One balmy day I was practicing acrobatics on the small patch of grass we called our front yard on Kolmar Avenue in Chicago. I was "flying" around doing cartwheels when Grandma Lucas stepped onto our front porch. "Grandma," I shouted. "Watch me!" I demonstrated my acrobatic prowess. I could see Grandma was impressed.
Then I insisted she watch me do my new trick, a back bend. I raised my arms overhead and leaned backwards, but in my excitement to show Grandma what I could do, I lost my balance slightly and fell. I could hear the bones of my right arm breaking as I landed awkwardly on the ground. Screaming in fear and pain I yelled to Grandma, "I broke my arm!" Looking at it I could actually see it was severely broken. The whole shape between my wrist and elbow was misshapen and actually looked grotesque. The sight threw me into a panic and tears of hysteria.
Grandma looked at it and said it would be okay so come in the house and lie down for awhile. I wanted to believe her. I lay in my bed writhing in pain and crying nonstop. Grandma Lucas put a compress on my head. I guess she thought it would make me feel better. When dad and mother got home I was still bawling. Neither of them thought my arm was broken. Honestly, my little seven-year-old mind began to lose confidence in the common sense of grown-ups. I had heard it break. It looked broken. And the pain was unbearable! My only recourse was to keep on crying and yelling.
At last mother and dad relented and drove me to St. Anne's Hospital to have it looked at. X-rays showed each bone was broken in two places about three inches apart. Soon I was on the operating table and the doctor was telling me I would be put to sleep with ether. When he put the mask over my nose and mouth I should count to ten, and then I would be asleep. Before I could start counting he asked, do you feel sleepy? "No-oo-oo-oo..., I answered. The last thing I remember hearing were three bongs. Next time I was conscious I was in a hospital bed with a white plaster cast on my arm. The nurse said I would vomit, and sure enough I did. That was the after effects of the ether.
Eventually I went home, my right arm in a sling. The pain was gone and now I could show off my cast. My friends could sign their names to it. At school I was excused from writing 'cause it was my writing arm. I really milked this, because, in fact, I noticed that I could hold a pencil and write. At home I wasn't allowed to get the cast wet when I bathed.
In the course of the several weeks of healing I had to report to the hospital about three times so that the doctors could monitor the healing of the bones.
My other Grandma, Grandma Keller, always took me to these appointments, which were weekdays when my parents were working. We went by street car. This was exciting for me. Back then streetcars ran on rails that crisscrossed the city streets of Chicago, and they were powered by electricity from a trolley attached to a pole that touched current from wires overhead. The first step up and onto the streetcar was very tall for a little girl. Grandma stood behind me to give me a boost. It was a long ride from where we lived to the hospital, which was near the intersection of Cicero and Division Streets.
After my checkups Grandma Keller always took me for a hot fudge sundae. Each of us had this most delicious treat: a tulip-shaped glass containing several scoops of vanilla ice cream drenched in real hot fudge and topped with peanuts, whipped cream, a maraschino cherry, and three vanilla wafers. We nursed our sundaes and had delightful conversations before boarding the street car to go home. I sort of hated the end when my cast was removed and life returned to normal.