How I Became Grandpa Don

.Chapter 9
A time of Surprises
 1962 - 1963

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

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In the spring of 1962, we were pregnant again. (Well, one of us was.) SURPRISE! Our perfect family was going to grow and we were in a two bedroom home. We had tried to find a larger house within our budget during the previous year but the market for older homes was not good and we could not find a buyer. The idea of another baby was accepted immediately. We needed to get more bedrooms but decided to wait until after the baby was born.

May, 1962

Dan (5-1/2) and 
Anne Marie (almost 4)
with  next door neighbors.

Our green Ford in the background


Surprise #2 was that Anne's brother, who had been discharged from the Air Force, announced his engagement to Carol Gallagher. The wedding was set for September. The wedding shower was in July.

Carol enters the Lawler's basement 
for the wedding shower.

 Harry assists Carol unwrapping the gifts.

One Sunday afternoon shortly after the shower, Harry and Carol stopped by. They had been apartment hunting and were very discouraged at what they found. A big problem was that most owners would not allow pets and those who did, had major restrictions. Harry wanted at least one German Sheppard. Harry said, "You were looking for a larger home, why don't you sell us yours. ... How much do you want?" Anne and I had discussed a selling price during our previous attempt and knowing that Harry had no money I told him what we had asked the previous year. He then asked what we needed for earnest money and again, feeling safe because I knew he had no money, I told him.  The next evening, they came back with a check. Carol's grandmother had loaned them the money and promised another loan for the down payment. "Could we be moved out by September, 22nd?"  Anne and I were dumfounded. We had sold our house and had no place to go! SURPRISE!

Kline Brothers, a local real-estate firm had bought some vacant property less than a half mile to the south and had started to build. We went to look. Three houses were under construction. We immediately fell in love with one that was ready for plaster. There were three bedrooms, a bath and a half, large kitchen/dinette, large living room and a full basement. When we asked the price, Walter Kline said he would get back to us because these were the models and they had not set the prices. We kept after him and when he quoted a price, our response was, "Good, we will take it." Walter showed us his plot plan and said to pick out a lot to build on. We replied, "You don't understand! We want this house and we need it by September 22." After a little discussion, he agreed, but he needed two more weeks to get it ready. OK, Harry and Carol would have a 2 week honeymoon before moving into our old house.

At the Lawler wedding, Anne Marie kept us guessing about whether she would actually walk down the isle. She reluctantly had her dress fitted, cried during rehearsal and sulked before the event. Once started, however, she performed beautifully.

This is the point where Dan stepped on her dress.


Dan is a 6 year old 
(Confident and in-charge)

Anne Marie is 4-1/2
(She had just about enough of picture taking.)


Harry and Carol came back a week early and we talked Walter into letting us move in a week sooner. It was done so hurriedly that we moved the refrigerator with a dozen eggs in it. None were broken. When we were at the closing a week after we moved in, Walter asked if he could put a sign in front of our house. It would read, "Stolen from Kline Brothers". We were the second family to move into new homes on the block and were followed by several more. Homes were in demand because many city employees wanted to move to a suburban setting while still living in the city as required as a condition for employment. Walter Kline never did get to display a model home. Before Christmas The Phillips's moved in to our South and the Gedney's to the North. We soon found that the Gedney's had lived next to my parents in the 'Back of the Yards, when I was small and their daughter, Virginia was a playmate on mine. Small world!

We started to get acquainted with our new neighbors as they moved in. Many were our age with families like ours. It was an ideal place to raise a family. Drake Ave extended 2-1/2 blocks South from 112th Place and dead-ended with no other streets intersecting it. The neighbors soon formed a close knit little community. With the help of grandpa and "uncle" Harry, I put up a fence on the North and East property lines. The Phillips family put one up on our South. A few evergreens were planted in the front.

The really BIG surprise.

However, I became aware that something was bothering Anne. At first, when I asked what was wrong, I would get a cool "Nothing." for a reply. Anne was becoming more upset with me and I didn't know what I did, or failed to do. I was walking on eggs all the time. After several weeks of this we finally had a conversation.

I said, "Anne, this can not go on! You have to tell me what is wrong"
She answered with, "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Baffled, I asked, "Tell you what?"
"That you were adopted!" was the strained reply.

