My father was born in 1913. In the late 1920’s, he was a caddy at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. He would take the “train” (streetcar) from Portage Park up to Waukegan Road and Glenview Road. From there, he and his chums would hoof east to the Club. He would do one – or two – “loops” and then go home on the streetcar which ran down the middle of Waukegan Road. His best tip as a caddy was a five dollar bill from one wealthy (and apparently grateful) member. He said he felt rich.
What’s interesting was my dad’s clear recollection of what happened after work. He and several other neighborhood boys would exit from the west end of the Club onto Glenview Road and walk around the corner. Streetcars ran every hour or two. Thus if a streetcar was approaching – or there – there was lots of incentive to traverse the quarter mile or so as quickly as possible. My father said it was often the same conductor. If he saw the boys — and he saw them running — he would look at his watch and hold the other arm in the air. Holding up the streetcar. Standing on the pavement. Arm in the air. One eye on the watch. One eye on the boys. However if one of the boys lagged, or slowed to walk, Mister Conductor would look up. Twirl his arm in the air (“go!”) and hop on the streetcar. And off it went. And the boys would have to wait for an hour for the next streetcar home.
If they tried, and ran, or at least made an effort, the streetcar would be held up for a few minutes for the boys to arrive. And then go. My father said he learned a lesson here. About trying. That nameless conductor of nearly a century ago appreciated effort. He also knew something about charity. It was simple. Try? Win. Don’t try? Lose.