How I Became Grandpa Don

Chapter 11

Tumultuous Times
 1970 - 1975

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Recorded by Donald J Plefka (Grandpa Don) 
October - November, 2002

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1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 7975
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We received a big financial boost by way of a company 'perk' in early 1970. Contract managers had long been complaining that the mileage allowance for company travel did not cover all the costs of owning and maintaining a car. One manager even bought a Volkswagen Bug in protest. Of course that was not a suitable car for taking customers to lunch and was a poor reflection on the company. His disagreements with management led to him quitting, but a few months later, a number of us got company cars. We had to forfeit a raise that year but this perk was worth more than the raise would have been.  Kelso-Burnett paid for the cars, licensing, insurance and all maintenance. We also were issued credit cards to cover gas for business use. We were supposed to buy our own gas for  personal use but that was not enforced except for gas purchases while on vacation. Years later, the IRS made it more difficult for companies to be this liberal and writing it off as a business expense, and the rules were revised. But, for now, it was great.

I had been taking the train downtown several days a week and driving the others. I was able to park in a lot a half block from the office which was managed by Anne's Uncle George. I parked free. Uncle George could not understand why I would not take him up on his offer to give me receipts so I could charge KB for my free parking but that is something I would not do.

Dan graduated from grade school in the spring of '70, played baseball all summer and entered Marist High School in the Fall. He tried out for  football and made the team. I think he got in for two plays all season. It was not his sport but it kept him in shape in anticipation of the baseball season in the spring.

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Anne's Mom and Dad celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary in 1970
Chris Lawler looks on.
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Dan Graduated from Grade School in the spring of 1970.

The Little League parade 
was a big to-do every spring.

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The Lake at "TDL" with the lodge
 in the trees at the top of the hill.

I had the biggest catch of the day

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Christmas, 1970
Dan, Tom & Anne Marie

Christmas, 1970
"Big" Grandma, Anne Marie, Me, Little Grandma, Tom and Anne.

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Dan was the photographer. and Grandpa was asleep on the couch.

I am not a fisherman but Cal Cooper and Harry Keeley talked me into taking a customer on a fishing trip in September. George Bard, the president of the company, was part owner of an old dairy farm with a private lake north of Eau Clair, Wis. They called it "TDL", or "Tax Dodge Lodge" because they took a tax deduction on the rental loss for vacations. We arrived with our guests during the first snow of the season. Everyone was fishing for bass and muskie and I was the only one who caught anything because I found some worms and got a big string of lake perch. I had a great time but my guest went home with a terrible cold and we never did any business with him after that. The perch were delicious. One of our guests was an artist with a filleting knife and we had them for dinner.

That fall Kelso-Burnett began construction of an office, shop,  and warehouse in Rolling Meadows, Il. Rent in the Loop was expensive and more office space was needed. Besides, our shop and warehouse building was at Lake St and Kedzie. It was not only a bad neighborhood, but very inconvenient for operations. I had the task of designing the lighting and the entire electrical system. It was a unique building as it relied on the heat from the lighting fixtures to provide building heat. That was supplemented by 'heat pumps' which provided additional heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. It was a great idea and we got a special billing rate from the power company for having a "heat by light" building. In later years, the heat pumps proved to be unreliable and were gradually replaced by conventional HVAC units.

Anne and I started thinking about moving to the north west suburbs. We made a number of 'house hunting' trips on weekends but homes that were at least comparable to ours were priced out of our reach. Besides, we had plastered walls, ash woodwork and oak floors in our south side home. They were not even building homes like that in the NW unless you were willing and able to pay a fortune for a 'custom built' home. Then of course, there was the matter of leaving parents, relatives, friends, schools and just the comfort of our familiar neighborhood. In the end, the fact that the company was picking up the tab for my commuting expense, cinched it for us. We decided to stay put in Mt. Greenwood. It was an hour commute (under ideal conditions) but I could live with that.

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Spring of '71 
Dan, Tom & Tom McNeil
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Anne Marie with "Shady Rest" in the background.

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Anne Marie Graduates from grade School 
in the Spring of '71.

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We took a trip to Springfield so the kids could see our state capitol and see the way Abe Lincoln lived in New Salem.

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Have you ever seen a more bored trio in all your life?

Anne loved Bobo

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Our Pets

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Charley could be very noisy at times.

