A memoir of growing up in a working-class Chicago neighborhood in the 1950s—an era the author remembers as “a good time to be a kid.”
This book represents a departure for Post (Global Brand Integrity Management, 2007, etc.), who has written 16 business textbooks. After his father’s store in Florida failed, Post moved with his family to Chicago to live with his maternal grandmother. In the streets and homes west of Goose Island, a dot in the Chicago River covered with gas storage tanks and polluting factories, the Polish language was as ubiquitous as English, and sharp-elbowed babushkas battled to secure the kielbasa, rye bread and hot cross buns on their holiday shopping lists. Post’s straightforward prose never enchants, but it ably gets the job done, with each stand-alone chapter reminiscent of a grandfather’s perfectly told anecdote. In one, Post spends his Saturdays watching triple features in movie houses, where children play tag during the boring parts; in another, he steals from his sister’s coin collection to play carnival games to win free Vienna hot dogs—a scheme that ends when his father discovers the theft and beats him with a strap. Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia is tempered by everyday brutality: A street baseball game ends when a buddy’s arm is torn off in a hit-and-run accident, and Post watches as an injured puppy is “put down” by having its head smashed. A cast of recurring characters emerges: Uncle Stanley, a drunken vet broken by his service in World War II; Post’s father, an independent family man with little patience for religion; and Davie, a bully sent to reform school for setting a cat’s tail on fire. Readers familiar with contemporary Chicago will also be treated to an extra, uncanny charm: a geography where place names remain the same but their characters have changed, as when Post’s sister describes North Beach as a modest spot for “people from the neighborhood”; today, it’s where the young and toned go to admire one another.
An earnest, occasionally shocking postcard from a vanished Chicago.