Monday, February 29, 2016

My Cousin Bill


I was closer to my Keller cousins, Ricky, Jimmy, Billy, and Maureen, than any of my other cousins just because they lived in my neighborhood near Gramma and Grampa Keller's house. It was a long walk to get to their house or a modest bike ride. So, I had many opportunities to see them outside the major family events and get-togethers. Maureen and Bill were also at St. Edward School when I began going there in 5th grade. When I was really young I remember Ricky, Jimmy and Billy coming over to our house sometimes to see Dad. All I remember is Dad showed them how to do things on our back porch. I think maybe it was relating to Boy Scouts, but I'm not sure.

I have an affinity for people who make me laugh. Bill was my funny cousin. All my Keller cousins, especially the boys, were great teasers---not mean teasing, although it could get a little out of hand sometimes. I had a great solution for that though. I'd say, "I'm gonna tell Aunt Marge on you!!" It worked. I felt sorry for Maureen being the only girl and the youngest of the four. But Bill had a way of teasing and being funny at the same time. I knew he didn't mean it and he was trying to make me laugh.

Bill taught me how to ride the elevated train from our neighborhood to downtown. When he was 13 he received a scholarship to take art lessons at the Junior School of the Art Institute. He was very artistically talented. My mother wanted me to go there too, so she enrolled me. Bill and I and one of the Gleason boys from across the street from Aunt Marge would go together to the Art Institute every Saturday morning for a year. We rode the Lawrence bus to Kimball Avenue. There we transferred to the Ravenswood "El." That was a long, slow elevated train. It took at least 45 minutes to get to Adams and Wabash. Then we walked from there to the Art Institute.

It was a lot of fun going with Bill. He had me laughing all the time. Bill's drawings were amazing. I think he and the Gleason boy were taking the figure drawing class. I was taking still life. During those Saturdays we learned so much about drawing and painting. Also, the instructors would take us to the galleries to see the art displays and to explain about the art techniques and the artists. Sometimes we went to the Museum of Natural History which was just a walk through Grant Park from one museum to the other. There we drew the animals in the dioramas.

These were fun times. No pressure. For me, art helped me express my emotions. I also had a chance to meet children from all over Chicago. These were amazingly gifted kids. I was good, but some of them were astronomically good!

Bill, if I remember correctly, didn't continue after that year. He was in high school and maybe that was enough. I did continue, though. By then I could ride there myself. But, I---and my mother---talked two of my friends into going. One, Kathy O'Donnell, was very talented. Those were fun times. We never worried about getting mugged or anything like that.

Photos: Top, right: My Keller Cousins: Ricky, Maureen, Billy, and Jimmy
Below: Billy and Jimmy
Bottom: Another cousin, Bobbie and Bill at our grandparents house









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