“Life is an Adventure”

by Bill Owens SM3/c

Early Years

I guess I was born about as close to the great depression as I’d want to be looking back. August of 1927.

Middle born of three to a second generation Irish/Swedish union. One Roman Catholic, one Swedish Lutheran.

My father was a Chicago policeman and my mother a stay at home housewife.

I can’t recall wanting any more than I got in the time frame around 1932 but then where I lived few seemed to have more. If the times were tough it was all relative and of little concern to a five year old. It seemed  normal and like clockwork that the landlord rang our bell and pounded on the door seeking the rent (handing my sisters and I a nickel on each visit along with an NRA coin) as it was for the grocery man, iceman, telephone company and other creditors to pay us a visit. (The police at the time were not being paid by the city and my father kept a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs and food on the table almost completely on his promise to pay in the future).

We were, I guess all a bit shabby in respect to clothing but once again it seemed pretty much like everyone else.

I recall being quite happy during these times. We had a fox terrier named Pal and the dog and I were quite free to roam free in a world less busy in those times with other peers. Our introduction to sports, fighting and other devilment was learned from the older kids who taught us as well the punishment for squealing.

There was I must confess some black moments in this idyllic life of mine. As the product of a “mixed” marriage (Catholic and Protestant) our family was constantly barraged by the Catholic Church priests to have us children change our pleasant little membership in a Protestant Community Church to that of Roman Catholic. The pressure was so great and arguments so violent that my fathers solution it would seem was to spend time at the local saloon until I suppose other thoughts blotted out the irritant.

Later when my grandfather on the Swedish side passed away my mother consented to a conversion for herself and the rest of us and we joined the Catholics in what seemed a frightening experience requiring coming in contact with black garbed nuns and services in a spooky language called “Latin”.  To a degree I guess this action proved successful as if nothing else it virtually eliminated a weekly visit from a priest and the resulting aftermath.

While it was difficult for me (and never accepted) to listen to sermons condemning Protestants and indications my mother could never go to heaven I nevertheless found the nuns were quite good people (though stern and demanding of discipline) and showed me much kindness in my endeavor to take my first communion (because of my tendency to erp when trying to swallow the host.) I must have eaten five dozen of the wafers in practice for the event and had to sit with the nuns after receiving it rather than with my classmates. I’m sure they said many prayers  asking that I succeed  that day.

While I embraced many of the concepts of Catholicism, accepted Jesus as my savior and prayed as well to the Virgin Mary. I found in my teen years an aversion to attending mass and would stand in the rain somewhere if necessary (while services were being conducted) and appear home then as if I had in fact participated. I’m almost as bad to this day.