History in the Air (Pt. 2)
<continued from Part 1>
“Every Sunday – it was a must – they’d take walks together, down to the lake. There wasn’t a house or building there, it was all grass. Just imagine how beautiful that was. One time they were walking through an alley together, as a group, joking and having fun – and my mother said, ‘Oh, look at the red light there, isn’t that pretty?’ It was kind of high up on the building and one of the guys laughed and laughed and said, ‘Don’t you know what’s that for?’ and my mother said ‘No, no, it’s so pretty up there.’ Of course, they were talking about the red light district. I’ve often gone down there, walking around, looking at the buildings and wondering which one it was.
“One day Teddy Roosevelt was in town, having lunch there, and he asked the waitress, ‘who made this beautiful, this wonderful salad?’ He said ‘I’m a salad person and this is the best salad I ever had, I have to meet whoever made it.’ So my mom came out of the kitchen to meet him. They shook hands; he gave her a kiss and congratulated her on her salad.”
“She went on to be a nanny for a Doctor’s family before getting married and starting her family. She was always a good cook – her food was delicious, very delicate – she would bake cookies for us to take to school. Then people in the neighborhood started getting laid off – during the Depression. I remember so many sad people. My folks’ nature was: ‘We have to feed these people.’ And so my mother was cooking day and night, making meals for so and so and so and so, and my sister and I would deliver on the coaster just like the snowstorms. But, that’s how we were brought up and it’s still that way in the family. You got to take care of people.”
I stayed for two more hours while El told me more stories about her life in Bay View – working for Bucyrus during WWII and waiting for the bus in the snow when her shift ended after Midnight; about marrying her childhood sweetheart (Dan, the butcher’s son with whom she attended elementary school and “did everything together – played together, fought together); all the garden clubs she worked with; going on a fishing trip to Canada for her 25th wedding anniversary; her kids and grand-kids and five great grand-kids (“One is going to be a writer!”).
We wandered around her yard, as she gathered dirt and a spare pot to send me home with wild onion bulbs to grow in my apartment. She showed me the banners hanging in her yard, which lie in the flight path of the airport, honoring the 128th Air Refueling Wing and the 440th Airlift Wing – her husband, Dan, served in the war with the signal corps – and every time the signature sound of those military planes is heard, El rushes out to her backyard to salute them.
So this weekend, as jets and bombers buzz the shores of Lake Michigan for the Milwaukee Air Show, I’ll be thinking about Eleanore Hinich and her husband Dan’s service during WWII, as well as her mother’s kindness and generosity and how El so warmly embodies that nature and spirit.
I’m certain Teddy Roosevelt would have been pleased to find out that years later, Blanche was still making delicious food, only this time to feed the hungry mouths of families in Bay View who were forging through the Great Depression.
As for that onion bulb in the little ceramic pot? It’s already sprouted up, getting ready to be chopped up and added to a delicious meal which I’ll be sure to make for a friend.
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” -Theodore Roosevelt