By Frank J. Mueller
Every “celebrity” and two-bit “star” has written their autobiography, so I thought “Why not me”. A fictional book, “Ordinary People” was also written, but it didn’t really define truly ordinary people. This is a biography about a really ordinary person, which I hope you will find extraordinary.
My life, as a whole, has not been all that exciting, but as I look back on those years, I find much that I believe the younger generation will be fascinated with – a life they never dreamed existed as such. If nothing else, I hope my children, and grandchildren when they are old enough, will read this and enjoy it. This is the kind of life and background from which their parents and grandparents emanated. A lot of it was good and there was much that wasn’t all that good, but I feel extremely fortunate that the span of my life so far has encompassed some of the greatest moments in history. I was privileged in being able to visualize in my lifetime somewhat what it must have been like in the previous generation, I experienced the modern generation, and have an inkling of what the future will be like.
BY FRANK J. MUELLER, SR.
My first recollection of existence was being in a Chicago hospital after having my tonsils removed at the tender age of 18 months. Yes, believe it or not, I do remember that. I was extremely thirsty, and the sides of the bed were pulled up so that I couldn’t climb out. My mother kept wetting a wash cloth and holding it to my mouth, saying that she wouldn’t give me a drink until later. Doctors and hospitals were to be no strangers to me in my lifetime as you will see later on.
I was an only child for 12 years until my sister was born, so I didn’t lack for parental attention. My mother, father and I lived on the second floor of my grandmother’s house in a middle-class section of Chicago called Logan Square. One-half block from us was Logan Boulevard, which contained homes which we considered mansions. It was the habitat of the wealthy in that particular section of Chicago.
Our house was a modest two-story stucco house, consisting of six rooms for which we paid (I imagine) about $25 a month. My father was an accountant and earned a salary of about $200 a month, which was considered excellent in those days. I was born in 1918, so I would be talking about a period in the 1920s
We had no central heating system at that time. We had an ornate stove in the dining room, in which we burned hard coal, and in the kitchen we had what we called a “garbage burner”. In that we burned wood, and, yes, garbage.
Later, my grandmother installed central heating in the form of furnaces, one for each “flat” (we didn’t refer to them as apartments then). These furnaces burned soft coal, which had to be shoveled in. Also, the ashes had to be hauled out – not an easy job. The furnace would often go out on very cold nights, and the fire had to be started again in the morning. That was a job not to anyone’s like-ing (sic!) because it meant going through the outside hall to the basement and usually encountering rats on the way. We didn’t live in a slum by any means, but the garbage in the alleys (we didn’t have disposals at that time) attracted rats and they gained entrance into hallways by gnawing their way through the cement foundation. Nothing seemed to deter their persistence to gain entrance to the hallways, even the fact that we kept a cat, which spent most of its time there. My mother was terrified of rats and I’m not too keen on them myself. I remember one particular instance when we were carrying something to the basement which required two of us. I proceeded first down the stairs and my mother was behind me, when suddenly a rat appeared from the second floor. My mother screamed and shoved me down the stairs so that I fell against the basement door. It had a latch, which I had difficulty opening because I was so tightly squeezed against it, but I finally was able to open it and took refuge in the basement until the rat disappeared. Our cat was nowhere in evidence when we needed her most.