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Tom makes his First Communion

After much searching, Anne Marie decided to go to Mother McAuley High School. We were a bit concerned because she was a year younger than all the girls in her class but it wasn't too much of a problem. She could handle it academically and she felt she was mature enough. The only problem we had was convincing her that she was a beautiful girl and did not need all the makeup she insisted on using. (See Valentines dance photo below)

Dan played baseball at Marist during his freshman and sophomore years. He made history there by being the winning pitcher in both games of a double header. Dan and Anne Marie started dating about the same time. I told Dan not to waste his money on girls and I told Anne Marie not to waste her time on boys who weren't willing to spend money taking her out. 

Our basement was the teen gathering place. The kids loved it there and we got to know all their friends. We also got to know many things that their parents didn't know. They knew they could talk freely at our house and the conversations would stay there. It was a great relationship. 

One day on 1971, during my drive to work on the Tri-state toll way, I started to get a pain in the left side of my back. By the time I got to the office, it had traveled around so that it felt as if the left side of my body was in a vice that was tightening all the time. The pain was extending to my left arm. I drove home. When I got there, I was in tears and had a hard time getting out of the car, not being able to lift my left arm. I asked Anne to see if she could get me in to see her doctor. I had not seen one since my exam when discharged from the Navy.

He saw me, asked a few questions, did a brief exam and sent me to the hospital where they put me in the cardiac section. That was on a Thursday. By Saturday, I had no pain but they had found no cause for the problem. I was given every imaginable test and finally, the following Thursday was sent home with no diagnosis. The doctor told me to stay home 'till Monday and then return to work. 

When Monday came, I headed for work and after a while on the expressway, the pain started again. There I was, ... in the left lane, cussing out the slowpoke in front of me. I Moved over to the right, slowed down, and put on some soothing music. The pain went away! That was another reminder of the power of stress.

  At Tom's birthday party in 1972, something hit grandpa's funny bone.

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Anne Marie in '72  

In January of '72 we flooded the back yard creating the neighborhood skating rink.

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Auntie El and Uncle Andy at her 50th birthday celebration. Anne is at the right.  

McAuley Valentines Day Dance
Dan, Anne Marie and Phil

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This photo has been intentionally distorted. Anne Marie forbids it's publication. See story for information.


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By Christmas of '72 Bobo was gone and Hurkie was the family dog.

Christmas Eve '72

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In April of 1972, It was decided that several of us should be give the title of Vice President. Until that time only the major stock holders held that title but it was thought that customers would be impressed  when they negotiated with a vice president rather than a contract manager. Friends and relatives were impressed too. The butcher didn't care. It did make me feel good. However, ... on one occasion when I handed my business card to a plant engineer, he looked at it and said, "Oh, I thought you would be someone I could talk to". I assured him he could and that I was interested in the smallest details of his electrical needs.

Our pool had sprung leaks and in the fall of '71 it came down. We took advantage of it's loss by flooding the yard that winter to create a skating pond. In the spring we installed an 12' X 24' oval pool. It was the largest that would fit in the yard. We continued to be the gathering place for the kids and Anne and I both enjoyed it too. It was great to come home, fix a drink and relax in a floating pool chair. Anne would get angry with me whenever we would be relaxing in the pool on a sweltering day and I would say, "I wonder what the poor people are doing?" She often felt guilty about our good fortune.

Dan got a job at an animal hospital in Alsip. He loved animals and quickly advanced from just cleaning up to taking care of the animals and then helping the Vet doing post mortems. He decided he wanted to be a vet. Later, he got a job at a Vet near 93rd and Cicero. One day, after work, he crashed into another teen driver at Cicero and Southwest Highway. The other lad had run a red light. Both cars were totaled. Fortunately, nether driver had more than minor injuries. My beautiful Mercury Marquee was no more. 

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It was only a car
1967 - 1973 ... RIP
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I spent months building the Cuttysark.
Every line had to be waxed to prevent shrinking.
These photos were taken on the edge of the pool.
It was displayed for several years on the back bar until our cat knocked it down.  ... R.I.P.

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Hercules was a "Junk Yard Dog", but in reality, a "pussy cat", unless a family member was threatened.

He was born in an old van. His parents were guard dogs at a car dealer's storage yard and he had no training. It took him only three days for him to train us to let him out when he had to go. Even Junk Yard dogs don't mess in their homes.