I had no idea what she was talking about and finally was able to convince her of that. Then the story unraveled. Several weeks before, Anne had been talking to Mrs. Gedney about one of the neighbors who had announced that they were going to adopt a baby and the fact that another family on the block had two adopted children. Then Mrs. Gedney said, "Isn't it great that the Plefka's adopted Don." Anne said that as soon as she said it, she must have realized that Anne didn't know, and she made a quick excuse and went into the house.

Were we sure the information was right? Anne, of course had told her mother who mentioned it to someone and through their friend who worked in the County Building got a copy of my birth certificate and adoption papers. I was born Harry Ronald Cecora. SURPRISE!  Anne gave me the copy of the adoption paper. Her mother had destroyed the birth certificate because she was appalled by the big "Illegitimate" stamped across it.

We decided not to tell my mother that we knew. She wanted it a secret, so let it be. It did explain many things to me, such as the coldness of my grandmother (I did not belong!) and the generosity of my dad's friends at work (Dad's salary wasn't much and he had taken on this little orphan). Anne did give me some kicks under the table when I would ask my mom "Who did I inherit that trait from?" Mom would always have an answer. I could no longer call Anne a mongrel because of her mixed heritage but when one of the family did something wrong, I could now say, "I'm glad I don't have relatives like that." (Also see the Harry Ronald Cecora page.)

In any case, the air was clear, I was exonerated and all was well in the Plefka household.  

Our new home on Drake St.
Christmas of 1962

We had an aluminum Christmas tree and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new baby.

The grass was put in in the fall but landscaping was would have to wait 'till spring.

After Christmas, Anne's blood pressure was climbing and her blood-sugar was too high. The doctor said this was a complication of the pregnancy. On December 30th she went into the hospital and they tried to induce labor on the 31st. Nothing happened. On New Years Eve, husbands were allowed to stay and celebrate with their wives. We both fell asleep before midnight and when I woke up about 12:30, I went home. On new years day Tom was ready and he joined the family.

When Tom was ready to come home, I left the kids at Big Grandma's and retrieved Anne and Tom from the hospital. We brought Tom to meet his grandma and grandpa along with his brother and sister.

Anne unwraps Tom

Mystery, wonderment, and Joy

Dan had a little brother that he could play with 
... in the future.

Anne Marie immediately had a baby brother that she could 'mother'. Her maternal instincts clicked right in.

Our family of five was settled into our new home and things were good. Of course, Anne told me that if we were to have any more kids, I would have to have them. Many things were to be done. We needed a garage. 

The property behind our house was owned by 'Mickey". He lived on Milwaukee Ave. and owned a small carry-out hamburger stand on 111th St. During the warm months, Mickey came to his "Shady Rest" every afternoon to cut grass tend flower beds and care for a small vegetable garden or just relax. A bridge spanned a dried up creek bed. He always had candy and gum for visiting children and welcomed them to play there. When the sun went down, Mickey left to open his hamburger stand, ... except for the last week of each month when it remained closed.

The view from our dinette window:

"Shady Rest"

Things were going along smoothly. I had four Jewels; ... Anne, Dan, Anne Marie and Tom. I was being given more responsibilities at Kelso-Burnett along with more money. My pay scale had almost doubled in 5 years. And, ... I was doing it all myself! Who needs God? He may be up there someplace but we're doing just fine. On the weekend at Mass, I sometimes wondered what it was all about but it still didn't make any sense. What was obvious to me was that religion would only make more demands on my precious personal time. The church seemed to always have it's hand out.  I would keep my distance and not get involved. I was rejecting God's  gifts. (Click on the link.) But God ignored my rejection, gave them anyway, and I thought I was doing it all by myself.

Who is this the sly old fox?

This was Thomas at 7 mo.
and he has his eye on something he likes!



The interesting item in this photo is the TV.
To change channels you turned the knob to select the channel, then moved a "fine tune" knob back and forth until you had the best possible picture. Remote? What's a remote?

Anne Marie's Birthday. 1963

1963-Anne Marie BD.gif (225489 bytes)

Dan was in 1st grade at the public school. We considered a catholic education at St. Christina but they were bursting at the seams with a split schedule. The children were only getting a half day of school and they had a shortage of teachers. On the other hand, the local public school had an excellent reputation. Also, Anne had never gone to Catholic school and there was nothing wrong with her education. Speaking of school,  Anne was a little disappointed because she wanted to go to college but her parents told her that they could only afford to send her brother who would need it more than she would. When his time came, he did not want to go. 


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