Anita grew up in the 3rd story apartment above her family’s Bohemian restaurant on Madison Street in Chicago's west side in the 50's and 60's. The daughter of a fireman and a housewife/frustrated writer, she befriended a ragtag brigade of children of immigrants and migrants. Together, they found both themselves and the world-at-large on their neighborhood’s streets. West Side Girl chronicles the colorful and oftentimes unpredictably eccentric characters and events of the area and time. Themes include social change, girls empowerment and the benefits of growing up in a diverse neighborhood. Seen through of the eyes of a child coming of age in the 1950's and 1960's, the stories of equality and nascent social justice are outrageous, insightful, funny, touching, inspiring and reflective.
Mom was bone thin - her top weight was 100 lbs. when she was pregnant, but she moved through the world with an air of righteousness. I often wondered where my Mother got her guts. Sometimes, as a kid, her outspoken, opinionated manner embarrassed me, but I knew she would always defend me. She taught me the meaning of integrity, bravery, and unfailing charity.
The streets were our playground where we made new friends and had adventures as people moved in and our of our neighborhood.
Every holiday and holy day was an opportunity to raise funds for charity at St. Mel-Holy Ghost School, and this St. Valentine's Day was no exception.
We were taught by our families and our school to give service to others - a value that guides us to this day.
Mom loved candy, every kind, and Christmas was no exception. While every day was a day for her to celebrate, her joie de vivre hit a high point at Christmas when her generosity took center stage.
The door was always open on Madison Street for those in need. Mom made sure of that, and this Christmas it was especially important to a woman and her small child to find shelter, care, and love.
From November 1 on we eagerly anticipated Santa's arrival and the Christmas holidays.
Volunteering for a presidential campaign was the thrill of a lifetime and so empowering, reminding me that it is up to every one of us to make change happen.
We loved the Castle horror films and others, but The Mummy held a special place in our heart. Who could pass up an opportunity to see him in person? But would Mom let us go to the dingy Alex Theater? Oh, we just had to see him.
My sister, Barb, was my best friend and comrade in all our childhood adventures.
My burning desire for a pet led me to engage in various business schemes, and, ultimately, a chance at stardom in The Smile Club.
The freedom children had when I was growing up extended to the smallest child. Chicago's West Side was one big adventure then.
We found our friends and adventures in the streets of Chicago. Our neighborhood was in transition - people moving in and moving on. People and kids from all different backgrounds.
The world's problems are not new. My story, Bethlehem on Madison Street, demonstrates that often extending a helping hand even in a small gesture of kindness can be life changing for a person in need. This is the lesson my Mother always taught us: "the greatest of these is Charity." Read this heartwarming story in West Side Girl.
Even the funeral parlor down the street opened its doors to us to explore its mysteries.
Giving mom a break and taking younger siblings to the movies with us - often with catastrophic and hilarious results.
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