Cicero, Illinois: Tour of Shirley’s childhood home
Just before this past Christmas, my mom’s cousin Wanda died. Back in Cicero, Illinois in the late 1930s, 40s, and early 50s, Wanda was like a big sister to Shirley.
My own sister Karen drove us down to attend Wanda’s wake and, arriving with plenty of time to spare, Karen asked Mom for a little tour of her old neighborhood. Shirley obliged, taking us past her old workplaces, the bars and clubs where her friends and family used to socialize, neighborhood stores, the Annetta Hotel where her father used to spot Al Capone, and St. Mary of Czestochowa Catholic Church, where all of Mom’s religious milestones took place, from her baptism to her wedding.
We also parked in front of Mom’s childhood home on 31st Place — and visited her next home, a corner grocery store at 3542 S. 53rd Ave. run by her parents, John and Casmira Daniels, beginning in about 1942. My grandma managed the business, and my grandpa, a millwright by trade, also taught himself to be a butcher. The store is still in operation, and the current owner let us take a look around.
I remember hanging out at Grandma and Grandpa’s store when I was a very small kid. One time, I slowly sucked the salt off maybe a couple hundred little stick pretzels before eating each one, until eventually my lips swelled up like some sort of botox treatment gone wrong. I also recall a big, red Coca-Cola radio in the store that I would tune around on, stoking my early delight in the miracle of broadcasting.
Today — Mother’s Day — we’ll head over to mom’s, and I want to ask her what photos she has from those old days. It would be nice to incorporate them with her tour, and maybe a few more stories.
In the meantime, please enjoy a few minutes with my mom — Shirley Daniels Czerniec Carter — a woman born in a tough town in tough times, who has worked hard, raised five children, and instilled in us a deep sense of love and compassion. Just don’t expect her to take the rap for writing on the house with chalk.