West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

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We used to go up to Lake Delavan in Wisconsin every now and then and rent a cottage.

Once we invited all of our friends. There must have been 40 people there for the weekend. Can you imagine that? We had my mother and father come with to do some of the work and to chaperon.

My mother wanted to know what the kids would want to eat. I said, "Oh, baked beans, and hamburgers and hot dogs--stuff like that."

She said, "Well, I'm not gonna spend the whole weekend baking beans." She used to bake beans from scratch. You'd take the navy beans and soak 'em all night--and soak 'em and soak 'em. And then you'd cook 'em and cook 'em and put stuff in 'em. So that weekend she decided that she would buy canned beans, and she would put the stuff in that she usually put in, bacon and onions and whatnot. So she did that. The beans were a hit, and she never started from scratch again. Neither do I, and I'm the bean queen.

We spent the whole three days there, and everybody paid $3. It was $3 for the weekend. That bought all the food and all the refreshments, pop and stuff, ice cream.

Then when the weekend was over everybody went home, except for a few of us who stayed there for the rest of the week. We had the whole week's vacation for $3.

It was a great time. People slept in their cars and on the front lawn and upstairs and downstairs.

The last time we were there was the summer of '41. It might have been the Fourth of July.

We were all going to come back the next year, but then we never did. The war came. I didn't get back there until 1980. It was amazing how it all looked the same.

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