Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Winnetka Congregational Church. Where my parent's ashes are buried.

Rest in peace, Ernie

Ernie Banks personified my growing up around Chicago in the Sixties. 

How can a white guy from the suburbs say a black man from Texas, who started in the Negro Leagues, represented his childhood?


Ernie Banks was Chicago. A good looking, talented, athletic, modest man who also worked his ass off and had a vibrant personality and a great sense of humor. He was not flashy. That was my parents. That was my parent's friends. 

That was my Chicago. 

New York and Los Angeles were flashy. Los Angeles made all the movies, music and TV shows. New York made everything else. 

Teams from New York and L.A. made the playoffs and were on national TV. For quarterbacks, Joe Namath was New York. Roman Gabriel was L.A. We had lunch-pail guys Jack Concannon and Bobby Douglass. 

The Cubs were on Chicago’s WGN.

Before they went national, WGN was such a low-budget station my 7th and 8th grade school, Washburn Junior High, had a better video studio. 

Except for All Star games, Ernie Banks never played on National TV. He played for some awful teams and he still made the Hall of Fame. Just like my other boyhood idols, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus.

It wasn’t until I left for college that my hometown of Winnetka and Chicago started starring in movies, mostly by John Hughes. "She's Having a Baby" had a scene in our church, the Winnetka Congregational Church. The minister, the great Reverend Paul Allen, was our good friend. 

Sure, my high school, New Trier, produced more than its share of stars in Ann Margaret, Bruce Dern, Rock Hudson and Charlton Heston. They had to go to Hollywood to get famous. 

Nobody famous was in Chicago. We had no Kardashians. No Paris Hiltons.

Hollywood made movies. New York had wild nightclubs. Chicago made things out of bricks and mortar. Then they ate something with meat, bread, potatoes, cheese, fried onions and beer. 

Our waitresses had beehive hairdos and reading glasses hanging from a fake pearl chain around their neck. They were named Dottie and they called everyone honey. Our bartenders were big-chested guys named Al and they gave you a lot of crap and told a lot of jokes. 

Nobody was famous in pre-Oprah Chicago. Except for Ernie Banks, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Billy Williams and Ron Santo. And they did not give one single damn about being famous. They just put their noses down on the proverbial grindstone and worked like hell for some really crappy teams. 

My teams.

Then they went to Suel's Tavern and they had a brat sandwich - with mustard - and an Old Style beer. Or twenty Old Style beers. 

Rest in peace, Ernie Banks. A big part of my Chicago is being buried today.