Long Winter's End

Long Winter's End

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ISBN: 978-0-9656364-3-8
Format: Paperback, 378 pages
Publish Date: March 2014
Publisher: Oakdale Press
Price: $16.95
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Publisher Comments

     This paperback novel is the long-awaited sequel to Melvin Giles' first book, "George Street, Our Street, A Poor Family's Richest Years in Chicago" published in 1997.

     Published by Oakdale Press, "Long Winter's End" continues the George Street story starting with the day after graduation in June, 1952. While Gene planned to have a summer of free time and fun, his being fired from his easy part-time job forces him out into the job market where a seventeen year old without any work experience can't afford to be choosy about any job that's offered.

     Gene has just entered into the arena of new life experiences and without his older brothers around to advise him, he'll be winging it for a while. His oldest brother Bob, his chief mentor, still has over two years to serve in Germany with the U. S. Air Force while their brother Dave has about two years to serve in Germany on his Army hitch. Their long absence from home has been much like a long, hard winter with too many gloomy, lonely days.

     Leading us through a few years of the Fabulous Fifties, this sequel tells the story in excruciating detail of the uncertainties awaiting a young man in his first full time job, the rough coarseness of older workers, the longer, hot days in a manufacturing environment, and the strangeness of working for a hung-over boss every morning. Down the road will be clumsy attempts at finding and dating the right girl. Somewhere along the way he will search for a dependable automobile but only after he learns to drive.

     Our story is set in the ethnic neighborhood of "Bucktown" on Chicago's Northwest side. For months now, he and two of his friends could be seen traveling along the streets and boulevards of Bucktown daily, riding in a boxy, black Dodge sedan which Walt's doting dad allowed him to drive every night. While it wasn't teenage cool, it was transportation!

     In all there were three guys who were Gene's age, namely his high school pal at Lane Tech, Pat Decker. Pat was a quiet guy with whom Gene shared lockers, drawing tables, street car rides, and gym tests for four years. The other two friends were from their neighborhood, Ted Marcinski and Walt Mikolzyk, who were Weber High School seniors and whose Polish ancestry reflected that of the Bucktown neighborhood where they all lived. Gene had learned in the few years his family lived there, that their neighborhood was one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. He felt that it was super easy to make new friends; there were plenty of parks, softball diamonds, theaters, churches, stores, and just about everything anyone needed.

     Lake Michigan was only a couple of miles away and the guys spent many weekend days risking sunburn and cold water cramps and it didn't cost them a dime. The city parks, pools, and the lake were all free! They were living in the Fifties, the greatest time in history to live in the best neighborhood in the big, friendly city of Chicago.

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Excerpts from the book

     Gene Ryan sat alone at the breakfast table having gotten up after his mom and stepdad had gone off to work. Taking stock of his situation he has come up with little to encourage him. He was two days out of high school, had just been fired from his part time job and in June, 1952 few job offers were flooding the labor market for an unskilled seventeen year old.

     Yesterday he rode shotgun for his young neighbor across the street who drove a laundry route and their circuitous journey caused Gene to miss work. Calling in too late this morning got him fired and Gene thought about the adage of climbing the ladder of success. Seems someone has been sawing away at the ladder's rungs.

     Never before having been forced to search for a job it was a new experience to pound the pavement in search of one. New experience? Gene had just entered through the door in life marked "Experiences" for this was only the first of many unfamiliar and sometimes spooky avenues he would walk on his way to becoming a man. He really missed the advice of his oldest brother Bob who had always been his guide and mentor but Bob still had over two years to serve in Germany with the U.S. Air Force while their brother Dave had about two years to serve in Germany on his Army hitch. Their long absence from home was much like a long, hard winter with too many gloomy, lonely days.

     Pounding the pavement all day gained him nothing except considerable experience filling out job applications, to no avail. Wanting to be able to tell Mom about some success led him to try and secure a job at the envelope manufacturing factory up at the corner. Amazingly enough they hired him and he would be working in the shipping room, loading trucks and folding cartons. A job in the printing department had been the carrot held out to him but it would be a few months before the opening would materialize. But, hey it was a job.

     During the next several months Gene will face decisions that even some adults shy away from. He will need to handle the challenges of his first full time job which includes interacting with other young men, some of whom may consider him a threat to their job security. Interaction might then result in conflict, not good for the new kid on the block.

     For months now, he and his friends, Ted and Walt could be recognized traveling along the streets and boulevards of Bucktown riding in a boxy, black Dodge sedan which Walt's doting dad allowed him to drive every night. While it wasn't teenage cool, it was transportation! So Gene's next challenge will be saving the scratch to purchase a cool car but his funds won't cover a late model so it should be no surprise that his choice will run less than smoothly. His funds might run out quicker than planned, considering his future car's repairs and the concurrent dentist's bills for bridgework.

     Before long, it hits. Romance! It's just about the greatest challenge to harmony in Gene's life starting with the resolution of a dating quandary only to become very interested in Pat's very wonderful sister. It is only the first of several interludes, most of which will end with some other guy being the lucky winner.

     At work Gene finds it easy to develop friendships with older guys who were World War II vets. They are straight shooters whom Gene feels he can trust and go to for on the job advice and they steer him right.

     In day to day goings-on the straightest shooters of all were three guys who were Gene's age, namely his high school friend Pat Decker and two great guys from the neighborhood, Ted Marcinski and Walt Mikolzyk. Pat was a quiet guy with whom Gene shared lockers, drawing tables, street car rides, and gym tests for four years. Pat had gotten Gene the job he just lost at Stern Electric. Pat also got to drive his dad's black '47 Olds sedan, a lot.

     Ted and Walt were seniors still attending Weber High School, a new Catholic High School about three miles away. Their Polish ethnicity reflected that of the Bucktown neighborhood where they all lived. Gene had learned in the two years his family had lived there that this neighborhood was one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. It was super easy to make new friends, there were plenty of parks, softball diamonds, theaters, churches, stores, and just about everything one needed.

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