We always went to "Little" grandma's on Christmas Eve. 
That usually included going upstairs for a visit with Aunt Ella.

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Merry Christmas Anne

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Tom's 11th birthday in 1974.
He is joined by cousins Chris, Matt, and John.
Matt is celebrating his 3rd.
Tom is serious about it but ...

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Tom was on the "Owls" Little League team in '74. The pool is still closed but the baseball season is under way.

I had been getting more and more involved in Mt. Greenwood Youth Baseball. For a couple years, I saw to it that insurance claim forms were processed. It was like pulling teeth to get parents to fill out forms and turn them in even though not doing it would put the liability on them. Then I was persuaded to run for President of the organization. I was elected and held the post for the 1973 - 74 years. And ... what years they were. Shortly after taking office, we were notified by the Cemetery that they were going to lease the land we occupied for commercial use. They would let us use a parcel of land further south. We drew up plans which the owners approved and with some political help, had the Illinois National Guard Core of Engineers, clear and level the land as a training exercise. They didn't finish due to lack of time and we did a lot of the work ourselves. Two Babe Ruth fields and three Little League fields were built. We also put up a refreshment stand. Volunteers put up a two block long power line in order to get electricity and again with some political help, we were able to make a tap into a Chicago water main on the Chicago side of Homan Ave. even though the fields were in Marionette Park. The paper work for the installation of the water meter was conveniently 'lost'.  After all, it would have been illegal for Chicago to sell water to an individual user in the suburb. We needed to put in a road and a parking lot and found that Edison was giving away ash if you would haul it from their plant at Lake Michigan and the Indiana border. More political strings were pulled and we were told to contact one of the big road building contractors. He provided big trucks and drivers who made trips all day to get the ash for us. We had our road and parking lot. For more about this and the organization click the link to: MGYB 

It was an exciting two years, negotiating, planning and just plain hard work. I had a lot of support and help from a lot of dedicated people and loved doing it. Late in '74 Tom was told that the only reason he was on the All Star team was that his dad was president of the organization. The solution was simple, ... I resigned. Tom had another problem in the baseball organization. He had to keep reminding people, "I'm not Dan".

Speaking of Dan, he only played baseball for two years at Marist. He was cut from the baseball team in his junior year at Marist. Coach Keuhner suggested he play summer league which he did and was told he would be the #3 starting pitcher in spring. For academic reasons he was unable to participate in the spring. Dan and I visited the Veterinary School at U of I. He was serious about being a Vet. and hoped to get his grades up to get into a good school.

There were several fathers who wanted to provide an opportunity for their sons to play after their Babe Ruth years. We started the "Colonels", a traveling team for 16 - 18 year olds in the Connie Mack league. It lasted only one year and died. We didn't have the expertise or connections.  

Anne Marie and Dan had lots of mutual friends and often went to the same dances and 'hung out' together. It seems like those years were just a series of school dances.

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October '73 
Marist Homecoming Dance
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McAully Ring Dance 1973

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McAully  Christmas Dance, 1973

Marist Senior Prom, 1974

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McAully Dance, 1974

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These years were great in some ways and yet a trial for Anne and I as well as for Dan and Anne Marie. Tom just tagged along, taking it all in. He knew most of his siblings secretes and kept them well. There was the tension of teens searching for independence and parents trying to stay in control. As most parents do, we tried to protect our teens from harm as well as trying to keep them from harming themselves. We knew all their friends, approved of most, and were suspicious of some. We all were learning. To Anne and I it was sometimes frightening. I am sure that parents worry about daughters mare than their sons. At least that is the way it was with us. Anne did most of the worrying and I think she was even more distressed because I didn't worry enough. I am sure that because she loved her daughter so much that she was harder on her than the boys. Anne Marie even ran away on one occasion, all the way to Big Grandma's house.  There was one guy she dated that Anne detested. I didn't like him either.  She even forbad our daughter to see him but that only made things worse. His idea of dressing up was usually to put on a clean T shirt with no holes in it. He wore his pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve and his car was a wreck on wheels. We both knew he was bad news and so did our darling daughter but we think she kept dating him just to show she could. She finally dumped him, ... when she was ready.

Anne came home one day with a 33rpm record of a Richard Harris interpretation of Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet". We were not familiar with the work of Gibran but were taken by the section on "Children". (Reference) We played that record again and again and later in life would discover new insights to life in it. I still have that record and have purchased the book and others of his. You will find many references to Gibran on this web site. In any case, Gibran's words helped us understand our kids and ourselves.

