Our Permanent Record

By Tim Murphy:

One summer day back in 5th or 6th grade, the Rohrer boys and I decided to go see our buddy, Billy Guilfoyle. It was mid to late summer, and we hadn’t seen him since school was out, so we figured we would walk over to his house. He lived about 4 miles away, and that was pretty far to walk back then. The Rohrer boys didn’t have bikes, so we had to walk. It meant crossing 159th Street, which was a busy four-lane highway. It also meant that we had to walk along Kedzie Avenue, which was also four lanes part of the way. We had never taken a road trip like that, and our moms would never allow it before; but we were older now. I can't remember if we got permission, but we took the trip nonetheless.

Billy lived in a different subdivision but went to St. Gerard Majella with us. His subdivision was a little fancier than ours; it even had a fancy name—Bel Aire. Our subdivision didn’t have a name. It was just Old Markham (there wasn’t a New Markham). Billy's subdivision had sidewalks—ours didn’t; but we had ditches—his didn’t.

Billy was one of the kids in our grade who was smaller than me, but he was a gymnast. We didn’t know that’s what it was called back then. We just knew he could do flips and walk on his hands. He could climb flagpoles and wave his body like he was a flag. The Rohrer boys and I couldn’t do any of that, but we liked watching him do it. He also had a pool in his backyard—just in case we happened to get invited to swim. We didn’t call to let him know we were coming. We just decided we wanted to see him, and that it would break up the boredom of that part of the summer.

So, after lunch we set out on our journey. We wore our swimsuits just in case, our white undershirts that doubled as tee shirts in the summer and our baseball hats—that was the standard dress of the summer. We headed out. The walk was kind of an adventure. We were very mindful of the traffic, where we walked, and the signs and stoplights. We kicked a few rocks, told some stories, picked up pieces of wood to see what was underneath—good adventure stuff.

The Rohrer boys were good conversationalists, especially Mike. He was a talker. I remember once sleeping over at their house, and he was telling a story. Then he fell asleep in the middle of it—his own story! When he woke up the next morning, he immediately started where he'd left off 8 hours before—like he didn’t know he'd fallen asleep.

There was an undeveloped section north of 159th Street that was just about a mile or so of prairie. No sidewalk there, just ditch and prairie. The weeds by this time of the summer were up over our heads, and we had to move away from the road and make a little path through weeds and bushes. It added to the adventure, walking these new pathways. As we walked and picked up stuff along the way, we tried to determine if we'd found any treasures. Suddenly, we spotted a magazine and opened it up.

It was a naughty magazine . . . with pictures of things we had never seen before.

Page after page of pictures. To be honest, this was the 60’s, and the magazine wasn’t much worse than network TV nowadays, but at the time it was really something. I don’t think the three of us said a word. We just went page after page with our mouths open. We knew we shouldn’t be looking at it. Our moms would have a fit if they knew. The nuns would have a field day with their punishment—but we kept looking at it. It was so exciting, and it was so naughty. Intoxicating—and we didn't even know what that word meant yet.

This may have been the most exciting thing of the summer—maybe the last couple of summers combined.

Finally, we moved farther away from the road because we didn’t want people driving by to see what we were doing. They would quickly figure out that we were up to no good, because we were.

We quickly realized that we had to figure out what to do with it. On one hand, it was a treasure—better than finding a nickel or even a quarter. Better than finding a candy bar or gum still in the wrapper. We knew we would get in terrible trouble if our moms found out, but we couldn’t just leave it. We couldn’t be seen with it, but we didn’t want anyone else to see it—except a few more of our buddies who could be trusted. We couldn’t take it to Billy Guilfoyle’s house. We knew Billy would like it, but his mom sure wouldn’t—and she was part of the network of moms. If we left it there, it would be littering. What if it got into the wrong hands? What if some kids who weren't responsible like us got their hands on it? Someone might steal it. It was so exciting!