As soon as World War II was over, Dorian and I lost no time in taking our infant son, David, and moving with all of our belongings to the Chicago area where I planned to work. This was because Dorian was born and raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, and we wanted to be near her folks
At first we lived with her folks while I commuted daily all the way from Edison Park to Riverside, Illinois, where I began working as a Research Chemist with Universal Oil Products (UOP). Thinking that this was going to be a relatively permanent situation, we decided to settle down some place closer to my work. So we managed to find a brand new just-completed two-story brick house in a new development in North Riverside.
However, to help raise the down payment for the house, we had to sell the car that we had had to buy when we lived in Ohio at the end of the war. Although this eliminated the long commute from Edison Park, it created new transportation problems.
UOP was within bicycling distance from our new house, so I bought a bike. I would bicycle from home to UOP in the morning and then bicycle from there to my second job in Berwyn, Illinois, where I worked in a Sears Roebuck retail store (hardware department) from about 5:30 P.M. or so until the store closed–around 9 PM, as I recall, although it might have been 10 PM. I then bicycled back home to North Riverside–and I did this every night Monday through Friday. So the normal week-day transportation for me was solved.
But this solution didn’t help on week ends and special occasions. Visiting Dorian’s folks in Edison Park was now a terrible chore via the elevated trains into and back out of Chicago’s loop. Fortunately, her folks were exceedingly kind and generous and often came and picked us up in their car and took us to their home and then back to ours. However, there were a few occasions where some other arrangement had to be made.
One of these occurred on a week-day when David was only about a year old. We had to take him in to Chicago to see an ophthalmologist. So I made arrangements to take the day off work (both jobs), so we could take the “Burlington” train into the city.
I had picked up a time table from the Riverside R.R. Station and had found from the telephone book what appeared to be a reputable taxi cab company in the Riverside/North Riverside area. I phoned them the night before we wanted to go and asked them if they could pick us up the next morning at our house to catch the (whatever-it-was) inbound train in North Riverside. They said they could and that they would pick us up at 10:30 A.M. at our house. The next morning arrived. We got David and ourselves ready and sat down to wait for the taxi. Ten-thirty arrived, and I think I let a few minutes go by before I called–thinking that surely the cab must be on its way and just a minute or two late. After about five minutes I finally called them, and “No–no cab was dispatched–where did you say you live?–okay, just hang on–we’ll be there”.
I think the cab arrived in about six or seven minutes, but by now about 15 minutes had been wasted. So we jumped in, and the driver took off like a bat out of you-know-where, heading for the North Riverside station.
When we arrived there, it was obvious that the train had not only arrived, but apparently had also left several minutes earlier, because there were no indications of people who might have gotten off the train and were now walking to their cars.
So, the cab driver, seeing our plight and realizing that our problem was due to his company’s negligence (or incompetence?), said “Hang on, the rest of the ride is on me”, and with that he turned off the cab’s meter and headed down a road that ran along the train track parallel to it. My recollection of it is that it was a dirt road, but perhaps that is only because it seemed like a narrow (one-lane?) trail through the trees. At any rate, the cab wheels just hit the high spots and we went dashing pell-mell toward the next station. When we arrived at the next station, the same thing greeted us: no one walking away toward their cars. I think the same thing happened at the station after that, although I was too nervous and excited to keep track of how many stations we had to pass.
Finally, we came to a station where the train was stopped. The cab pulled up alongside of it, and I threw the fare at the driver while I jumped out of the left side of the cab, with David in my arms. Dorian jumped out of the right side of the cab, and the two of us ran to the train and instinctively climbed aboard the just as it started up.
Did I say “climbed aboard”? That was our intent. I was first, with my right hand hanging onto the hand rail on the side of the train car and holding David in my left arm, and I could see and feel that Dorian was now standing on the bottom step, just below mine with one hand on each of the hand rails, one on each side of me. However, I then realized that in his hurry, the cab driver had not taken the time to go around to the correct side of the train (which was the north side or right side of this west-bound train…at least at this station). This may have been intentional on his part, because doing it correctly would have meant that the train would have left before we could have boarded, and we would have been stranded, and he would have had to go to still another station down the track. So now we were on what turned out to be the wrong side of the train!!
I hadn’t realized that the conductor and trainmen opened the doors on only one side–not both sides–of the train, depending on the track configuration at the station, and we were on the side that had not been opened at that stop. The steps were there hanging down below a hinged platform, and I was facing a closed door. By the time I realized all of this, the train was starting to get up speed–too fast now to jump off. I thought that surely the conductor would see our plight and hurry up and open up the door for us, but he apparently was too busy closing up the doors on the other side of the train. Looking up, I could see horrified passengers looking out of the windows above us, and I guess one of them must have alerted the conductor to what was going on.
Finally, when the train had reached what seemed to me to be about 35 mph the conductor arrived, opened the door, raised the hinged platform, and we climbed aboard.
No one said a word. We just stared at each other, speechless. The fact that the three of us weren’t thrown off and killed has to be miraculous. My heart was pumping so fast, it is a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack, and Dorian had to have been in the same situation. Fortunately, what we later saw as David’s inherent daredevil nature seemed to have taken over for him, because he never cried at all. I think he must have rather enjoyed the fun. He was too little to realize that that big guy that he called “Daddy” was not infallible.
This happened at a stage in our lives when we hadn’t yet begun to attend church. (Church attendance was rather difficult during the war due to problems of transportation and available time, and I was a young Christian who thought that I had been forsaken by the Lord, as described in The Really Great News, Chap. 16, God Really Does Answer Prayer…”Vini, Vidi, Flunki!)”. So, I don’t remember that I considered our safe passage here as a gift from the protective hand of the Lord. However, regardless of what I thought then, looking back now, I don’t see how this event can be called anything but miraculous. It is now very clear that the Lord was saving the three of us for better things ahead–things which we could not contemplate at the time but which nevertheless are part of the picture by which we now realize that we are included within God’s elect, and for which Dorian and I are very grateful.
Louis G. Stang, Jr.