Anne Marie was excited about starting her first part-time job. She went there after school and was instructed in making phone calls from a list she was given. She was to say she was doing a survey, ask a series of questions and if the answers were right, try to make an appointment for a salesman to visit. She came home in tears saying she could not lie to people like that and with our whole hearted approval did not go back, not even to get her pay for the night's work. Her good character had prevailed over the need for a job.

She got a part time job at the Treasury Store in Oak Lawn during her Junior and Senior years. She did quite well there. During that time, we had more automobile problems. Anne Marie left work one day to discover the car was stolen. It was an old car but it was found several days later stripped of anything of value. Dan was also involved in another accident on Cicero Ave, this time near 110th St. The other driver was high on drugs and was taken directly to jail. There were a couple other minor incidents with Dan and cars. The two didn't mix well but it was usually not Dan's fault. 

Dan Graduates from Marist High School. He is flanked by Big Grandma and Grandpa.

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Anne Marie went to the Bro. Rice HS Senior Prom.
She was named Queen of the Prom.
At right, her Crown, trophy and bouquet 
with other mementoes.  

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Anne Marie Graduates

She gets a congratulations kiss from Dan as Tom looks on.

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With Dad

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With Mom

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The McAully Senior Prom

(He doesn't dress up all that bad)

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In Nashville
Anne Marie didn't get what she wanted.
Tom thinks it's funny
Anne and Anne Marie having a barrel of fun at Opry Land.
Tom and I do not do rides that upset stomachs. 

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After graduation, Dan went to the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus as a biology major in the pre-vet program.  He said he did not want to go away to school. Money was tight and school money was coming from loans. We were living well but saving nothing. Anne was upset with me because I insisted on buying Kelso-Burnett stock on a payroll deduction plan. 

In the Summer of '75 Jim Klouse, Mark Adams, and Dan (manager), all only 19 years old at the time, coached one of two Senior Babe Ruth entry teams Mt. Greenwood had in the inaugural Southwest suburban Senior Babe Ruth League (16 to 18yr.) They went all the way to the championship rounds. At that early age, these young men were becoming responsible leaders. 

Anne Marie and a girl friend decided not to go on the high school senior trip. In stead, she talked us into letting her fly to Acapulco.  Were we out of our minds? Well, it was a matter of trust and ... she had shown good judgment by dumping that guy. She came home with a beautiful onyx chess set, a gift for us. It still has a place of honor in the living room. 

That summer, we took our longest and most adventuresome vacation to date. Dan, who was working, stayed home. (That's trust). We drove to Kentucky Dam and then to Nashville, Opry Land, and Mammoth Cave. On the way home, we stopped at Evansville to visit Aunt El and Uncle Andy as well as their son Andy and his family. It was a great adventure and we still joke about the experiences, both good and bad. Everyone but me was bored with the dam and barges going through the locks. For the most part, the accommodations were poor and the food worse. Anne Marie fell in love with an anatomically correct statue of Adonis and pouted for a day because we wouldn't let her buy it.  We had a great time at Opry Land and finally some good food. I loved Mammoth Cave but no one else did. One of our biggest problems was the language barrier. We could not understand the waitresses at restaurants. There was one who kept asking Anne if the wanted "cheese" with her breakfast. We finally realized she was saying "juice". The visit with relatives in Evansville was good. Cousin Andy had a job there and his mom and dad moved there to be close to him.

In the fall of '75, Tom started playing basketball on the 7th grade Mt. Greenwood Colts. They practiced and played their home games a Mt. Greenwood park. It was an opportunity for Tom to break away from the shadow of his big brother and start something new. Little did we know what it would start. (next chapter) A young man named Dominick Albano was the coach. He had previously been involved in Mt. Greenwood baseball and I knew his father from that organization. 

These five years were tumultuous and ... good.  It included a lot of living, loving and growing. It We could not have survived it without love. There was little change, if any, in my relationship with God. We still didn't have much time for Him and were doing fine without Him, or so I thought. Dan and Anne Marie had both matured and we were satisfied that we had done well.  And we did it our way. We learned much from the experience.

The Mt Greenwood Youth Baseball Relocation
and other information about MGYB

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For more of this period see the
Time Line of the Twentieth Century