boy, according to the plan. 

Anne Marie and Godparents ...
Aunt 'Betty' and Uncle George Lawler.
Many years later we discovered Aunt 'Betty' was really Amelia, but she hated the name.

We thought about getting a house with three bedrooms but decided to wait 'till we were better able to handle it. Anne's parents decided to finish their basement and I spent a lot of time helping. This was something I loved doing. Anne's dad and  I worked out the plan together with plenty of advice from the ladies. Everyone was happy with the results and I became bonded to the Lawler family. They had become closer than my own mother. 

Dad (Anne's) worked two jobs most of his life and got me an evening job sorting packages for an outfit that made deliveries for Sears. I usually worked two or three evenings a week. We were paid for a minimum of 4 hours but we were usually through in less than three. Christmas time was another story. Sometimes we went for 8 - 10 hours and really hustled all the time. Dad had been offered the job of supervising the operation but turned it down. No one know why he did not take the promotion.

We had given up on 'paint - by - number' and started playing chess after dinner when I didn't go to my second job or to school. I would have a cigarette and coffee with Anne. I did not inhale and would always kid her about her 'weeds'. I would also kid her about being a mongrel. She was 1/2 Lithuanian, (Mother) and 1/4 Bohemian, and 1/4 Irish (Father). I was 100%, pure blood, Bohemian! She took chess seriously and considered it to be a reflection on her intelligence when she lost. 


Dan and Anne Marie

Who are they smiling at?
Look closely in the upper left of the photo and you will find Anne in the mirror.

We went to church at St. Christina parish (where we were married) on Sundays a good part of the time. We had to be a member in order to have the children Baptized. We did not think of getting involved. I don't know how we could even if we wanted to. 

Left ...
Anne and Anne Marie,
Big Grandma and Dan

Anne had had a 'Big Grandma' and a 'Little Grandma' when she was a child. The terms just fit perfectly. And Anne's mother's mother was the "Big Grandma" of her day.

Right:
Anne Marie with Little Grandma

My mom was short and thin.
She loved the name "Little Grandma"

At left:

The proudest Grandpa of all!

Anne's dad with Dan and Anne Marie

Anne's brother Harry had enlisted in the Air Force and after going through training for the Air Police and dog handling went to Korea as an air base guard. After his tour of duty was up, he opted to remain in the far east and was assigned to duty in Japan. We arranged for him to buy a 35mm camera for us because they were very expensive at home.

 

Anne was so excited about having the family over for Dan's 2nd birthday, she forgot to take the curlers out of her hair.

From left front, around the table: Cousin Andy, Auntie El, Uncle Andy, Anne's Dad, Anne's Mom, My Mom, Anne, and Dan. A couple of my 'paint by number' works are on the wall.

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We have Color in our lives!

DJP1.jpg (33897 bytes)
Dan and Anne Marie were growing.
When I took photos, Dan was a perfect model. Tell him to look serious and he was serious!
Anne Marie did not take direction well. If she was happy though, it showed.

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Cool Kids

In June of '60 
at Big Grandma's house.

Anne Marie was 2
Dan was 3-1/2 +

Dan and Anne Marie were thriving and so were we. Dan had gotten over any insecurity he may have had but Anne was having a little trouble with her our daughter. She fussed over her clothes and her shoes. When Anne told the pediatrician that she would get mad and hold her breath until she turned blue, he said, "Don't worry, she'll turn pink again!" My job at Kelso-Burnett was going well. I was learning to estimate and was starting to do wiring design. I went to Lighting Design school so I could do lighting layouts for our customers. I loved my  job and my life. 

Sure, there were disagreements but nothing I considered serious. All I had to do was my jobs and occasional evening classes at the Electric Institute. When I came home my two manhattans relaxed me. All Anne had to do was cook the meals, do the dishes, clean the house, wash the clothes, take care of the kids, shop, manage the meager finances, and be a general servant. I called it a "Marriage Partnership". I did not even think about God or spirituality. There wasn't time. Even the task of going to pick up Little Grandma for Sunday dinner started to be an imposition on my personal time. On Sundays Anne knew that she not only was servant to me and the kids, but Little Grandma too.

We did not take vacations or even go out much. We decided that if we couldn't take the kids, we wouldn't go. Anne also said that if she did not have it as good as home she did not want to go on vacation. Anne's life was her family and though she sometimes got upset, she would not have it any other way. There are things I should have seen, but there was too much ME in me.

In spite of all this we were, in general, happy. We loved each other and we loved the kids. Life could go on and we would be ... "happy ever after".

Then came the surprises!

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1956
1957
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1961
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