By guest blogger Charlene Gelber
“So, Morrie, where did you say you lived before moving here to Florida?” inquired Gert, the new lady friend from New Jersey.
“I lived on the North Side of Chicago in a bungalow,” Morrie proudly proclaimed.
“A bungalow? No, you couldn’t have lived in a bungalow in Chicago,” insisted Gert.
“Yes, Gertie. It was a bungalow. My wife Clara and I moved into our home in 1954 and raised our two kids, until we sold it in ’72 to move here to Sunrise, Florida.”
“What, you raised your children in a bungalow? Morrie, you’re kidding me.”
“No, no, Gert. It really was a bungalow. I even planted a tiny spruce tree in the front and I sure would like to see how big it got.”
“Morrie, please, enough. I think you’re pulling my leg. Whatever you do, don’t embarrass yourself and tell my friends you lived in a bungalow.”
“But Gert, it was a beautiful home, our family’s home. I’m going to call my daughter and she’ll tell you.”
Morrie phones me and says, “Charlene, it’s Dad. Here, I want you to talk to my friend Gert.” (And hello to you too, Dad.)
“Hello, Charlene, this is Gert. I know we’ve never talked before, but your father insists you all lived and grew up in a bungalow in Chicago. Is that true?”
“Oh, sure, Gert, in Hollywood Park. It was really like the country, because we had the TB sanitarium on one side and the Boys Parental School across the street. There were no houses across from us and it was beautiful.”
“Oh, my! Well, here’s your father.”
“Bye, talk to you later.” (And bye to you, too, Dad.)
“So, now do you believe me, Gert?”
“My God, Morrie! What’s the matter with you? You tell me you lived in a bungalow and now your daughter says it was by a TB sanitarium and a school for bad boys. I don’t know what to do with you!”
Morrie couldn’t understand what Gert was so upset about and Gert was confused about Morrie’s story. He never mentioned it again.
* * *
The next year, Morrie brought Gert to Chicago to visit our family. His first order of business was to have me drive them around the city to give Gert a chance to see where he lived and worked before his retirement. We drove to our old bungalow at 5631 N. Central Park Avenue and parked in front.
“Well, Gert, here’s my bungalow,” Morrie anxiously offered, fearing more criticism on his life.
“Morrie, you’re doing it again. Stop kidding me. This is a lovely home. It’s not a bungalow. Why have you been teasing me all this time?”
Exasperated and worn-out, Morrie responded, “Gert, this is a bungalow. That’s what you call this type of house in Chicago.”
After seconds of silence, Gert apologetically replied, “Oh, Morrie, I’m so very sorry. You see, to me a bungalow is a shack-like house you rent for a few weeks on the Jersey shore. No one would live there full time, let alone raise a family. I couldn’t imagine anyone living like that and you kept telling me you did. I really had my doubts about you.”
What a relief. Morrie could finally tell her of his life in the bungalow; of his pride of ownership, how he transformed the dormer upstairs into my brother’s room. He praised his workshop down in the basement; an opening into the wall. How he painted the garage a turquoise blue, because the color was on sale. The tuck pointing job he completed on his vacation time. The front steps re-cemented for his children’s friends to gather. The yard filled with flowering bushes surrounding an ornate sewer cover. What satisfaction he received attending to the upkeep of his house.
The TB sanitarium became a beautiful park and the Parental School became the Chicago Teacher’s College and later Northeastern University. The spruce tree was still standing, having grown taller than the house. Morrie spoke lovingly about his bungalow and Gert finally got it.
The bungalow still stands, a testament to the uniqueness of Chicago and of a special man, Morrie Powitz.
(c) 2011 Charlene Gelber
My thanks to Charlene (Powitz) Gelber for sharing her story about our old neighborhood. Although we met recently, Charlene lived three blocks south of my family’s home on Central Park Avenue. My parents always used to say to the same thing about our street: “We bought this house because it’s like the country here.”