Wheaton is the town I grew up in. It is as much a part of me as the DNA that courses through my veins. Wheaton is a wonderful place to grow up in and live. But, one city rule about Wheaton you may find unusual, even unbelievable, is that it was a dry town from 1934 (just after prohibition ended) until 1985. I never thought I would see the day. Times have changed and residents in Wheaton have changed.
When I was growing up, there were no liquor stores or bars in town. This also meant no city restaurants served liquor and none of the grocery stores sold liquor. Step outside of the Wheaton city limits and liquor stores and bars were aplenty.
One house I lived in growing up is below, only it is not the house I grew up in. That house, the one that was in this location, burned down shortly after we moved. I often wondered if we had not moved, would we have been victims of fire. No one in the fire was injured, still if we had lived there the outcome could have been different. That was the second time my family was saved from fire.
The original garage is there, but otherwise, the house is not very similar to the house I lived in. The two neighboring homes on the right and left are the same, as are all the rest of the houses on the block, probably because they did not burn down. None of the shrubs in front of the house are the same.
There used to be a fence between the yard of our house and the neighboring house on the right. Mom planted periwinkle along a sidewalk that is no longer there. When I would arrive home from school, that is where she would always be planting and weeding the periwinkle on her knees or trimming the front shrubs. Even if the house was still there, nothing can erase the memories, but I hate seeing this house and landscape as it is because it is as if our lives in Wheaton never happened.
A few doors down from my house is where Uncle Ned (Ringmaster Ned) of BOZO’S Circus lived. My younger cousins were visiting one summer and caught wind that Uncle Ned lived there. They went house peeping into the windows and were simply amazed when they saw him shaving in the bathroom.
The first time my family was saved from fire was the horrible Our Lady of the Angels School fire in Chicago that made national headlines. In 1958 the fire broke just before classes were dismissed. A total of 92 students and 2 nuns lost their lives. My older brother would have attended school there as a first or second grader. If my parent’s had not moved from Chicago to Wheaton, my brother would have died or been severely injured in the fire. I can still see my Mom’s solemn expression when she talked about it.
Oliver O. Oliver, Bozo, Sandy and Ringmaster Ned of Bozo’s Circus. I used to see Uncle Ned pulling out of his driveway in the morning as I was walking to school. I also went to the studio where Bozo was filmed once, which is the same studio where the Oprah Show was filmed.
Did you watch Bozo growing up? I had a Grand Prize Game toy and even that was hard to land the ball in the bucket.
Photo source for Our Lady Queen of Heaven is commons.wikimedia.org here.
Bozo Circus photo source is commons.wikimedia.org here.
Downtown Wheaton photo via PrairiePathApartments as above.